Poet Kamal Kumar Tanti on his search for identity: “Is there any community in this world named after a commodity?” – Assam

In sync with subaltern traditions | Read the full report in The Hindu here >>

Kamal Kumar Tanti is a promising young voice in contemporary Assamese poetry. He belongs to the Adivasi Tea-Garden Labourer community in Assam. His first collection Marangburu Amar Pita (Our Father Marangburu), published in 2007, won him the prestigious Munin Barkotoki Literary Award for 2008. His poems have been included in various anthologies of Assamese poetry and featured in various journals. Tanti’s collection of prose, Nimnaborgo Somaaj Oitijya (Subaltern Society’s Legacy) comprised articles on post-colonial theory and subaltern historiography, with specific reference to colonial history and culture of Assam and was published in September 2007. He also writes fiction. His forthcoming collection is Uttar-Ouponibeshik Kabita (Postcolonial Poems) […]

The community I officially belong to (Ex-Tea Garden Labourer community) has a colloquial language called Sadri. We speak both Sadri and Assamese at home. I write in Assamese with the objective to reach out to a larger audience. Even if the minority communities speak in the majority’s language, they can be heard. My voice is for freedom, for people, against injustice, against colonialism and neo-colonialism. […]

History is the undercurrent of my poetry. By colonial conspiracy, my predecessors from the aboriginal greater adivasi clans were extirpated from the boondocks of Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal and were engaged as tea garden labourers by the British in the fertile land of Assam. There is a definite lack of historiography of the events leading to our being absorbed in mainstream Assamese cultural milieu, how much of our identity remains different and so on. I believe I have not deserted my past, where I come from. Subaltern conventions and culture saturate me and they are in sync with my consciousness, ideologies embedded in my subconscious mind. Subaltern traditions and people are buried deep in my being. Pain and suffering, love and well-being, the indescribable dialectic of conflicts that constitute the flow of life and beyond are my concerns. And my poems are only attempts at the exposition of these. […]

All my poems depict my search for my own identity and are actually based on some real experiences. […]

I disagree with the naming of our community as “Tea-tribe”. Is there any community in this world named after a commodity? It is the best example of the colonial domination of British, and later the internal colonialism taken over by power-hungry, middle-class Assamese. […]

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Known as Adivasis but not tagged tribals | Read the full report in  The Telegraph (Calcutta) here >>

The Centre has not accepted the Adivasis’ demand to grant them the Scheduled Tribe status on the grounds that they “have tended to lose their tribal characteristics in their new surroundings” and that the registrar general of India noted that many of the tea garden communities were listed as Scheduled Castes, not tribes, in their native states.

The Adivasis can be divided into two groups – the tea garden workers and those who retired and settled in and around the gardens.

The families have, over the years, spread to many parts of the state, both in the Upper and lower Assam districts.

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

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