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

A+| A| A-

Adivasi Mahasabhas

Locating Gender in the Adivasi Movements in Assam

Adivasi mahasabhas are organised across Assam to politically mobilise the Adivasi communities. The paper argues that in contemporary Assam, Adivasi struggles are not limited to the issues of identity but through the mahasabhas, the student associations are claiming citizenship, economic and constitutional rights. While resisting the larger “Assamese” identity on the one hand, the Adivasi student associations also reproduce prevailing gender inequalities within the movement. The present study analyses the All Adivasi Women’s Association of Assam, which seeks to bring together the issues of women and labour to counter the patriarchy of both trade unions and student movements.

The authors are grateful to the editor who gave valuable suggestions on the basis of which the paper has been revised. The ethnographic study for this paper is based on the fieldwork conducted by the first author as part of his doctoral work.

The Adivasi student associations in Assam organised a mahasabha (convention) in Golaghat district from 1619 January 2020. At the mahasabha, the women jhumur (folk dance) performers were called upon to give a performance along with other ceremonial tasks. After the arrival of the president and general secretaries of the All Adivasi Students Association of Assam (AASAA), the women performers welcomed them with flowers. These rituals were similar in all the mahasabhas. Typically, women were assigned the roles of welcoming the leaders, decorate the stage and perform other serving roles such as offering tea. They would be asked to wear ethnic dress and perform jhumur dance. In Golaghat, too, the mahasabha started with welcoming the male leaders, followed by jhumur. After the performance, the leaders gave speeches to the audience about their struggles and their loyalty towards the associations. Expressing dissatisfaction due to the experience of humiliation at the sabha, one of the performers said:

We joined the mahasabhas to show solidarity with the student associations. But our contributions are limited to decorating the central stage, welcoming the guests, dancing jhumur in front of the crowd and distributing the pamphlets. It is difficult for us to raise our issues and problems in the mahasabhas, we are just here to perform the ceremonial tasks.1

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


To gain instant access to this article (download).

INR 236

(Readers in India)

$ 12

(Readers outside India)

Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

Support Us

Your Support will ensure EPW’s financial viability and sustainability.

The EPW produces independent and public-spirited scholarship and analyses of contemporary affairs every week. EPW is one of the few publications that keep alive the spirit of intellectual inquiry in the Indian media.

Often described as a publication with a “social conscience,” EPW has never shied away from taking strong editorial positions. Our publication is free from political pressure, or commercial interests. Our editorial independence is our pride.

We rely on your support to continue the endeavour of highlighting the challenges faced by the disadvantaged, writings from the margins, and scholarship on the most pertinent issues that concern contemporary Indian society.

Every contribution is valuable for our future.