If the state in a democracy like India engages in violence towards its own citizens, then is this state still acceptable to the people? This work studies how the wielding and exercise of violence by a power shapes peoples' notions of belongingness, security, and freedom, and how these processes construct or affect the legitimacy of a given power. These questions are answered in this work through insights offered by ethnographic explorations of police violence in Delhi, and the anti-insurgency violence of Indian army in Lakhipathar, Assam. It is a study of the margins of the state - both territorial and conceptual. The sites of study are what are seen as spaces of disorder, of danger, to both the national-body and the citizen-self. The specific vision of the nation-state as marked by fixed geographical boundaries and supremacy over the territories defined by such boundaries, often makes the use of violence imperative, especially at the margins. This violence, however, does not appear to be leading to a disillusionment with the form or the institutions of the state.
Santana Khanikar teaches political geography at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. She has a PhD in Political Science from the University of Delhi, and had worked previously at University of Delhi and the Centre for Women's Development Studies, Delhi. She grew up in a small town in Assam witnessing both insurgent and state and state-sponsored violence from close quarters, where presence of armed forces was a routine part of daily life, Independence Day or Republic Day celebrations were marred by ULFA calls of bandh every year, and school children were on roads participating in movements led by AASU regularly. The areas of her research interest are practices of violence of the state, territoriality and identity, politics in northeast India, and feminist studies. She has published research articles in journals Studies in Indian Politics, and Pratimaan. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org