Perspectives from the Margins: Examining Adivasi Narratives of the Naxalbari Movement in West Bengal – “Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative” (National Conference)

Abstract 7: Perspectives from the Margins: Examining Adivasi Narratives of the Naxalbari Movement in West Bengal, 1967-72

Paper presented for “Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative” (National Conference) – New Delhi


Centre for Political Studies, SSS, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi


Naxalbari gets its recognition in history and restores the revolutionary essence of Marxism in the Indian soil which had been distorted, corrupted and destroyed by the revisionist semantics of the CPI (Communist Party of India) and the-then nascent CPI (M)-(Communist Party of India-Marxist). Naxalbari, ideologically and practically, provided an essential popular base for revolutionary armed struggle in India. The mass base of the Naxalbari movement comprised of adivasi settlers from the Central Indian tribal belt, namely the Santal, Oraon and Munda tribes. The study reflects their aspirations for the deliverance of active resistance from the exploitation of the zamindars and jotedars in the earlier phase of history, directing towards the Naxalbari movement, which serves as the landmark for the study. It takes into account and draws major similarities with the norms and consciousness evolved within the tribal communities during the Tebhaga movement 1946-1947, and those prior to the Kol Insurrection of 1833, the Santal Insurrection of 1855-56 and the Rebellion led by Birsa Munda against the British in 1889-1901. 

The period 1967-72 has been taken as a landmark for the study, as the interplay of the volatile situation created by the Naxalbari movement, and the role played by tribal peasants or the adhiars, in the wake of growing discernments against the jotedars post Tebhaga movement in North Bengal. However, Edward Duyker’s anthropological study, Tribal Guerrillas: The Santals of West Bengal and the Naxalite Movement, gives a sense of how the Naxalite vanguard created an interface with the tribal group (the Santals, Oraon, Munda) that, according to contemporary reports constituted the main base of the non-urban side of the Naxalbari movement. Therefore, the study seeks to fill up the vacuum of scholarship by analyzing existing corpus of popular literature and breaks the silence of the adivasi/tribal narratives and memory on the Naxalbari movement. The study aims to analyze the historiography of tribal resistance from a subaltern perspective and ushering renewed ideas in the academic field. The normative and theoretical gap in the subject is analyzed on the basis of existing literature, both primary and secondary.

BIONOTE: Bipasha Rosy Lakra is currently pursuing her PhD at the Centre for Political Science, School of Social Sciences, JNU, New Delhi. She may be contacted at the email ID: [email protected]

Source: Book of Abstracts for the ICSSR-sponsored Two-Day National Conference Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative organised by The Department of English & Outreach Programme Jamia Millia Islamia (New Delhi, 27-28 February 2017)

Courtesy Dr. Ivy Hansdak, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia University New Delhi (email 4 October 2017)

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