To be scheduled or not to be scheduled: The 1996 Ordinance, Its report and the tryst of Koch-Rajbangshis of Assam to be Scheduled Tribe

Nirban Ray

The Koch-Rajbangshi community of Assam had been demanding scheduled tribe status since the 1960s. But it was only before the general election of 1996, this demand had gained a peculiar momentum. Prior to 1996, the two Backward Classes Commissions- the 1955 Kalekar commission and the 1980 Mandal commission- had recommended the inclusion of the Koch-Rajbangshi community as an OBC (Other Backward Class) and not as a ST (Scheduled Tribe) community. Similarly, neither the advisory committee to revise SC/ST list in 1965 and nor the joint committee of parliament to examine the ST Orders Amendment Bill 1967 recommended the inclusion of Koch-Rajbangshis as a ST in Assam. 

The 1996 Ordinance, the bill, and the Select Committee 

However, in 1996, the Assam Government led by Chief Minister Hiteswar Saikia had recommended the inclusion of the Koch-Rajbongshi community in the list of Scheduled Tribes(Plain), excluding the autonomous districts of Assam. Assam Government not only recommended the proposal of inclusion of the community as ST to the then Narasimha Rao Government at the centre,  but it had also persistently demanded the inclusion on an immediate basis. The government of Assam was so persistent that- even though the Parliament was not in session, the Narasimha Rao Government advised the President to promulgate the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Ordinance, on 27th January 1996 in order to include the Koch-Rajbangshis in the ST category of Assam. A Bill seeking to replace the Ordinance was also introduced in the Lok Sabha on 29th February 1996 but it lapsed with the dissolution of the tenth Lok Sabha. The ordinance was re-promulgated a record number of three times and later was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 12 July 1996 as the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill 1996. The House, then authorised the speaker to refer the Bill to a select committee of Lok Sabha with instructions to report back to the house. The committee submitted its final report in August 1997 but the bill was neither introduced for voting nor enacted in time and thus it lapsed and the Koch-Rajbangshis became OBC again, having been lived a short span of less than a year as Scheduled tribes. In order to illustrate the gravity of the situation, a member of Parliament from Mangaldai, Madhab Rajbangshi expressed his anguish in Lok Sabha on 20 July 1998 as follows-

 “It  is observed that all the Ordinances pertaining to the inclusion of the communities as SC/ST in the past were  replaced  by  the  Bills  within  a maximum  period  of six months after the promulgation of the Ordinance. But in the case of Koch Rajbongshi community of Assam, even after lapse of two years, the promulgation of the 1st Ordinance No. 9, 1996 dated 27  January, 1996  is yet to be replaced by a Bill. The Parliamentary Select Committee has submitted its report in the month of April, 1997 recommending for the inclusion of Koch Rajbongshi Community as ST(P). The Government  of  Assam  had  also  submitted their  opinion  on  the report the Parliamentary Select Committee recommending for the inclusion of Koch Rajbongshi Community  as  ST(P)…  In spite of continuous re-promulgation of the said ordinance for the fourth time, it was not enacted in time leading to its lapses. This  way, a great injustice has been done to the Koch Rajbongshi Community of Assam by denying the fundamental rights under the Constitution of India as the issue under reference is still hanging.” (XII LOK SABHA DEBATES, Session II, (Monsoon) Monday, July 20, 1998)

  Reading the reports 

The primary objective of the select committee was to consider whether the Koch-Rajbongshi Tribe of Assam should be included in the ST list of Assam or not while taking into consideration the claims of other tribal groups for their inclusion in the ST list of Assam. 

Before making any claim based on its observation, the select committee first took notes of the reports submitted by the Assam Institute of Research for Tribal and Scheduled Castes. The institute was asked by Assam Government to examine whether the Koch-Rajbangshi community was entitled to be enlisted as ST. The institute submitted two reports to the Government of Assam.

 The first report

 was sent to the Government of India by Assam Government on 3rd April 1993, in which it stated that the Koch Rajbangshis do not deserve to be included in the Scheduled Tribes list of Assam. The report expressed doubt as to whether the ‘Koch’ and ‘Rajbangshi’ are knitted together or they are in two different communities. Further, as the Koch-Rajbangshis claim themselves to be “Kshatriyas” their present demand to become “Shudras” is more confusing. The report followed five criteria – primitiveness, distinctive culture, geographical isolation, shyness regarding contact with other communities at large, and overall backwardness to determine its finding. And it found that none of these criteria applies to the “Kshatriya” Koch-Rajbangshis living in plain districts of Assam (such as Sonitpur, Nagao), except the Koch-Rajbangshis living in the districts of – Goalpara, Dhubri, Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon. Considering all these aspects the report did not recommend the inclusion of Koch-Rajbangshi/Koch Rajbangshi-Kshatriyas in the list of Scheduled Tribes of Assam.  

 The second report

 was sent to the Government of India by Assam Government on 9 August 1994. Contradicting the first report, the second report provided adequate justification for the inclusion of Koch Rajbangshis-Kshatriya in the List of Scheduled Tribes in Assam. After analysing the historical and anthropological past of the Koch-Rajbangshi Kshatriyas, the report concluded that the Koch-Rajbongshi-Kshatriyas of Assam are of Mongoloid tribal origin and linguistically they belong to the Tibeto-Burman family. It further said that Koch, Rajbongshi and Kshatriyas are simply three terminologies adopted by the people of the Koch ethnic group on various socio-religious political situations. Regarding the five criteria to determine thier  tribal orgin, the report, first of all, made a clear distinction between the Koch-Rajbangshis of Upper Assam and Lower Assam and then concentrated its detailed field study on the Koch-Rajbangshis of Lower Assam particularly inhabiting Goalpara, Dhubri, Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon districts. For instance, the report found that the villages viz. Bhamandanga, Chuprikuti, Pokalagi, Kherbari, Jhaskal, and Ghariyaldubi etc. located near the Bangladesh border under Golokganj Sub-division of Dhubri district are found to be devoid of road and other infrastructural facilities, which hindered proper interaction of the people with the outside world. This report had taken into consideration the ruthless suppression of the Koch-Rajbongshi people of undivided Goalpara district by the Zamindars and its psycho-social implications, as it produced inferiority-complex among the population. The report also cited a 1969 report of the Department. of Economics & Statistics, Government of Assam which clearly found landlessness with mounting pressure on agricultural land, lack of industrialisation and that the present Koch-Rajbangshis were not economically well-off than their previous generation. In order to highlight the educational and employment position among the Koch Rajbangshis, the report represented a sample from the Koch-Rajbangshi dominated areas of Golokganj and Baitamari (North & South) of Dhubri and Bongaigaon districts, which depicted a very sorry state of affairs. Considering all these relevant aspects, the report found adequate justification for the inclusion of Koch Rajbongshi-Kshatriyas in the list of Scheduled Tribes of Assam. 

It is to be noted here that based on the findings of this second report, the Government of Assam recommended the Registrar General of India (RGI) to include Koch-Rajbangshis in the ST list of Assam. And when the select committee reached out to RGI for the same matter, the RGI office replied that it had in 1981 rejected the proposal but in the light of the empirical data furnished by the Tribal Research Institute of Assam, the RGI office had no objection to include the Koch-Rajbangshis in the list of Scheduled Tribes of Assam. 

 Concern and opposition of other Tribals 

The select committee received a total of 282 memorandums from various associations/organisations and individuals etc. containing comments/suggestions on the provisions of the Bill. Among the individuals, former CM of Assam Golap Borbora not only advocated immediate inclusion of Koch Rajbangshis to ST list but he also pushed for the inclusion of other tribals such as Chutia, and particularly the tea labourers on the ground that since the 13% general population were getting more than what they were needed to be given, it would not cause any harm to increase the reserved quota for tribals to 85%. On the contrary, another former CM Anwara Taimur opposed the inclusion as she believed that Koch and Rajbangshis were not the same, Koch Rajbangshis came from Cooch Behar of West Bengal and they were not tribals. Instead, she emphasized on the OBC Muslims of Assam and their demand for inclusion in the SC list. However, she stated that she would not oppose any decision taken by the government. Similarly, the United Tribal Nationalists Liberation Front of Darrang opposed the inclusion as the Koch-Rajbangshis had joined and assimilated with the Assamese culture, civilisation, and language of their own volition and they failed to conserve their own language, culture, and civilisation. Further, it found the community to be at its highest stage of development as the community produced a very renowned and advanced person like Sarat Chandra Sinha, who was the Chief Minister of Assam, from 1972 to 1978.

Among the opposition to the inclusion of Koch-Rajbangshis in the ST list by other tribal groups, the Dibrugarh Nagar Deori Unnayan Samiti presented the select committee a copy of the 1992 report of the Assam Institute of Research for Tribals and Scheduled Castes, the first report of the Institute which rejected the proposal of including Koch Rajbangshis to the ST list. The representatives of the Samiti opposed the inclusion based on their observation that Koch and Rajbangshi were two different groups, that in the social order of the Hindu caste system of Assam, the Koch comes next to Brahmin and Kalita and form a major constituent of the population of the Assamese society having Vaisnavite Sankari culture and that the  Koch-Rajbangshis are far advanced than the present group of scheduled tribes of Assam. Therefore the Samiti expressed its fear that if Koch Rajbangshis are included in the ST list then ‘it will have far-reaching consequence and will break down the entire infrastructure of the developmental programmes of the tribal people in the country.’ On a similar tone, the Sonowal Kachari Jatiya Parisad opposed the inclusion because according to them ‘the Koch Rajbangshi people are regarded as “upper class Hindu”, they are very intelligent, talented and the community is developed in all respects. To support their opposition, the Parisad also conducted a field investigation on its own and found out that since the ordinance included Koch-Rajbangshis as STs in February 1996 till August 1996, 25 out of 42 medical seats reserved for STs in Guwahati Medical College, 8 out of 10 seats reserved for STs in Jorhat Engineering College,  were occupied by Koch-Rajbangshi students, among other institutions and services. Therefore, the Parisad stressed the need to not dilute the existing 10% reservation quota of the regional tribal people of Assam and suggested a separate provision for the Koch Rajbangshis, if necessary.

 Verdict of the select committee

 After going through the various works of literature, reports of the Tribal Research Institute, comments of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, etc. and the evidence taken from various associations/organisations, the select Committee found the Koch Rajbangshis to be of Mongolian origin and one of the earliest inhabitants of the undivided Assam – living mainly in the districts of Dhubri, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Goalpara and Kamrup with scattered presence in the remaining districts. The select committee observed that the Koch Rajbangshis of lower Assam, particularly of Dhubri, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, and Goalpara districts possessed all the criteria – primitiveness, distinctive culture, geographical isolation, shyness regarding contact with other communities at large and overall backwardness- in order to be included in the ST list of Assam. The select committee, therefore, recommended that the Koch-Rajbangshis should be included in the list of Scheduled Tribes so that ‘they may come in the mainstream of the public life’.

In its final remarks, the select committee provided a possible way out from the discontent which might arise as a result of diluting the existing tribal reservation in the following words, –

 “that presently there is 15% reservation for Scheduled Tribes (10% for plains and 5% for hills), 7% for Scheduled Castes and 17% for other Backward Classes. The total reserved quota thus comes to 39%. As per the Supreme Court verdict, a State cannot have more than 50% reservation. The Committee oobservesthat, in view of the Supreme Court verdict, there is still scope of increasing the reservation quota by 11 %. The Committee are of the opinion that the Government may explore the possibility to increase the adequate quota of the Scheduled Tribes. The quota reservation may be decreased from the Other Backward Classes list, If necessary, as a large chunk of Koch Rajbangshis, Chutias and others would be transferred from OBC list to the ST list. This proportional quota can also be added to the ST list. The Government may also explore the possibility of creating a separate reserved quota for Koch Rajbangshis and other communities to be scheduled by this Bill so that the reservation benefits enjoyed by the notified tribes are not affected.’  

 The Aftermath 

The report of the select committee of 1996 had failed to be translated into the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill as the general election of 1996 resulted in a hung parliament with no single party having a clear majority. The BJP formed a short-lived government under Prime Minister Vajpayee but two weeks later United Front coalition secured a majority and Deve Gowda became Prime Minister. Again in 1997, I.K Gujral succeeded Deve Gowda and became the Prime Minister. Amid such instability in national politics, the select committee report eventually was forgotten and with it, the aspirations of the Koch-Rajbangshis to be included in the ST list lost its momentum.

 But, it was not in isolation for long as the ST question of the Koch Rajbangshis received yet another momentum in 2014 as well as in 2019, both times before general elections. In 2014, Narendra Modi came to Bongaigaon and announced on 19 April at Kakoijan election rally that within six months, ST will be given to Koch Rajbangshis if BJP comes to power. But it was not until 2019 that a bill was placed in Parliament for the same. The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on 9 January 2019 by the Minister of Tribal Affairs, Jual Oram, intending to grant Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to six communities in Assam, including the Koch Rajbangshis. But, the day after the Bill was tabled, the existing ST communities came out to the street as a sign of protest. The Coordination Committee of Tribal Organizations of Assam (CCTOA) called a state-wide 12-hour bandh on 11 January 2019 to protest against the bill as they feared that the amendment bill would eliminate the “genuine tribal people” of the state by enlisting six new ethnic groups of Assam as STs (Outlook 2019). Following this, on 13 January 2019, the union home minister asked the Government of Assam to prepare the modalities for granting ST status to six communities of Assam without harming the rights of existing STs. Immediately after this Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma took responsibility to recommend measures. But all this happened before the general election of 2019 and the Assam State election of 2021.

The elections are over now and Himanta Biswa Sarma has become the new Chief Minister of Assam. The modalities on the other hand have not yet been prepared and the inclusion of Koch Rajbangshis in the ST list of Assam still hangs like a pendulum. After all, to be scheduled or not to be scheduled is more of an electoral question rather than a developmental and identity question of the community. And who will bother?

—————————–

 ( Nirban Ray is a Ph.D. student at the  Centre For Political Studies, JNU, New Delhi. He can be reached at raynirban1@gmail.com) 

 ***Select Committee Report (1997): “The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill,” 1996 C.B.(II) No 426, Presented to Lok Sabha on 14 August 1997, Lok Sabha Secretariat, New Delhi, 1997, viewed on 12 January 2019, https://eparlib.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/757628/1/jcb_11_1997_scheduled_tribes.pdf.

KNOWING THE CITY, SILIGURI

Paromita Ghosh

The city, Siliguri has been a refuge to millions of homeless who had crossed the newly created border and settled after the Partition of Bengal. This city weaves series of settlement stories that began after the British laid jute and tea cultivation and later magnified with the partition. Partition has played an important role in making of Siliguri and by walking down the memory lane of individuals this narrative would tell several unheard Partition stories of displacement and settlement experienced both by migrant Hindus Bengalis and local Rajbanshis and their process of claiming identity.

————-

“Pardesi howa jachii

Elaye hamra laye pardesi howa jacchi

Hath gila boro basar nakhan sokto howa jaye

Hamare agil-purusher naki aja chilo

Boudiya bairagir moton hamrae laye

Bhita -r jomi ,haal goru bechara hath patodi”

 (we are becoming foreigners in our land, our hands are becoming tough. Our ancestors happened to be rulers but we have lost everything -our land, cows becoming recluse)” (Ganguly as cited in Ghosh, 2013,pp.70)[1]

Introduction:  Partition, as underlined

Our Independence had a disguised partner called Partition and history locked the violence and trauma that partition bore in the timeframe of 1947 only, not looking beyond that time and one particular region i.e. West Partition-Punjab for long. Partition was experienced differently in different regions, Eastern Partition did not experience this bifurcation in one time just in 1947 but twice/thrice- as an ongoing process, in a varied and multifarious way struggling through time. To unravel such silences Partition is still remembered and rewritten even after 72 years to bring out the several faces of East Partition (Roy, 2012).

East Partition was silenced over West Bengal experiencing continuous partition was not identified. The refugees from East Bengal remained a ‘problem child’ for a Nation whose path to self-reliant citizenship was handicapped due to illegitimacy of claims and with every riot, there was mass migration taking place and unplanned settlement (Sengupta, 2015). Therefore, Bengal experienced the most haphazard divide making people still suffer the consequences of the divide. Individual space within the collective is often constricted and the collective claim has more moral supremacy over individual needs. While Bengal became a subject of understanding Partition in the later years by nation, hegemony still played an important role in understanding how the partition of Bengal is represented. A peculiar hyper visibility of Calcutta (Kolkata) coming to stand in for all of Bengal and landscape of writings about/on Bengal Partition has been uniquely hegemonized by Calcutta (Kolkata). These representations at every step of time have often left many crucial gaps in knowledge where living conditions beyond cities, mofussil areas like Uttarbanga-North Bengal hardly found space in history, art, culture, or literature.

Uttarbanga

Uttarbanga[2] shares a distinctive history and socio-geographical condition from the rest of Bengal. This area with long past royal heritage was once covered with thick forests,experiencing incessant rains throughout the year keeping the land mushy and accommodating very less population of inhabitants: Rajbanshis[3], Meches[4], Rabhas[5], Totos[6], etc among which Rajbanshis were the largest ethno-linguistic and most notable community owning large acres of land as well as they have a ruling legacy (Gupta,1992). However, this region, with her history, had been in the dark corners for a prolonged period until recently. The differences and problems faced by partition in Northern Bengal was different from the rest of Bengal, there was a vast migration in Northern Bengal after Partition and is continuing because of the unplanned settlement and haphazard division mapped by the Radcliffe Line[7].

The history of displacement, dispossessions brought forth here was expressed through personal experiences more as History did not iterate, thus, creating an alternate history to challenge the ideological readings shaped by violence and neglect of a non-linear past.

Moving beyond the collective hegemonic frame of remembering Partition and bringing an alternative space where individuals share their memories, photo, visual memory through their everyday living. Memory has been passed on to generations and in this intergenerational movement of memory there has been a process of ‘amnesia’ – a process of forgetting and thus for retrieval of memory, poems, lost places, history of food, music is recollected and connected (Kabir,2013). Ananya  Kabir also explains that through a holistic understanding of how individuals in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh respond to everyday existences by forgetting and remembering circumstances and narrating the Partition story, Partition’s Post-Amnesia is created, to denote the deliberate return to the exploration of places lost to the immediate generations through a combination of psychological and political imperatives. The feeling about the Partition, the events, the process of voicing the longings for places, those times, and the lives of various individuals living beyond the drawn national boundaries encircles here. Through an explanatory lens and mode of analysis, the events of Partition are understood and therefore this continuous moving to and forth between narratives, history, various scholarly writings, and personal understanding, paves the understanding of how partition memory connects individuals through objects, places, and memory is passed down to generations making partition as part of one’s every day.

The complex story of Partition of Northern Bengal is intertwined with Nation, Geography, Caste and power dynamics of :

1. Kolkata and mofussil areas,

2. Bhadroloks to lower caste,

3. State exploitation,

4. Landowners with tillers,

5. Migrated Hindus and inhabitants.

Thus, this research work looks beyond the famous narratives of violence brought about by the Partition divide, religion, and pain of losing Land, and focuses on memories of Rajbanshis and migrated Hindu Bengalis to share a different story of partition. Focusing in Siliguri the memories talk about power dynamics that did make the story of Partition against the other but also shares a story beyond these polarised or fixed separate dichotomies where, time, space makes every individual victim of time, juxtaposed around, linked closely in a circle where every individual in one way or the other has been victims to partition.

Siliguri in Northern Bengal…

Siliguri had been a refuge to millions of homeless who have crossed the newly created border and settled here after Partition. Located in the foothills of Terai, Siliguri was once a marshy less known area recording just 8% of the population then, now is regarded as the second most important city of Bengal after Kolkata.  This city weaves a Partition story with continuous migration that continued after Partition that led to the growth of Siliguri.

A very common narrative to define old Siliguri was, ‘malaria-prone, empty land’ that was covered with the thick forest. In 1920Siliguri had a very sparse population of inhabitants and Rajbanshis were economically more sustained than the other inhabitants of Northern Bengal (Gupta,1992), owning vast stretches of land. They were big jotedars with fixed jotes(land) under Raja of Baikunthapur for generations, and no outsiders were allowed to own land in Siliguri until the Land Settlement Act was passed after partition in 1950. When the British were attracted to the thick forest cover of Northern Bengal in the 1920s’and decided to lay Jute-Tea cultivation and also establish administrative offices here for better administration of Northern Bengal, several rich, upper caste-class Bengalis from south Bengal, Marwaris, and Biharis started settling here for business or work. Along with them Santhals from Central India and Nepalis from Nepal also settled to work in the tea plantation area. Siliguri started developing as an urban space setting up medical, school, administrative offices, the market for Tea, Timber Trade, and further setting of the Road and Rail to connect plains with hills it initiated a social and identity turmoil among the inhabitants. Migration, urbanization, development led to land alienation and land transformation leading to marginalization and “proletarianization” (Basu,2017) of original inhabitants who were dependent on land and agriculture, and this alienation magnified after Partition. 

The story of Partition in Siliguri did not just comprise of Bengalis-upper caste-class who came and settled during the colonial period for work, but after Partition several middle class and lower castes dependent solely on cultivation settled here- Namashudras, Malo, Mahisyas, Yadavs, etc. from Mymensingh district, Kochbihar, Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri, Pabna, Dhaka, Bengalis, non-Bengalis, even Rajbanshis settled here. The memories of Partition in Siliguri share about how settlement and displacement both were experienced by refugees/migrants Bengali Hindus- as well Rajbanshis. Both Rajbanshis and migrated Hindu Bengalis shares the indifferences as well mutual feeling towards Partition. Siliguri was never an option for the evacuees as it was in no way a place for settlement- being malaria-prone, empty village but after Partition the close proximity to people living in Pabna, Rajshahi, Dhaka, Dinajpur, Rangpur, etc in the Northern Bengal made people settled here by just walking few miles and assurance of returning home when situations calm. The loss was very mutual, the displacement shared by both was the same, however, in this mutual sufferance the struggle of identity is stark, where the loss of the Rajbanshi community was much more.

The Swindle…

Land-dependent Rajbanshis’ land loss led to impoverishment, shifts in livelihood, and occupational transformations(Basu,2017). The biggest land dispossession that started with the Colonial period, then Partition, has been continuing till today making Rajbanshis almost landless and shift further away from city, Siliguri. Rajbanshis had learned the value of land economically with settlement and introduction of jute-tea and later when migrants from Bangladesh started settling here and this allurement made many sell away lands in return for cash, thus settlement slowly decreased their right over land. Nitish Ghosh[8], shares that there used to be a Rajbanshi family staying right opposite to his house in Hakimpara but as the migrant population increased in the locality, they sold off their house and moved somewhere else. Subhash Ghosh[9] also shared a somewhat similar story of displacement, his father had bought a paddy land near Noukaghat, Siliguri, and those rice were stalked in house, a Rajbanshi would come to buy rice from him to make puff rice and flat rice, they even exchanged their rice products for rice. Eventually, this man – remembered as Muriwala(puff rice seller)became very close to the family. Subhash Ghosh remembers visiting his house with his father, however, in one such visit, the man shared the agony of selling off their land and further moving to the outskirts of Siliguri. He persuaded Subhas ji’s father to buy his land so that they could shift to another place where most Rajbanshis has eventually settled. The continuous settlement after the partition made Rajbanshis’ lose their occupancy.

Land dispossession was also largely contributed by the Government who forcibly in the name of development snatched away the lands from Rajbanshis. The Land Reformation Act 1953 was introduced to settle the issue of settlement of refugees after partition but this land revenue reformation did not prevail equality and the Rajbanshi faced a major loss of land. Hemantika Basu (2017) in her research explains how lands were acquitted leading to deprivation and alienation of inhabitants from their land. She shared several interviews of land dispossessions; a Rajbanshi family living in Hyderpara, Siliguri possessed 36 bighas of land out of which more than 1 bigha had to be donated under compulsion for the development of the school, and no compensation was made instead more lands were grabbed in the preceding period leaving not much for their subsistence. Another interview shared, a Rajbanshi who possessed a good amount of ancestral property that covered almost 200 acres was attacked by the ruling party members. The intruders mostly political broke into their house one night and burnt their land document papers, injuring family members and throwing them out of their own house, later when the family returned home, they found out their whole land was acquired and the house was sold off to some Eastern Bengalis by political party men for a hefty price. Land dispossessions continued highly, the famous Vivekanda school in Hakimpara, Siliguriland was donated by Sarat Burman, a Rajbanshi in memory of his late father. When the school was constructed, it was named after his father ‘Darpa Narayan School’ but in the later years without any prior notice to Sarat Burman, the School Committee members mainly comprising of migrated Bengalis Hindus changed the name to‘Vivekanda School’, in the same way, the Siliguri College land was donated by Rajbanshi educationist named Biren Roy Sarkar but the name of the contributor is not mentioned anywhere in the school foundation list (Nag, 2015).

Forceful grabbing of lands was further instrumentalized by Government for the development of Siliguri by validating that the land belongs to the government. Tebhaga Movement and then the Naxalite movement, these land movements were further anti to Rajbanshi as randomly acquired lands in respect to exploitations. Mass exploitation in cultivation among Rajbanshis in Siliguri did not exist but the mass spreading of the movement later made many adhiyars stand against their Rajbanshi Jotedars as well through falsified manner or tricks lands were grabbed from Rajbashis (Basu,2017). Dr. Ray[10] laments, “Jara mulbasi tader ar kichui nei, electricity hoyegeche, jomir daam bere gelo kintu local lok kichui korte palona. Jara bairer lok tara boro building gore fello, ar mulbasinda ra ekhono competition e darate parlo na, tara pichiye poreche ebong manoshik dik thekeo pichiye poreche. Eto unnoti hoyegelo, airport holo, university holo, college holo tader I jomin te kintu tader i kono kaaj dayini (inhabitants couldn’t stand in the development of their land as they still could not get the opportunity to progress and bring changes in their lives as well even when their lands were taken for development purposes, they were not provided any scope to be part of that development process)”.  

The conflict…

There is a conflict of hierarchy existing in Siliguri, the superiority of migrants and dominance recurred and it has always been in an active relationship with inhabitants. East Bengalis in every way regarded themselves as superior and there can be no scope for East Bengalis to learn anything from inhabitants. The existing pride among migrants of being superior, smart, educated always made Rajbanshis be seen and treated as lowly. The ‘sons of the soil’ were beleaguered and their struggle for a better living and livelihood still pertains, whereas the migrant population was much successful in their land.

Migrated Bengali Hindus settled in Siliguri is a minority settled in new land yet, they claim to be superior to the inhabitants- Rajbanshis who were landed. The dominance by the landless individuals towards the landed-inhabitants and ridiculing them, treating them as inferior links to their pride of being more educated, rich, smarter coming from a progressive, much arable-prosperous land. They were forced to settle down in this uninhabitable land, narratives share how they made Siliguri into a city, development, health-educational and administrative services as well introduced market, regularised economy, brought about a flow of economy as well altered the cultivation process with hard work changing the soil texture for better agricultural produce (interviews)[11]. Space- land acts as an important tool to demarcate the hierarchy and estimate superiority, and therefore this tussle of claiming oneself is very complex. Revolving in the circle of hegemony marginalised under the other who claimed to be more dominant to the other, Rajbanshi lost their way of living to migrated Bengali Hindus with the loss of Land, whereas, the migrated Bengalis lost their land, displaced from Eastern Pakistan by partition and then settled here in Siliguri, they were ridiculed by the Bhadrolok’s – the higher caste, who claimed to be the most cultured, educated Bengaliof Kolkata, by epar-opar (this side and the other side Bengalis) dichotomy.

Every migrated Bengali Hindus interviewed said that Rajbanshi were lower to them, they had nothing to learn from them, they are stupid and were meek and therefore if scolded with a strong voice as Chandra Ghosh[12] describes, the scared Rajbanshis would give away things. He shares that in the weekly market, Rajbanshis were easily exploited, and with one scolding they would easily sell away the vegetables at the lowest prices as demanded. The migrated Hindus always made fun of Rajbanshis by ridiculing and calling them as ‘bau’[13], ‘bahe[14]. The conflict of hierarchy existed is so deeply that ridicule-jokes became part of the popular culture and normalised in everyday lives and common ridicule in most households. A kind of inferiority complex emerged after Partition among the migrated community magnified the differences to ridicule Rajbanshis’, underestimating them, their way of living, their culinary skills. Chayadida[15] shares Rajbanshis food habits were different from migrated Bengali Hindus, with an expression-mixed with laughter, pride, ridicule shared that Rajbanshis used to put pumpkin in their meat recipe and the Rajbanshi workers who used to work in their agricultural field used to love the food made by her mother.

Conclusion

The process of ridicule, a game of inferiority made Rajbanshis alter their lives, but this won’t be true to even contradict that Migrant Bengalis settled here haven’t altered their living. There has been a whole population march in Bengal after Partition, showing the differences that occurred questioning the right to own identity. The culture of Siliguri does not represent the culture of the migrated population of Bengalis nor Rajbanshis instead of Bengali Bhadrolok’s that engulfed away the dialect, way of living of individuals. Being a prey of time, hegemony, and politics, the memory of Partition shares the nostalgia of loss of identity that is re-iterated through the memory of culture and re-lived through oral narrations passed on to generations.  Identity is perpetually mobile that is always changing. It is a continuous process and in this change/evolution, respective identities do evolve, formulate leading to a redefinition of identities. In the social turmoil of indifferences, ‘othering’ and getting trapped in the vicious circle of hegemony, alienation made people think to reclaim themselves(Das, 2015).

——-


[1] Excerpts were taken from a poem written by Tushar Ganguly in 1977, in “Uttar-SadhinotaPorberUttarbang-e osthirota-r utso o sahitya- silpo-sanskriti-teprobhab”.In. Ghosh, Dr.Anandogopal and Saha, Kartick (eds.), “1947- Paroborti Uttarbanga-1: A Collection or regional Bengali essays”, N.L Publishers, Shibmandir, Siliguri, West Bengal, 2013 .

[2] There has never been any straight title nor legal document to support Northern Bengal as North Bengal or Uttarbanga in Bengali, but addressing the Northern regions together as so is a political stand to highlight it as distinct from the rest of the Bengal (Nag, 2015).

[3]Rajbanshis- the inhabitants were rulers, land dependent individuals, belonging to the mixed breed of Mongoloid, Dravidian and Aryan race and having mongoloid features. The last existing royal lineage survives in Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar (17 kilometer from Siliguri)

[4] Mech tribe belonged to the Bodo-Kachari group of tribes. A Mongoloid race speaking Tibeto-Burman dialect

[5] Belonging to Mongoloid group migrated to India through North-Eastern Hill passes around thousand years before the birth of Christ.

[6]Toto, the least populous tribe residing in Doars area, has its Bhutanese-Tibetan origin.

[7]Radcliffe Line ripped through the soul of North Bengal cutting sharp through Rajshahi, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Pabna, Bagura, Malda, Jalpaiguri, and Darjeeling districts.

[8]Aged 60 he was born in Siliguri, however his family migrated here after Partition. He doesn’t relate with Partition but while talking he shared about the displacements in Siliguri. This interview taken on June, 2017

[9]Born in Siliguri, his parents settled here in 1960s from Bangladesh. This interview was taken in 2017.

[10]Born in Shivmandir, Siliguri to a Rajbanshi family has grown up listening to the stories of displacement, loss faced by Rajbanshi community after partition. This interview was taken in 2016.

[11]“Siliguri Purobartan”, Siliguri Corporation, Srijani Printers: Siliguri, 1986.

[12]Aged 80 was born in Bangladesh and later after partition shifted to Siliguri with parents. This interview was taken in 2016.

[13]An affectionate address in the local society but it was referred to as a slang naming rural idiots by migrated Bengali Hindus.

[14]an affectionate address in the local society but it was referred to as a slang naming rural idiots by migrated Bengali Hindus.

[15]Born in Pabna in 1944, shifted to Jalpaiguri after partition and then after marriage settled in Siliguri. This interview was taken on 2018.

This article is a part of M.Phil. research submitted in Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Women’s Studies Centre, Savitribai Phule Pune University by Paromita Ghosh (paromitacg@gmail.com).


Bibliography

  • Basu Hemantika, “Urbanization, Land Alienation and Proletarianization: A Study of Rajbansis in North Bengal”. In Work, Institutions and Sustainable Livelihood, Xaxa V., Saha D., Singha R. (eds). Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore.

https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-5756-4_8

  • Das, Kumar Samir. “Living the ‘Absence’: The Rajbanshis of North Bengal.” TISS

Working Paper, No.5, Tata Institute of Social Science (2015),pp:1-15. doi: http://rnd.tiss.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/TISS-Working-Paper-5-Samir-Kumar-Das.pdf.

  • Kabir, Ananya Jahanara. Partition’s Post-Amnesias:1947,1971 and Modern South Asia. New Delhi: Women Unlimited, 2013.
  • Gupta,Das, Ranajit. Economy, Society and Politics in Bengal: Jalpaiguri 1869-1947. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1992.
  • Roy, Haimanti. Partitioned Lives: Migrants, Refugees, Citizens in India and Pakistan,1947-65. New Delhi: Oxford University Press,2012.
  • Sengupta, Debjani. The Partition of Bengal: Fragile Borders and New Identities. Delhi:Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  • Nag, Soumendra Nath(2015), Kamtapur movement in North Bengal geo-ethno environmental and historical perspective, Thesis Submitted in the University of North Bengal for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Department of Geography and Applied Geography, University of North Bengal.

http://hdl.handle.net/10603/174126

The Future’s in the Past: The Koches and the Worship of Hira Devi

Anuj Choudhury

hira devi
Idol of Hira Devi in the form Kali..Photo: Anuj Choudhury

The Koches are generally theist of pluralist deities. They worship nature with profound devotion. Their deities are known as wai (God or Goddess) according to their Koch language. Religion and belief system of the Koches can be broadly divided into two categories- one form which encourages ‘growth’ of positive elements and the other form which reflects ‘restriction’ of negative elements from the society. In the prior we see religious practices like Hudum, Ranthok, Madam Kam, Kartika, etc which essentially celebrate fertility cult and in the latter we see worship of demigods like Desphura, Raja Thakur, Walk Rabai (Bishohori Devi in Kamatapuri/Koch Deshi), Mashan, etc which are basically worshipped for the wellbeing of community members and protection from any harm or misfortune. Hindus see the belief system of these Mongoloid tribes as continuity with their own ancient pre-Hindu worship in the form of Shaivism and Shaktism. Worship of Hira Devi basically falls under the second category of religious beliefs among the Koches.

Hira Devi is one of the most important deity amongst the plethora of deities worshipped by the Koches and can be found in every Koch household. One can also get a glimpse and seek blessing of the Koch Goddesses at the famous Charantala Temple in Meghalaya. This temple located in the interiors of the state, is one of the most visited religious sites in North East India today. The temple is located at Babedpara village in Selsella block, about 55 kms from Tura in West Garo Hills and about 30 kms from Hatsingimari, district-headquarter of South Salmara Mankachar district, Assam. According to local history, the temple dates back to 1965 when there was a major outbreak of cholera disease. According to folklore, a nearby village which had lost 17 people to the epidemic and another neighbouring village had the same kind of losses, a Goddess is said to have appeared in a dream to one woman wherein she called upon the villagers to venture the Goddess which she would wipe out the suffering. After the end of the outbreak, the women created a small temple in her honour and offered prayers. This spread far and wide leading to a huge number of devotees queuing up to offer prayers. Thus over the years the temple has become an important pilgrimage for not only the Koches but thousands of Hindu devotees around the world.

At the Charantala temple one can see a plethora of deities- Hira Devi, Hawa Devi (Walk Rabai), Chitala and Kali. Also, other than these deities a sculpture of a Koch Man and Women in their traditional attire also finds a place inside the temple premises. The most striking feature among these deities is the portrayal of Hira Devi itself. It is surprising to see how Hira Devi, wife of Hariya Mandal and mother of Koch King Biswa Singha, the founder of 16th century Koch kingdom, has been portrayed by the Koch tribals and worshipped with immense devotion. The image of Hira Devi resembles that of Khorlo Dechok in Vajrayana Buddhism and that of Kali in Hinduism, naked and consuming her own flesh.  This may be in relation to the popular mythological belief among the Koches that Lord Shiva, in guise of Hariya Mandal had one day sexual intercourse with Hira, and in due course she gave birth to Bisu (Biswa Singha), giving the king a divine origin. As, Hira Devi is considered to be wife of Shiva, this may be the reason that Hira Devi is imagined as manifestation of Kali, Shiva’s ‘other wife’. However, the reason why she is portrayed as consuming her own flesh is still unknown, but the rationale might be that, as she has the power to protect and even take away lives, the creator must have visualized that instead of taking lives of others, she should take her own life.

A three day grand ritual at the Charantala temple takes place on Tuesday, sometime in the month of April every year. It attracts over 10-15 lakh devotees from the length and breadth of the country every year. Devotees from as far as Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Nepal and Bangladesh flock to the remote Koch village of Babedpara in the month of April to worship the Goddesses. Devotees basically offer sacrifices of animals and birds to please the Goddesses, the belief being sacrificing a life to protect another (human) life. Devotees also stay in make-shift tents, staying awake at night to make their offerings. The holy site also gets festive with the fair (mela) alongside, which is another attraction in itelf.

As Meghalaya being a Christian dominated state, a temple in the interiors of the state has caught the attention of many outsiders.  Huge donations have also poured in for the expansion of the temple. Hindu assimilation in the indigenous religious affairs of the Koch tribes is not new. The professional Brahmin priest has also appeared in the scenario though he has yet to dominate the decay of indigenous deities. The Hindu architectural design of the temple that we see today is not very old, the earlier structure was dismantled and given a facelift in 2016.  The new temple has been designed by an architect from Mumbai and idols have been brought from places as far as Rajasthan.

Thus, what we get to see today, that religious practices observed by the Koches are influenced by two different trends of religious rites and social usages. While some of their observances and festivals have been influenced by the neighbouring Hindu Bengali or the Assamese, others are the reflection of their own traditional beliefs and customs. Even though contact with caste Hindu society brought many religious changes in the Koch community but its influence could not altogether transform the tribal society. In fact the adoption and adaptation of the religious practices influenced by Hinduism can be viewed as an extra addition to the Koches already existing traditional practices.

(Email: anuj@srd.tiss.edu)

Untitled-3

Sumi Pegu’s dream-like yarn

RINI01
Sumi Pegu’s Loom. Photo Credit:author

Rini Barman

Every winter Sumi Pegu, a fifty year old Mising woman runs the single ply yarn into exquisite horizontal patterns. A narrow paddy field in Gohpur’s Mising-gaon (about 230 kms from Guwahati in Sonitpur District, Assam) leads me to her loom. If you walk some kilometres further, you can get a serene view of the hills of Arunachal. The sound of working looms takes over the chirrup of tiny local sparrows looking for some grains to chew. The grain providers, mostly neighbours of Sumi, have to tend to the poultry and pigs regularly. Their children go to the nearby primary schools and have picked up the dominant Assamese tongue fluently—yet, all through the year, there is someone or the other tending the fibres of the loom.

Formerly, Sumi’s children would weave using a back-strap loom (xoru-xaal) which is a dying practise— alive perhaps only among the state’s ethnic groups. They are taught the basics in their Mising language, which mellifluously they use to recall, remember and revive an entire ancestry. “I gave it to my daughter as a plaything, so she could wrap it around her waist. Once the fingers are stronger and the grab steadier, it makes her job easy at the future xaal”, Sumi says. Womenfolk in this village believe that the one who cannot weave among them may bring bad luck. A grandmother herself, Sumi has seen the Ege (lower garment worn from waist to ankle level with a minimum of two-three pleats) go through decades of changes in terms of designs, superstitions and thread quality.

The traditional Mising loom is a wonder made out of bamboo and tree wood—both these raw materials are sacred in a poignant way. When they show signs of wearing out after years of usage, they are not broken down to ignite the kitchen fire. Even the poorest of Mising houses will tell you that. Special care (like placing the loom constituents on top of the dhuasang-clay stove) is taken to drive termites away. “When we spin the yarn, it is considered inauspicious for small boys to cross it. It not only puts the thread at risk but tears off the wheel and we have to redo all over again”, she says before pointing at me.  “You see this hunchback? It is testimony to my dedication towards the most meticulous of designs. I regret I cannot go to the wild now to collect plants that were used to naturally dye our threads. The artificially dyed reels in the market are not to be trusted entirely”, she sulks.

Machines over all else

Over the last six-seven years or so, there has been a massive mechanisation of handloom in this village. The mass entry of mill-made Ege has gradually influenced the aesthetic appeal of fabrics. The signature Mising diamond pattern for instance, is getting indistinct and smaller. The butties, on the other hand are chaotically mixed with tree motifs and they no longer carry artistic finesse. Clothes that are transported to the urban areas with their ubiquitous synthetic assemble reveal these modifications very well. Sumi shares, “I am not competitive by nature, but the generation of my daughters-in-law are, they want to make a few more bucks. I really cannot blame them, as they sincerely manage the fields, household and the loom single-handedly. They hardly get any praise from their spouses”.

As Sumi plays around with the maku (weaver’s shuttle), her granddaughters try to help around the sang ghor.  “In the summers, young girls are seen rowing rice saplings and due to the humidity, weaving takes a backseat somehow. The ideal time begins end autumn, though we weave in every season. These fingers are so accustomed to the loom that they begin to hurt if unused”. Sumi’s grandchildren had inherited textile memories passed through orally retold stories. They tell me that the colours represent nature in the clothes their granny weaves. The geometrical designs come paired with a range of motifs—fish heads, animals, flowers, butterflies, trees, stars and others. “It does not matter whether you are working on zero ply or single ply—if your hands are efficiently experienced, you can ace the motifs. My own grandmother used to weave one Gasor (upper garment) a day, probably the pace is reduced when one has to multitask and has fewer hands to help”, shares Sumi.

The expiry of older designs and motifs is not simply because of the tribeswomen being overburdened with other work, but also due to the soft cultural appropriation by the dominant Assamese elites. It has created a cold war kind of situation over who owns the “authenticity” in this craft. “My Ege do not yet have the “silk mark”, so they probably won’t do very well in the market. But the silk has been reared from scratch by me and the motifs are distinctly Mising”, Sumi complains. Literary thinkers like Nilamani Phukan in his collection of essays (?) had mentioned that tribal motifs like diamond, triangle and square and the configuration of star/fern motifs into dominant Assamese weavers came through years of borrowing. Isn’t it ironic that once any dominant identity labels a particular textile as their own, the ‘other’ stories of the weavers, their ethnic evolution etc, recedes to the background?

Bodices, boundaries and tradition

There are differences in the way married and unmarried women among the Mising community dress up. According to Sumi, “The old ladies at home use Segreg to wrap around their busts. The girls who attained puberty wear finely textured Ku: Pobis to wrap around the body beneath the armpits covering the upper part of the body. Married women on the other hand pull the Ege till their breasts and tie a firm methoni.” Talking to Sumi informed me that when we mention the traditional wear of Assam as a “three piece” mekhala sador, the above mentioned nuances are forever lost. These inadequate translations, in their attempt to ease out meanings for the one outside the region end up causing semiotic damage. The supposed “three piece” of women’s wear has a long folk history.

Among the Koches/ Koch Rajbanshis in Assam, the traditional weave Patani used to be worn in Tin-Tekia format (3 parts/layers–Agran, headgear, Patani). The Riha which is now worn as a sador was initially a breast cloth, it had different types: boroi-loga, gariyali, gunakata etc. It is interesting how diverse forms of breast clothes were replaced by blouses and brassieres and marked as “traditional” “civil” components of attire by the upper caste women. I myself recall one such incident in Jalukbari, when a local fish-seller in her late 30s was donated blouses as she would not cover her breasts. The women were convinced they were doing something very noble and “bhadra” for the seller whom they perceived to be poor. When I asked her few years later, she went on to say how nobody in her native village ever wore blouses. She would tell, “It wasn’t a taboo at all in Belxor, Nalbari district. Even men wouldn’t bother us—be it public or private spaces. When I was nursing my children, it was rather helpful. I still am uncomfortable with blouses.”

Policing and standardising the “three-piece” as the traditional wear had its micro and macro context. Nandana Dutta in Questions of Identity in Assam (2012) makes careful note of one such example in Assam Engineering College in 2007. Speaker Ismail Hussain had made dangerous associations with one’s cultural affiliations and one’s attire. It was reminiscent of Assam Andolan days (1979-1985) when there was tremendous insistence for the females to adopt mekhala sador as daily wear. “It was declared and implemented by self-appointed leaders of protesting groups, especially those carrying out dharnas and strikes or taking part in processions”, Dutta writes. What happened as a result of this is its continued (secret) abuse in spaces like college hostels, primary schools and so on. My aunts who were born in the late 60s recall vividly how ragging sessions in their educational institutes would comprise of whether or not they know how to wrap the mekhala sador with propriety. The tribal students were worst hit as humiliating remarks were made on their preconceived “barbaric” ways of dressing up.

It was during the same time that mekhala sador draping rules (full sleeve red blouses) for female dancers of Bihu (a folk form) were laid out. Gradually, as these folk forms were standardised, they began to represent the dominant Assamese attire in all its rigidity. Around May 2017, this debate fuelled up yet again, when the State Govt employees were urged to wear traditional dress (mekhala sador for women and dhoti kurta for men) on third and first Saturdays every month. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in the current BJP-led Govt had hoped that such a move might enhance the spirit of regionalism and unity. It was rightly opposed on the grounds of exclusion—as it limited traditional wear of so many ethnicities in the state to the mekhala sador. In the midst of these contentions, what was missing was the life of a handloom weaver. Her weaves become agents of the identity battle, but she is effectively erased from that discourse.

Evil Twins

 Gayatri Das, seller of mekhala sadors at Beltola thinks that the future of handlooms is very bleak. “The common people, who used to weave eons ago, have forsaken the looms for the dream of white collar jobs. The women now have to think economical viability first and foremost. When I was a kid, I remember my mother from Sirajuli would set the loom for two attires simultaneously. Among the final products, one would be hers and the other would be sold at Rs.1000 for example. This sustainable practise is no longer present, not even in rural areas”. Ms Das herself has to convince customers with half-truths about the weaves that they buy as traditional wear. “In my ten years of having met so many female buyers in Guwahati, only three have enquired about the raw materials of their clothing. Rest were in a rush and enamoured by the glittery threads that make up their mekhala-sador sets, which they finally chose”.

RINI02
Weaves of the Mising Tribe. Photo Credit:author

The politics of threads and lack of knowledge of the same has created a huge gap among the weavers, sellers and the buyers. While hand-woven cloth may speak of the tedious hours spinning the wheel, the duplicates replace them only because a class of the society choose to make accessories out of them. The craft then recedes to the background for the minute designs of creepers, flowers etc when imprinted with bulkier machine technology fails to create that magical effect. It is important to interrogate why hand-weaving isn’t empowered via local methods and readily replaced by a faster, capitalist mechanism. Rita Barua, an intermediary between the weavers and urban sellers from Gohpur says, “The problem lies in the inequity of distributing income here. As opposed to the popular notion that “middle men” eat up all money, I earn very negligible. To transport crafted goods is a hectic affair, and when floods hit, I alone have a lot to manage. During festivities, the pressure increases, and consequently, the weavers have to readily produce twice the number of sets. It leaves them little time to weave something of their own. Time is money”.

Rita also informs that plenty of things have changed post the notorious GST was imposed on handloom items recently. It might have been uplifted now, but the fears still gnaw weavers from the within. “Though I don’t know of any impactful protest against it in Assam, sellers of traditional items have developed innovative ways to resist. Many have taken down hoardings across the highway, it’s their bread and butter, let’s not forget”. Today, the Govt. showrooms also sell duplicates under the banner “traditional handloom”—it is a sign of major insecurity and shall put an end a very rich culture of weaving one’s identities.

Sumi as Hambreelmai: Will the erased weaver be heard?

From Gohpur’s Mising gaon to state funded art and crafts showrooms in Guwahati, handlooms clearly are a vulnerable industry today. As older motifs and stories about them keep falling from the weaves, one wonders if women like Sumi will be remembered in another decade. The folk memory of the Mishmi tribes of Arunachal Pradesh retells one such story—about their first weaver, Hambreelmai. “Hambreel” is, in Mishmi, a species of little fish, and it is said that the nature around her—butterflies, birds and fishes were so attracted to her weaving that when her loom broke, the broken parts metamorphosed into varied forms of life. Every single day, looms of weavers like Sumi and Hambreelmai are being replaced and wiped away in Gohpur. Some remain glorified in folk tales and legends while most are made to look pretty in glossy magazine covers so that businesses are lured into the region. In the words of Mrs. Pegu, “These photographers, they come and they go. My daughters are now accustomed to posing for them, though we never make the headlines of any local daily. The spinning wheel goes round and round, just the usual”.

(The author is a Guwahati-based researcher and independent writer).

Meghalaya Daughter Harolyne Koch Shadap wins the Miss Koch International title 2018

MKI 3Guwahati: Harolyne Koch Shadap from Meghalaya, India was crowned as the Miss Koch International(MKI) 2018 in the mega final of the event  which was held on 15th December in Dhulabari, Nepal. The moment was witnessed by hundreds of people from  both India and Nepal who gathered for the glitzy event of Saturday.

Horolyne Koch Shadap works as an Assistant Lecturer and is a Post graduate from North Eastern Hill University, Shillong. Prior to winning the MKI title, she also won the title of MKI Meghalaya in the Meghalya Audition of the event. MKI is the first ever beauty pageant in South Asia which has brought together the Koches of the region in an international platform. The auditions of the event were organized in Assam, Meghalaya and West Bengal besides Nepal.

Pratima Singha from West Bengal, Indian became the first runners up and Sonali Rajbanshi from Jhapa, Nepal became the Second runners up in MKI 2018.

The MKI has been seen as the most important event and initiative in uniting the Koches of South Asia in the recent past. The koches (also known as Rajbanshi in some parts of South Asia) are considered as the largest ethnic group in South Asia.  The organizer of the MKI 20018 was Jhapa Media House Pvt. Ltd.

কোচ ৰাজবংশী সমাজত তামোল-পান(গুৱা-পান)

  • কৰবী সিংহ কোচ

জাতি এটাৰ কৃষ্টি , পৰম্পৰা , ৰীতি-নীতি ইত্যাদি ‌বোৰৰ মাজ‌তেই প্ৰতিফলিত হয় জাতিটোৰ সংস্কৃতি। উৎসৱ-পাৰ্বনৰ পৰা আদি কৰি জনজীৱনত প্ৰচলিত প্ৰত্যেকটো লোকাচাৰ ৰীতি-নীতিৰ আধাৰতে গঢ়ি উঠে এটা জাতিৰ সংস্কৃতি। জনগোষ্ঠীয় সংস্কৃতি পৰম্পৰাৰ ক্ষেত্ৰত ইতিহাস প্ৰসিদ্ধ কোচৰাজবংশীসকলোৰো এক সুকীয়া সংস্কৃতি বিদ্যমান। কোচৰাজবংশীসকলৰ মাজত প্ৰচলিত লোকাচাৰ পৰম্পৰা সমূহৰ এক অবিচ্ছেদ্য অংশ হল তামোল পান । কোচৰাজবংশী সকলৰ মাজত এই তামোল পানৰ বিশেষ গুৰুত্ব আছে। বিশেষকৈ অতিথি আদৰিবলৈ, পূজা পাৰ্বন , বিয়া আদি মাংগলিক অনুষ্ঠান সমূহত তামোল পাণ এক এৰাব নোৱাৰা অংগ। সেয়েই হয়তো কোচৰাজবংশী জনজীৱনত প্ৰত্যেক ঘৰৰ বাৰীতেই তামোল পাণৰ গছ দেখিবলৈ পোৱা যায় । কোচৰাজবংশীসকলে বাৰীত তামোল পানৰ গছ ৰোৱাটো এক প্ৰকাৰৰ নিয়ম বুলিও কব পৰা যায়। কোচৰাজবংশী সকলৰ মাজত তামোল পানক লৈ এনে ধৰণৰ প্ৰবাদ প্ৰচলন আছে… Continue reading “কোচ ৰাজবংশী সমাজত তামোল-পান(গুৱা-পান)”