Mother, Where’s My Country? is Anubha Bhonsle’s first book, one of the best non-fiction works from India in recent years.
In her powerful, poignant book, Anubha examines the tangled and tragic history of Manipur, and of much of India’s North East. Through the story of Irom Sharmila—on a protest fast since 2000—and many others who have fallen victim to violence or despair or stood up to fight for peace and justice, she shows us an entire society ravaged by insurgency and counter-insurgency operations, corruption and ethnic rivalries. Drawing upon extensive interviews with personnel of the Indian army and intelligence agencies, politicians and bureaucrats, leaders of insurgent groups, Irom Sharmila and her family and ordinary people across Manipur, Anubha Bhonsle has produced a compelling and necessary book on the North East, the Indian state, identity politics and the enormous human cost of conflict.
- Read an Excerpt in Caravan Magazine here.
- Read an Excerpt in Outlook here.
- Read an Excerpt published by Women Under Siege here.
P Sainath: ‘Focused on Manipur but reflective of much of the North East, this powerful, moving book weaves an intricate tapestry of human stories, cynical politics, individual heroism and collective humiliation. It is important we look into the mirror this book holds up for us. Anubha Bhonsle reproaches our hypocrisy but addresses our humanity.’
Srinath Raghavan: While the story of Irom Sharmila is a running thread through the book, Bhonsle takes us to wider sets of actors beyond Manipur: students from the North East studying in Delhi and elsewhere, lawyers and human rights activists who have struggled valiantly to ensure justice to the victims of state violence. Above all, Bhonsle leaves us with a sense of why Indian democracy might seem hollow to many of its citizens and yet how others are trying tirelessly to hold the state to the values espoused by its own constitution. Read the full review on the Seminar website, click Books.
The Indian Express: The author shows no urgency to sermonise. She instead allows the moral landscape to emerge as if by what TS Eliot called the “third voice of poetry”. In this case, this would be akin to a voice of conscience that arises out of a dialectic between the outlook of the characters in the book, the author’s own voiceovers and the reader’s engagements with the ideas as they come along. The overall picture that becomes progressively clear by the end of the book is one of a badly wounded civilisation, licking its wounds, trying to heal itself and move on. Read the full review by Pradip Phanjoubam in the Indian Express
Manipur, in the heart of darkness: ‘Nobody can call this book a page-turner; there are times when the narrative is so troubling that one has to steady one’s nerve to proceed. Yet, this is a book that thinking Indians must read, if only to understand what a horrendous price some of our border populations continue to pay to keep the Union intact.’ Read the full review by Ajai Shukla/Business Standard
Review in DNA: While beautifully weaving together Sharmila’s life and the situation that led to the imposition of AFSPA, journalist Bhonsle methodically chronicles and unravels the stark reality of Manipur — how the otherwise beautiful landscape is now overshadowed by powerful and dangerous jumble of “fraction-ridden underground outfits that are fighting the state and, often targeting civilian citizens either with guns or demand notes”.
When reportage illuminates: The Hoot review: “The most refreshing part of Mother, Where’s My Country? is that, unlike many enterprising book-length reportage published in recent years, this is not reductionist in its methodology. The reporter is not out to prove a point from the get go, but to understand and explain. It adheres closely to the principles of journalistic ethnography, presents a rich description of the events and mentalities, and leaves the judging mostly to the reader.”