Role of the State and Traditional Institutions in Identity Formation: A Study of the Namghar in Assam

By Ankita Dutta

The Neo-Vaishnavite movement of Srimanta Sankardeva in the 14th century led to the subsequent formation of an ‘Assamese’ identity centering around the Sattra (a Vaishnavite monastery) and the Namghar (the former’s extended wing). Both the Sattra and the Namghar are intimately associated with the socio-cultural and religious life of the Assamese society. The ‘democratic’ institution of the Namghar provides a common forum for villagers to assemble and not only discuss collectively their common issues and problems but also resolve the local disputes of the village through locally evolved judicial procedures and methods. This paper tries to locate the role of the Namghar as a traditional institution in today’s context of the fragmentation of the Vaishnavite community into different sects and sub-sects. It makes a study of the factors resulting in the ‘fracture’ of the ‘Assamese’ identity in the context of the Namghar, and looks into the several ways by which people identify and distinguish themselves from the ‘other’. It also tries to emphasise the complementary relationship between the traditional and the modern, and how the continuous interaction between the state and traditional institutions seeks to create and re-create new identities and new dynamics of legitimacy and power relations, having implications on the way of functioning of both.

Keywords: Neo-Vaishnavism, Namghar, Sattra, identity, Assam.

Fulltext PDF

Migration from Agricultural Land in Barpeta to Waste-land in Lucknow: A Struggle for Livelihood

By Roli Misra

Migration influences the society, polity, geography, culture, demography and economy in different ways and degrees. From the global macro level to the rural micro level via nation-states and other politico-spatial formations it exerts influence at all levels. This paper is based on the field survey conducted in two cities i.e., Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh (the destination) and Barpeta in Assam (the source). The experiences from the field survey demonstrate that people from a particular religious minority from rural Barpeta have been migrating since last two decades to Lucknow and they have found their livelihoods in waste. It is a kind of long distance rural-urban migration. There are mixed reasons to migrate. Hence, it is a kind of complex yet interesting situation where a certain linguistic community has migrated to a distant land, chosen to indulge in a menial job and the state is indifferent to include them in mainstream development policies because of their contested identities.

Keywords: Migration, Identity, Bangladesh, Assam, Bodo, Waste- picker, Lucknow, Barpeta

Fulltext PDF

Role of Women during the Anti-Foreigners’ Agitation in Assam 1979-1985

By Nabanita Sharma

The Anti-foreigners agitation in Assam started against the alleged inclusion of ‘foreigners’ name in the voters’ lists in several electoral constituencies in Assam in the 1970s. This agitation lasted for nearly five years. This event has been researched widely. Women constituted a major chunk among the agitators. Women were most vulnerable to violence that occurred during the agitation and afterward. However, this group of agitators has not been studied separately. In this paper, I have made an attempt to see how they viewed the agitation and what prompted them to join in such a large scale. I have also tried to study the need for looking at women’s participation in the agitation separately. Women in Assam, compare to the rest of India were less educated and had almost zero participation in politics in the 1970s. This paper is an attempt to explore the reasons and repercussions of the joining of women in the agitation.

Keywords: Anti-Foreigners’ Agitation, AASU, AAGSP, Agitation, Assam, Foreigner, Women.

Fulltext PDF

Forest Conservation and Management Practices among the Ahom rulers of Pre-Colonial Assam: An Historical Assessment

By Srijani Bhattacharjee

Variances in administrative sanctions over nature under pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial regimes have been the subject matter of enquiry in the discourses of environmental history. It is usually estimated that with the establishment of colonial power in India, state intervention over nature have multiplied leading to interference in the flora, fauna and indigenous rights of the forest based communities. The contrary argument put against this is that the traditional societies maintained a balanced approach towards nature with nominal intrusion of the state. This paper attempts to analyse the role of the traditional rulers in administering nature by maintaining a balance between state forest policies and indigenous forest rights. For our study we have taken the Ahom rulers of Assam and their endeavours of forest conservation and management over the region. The Ahom monarchs ruled over Assam from the 13th century till the initiation of British administration over the territory. The study intends to find out the extent of floral and faunal use in the region under the Ahom state, state policies towards forests and neighbouring tribes and the royal approach towards the fauna of the region.

Keywords: Conservation, Management, Forest use, Ahom, Assam, Nature.

Fulltext PDF