A pivot for India’s Act-East policy. The gateway to a future of immense possibilities from hydrocarbons to regional trade over land and water that could create a new Silk Route. A bulwark against China. A cradle of climate change dynamics and migration. ‘Northeast’ India, the appellation with which India’s far-east is known, is all this and more.
Alongside hope and aspiration, it is also home to immense ethnic and communal tension, and a decades-old Naga conflict and the high-profile peace process that involves four gateway states—Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam—and several million people. It’s among the most militarized zones in the world. It’s a playground of corruption and engineered violence. Only real peace, and calm in both Myanmar and Bangladesh, will unlock this Eastern gate.
A keen observer and frequent chronicler of the region, Sudeep Chakravarti has for several years offered exclusive insights into the Machiavellian—Chanakyan—world of the Naga and other conflicts and various attempts to resolve these. He now melds the skills of a journalist, analyst, historian and ethnographer to offer inside stories and a ringside view to the tortuous, no-holds-barred attempts at resolving conflict.
Employing a ‘dispatches’ style of storytelling, and interviews with rebel leaders, politicians, bureaucrats, policymakers, security specialists and operatives, gunrunners, ‘narcos’, peace negotiators and community leaders, Chakravarti’s narrative provides a definitive guide to the transition from war to peace, even as he keeps a firm gaze on the future. The Eastern Gate is a tour de force that captures this story of our times.
The old general inspects the emptied magazine, slides it back in, thumbs off the safety, primes the slide, aims down the barrel at the teakwood bookshelf at the end of the room, and pulls the trigger. Click. It is all fluid motion that lasts seconds. He gently replaces the Walther on the table and responds to my query about what could happen if a political understanding isn’t reached about securing the Naga homelands in Manipur.
‘Manipur nathaki jabo,’ he says simply.
There won’t be a Manipur. More precisely, there won’t be a Manipur as we know it.
Sudeep Chakravarti is an award-winning author of several best-selling works of history, ethnography, politics and conflict resolution, including Plassey: The Battle that Changed the Course of Indian History, The Bengalis: A Portrait of a Community, and Highway 39: Journeys through a Fractured Land. His other notable non-fiction works are Red Sun: Travels through Naxalite Country, and Clear.Hold.Build: Hard Lessons of Business and Human Rights in India, which won the Award for Excellence at the Asian Publishing Awards. He has written three critically acclaimed novels, and several short stories. His work has been translated into several Indian and European languages.
An extensively published columnist, and media consultant and regional risk analyst, he has nearly four decades of experience in media. Sudeep has worked with major global and Indian media organisations including The Asian Wall Street Journal, where he began his career, and held leadership positions at Sunday, the India Today Group, and HT Media.
Sudeep read history at St Stephen’s College, University of Delhi. Away from history, research, and writing, his other passion remains marine conservation.