Colonial sovereignty travelled into the frontier hills of the north east frontier through law. Frontier law or its absence and frontier space or its elusiveness tell us a different story about the history of Khasi, Jaintiah, and Garo hills of north east India. This story is one of unfinished borders, and malleability of landscapes. What does belonging and land based identity show us when we begin to uncover the processes through which modern boundaries were established during the colonial period? Is the history of law the history of boundary making? What lies underneath landscapes and in between divided spaces that we encounter today as normalized in law ? And very broadly what does place based identity mean in view of spatial processes of law? This historically based essay will explore these questions and invites readers to critically rethink identities and boundaries.
Author: Reeju Ray
Reeju Ray teaches history at OP Jindal Global University. Ray’s forthcoming book with Oxford University Press titled Placing the Frontier Hills examines the movement of law and its interface with custom in the north east frontier of the British Empire in India. She is currently working from her hometown Shillong.
“Ka Shillong, Ka Meghalaya – Jong Baroh / SHILLONG & MEGHALAYA BELONG TO ALL”
These words that appeared on placards by Shillong’s vendors at rally in June 2016. It carried a political message that is at the heart of demands for rights to livelihood and right to the city. In very plain terms the vendors stated that the city of Shillong, and the state of Meghalaya belongs to everyone. This message challenges dominant ideas of belonging in a city that has experienced decades of violence- both state and non-state- whose primary purpose has been to mark difference.
What do tourists visiting these hills look at, how do they represent the people and the places, and what traces do they leave behind?