Abstract 10: The Tribe against Itself: Narratives of Ethnicity and Othering of the Bodos and the Adivasis in Bodoland
Paper presented for “Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative” (National Conference) – New Delhi
Centre for the Study of Regional Development, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
KEYWORDS: IDENTITY, BODOLAND, CULTURE, TERRITORY, VIOLENCE
Tribal narratives of alienation of forest, land and water form one of the core subaltern chapters of Tribal Studies in India. The Bodo movement for grant of autonomy is woven around such demands of safeguard from the exploitation of land and forest resources; it has been an entourage of ideals like autochthony, cultural superiority, ethnic distinction, alienated identity and the contested right to self-determination. However, identity assertion, resource conflict and the demand for grant of autonomy is seldom so modestly unidirectional, as it incorporates questions of power, hegemony and control in a society having multiple tribal communities.
This paper explores indigenous identity in Bodoland, Assam by studying two tribal groups- Bodos and Adivasis; one considered the autochthon for which a Sixth Schedule safeguarding autonomy is granted and the other, considered an ‘outsider’ is continuously subjected to justify their access to the forests and lands of Bodoland and is not even recognised as a ‘Scheduled Tribe’. Such politics of hegemony is centered around the belongingness to a piece of territory where tribal identity is constructed and defined to negotiate the access to forest and land of every tribal community.
The paper focuses on these issues:
- a) How have the Adivasis been selectively excluded from the mainstream tribal politics historically to construct them as the ‘other’ in Bodoland?
- b) The internalisation of violence with respect to identity- ethnicity- territory to create hegemony within the otherwise exploited tribal communities of Assam.
- c) The meaning of territory for tribal communities and the role of territory in ethnic identity assertions assigning the tribes their identity.
The paper is based on an ethnographic survey, with primary data collecting narratives from more than 150 households and 10 focus group discussions from all the four districts of Bodoland- Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri.
BIONOTE: Evy Mehzabeen is currently pursuing her PhD at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, SSS, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She may be contacted at the email ID: email@example.com
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)
Bodoland, (also Boroland), officially the Bodoland Territorial Region, is an autonomous region in India. It made up of four districts on the north bank of the Brahmaputra river, by the foothills of Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh. It is administered by an elected body known as the Bodoland Territorial Council which came into existence under the terms of a peace agreement signed in February 2003 and its autonomy was further extended by an agreement signed in January 2020. The region covers an area of over eight thousand square kilometres and is predominantly inhabited by the Bodo people and other indigenous communities of Assam.
Source: Bodoland Territorial Region – Wikipedia
Date visited: 2 June 2020
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