COVER STORY

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Employment issues and unemployment problems are the main concerns of 49 percent of Saudi youth who took part in the survey. Housing and rent issues came second, concerning 32 percent of participants.

Amaresh Misra



Swami Vivekanand called it the second most beautiful place on earth after Kashmir. Today, the wonder that was Assam is a mass of decomposing bodies, petty politicking, strewn hopes, unfathomable despair and a fear that says: only man is vile.

In Assam, it does not matter whether the conflict is ethnic or communal or over land or some other issue. Any of these reasons-or all combined-might have triggered the violence. But more than 90 people (numbers go up each day) do not get killed-more 400,000 are not rendered homeless-because some Johnny come lately-whether a Bodo or an Assamese Muslim or an `infiltrator’-decides to fight the `other’. For the violence to attain such a gruesome character and a pitch that refuses to abate-an organized hand-or multiple forces-have to be at work.

See the injustice and conspiracy: Sreenivasan Jain, the NDTV journalist, catches refugees living in camps openly saying that Pradeep Brahma, the Bodo People's Front (BPF) MLA, fired at Muslims and Santhal Adivasis with his own gun. After the Assam visit of Ms. Sonia Gandhi, the Congress president, Pradeep Brahma is arrested. Now BPF is part of the Tarun Gogoi led Congress government in Assam-why would a senior party arrest a member of its own coalition unless there is solid proof? But, as far as the Sangh Parivar and BJP are concerned, this argument falls on deaf ears. Bajrang Dal announces an Assam Bandh protesting the arrest of Pradeep Brahma-and to demand-hold your breath-the arrest of Badruddin Ajmal-the leader of United Democratic Front (UDF)-one of the leading opposition parties of Assam with 18 MLAs-several of them Hindus!

Has anyone-even a prominent Bodo leader like Hagramy Mohilary-demanded Badruddin Ajmal’s arrest? On what grounds, what evidence are Bajrang Dal cadres making this insistence? Is there any evidence of ALUDF cadres indulging in anti-Bodo violence? Is there any complaint of a AIUDF MLA-like Basheer Ahmed-the MLA from Bilashpada-near Bodo areas-even lifting a finger at any Bodo?

Are we going to have two laws in India-one for Muslims and another one for non-Muslims? By demanding Ajmal's arrest, the Sangh Parivar has just entered the league of anti-national forces like ULFA who seek the dismemberment of India. Ordinary Bodos have condemned any sort of violence. But some Bodo outfits like the Christian dominated National Peoples Front of Bodos (NDFB)-which still fights for a separate Bodoland-do not like even the BPF. Along with the Sangh Parivar and ULFA, they too demand action against AIUDF MLAs none of whom has ever been found inciting violence.

The conflicts within Bodos, external funding for the NFDB, the problem of armed militant militias living in designated camps in Assam and the Northeast, who transgress their limits openly and start killing Muslims in any such situation, the troubles of modern Assam since Independence, will be dealt with in the second part of this article.

Right now, it is necessary to rise above sectarian mindsets to say that apart from people in flesh and blood, the very idea of India as a diverse, multi-cultural, multi-national country is under attack in Assam.

ASSAM'S COMPOSITE CULTURE

Assam's history is truly plural. Apart from the proliferation of indigenous tribes since times immemorial, non-tribal groups (Brahmin priests, Kayasthas, peasants, labourers, clerks, government officials, traders, entrepreneurs) from outside the area (undivided Bengal, Bihar, present-day Uttar Pradesh and other Hindi-Urdu speaking areas) have constantly arrived, assimilated-and reshaped-Assamese society.

For instance, Assam’s name derives from a long rule (1228-1826) of upper/eastern, and parts of central Assam, by the Ahom dynasty of Chinese origin. However, even at the height of Ahom power (late 17th-early 18th century), the Koch Rajbongshi dynasty reigned in parts of western or lower Assam. Enjoying Kshatriya status, Koch Rajbongshis split in late 16th century into two main branches: western and eastern. In the 19th century, the British created the Cooch-Behar state from the western Koch Rajbongshi kingdom.

By then, a third political entity-the Bodo-Kacharis-had dispersed all over Assam after losing their Barak valley kingdom to the British in 1832.

Ahom rule was truly ecumenical. Early on, medieval era tribes like Barahis and Marans-of Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman descent became part of the Ahom ethnic group. Then Khasis from present-day Meghalaya were admitted in the Ahom army on terms that they would retain their ethnicity. Finally, Bodos, Jaintiyas, Daflas, Karbis, Rabhas, Lalungs, Singhpos, Garos, Khamtis, Bhors, Lyngngams-even a small number of Lushais and Kukis were settled on Ahom lands after similar guarantees.

Under Chilarai, the Koch-Rajbongshis rulers of lower-western Assam defeated the Ahoms in a 16th century battle. For a brief period, Chilarai, successfully created another political federation based on the loyalty of mainly Barak and Surma Valley tribes. In the post-Chilarai era, the Bodo-Dimasa rulers of the Barak valley and parts of Surma valley also integrated several Naga tribes in a federal structure.

Ahoms introduced-in contrast to the traditional jhum cultivation-the technologically superior, wet rice farming in Assam. Sankardev, a 16th century Bhakti saint, pioneered the Vaishnavite creed that extended till Manipur. In Assam, his disciples included Chandsai, a Muslim, Govinda, a Garo, Paramanda, a Miri, Jayananda, a Bhutia, Narahari, an Ahom, Madhav, a Jaintia and Damodar, a Bania. Under Ahoms, Vaishnavism co-existed with Shaktism. The Kamakhya temple-one of the most important seats of Shakti worship in India-was part of Ahom lands.

MUSLIMS IN ASSAM AND NORTHEAST INDIA

Today, one hears of Bodo vs Muslim clashes-it is instructive that Ali Mech-perhaps the first person to embrace Islam in Assam (14th century)-belonged to an indigenous tribe with Bodo links. Soldiers left behind by Bakhtiyar Khilji’s invading army in the 13th century, and other prisoner of wars, settled in Assam. Quite a few intermarried with women of local tribes.

Also, in the 14th century, a Muslim saint named Giasuddin Aulia came to Kamrupa. He established a dargah at Pua Mecca in Hajo about 30 km west of Guwahati. Other religious leaders like Ajan Fakir, Khandakar Peer, Manik Fakir, Nawaz Peer also came to Assam and adopted the local language and culture.

As early as the 15th century, a distinct brand of Assamese Muslims began emerging with different surnames and titles. During the reign of Ahom ruler Swargadeo Rudra Singha in the early part of the eighteenth century, some Muslim families proficient in different crafts and arts were invited from Delhi to reside in Assam and offer their services. These families were Pharsiparia, Aakharkatia (experts in making cannon balls, locally known as hiloi), Silakatia and Khanikar.

During the Ahom-Mughal war, Assamese Muslims fought hand-in-hand with their Hindu brethrens. In the decisive battle of Saraighat (1671)-that led to Ahom victory under Lachit Barphukan-Bagh Hazarika alias Ismail Siddiqui-led an Assamese force of one thousand Muslim soldiers against the Mughals.

Shah Hussain Khan and Ramzan Khan-two Assamese Muslim nobles-fought against the late 18th century-early 19th century Burmese invaders. In the Hadirachaki war, local Muslims fought against the Burmese forces, under the command of Mir-ud-Daula.

Incredible as it might sound today-under the successful rule of Dimasa-Bodos-Sylhet-in present-day Bangladesh-close to Silchar in Assam’s Barak valley-emerged as a major centre of Sufism and Muslim learning. Sylheti became a foremost language at par with Assamese-both these languages formed the eastern dialects of the great Bengali language family. While Sylhet’s chieftains became Muslims under the influence of Shah Jalal Yemeni, a great Sufi saint, several other political principalities of the Barak and Surma valley and East Bengal amalgamated Hindu-Muslim, even Buddhist features. For a long time, Chakmas of Chittagong (East Bengal) were Buddhists with Muslim chieftains.

Chiefs of Jaintia-located in present-day Meghalaya-believed in a matrilineal line of succession. In the 17th century, a Jaintia chief gave his sister in marriage to the Mughal Governor. Her son-a Muslim-became the next ruler. But his sister married a non-Muslim Jaintia. So when the British annexed the state in the 1830s, it was a mixed Hindu-Muslim-tribal-Jaintia kingdom!

The composite culture of Assam saw Radharam-as the chief of South Karimganj district-resisting the British in the 18th century. Most fighters in Radharam’s army were Muslims. The chief actually was called Nawab Radharam! More importantly, he was known as a Kayastha with mixed “tribal blood”!

Such features-the co-existence of Hindu, Muslim and local tribes-leading to the creation of a new breed-born out of intermixing and intermarriages or non-conventional liaisons-are to be found in such abundance that it is difficult to classify/separate Northeastern and East Bengal identities.

THE GREAT MANIPURI CHAPTER

Beyond Assam, Hindu rulers of Manipur merged Vaishnavism with Sanamahism, the traditional religion of the Meitei people, whose rulers controlled the area till 1947, and still constitute the majority (60% of the total population). Meitei-Sanamahi-Hindu-Manipuri princes carried multiple identities. They were also, often raised in Naga households. Pamheiba was one such 18th century warrior-prince. His exploits were not limited to victory in warfare and crushing Burmese excursions. Despite being a staunch Vaishnavite Hindu, following the traditions of that era, Pamheiba declared himself “protector of the poor”, openly announcing the adoption the Persian-Muslim Garib Nawaz title on his coins and royal standards!

Has anyone ever heard of such a thing-a mixture of tribal and Muslim elements-constituting a composite culture? Why is it that this unique history of Assam and the northeast was not taught to north, west and south Indians? What kind of politics waves its murky hands behind this exclusion?

Indeed, Muslims of Manipur-mostly outsiders who settled in the area in waves beginning from the 14th century-and intermarried locals-carry their own Meitei-Pangal identity. The Muslim population of Manipur touches the 9% mark; however, it is impossible to find Muslim Pangals residing outside Manipur in any noteworthy numbers. Under the rule of Meidingu Khagemba (1597- 1652 AD), a Muslim personal law board, under a Qazi, was established by orders of the King. Manipuri Muslims played a major role in the preservation of the Meiteilon-Manipuri language and script, to an extent that even today universities and colleges in Manipur offer courses in Meiteilon.

It seems that all over Assam and northeast India tribes, Hindu sects, Muslim Sufis and warriors, Brahmins, peasant castes and Kayasthas interacted with élan. Bodos, Ahoms, Kochs, Sutiyas, Karbis, Mishims, Bengali Hindus, Muslims, North Indian Brahmins, Vaishnavites, Buddhists, worshippers of Sakti, and Kayasthas, followers of tribal deities of Chinese, Burmese, and Tibetan derivation-just to cite a few examples-formed part of this truly remarkable amalgamation of different races, modes of land tenure, forms of worship, imported peasant cultures of the plains and the hill culture of the tribes, clerks and paiks.

BRITISH RULE

The British annexed Assam after the first Anglo-Burmese war. The war resulted in the treaty of Yandabo (1826). Due to Burmese atrocities, people and leaders of Assam welcomed the British initially; but then the British raised land revenue and began harassing the peasantry. Several new taxes were introduced and peasants were made to labour on lands colonized by the British East India Company (BEIC). It can be safely assumed that the British introduced features of European-style feudalism in Assam and the northeast.

As a political-military force, the British entered Assam during the first Anglo-Burmese war-prior to that the Maomoria rebellion (see `Last Days of Ahom Monarchy', written by SL Baruah, 1993, New Delhi, `A History of Assam’, written by Edward A Gait, 1906, Calcutta and `Medieval and Early Colonial Assam’, written by Amalendu Guha, 1991, Calcutta)-a fight between Ahom rulers and the Vaishnava sattras—in which the latter got the support of another Ahom court faction-severely weakened the Ahom polity. Taking advantage of the unsettled conditions, the Burmese invaded Assam committing numerous atrocities on the people.

Due to the mayhem caused by the Burmese, people and leaders of Assam, the Ahom Raja, and some North Eastern tribes, welcomed the British initially. But the real, imperial nature of the British became apparent soon after the treaty of Yandabo (1826) between the British and the Burmese. For several years, British officials kept avoiding a settlement with Ahom rulers. After much delay and dithering, the British signed a treaty with Purandar Singha, the Ahom King, in 1833.

Maniram Dewan

Belonging to an old elite family of Kayastha administrators of North Indian (Kannauj) origin, Maniram Dewan (originally Maniram Barua), was a vital link between the British and the Ahom Kings. Working as part of the British bureaucracy in the 1820s, Maniram was also given the additional charge of Borbhandar (Prime Minister), at Purandar Singha’s court in 1833.

Maniram discovered the potential of tea plantation in Assam. He surprised Bessa Gam-a local Singpo chief-by turning up at his village one fine morning, in the 1820s-with Robert and Charles Alexander Bruce-of the legendary Bruce Brothers fame-credited with identifying tea in Assam-in tow. But BEIC Calcutta officials refused to acknowledge the genuineness of Maniram’s discovery. However, after 1833, when the BEIC lost its tea trade monopoly with China, BEIC officials were forced to eat their own words.

On 1st February, 1834, Governor General William Bentinck established the Tea Committee. Maniram met Dr. Wallich, the same man who had rejected his samples earlier, as a representative of Purandar Singha.

Besides monopolising tea plantations and trade, the British had other evil designs in mind. A 26th February, 2009 Assam Tribune article, written by Dr. HK Goswami, observes that soon after Maniram’s meeting with Dr. Wallich, “Jenkins, the North-East Agent of the Governor General, visited Purandar Singha’s territory on a fact-finding mission...one man who strongly defended the Raja was Maniram Dewan, Chief Counsellor of the Raja. Purandar Singha was deposed in 1838 on the plea of bad governance and default in payment of the tribute and the British annexed his territories (http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/details.asp?id=feb2609/edit3)”.

All through the 1840s and 50s, the BEIC administration annexed several states in India on the trumped up charge of bad governance. But, despite Jenkins' adverse comments, Maniram outflanked the Governor General’s agent, becoming in 1839, the Dewan of the Assam Tea Company at Nazira, drawing a salary of 200 rupees per month.

But Maniram felt suffocated working under the British. A surprisingly well researched Wikipedia entry on Maniram Dewan notes that "in the mid-1840s, Maniram quit his job due to differences of opinion with company officers...he established his own tea garden at Chenimora in Jorhat, thus becoming the first Indian to grow tea commercially in Assam...Maniram established another tea plant in Sibsagar. Apart from the tea industry, Maniram also ventured into iron smelting, gold procuring and salt production. He was also involved in the manufacturing of goods like matchlocks, hoes and cutlery. His other business activities included handloom, boat making, brick making, bell-metal, dyeing, ivory work, ceramic, coal supply, elephant trade, construction of buildings for military headquarters and agricultural products. Some of the markets established by him include the Garohat in Kamrup, Nagahat near Sibasagar, Borhat in Dibrugarh, Sissihat in Dhemaji and Darangia Haat in Darrang (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maniram_Dewan).

Here we have-in the person of Maniram-much before Tatas and Birlas appeared on India's business stage-the first example of a modern, Indian entrepreneur. Imagine an Indian in the 1840s and 50s, establishing not only tea plantations but extending activities to a whole range of goods and products, staggering by even today’s standards. In fact, Tatas began as British middlemen in the China opium trade in the 1850s and 60s. Birlas also started their businesses as middlemen in about the same period.

But rather than becoming a comprador (intermediary) bourgeoisie subservient to imperialism, Maniram chose independence and the path of a nationalist bourgeoisie. Like Americans today-the British-then the foremost Imperialist world power tolerated even encouraged, compradors. But they regarded independent, nationalist entrepreneurs as an anathema. The Wikipedia entry further notes that, “Maniram faced numerous administrative obstacles in establishing private tea plantations, due to opposition from competing European tea planters. In 1851, an officer seized all the facilities provided to him due to a tea garden dispute. Maniram, whose family consisted of 185 people, had to face economic hardship.”

Another Assam Tribune article notes that "As a matter of fact, Maniram wanted to build up a self-dependent economy. Incidentally, former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in his Republic Day speech of 2005 stressed on making entrepreneurial course ‘compulsory’...it may be surmised that what Assam thought 143 years ago...the credit for this goes to the father of modern Assamese nationality-Maniram Dewan (http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/details.asp?id=feb2608/edit2)”.

Soon, Maniram's "property was auctioned at a very nominal price to George Williamson".

MISERY OF ASSAM AND THE NORTH-EAST

Maniram's disenchantment with the British occurred against the backdrop of widespread discontent in Assam and the North-East. After 1826, the BEIC had gone on to acquire territory after territory including Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Manipur. Despite treaties and agreements with various tribes, the essential British policies of harassing the tribes and peasantry produced revolts.

The Singhpos and the Nagas were the first to rebel, and the Anglo-Naga war extended from 1835 to 1852 AD.

Under British rule, peasants of Assam in particular had to pay three times the land revenue they delivered under the Ahoms. Minor delays in payments-overlooked in the Ahom-paik system of decentralized revenue-which favoured local factors and leniency-saw properties both of small peasants and distinguished upper/Eastern Assamese service-military gentry-being attached. Erstwhile lords and labourers alike were reduced to penury. Plus, the British began importing Santhals from Bengal to work as indentured labour in the tea gardens, being set up by the British in both upper (eastern) and lower (western) Assam. By the 1850s, economic hardship became so severe, that apart from Ahoms, several erstwhile Koch and Bodo men of influence were working as labourers in tea gardens.

BRITISH IMPACT ON LOCAL CULTURE

But the worst part of British rule was the interference in local culture. It was the British who began identity politics in Assam. Large sections of specific tribes-the Kukis and some Naga sub tribes to begin with-were converted to Christianity. British administrators also began insisting on `pure bloodlines’; chieftains with mixed religious or tribal heritage were shunned.

Simultaneously, the impact of the Bengal renaissance and the Brahmo Samaj movement was felt in Assam. Even though Assam lacked a Bengal style, pro-British, colonial middle class, Anandram Dhekial Phukan( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anandaram_Dhekial_Phukan) began his pioneering work to revive Assamese literature (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Assamese_literature) and initiate social reforms.

However, Maniram refused to go over to the reformist-collaborationist, pro-British, Bengal-renaissance side, which distorted and confused reformist-modernist figures like Debendra Nath Tagore, the father of Rabnindra Nath Tagore. Instead, Maniram Dewan, the indigenous modernist, took the revolutionary path.

In a famous petition/manifesto (http://books.google.co.in/books?id=JCnLlpHhtUgC&pg=PA95&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false) presented before Moffat Mills, the British Judge, in 1853, Maniram clearly stated Assam’s main problem: the loss of political-social and economic power by indigenous forces of all classes under British rule. He denounced the setting up of unfamiliar, phirang courts with alien laws, the emergence of the dalaal, the high British revenue, the desecration of royal tombs and temples (like Kamakhya), the loss of occupation, the introduction of opium, and the system of collecting rents through mouzdars (rent collectors-mostly Bengalis and Marwaris from outside Assam). In an almost stunning bid to achieve a pan-Assam-North East unity, Maniram further wrote that the "objectionable treatment" of Hill Tribes (such as the Nagas) was resulting in constant warfare leading to mutual loss of life and money.

FREEDOM MOVEMENT IN ASSAM

In 1857, Maniram Dewan formed an underground network of revolutionaries. His main hope lay in the Jorhat-Sibsagar based 1st Assam Light Infantry (ALI) and the Gauwahati based 2nd ALI. The Assam regiments were a mixed cauldron with Poorabias from western Bihar (Arrah) rubbing shoulders with mainstream Assamese Muslim warriors, Nepalis, Manipuris, Jarrowas and Doaneas (the last two born out of mixed Assamese-Singhpo union).

Especially after the revolt of Bengal Army Regiments at Danapur (near Patna), Bihar on 25th July 1857, Poorabia elements of the Assam Infantry began talking about British overthrow and the installation of Bahadur Shah Zafar as India’semperor. (http://books.google.co.in/books?id=MzjyHi4LEQAC&pg=PA142&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false).

Dewan's circle's inimitability rested on its diverse nature: it included Mayaram and Krishna Chandra Mazumdar-two Golaghat based Assamese of Bengali origin-Madhu Malik-a Dibrugarh Bengali-Ganesh Chaudhary, Umakant and Khageshwar-of mixed Bengali-Assamese heritage-Piyali Barua, Ditiram Barua and Marangikhowa Gohain-three major Ahom figures-and Ramdas and Visnhudev Mahanta-two sattra Vaishnavite spiritual leaders.

Thus 1857 bridged also, the fault-lines and political lacunae left by the Ahom-sattra struggle that was instrumental both, in the Burmese invasion, and the military march of the British into Assam.

The pan-Assam unity achieved by Maniram included Urbidhar Barua, Mayaram Barbora, Chitrasen Barbora, Kamala Charingia Barua, Mahidhar Sarma Muktear, Luki Senchowa Barua, and Deoram Dihingia Barua.

Bahadur Gaonburha and Sheikh Formud Ali-two leading Muslim personalities of Assam-helped Maniram-who was in Calcutta in May, 1857-establish direct linkages to Shiekh Bhikun and Noor Muhammad-two Muslim subedars of Assamese origin-posted in the Nogore detachment-of the Sibsagar based 1st ALI unit.

Acting on Manirams advice-Kandarpeswar Singha-the grandson of Purandar Singha-the last Ahom King-met Sheikh Fomud Ali and Bahadur Gaonburha. Soon, Subedars Sheikh Bhikun and Noor Muhammad were corresponding with Kandarpeswar Singha (also called Charing Raja) secretly.

Promising to double the salaries of all ALI Sepoys, the Charing Raja gave his consent to lead the Assam revolution. In keeping with precedents set by Begum Hazrat Mahal-representing Nawabs of Awadh in the 1857 war-at Lucknow-and Peshwa Nana Sahib-at Kanpur-Kandarpeswar Singha agreed to rule Assam after expelling the British as a vassal of Bahadur Shah Zafar! Mughals were never able to capture upper Assam from Ahoms. But in a revolutionary, political moment of Indian history, Ahom and Mughal houses united in struggle against British rule!

THE ROLE OF BODOS AND KOCHS IN 1857

Maniram had also enrolled in the freedom movement personalities like Madhuram Koch-a Koch Rajbongshi figure who owned a tea plantation but was relegated by the British to the status of labourer; Rupahi and Lumbai Aideo-two Assamese women pensioners; and Usubar, Laochiklang and Maalu Sikhla-three Bodo warriors.

The inclusion of Bodo warriors in the anti-British, 1857 plot was a masterstroke. Imagine the Indian history in which Bodos fought for India’s freedom struggle under the leadership of Bahadur Shah Zafar, a Mughal King! Revealed in an obscure book written by a descendant of one of the Poorabia survivor of 1857 in Assam (San Sattavan ki Ankahee Kahani, written by Prem Dutt Pandey, 1957, Prayaga Sahitya Sammelan, Allahabad), this aspect presents a great challenge before Indian and Bodo historians. Even Bodos in general seem unaware of their heroes who fought against the British in 1857. This is just the beginning; and more work-especially with regard to Bodo sources-needs to be done in this field.

After losing completely, their Barak valley based kingdom to the British in 1832, Bodo-Kacharis had spread-by 1857-to nearly all parts of present-day Assam. Members of the Bodo-Kachari nobility migrated as far as Kashi (see Benaras ka Anootha Itihaas, written by Shiv Kumar Dwivedi, Hindi, 1962, Prayag Sahitya Sammelan, Allahabad).

However, a large section of Bodos, settled in the Darrang area on the Bhutan border, were never part of the Barak valley kingdom. Darrang-Kokrajhar Bodos either survived as roving, independent tribes-practicing jhum cultivation and not bowing to any authority-or as nominal subjects of the western Assam, Koch kingdom.

Usubar, Laochiklang and Maalu Sikhla were all Darrang-Kokrajhar Bodos. They followed the martial traditions, codes of fierce independence, and the religion-revolving around the worship of Bathou-of the roving tribes.

Folk songs-celebrating the struggle between Bodos and Bhutias of present-day Bhutan-survive to this day (http://www.aygrt.net/PublishArticles/529.aspx). Famous Bodo warriors-men and women-of yore include Bachiram, Daoharam, Cheobar, Gambari Sikhla, and Birgahri Sikhla. The song recalling the heroism of Bachiram is legendary:

Goraya dabradw Bachiram Jwhwlao

Gonggar chubaya phwilaygou

(Ride on horse Bachiram

Bhutiyas are coming in a body)

Interestingly, in the `The Oral Poetry of the Bodos: Ethnic Voices and Discourses’, written by Anil Kumar Boro, Department of Folklore Research, Guwahati University, Assam, the author mentions the depiction of Lord Bathou as Lord Siva (or Sibrai). Anil Boro article goes on to mention Gibi Bithai, a traditional Bodo scripture that provides an astounding Bodo world view (http://wiki.indianfolklore.org/images/4/4c/Ifl_27.pdf).

In this, Lord Siva is opposed to Lord Brahma, God of the white skinned people, and Lord Vishnu, God of the dark skinned people. It seems that Bodos carried their own interpretation of history that spoke of the coming of white skinned Aryans and dark skinned (Dravidians?) from the western parts of the Indian sub-continent to their lands. Of Tibeto-Burman stock, Bodos not only resembled the American Red Indians. Their religion, warrior folklore, and sense of peripatetic sovereignty, recalled the North American warrior tribes who put up a heroic fight against European settlers during the early history of the USA.

Considering these close linkages between the Bodos in the salad bowl that is Assam, it is surprising how narrow-minded political and local leaders prised open this close relationship between Muslims, Bodos and other tribes for commercial and political gains. And the results are before all to see.


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