1st Edition

Custom, Law and the Colonial State in Northeast India Dynamics and Challenges for the Postcolonial State

Edited By Nandini Bhattacharyya Panda Copyright 2025
    220 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge India

    This volume presents a multidimensional analysis of the current operational law – both constitutional and customary – in Northeast India. It looks at how colonialism redesigned and redefined extant customary practices, leaving a permanent legacy on the legal governance and societal structure of the postcolonial Indian state.


    The book interrogates ‘law’ through a broad spectrum of issues including gender, partition, the legacy of colonial structures, and religion as a form of resistance against land grabbing and censorship. It delineates a distinct historical process of the evolution of law and custom, and focuses on the intimate links between law and the dynamics of state, ethnicity, and governance.


    A unique contribution, the book offers new insights into how and why the continuity of colonial law within a democratic framework perpetuates deep rooted problems in governance and the psyche of the people. It will be indispensable for students and researchers of history, law, anthropology, legal anthropology, sociology, Indian politics, and South Asian studies.

    1.   Colonial State and Law and Customs in Northeast India

    Virginius Xaxa


    2.   The colonial legacy in Manipur

    Amarjeet Singh


    3.   From Lines to Belts’: Immigration, Anxiety and Community Relations in late Colonial and Post-Colonial Assam

    Binayak Dutta


    4.   Colonial Legal Formation in Northeast India: An Introspective Gaze in the Contemporary Context

    Nandini Bhattacharyya-Panda


    5.   Customary Law and Gender in Northeast India

    T. B. Subba


    6.   Power-Relations in Matrilineal Khasi-Jaintia Society: Revisiting Traditional Political Institutions from Pre-Colonial to Contemporary Times

    Cecile Mawlong


    7.   Turning to Stone: Transformations in Angami-Naga Patriarchy

    Theyiesinou Keditsu


    8.   Creating World Heritage at the Margins of the State: Wildlife, Custom and Culture

    Erik De Maaker


    9.   Legislating ‘Objectionable Content’ in the British Indian Empire and the Case of Assam in Northeast India (1910-1950)

    Kaushik Thakur Bhuyan



    Nandini Bhattacharyya Panda is currently project Director in Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi, India. She is also the Distinguished Fellow of Asian Confluence, Meghalaya. A historian and Sanskritist, her book Appropriation and Invention of Tradition: The English East India Company and Hindu Law in Early Colonial Bengal (2012) was a seminal contribution to modern Indian history. She has also lectured on Hindu Law, Northeast India and other subjects in leading national and international universities, such as University of Cambridge, UK, Penn Law School at the University of Pennsylvania, Dhaka University, Bangladesh among others. She has been working on the Eastern Himalayas including Nepal and Northeast India since 2006, She has published books, articles and made a documentary film in 2016 on the Lepcha community of the Eastern Himalayas under the title: The Lepcha Community of the Darjeeling and Kalimpong Hills: Quest for the Roots.