This book has taken many years to write and witnessed major
changes and upheavals in my personal and professional lives. At its
end, my thoughts are with my Deta (father), who acted as my field
assistant through the project’s inception but did not live to see his
daughter finish her book. He would disagree with many of its argu-
ments even while he took deep pride in it. Growing up in an environ-
ment where daughters were often second-class children, I remain
deeply grateful for the loving care and first-class educations that my
parents Sachindra Nath Sarma and Gita Debi gifted to their chil-
dren, at personal and financial sacrifice, throughout their lives in
At the institutional level, I am grateful to the Association of Com-
monwealth Universities, the Government of India’s Ministry of Hu-
man Resources and Education, St Catharine’s College, and the Uni-
versity of Cambridge for facilitating my award of a Commonwealth
PhD scholarship from 1998 to 2003. The Smuts Fund, Leche Trust,
Mountbatten Memorial Trust, Eric Stokes bursary at St Catharine’s
College, and Berkman and Falk Trusts in Pittsburgh provided impor-
tant additional funding from 2000 to 2005. In India, Britain, the
United States, and Canada, the sta√ of the National Archives of India,
New Delhi; National Library, Calcutta; Department of Historical and
Antiquarian Studies, Guwahati; Gauhati University Library, Mali-
gaon; Assam State Archives, Dispur; District Record O≈ce, Jorhat;
Dibrugarh University Library; Northeastern Hill University Library
and Sociology Department, Shillong; Nehru Memorial Museum and
Library, New Delhi; British Library; Cambridge University Library;
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