Borders are “important”: they define, in legal terms, who we are, our identity, and our rights. Except borders are rarely imposed with any thought to the people actually living there. And once a border is imposed, it can radically change the lives of those who live alongside it, dividing communities forever more.
India’s border, imposed by colonial authorities and disputed by successor governments, makes this clear. Midnight’s Borders: A People’s History of Modern India sees author Suchitra Vijayan travel along India’s vast land border to meet the people who live there, and investigates how lives have been affected by geopolitics, colonialism, state violence, ethnic strife, and corruption.
In this interview, Suchitra and I talk about India’s border regions: with Afghanistan, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar. We talk about the lives of those that live in these borderlands, and why she chose to call this book a “People’s History”.
Suchitra Vijayan is the founder and executive director of the Polis Project, a hybrid research and journalism organization. A barrister by training, she previously worked for the United Nations war crimes tribunals in Yugoslavia and Rwanda before co-founding the Resettlement Legal Aid Project in Cairo, which gives legal aid to Iraqi refugees. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, GQ, The Boston Review, The Hindu and Foreign Policy.