ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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On Adivasi Protests in Assam

Both the article by Udayon Misra and the letter from Prasenjit Biswas (December 22) proceed on certain assumptions that need to be closely examined. Both argue that ethnic prejudice has an important part to play in the tensions between the adivasis and the “dominant communities of Assam”. The question is do adivasis receive better treatment in other states. Caste-prejudice in an extended sense works against them everywhere. Like dalits they are expected to serve the betterplaced and more (relatively) prejudiced communities.

Both the article by Udayon Misra and the letter from Prasenjit Biswas (December 22) proceed on certain assumptions that need to be closely examined. Both argue that ethnic prejudice has an important part to play in the tensions between the adivasis and the “dominant communities of Assam”. The question is do adivasis receive better treatment in other states. Caste-prejudice in an extended sense works against them everywhere. Like dalits they are expected to serve the betterplaced and more (relatively) prejudiced communities. So it is a general phenomenon of Indian social life today, and not a peculiarity of Assam’s ethnic structure.

Further, it is assumed that the present upsurge is “part of a wider struggle for identity assertion by the adivasis”. There is no doubt that they have suffered immense and prolonged oppression and deprivation. But while other tribes and castes of Assam have been able to improve their economic and social status over the decades, the adivasis have not. The reason is not ethnic prejudice but the vested interest of plantation owners and the government in making readily available a vast reserve army of cheap labour.

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