After Identity: Hydropower and the Politics of Anxiety in the Eastern Himalayas

Sanjib Baruah, Bard College, New York

Historically identity politics and has been rather well-aligned with ‘developmentalism’ in Northeast India. But the potential hydropower boom in the region and the construction of the hydropower infrastructure currently underway have put that political paradigm under strain. Arunachal Pradesh expects to make windfall gains from hydropower. But there is growing anxiety about the downstream impact of hydel projects in the plains of Assam. In a region where devastating earthquakes are part of the public memory and frequent floods part of the lived experience of the majority, fundamental ambivalences about the attendant risks and the distribution of risks have shaken the faith in development. Suddenly, solidarity from anxiety has become a potent social force.