- ANAND DAMODARAN / KUNGA TASHI LEPCHA
Lines that meet, lines that divide and imaginary lines that are always in transition. The boundary lines of South Asia are the product of their history. As the British Empire turned into the nation states of post-colonial South Asia, there grew new boundaries. Some old lines became stronger, crossing others became easier and some boundaries were drawn, where for centuries there were none. While Frontiers are formed through the nuances of physical terrain, Borders arise from the extent of nations and the spread of demographics. Boundaries on the other hand are drawn by states, imaginary lines that define territory and demarcate nationhood. Frontiers are not always at the edges of the state, sometimes they are well within. Some regions fall on the fringes of state regulation, often becoming peripheries on the inside. The borderlands of South Asia and peripheries of nation states have histories and realities built on their geographic position. The edges of states are rarely discussed and barely understood. Despite this, these are lands with extensive histories that require remembering and millions of stories that need chronicling. The peripheries of south Asian states are as diverse as the terrain they are placed in. The nature of these spaces is also incredibly nuanced. These spaces are either un-documented or fall into the trap of either being objectified or sensationalized in how they are documented. In reality these spaces are the site of several conflicts, an array of intersecting histories and most of all, everyday life.
Project Frontier Pass is aimed at documenting the borderlands and the peripheral spaces of South Asia. As a partnership between a photographer who works in photodocumentaries in the Himalayas and a research student specializing Indian history and the history of borderlands in south Asia and we began to explore peripheral spaces primarily along the Indian border. These regions as we understood it were not peripheries in themselves, but peripheries to nation states. Regions that had their political and economic place in the state defined by their position at the fringe of modern states. We also learned that understanding these regions, their history and politics required extensive study aided by the knowledge of various disciplines, specialists in those disciplines. Working on the project so far, we have been able to do a brief documentation on a few regions in the eastern Himalayas, along the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Myanmar border.