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Suchitra Vijayan, author of Midnight’s Borders: A People’s History of Modern India, talks about what propelled her to travel 9,000 miles along India’s borderlands. In conversation with Vaibhav Vats, Vijayan recounts her reportage along India’s tenuous boundaries with Bangladesh, Myanmar, China and – most contentious of all – Pakistan. The conversation delves into the nature of borders, the peculiar origins of India’s demarcations and the fractured, founding history that underpins the Indian nation-state. Vijayan and Vats also muse on how the violence on the peripheries slowly permeates inwards, as raging conflicts over citizenship and identity – once an issue confined largely to the borderlands – have moved to the centre of the Indian body politic.
Suchitra Vijayan was born and raised in Madras, India. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, GQ, The Boston Review, The Hindu, and Foreign Policy, and she has appeared on NBC news. 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. She is an award-winning photographer, the founder and executive director of the Polis Project, a hybrid research and journalism organization. She lives in New York.
Vaibhav Vats is an independent writer and journalist. His work has appeared in the New York Times and Al Jazeera, among other publications. He is working on a book on Hindu nationalism and the making of India’s Second Republic.