Understanding North-East India from People’s Perspective: The Need for a Concerted Inter-disciplinary Approach
Rajat Kanti Das
At the cultural level, North-East India may be looked at from two angles - cultural multiplicity and cultural specificity. The region is
characterised by multiple cultural expressions which contribute to a mosaic of cultures forming a pattern. Again, every culture is specific
and each demonstrates the ‘broad general principles of selecivity and ordering’ in clear terms. As cultures are understood as historically
particular, the relations between different cultures become a matter of inductive generalization rather than deductive reductionism, which
implies a commitment to relativism. In North-East India, political representation of cultural values has a justification far beyond the
limits of a society, the correct assessment of which necessitates adoption of an approach marked by participation of all social science
Cultural expressions, political representation of culture.
Ecobalance,Growth Strategies, Ideal Past and Transformed Future: The North-East Indian Response
The ecological movement, with increased public awareness of environmental issues, is distinctly a contemporary agenda. These movements, based on
anxieties for the loss of environment-friendly existence and habitat, share a disenchantment with the priorities of modern societies that seek
to master nature in the interest of increased growth, expanded market and profit.
The anxieties seem to be almost similar to those responsible for the agitational movements calling for eco-consciousness. Sharing a ‘disenchantment’
with priorities in the growth strategies looking for expanded markets and profits, eco-conscious movements began to develop. The movement-leaders
were apprehensive of increasing global damage that might be brought by mindless destruction of eco-balance following the fast pace of the so called
‘growth’. The floating of Green peace or Green Parties, the save Narmada movement, etc. are the few examples.
Ecological movement, Eco-consciousness, Global damage
Material Aspects of Folkloric Traditions and Knowledge at the Face of Modernization: Some Observations from Arunachal Pradesh
It is a common notion that the population living in the relatively remote geographical areas having practically no interaction or
maintaining insignificant contacts with the neighbouring populations, generally lag behind in respect of innovative
knowledge and thinking. It is an established fact that populations living in close association with their immediate ecology
develop skill of close observation in understanding the behaviour of the nature. Such understanding results in cultivating
knowledge that helps them towards their survival. In order to negotiate with the specific ecological niches, these populations
usually fall back to the natural resources available in their immediate surroundings to procure items of their subsistence. The
present exercise examines a few such material culture produced and resources used by the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. The ways
they use these resources intelligently are the testimony of extra-ordinary innovative traditional knowledge of their ancestors.
Consequences of infrastructure development in the region on the traditional knowledge have also been discussed.
Resources, Tribes, Traditional, Ecological
Situating Tribes in North-East India: A Discursive Note
Satya Brata Chakrabarti
A serious student of North-East India Studies is automatically committed to an understanding of the region based on an intellectual exercise of
multi-disciplinary discourses. In order to grasp the broad subject being proposed for the present discussion one reasonably prefers to refer to
a longer time frame. The complex historico–political and socio-economic contexts of the social formations in this region evolved during the
pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial periods before taking the present shape. A quick overview could also appear to be inadequate in fulfilling
the task in hand. In this wide spectrum one is naturally expected to delimit his domains of discussion under a time constrained compulsion. Therefore,
in view of all limitations imposed, I will very briefly try to draw a rough contour of the whole range of diverse factors entailing history, economy,
polity and society including culture of the region and its people.
Social formations, history, economy, polity, culture of the region and its people.
Importance of Studying Myanmar Culture and History to understand India’s Northeast Region with Special Reference to Arunachal Pradesh of India
Swapna Bhattacharya (Chakraborti)
This essay deals with little known history of Northeast region within the context of migration of various ethnic groups from Myanmar. This migration itself is
a result of yet another massive migration of people from further up, precisely, from China on the one hand, and Thailand on the other. In either case,
a country like Myanmar with an old civilization of its own had to be crossed over. And, here lies exactly the importance of studying the history and culture
of Myanmar in the context of eastern and north eastern parts of India. Leaving aside those up-hill areas of Kachin dominated northern, Karen dominated
eastern, and Chin dominated western parts, bordering respectively with China, Thailand and India, the valley dwellers like the Mons, Rakhines (Arakanese)
and the Bamars (Burmans) quite often than not got involved in conflicts having its spill over effect on various parts of south eastern Bangladesh and north
history and culture of Myanmar
Being Face to Face with Reality: Evolving Research Strategies for India’s northeast
Samir Kumar Das
The Concept Note of a recently held seminar on India’s Northeast asks for revisiting our research strategies for the region, makes a clarion call
for walking away from the traditionally followed practice of viewing the reality through our narrow disciplinary window and highlights the
importance of multidisciplinary research. For reasons to be explained below, I think window serves as an apt metaphor to describe how a discipline
views the reality and with what effects. I will argue that the traditional practice of viewing the reality through one’s own disciplinary window
has its devastating consequences for research in general and Northeast Studies in particular. Borrowing from Mao Zedong who used the phrase albeit
in a completely different context, this paper makes a call for ‘bombarding the headquarters’ hitherto being preserved by the disciplines and
disciplinary practices. Due to obvious limitations of space, I propose to confine myself to three sets of criticisms. The concluding part
underlines the need for transcending the disciplinary boundaries and asks for being face to face with the reality instead of viewing it
through the window.
Multidisciplinary research, Traditional practice, Transcend the disciplinary boundaries.
Level and Pattern of Consumer Expenditure in Buffer villages of Nokrek and Manas Biosphere Reserve
Amlan Jyoti Biswas
Level and pattern of consumer expenditure of the villages of any tribal community located in the Biosphere Reserve area in India indicate interesting facts about the relative dependence on the forest ecosystem and
the state of rural economy they subsist on.
Nokrek Biosphere Reserve, situated in Garo Hills of Meghalaya, a land locked territory, inhabited mainly by the Garo tribe is quite behind the rest of country on economic and infrastructural front. Being away from
the mainland society, devoid of cheap transportation network like railways coupled with absence of industry, this area seems to be underdeveloped and backward economically.
Manas Biosphere Reserve, situated in the foothills of the mountain range of Bhutan, being located in Assam, a part of Bodo Territorial Council and inhabited mainly by the Bodo, Santal and other tribes is quite behind
the rest of country on economic and infrastructural front.
The present piece of study in villages of the buffer zone of the Nokrek & Manas Biosphere Reserve is an attempt to compare the pattern of consumption and other socio economic indicators of the villages with the rest
of the country through the broad heads as household and population, work force, level of consumption, pattern of consumption, quantity of cereal consumption etc. It is interesting to note that the average monthly per
capita consumer expenditure of these villagers are relatively higher than the national average of the poorest section in other parts of the country.
Biosphere, Reserve, Consumption, Ecosystem
Disease Ecology and Morbidity Pattern among Forest Dwellers in North-East India
Health of over one billion people, living in or close to tropical forests of the planet earth, is intricately linked to the forests. On the other
hand, there exists a high correlation between the diversity of parasitic and infectious diseases and the distribution of tropical humid forests .
Therefore, health of the forest dwellers is the manifestation of a complex multifaceted interrelationship particularly in the tropical monsoon
climate as the case taken up here among the forests in India’s northeast. Morbidity from communicable and parasitic diseases dominate depending
upon certain environmental conditions like climate, relief, etc. Diversity of disease ecology is seen correlated with anthropogenic variations.
Acute respiratory infections and acute diarrhoeal diseases prevail everywhere but malaria poses the most serious health problem with an intricate
transmission dynamic. The study has revealed interesting seasonality of disease incidence along with certain cultural linkages among different
tribal communities of North East India. The overall disease burden in the region is a major impediment on the human development aspects.
Forest dwellers, Disease Ecology, Biosphere Reserve, Geo-medical, Malaria
The Look East Policy and Northeast India: Rubric, Rhetoric and Reality
As a region Northeast India has undergone various transformations both in terms of cartography as well as perceptions. This region has often been ascribed
as the anthropologists’ paradise during the colonial era while in the post-colonial period the perception related to the region has been through the statist
paradigm of threat perception and security. The cartographic reality of the region being such that it remains overwhelmingly surrounded by international
borders added to this perception. During the contemporary times of globalisation, as India sought to open up to the world, the borders of this otherwise
peripheral region is showcased as gateways to prosperity and the much touted Look East Policy has been an initiative in that direction. The official
documents attempt to situate Northeast as the arrowhead to the success of this policy. In this regards, this paper deals with the rubric and, rhetoric
associated with the policy vis-à-vis the region and in the process understand the emerging reality.
Look East Policy, Trade, Macroeconomy
Community Development in North East India: Issues and Challenges
Tarun Bikash Sukai
The North East India is marked by diversity in customs, cultures, traditions and languages. It is home to multifarious social, ethnic and
linguistic groups. The North East region is characterised by physical isolation having great distance from the core, high cost of access,
sparse population, low GDP per capita, dependence on tertiary sector in the economic structure, limited local economic control, relative
neglect by the central government and borderland locations. Development or prosperity encapsulates and represents a multi-dimensional
connotation. To capture the multidimensionality of development, this paper visualizes some aspects of development, namely—physical
infrastructure, social or institutional infrastructure, industrial performance, human development, privatization of industry and investment
and public efforts expressed in terms of government expenditure to facilitate developmental activities. The present paper intends to bring out
the position of the North Eastern States vis-a-vis the other states of India in matters of prosperity on the basis of the most recently
available as well as comparable data compiled from secondary sources.
Development, Caste, Culture, Human Development, GDP, Community
Perpetuation of Folk Craft and its Development in Sikkim: An Investigation into the role of Monastery
Sikkim is a land of monastery and beautiful crafts. Very often these crafts are used to decorate the monasteries or have grown up in close
association with monasteries. An estimate shows that Sikkim has around one hundred monasteries distributed in all four districts of the state.
Besides these, a village may have its own monastery for lay worship. Each monastery has elaborate Lama organization that manages the affairs of
the monastery. The Lamas or Buddhist monks also have an important role in the socio-religious life of the Sikkimese who follows Buddhism. Some
of the Lamas are fine craftsmen. Right from the wall to the seat of the shrine, the monastery is itself a living museum of folk craft. On the
inside walls of the monastery elaborate paintings about myths and stories of Buddhism are seen. The thanka or paintings on clothes,
very large to small, are found hanging on the walls. The musical instruments are also craft products that are used in the monasteries only.
There are utensils used on the religious occasions in the monasteries and other ritual objects like dorje, thil-bu, thipo. Wood carvings
particularly of various religious or auspicious designs bear ample testimony to the craftsmanship of the Sikkimese people. The Buddhists
observe a number of festivals in the monasteries. On the eve of these festivals, mask dances of the Lamas are performed.The mask is another
very important craft. Masks of different materials and descriptions are made by the craftsmen living in the monasteries and outside.
Therefore, it is quite clear that the monastery has a great role in the perpetuation and development of the folk crafts in Sikkim. The
present paper deals with the monastery organization, organization of craft production and inter-relation between religion and folk craft.
Craft, Monastery, Lama, Organization, Buddhism, Sikkim, Cultural Production
Man and Nature: The Place of Forest in Pre-Colonial Adi Society
An attempt has been made here to study the intimate relationship that existed between the traditional Adi tribe of North East India with their natural surroundings.
The Adis were dependent on nature and natural elements in almost every sphere of their life. They depended on forests for food, agriculture, hunting, and for their
livelihood. Forests and its resources not only formed an essential ingredient of Adi inter-tribal trade, but also occupied an integral position in Adi folklores
and myths. The interdependent relationship made it easy for the Adis to utilize natural resources for satisfying their wants on the one hand, and protect nature
through the imposition of societal norms and religious practices on the other. This strong sense of mutual interdependence and belonging towards the natural
environment of their immediate surroundings slowly began to show signs of disintegration with the introduction of monetary economy in the region. Initially,
it had begun with the arrival of colonial administration in the region in the first decade of the twentieth century. The felling of Simul forests of North East
Frontier for making tea chests was the initial step in exploiting the forests of the region for commercial profits. Prior to this, instances of commercial
exploitation of timber and forest resources in the Adi territory were unheard of. Unlike other parts of India, the British did not embark on implementing its
regular policy of forest administration over North East Frontier till the third decade of the twentieth century. The region was incorporated in British India
mostly on political ground. Large scale exploitation of forest resources for commercial purpose began only after Independence. Poverty, lack of education and
scarcity of job opportunities in the region prompted the people to take up timber business. They had to shed off their previous forest based taboos and beliefs
to earn their livelihood. The rate of forest exploitation in Arunachal Pradesh had increased so much after independence that in 2006 the Supreme Court of India
had imposed a ban on timber felling in the region.
Forests, Pre-colonial, Environment, Interdependence, Exploitation, Tribe
Intangible Cultural Heritage at Galo: A Preliminary Observation of the Oral Narrations and Folk Songs
Bina Gandhi Deori
Arunachal Pradesh is a hilly terrain in the foothills of the Himalayas. It is home to diverse ethnic communities. These ethnic communities have a
rich repository of cultural heritage that are mostly intangible in nature. Oral narratives and folksongs are an important part of the Galo
intangible cultural heritage. Through oral narratives, the indigenous knowledge and values of the community are acquired over the years and
are passed on to the next generation. Therefore, these oral narratives and folksongs, if interpreted applying suitable analytical approach,
can be immensely useful as a source for writing the history of the communities.
North-East, Ethnic, Indigenous, Heritage, Folk
Role of Indian Museums in Safeguarding Intangible Heritage of North East India: A Proactive Approach
North East India is a place renowned for its magical beauty and bewildering diversity among many communities, faiths and cultures.
Commonly known as the “Seven Sisters” as comprised of seven states namely Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland
and Tripura of which each state reflects rich intangible heritage manifested by its communities’ vigorous art and craft tradition, festivals
and colourful celebrations and other modes of their living and livelihood. Due to the rapid social changes taking place in many parts of
this region, however, a significant part of this rich heritage is on the verge of extinction. A wide range of problems like poverty,
poor health condition, lack of connectivity/road ways, dearth of power supply and transportation, unemployment, illiteracy, border insurgency,
drug trafficking, identity crisis are also responsible for under representation and under development of this region including proper
dissemination of its intangible heritage. It is therefore one of the most urgent needs to conserve intangible cultural heritage of this
region and hand it down to future generations. Museum, as a unique institution of the society, concerned to care and preservation of
cultural heritage with its chief worldwide organization, International Council of Museums (ICOM), has been focusing more attention on
intangible heritage at least for the last decade. In India there are many museums not only in North East region but throughout the
country which contain rare collection of North Eastern textiles, bamboo and cane crafts and pottery as well as musical instruments etc.
These museums should play the role of a mediator or Communication Bridge to fill up the gap between generations and the diverse range of
visitors by their multifarious activities. These museums should also collaborate with various organizations engaged in safeguarding the
rich intangible heritage of North Eastern region for effective service. Thus, there lies great potential for undertaking activities in this area.
This paper gives a list of Indian museums holding rich collection of intangible heritage of North East region and urges the need for a proper
strategy that is required to be taken up by these museums which will ensure systematic identification, authentic documentation and effective
dissemination of such heritage of North East region.
Dissemination, Documentation, Identification, Intangible Heritage, Museums
The Story of Women in the Northeast versus India: Lessons to be learnt from each other
It is believed that men and women share the same space, but in reality women are given a lower status in the society with respect to their male
counterpart. The Northeastern Region of India is considered as a backward region in terms of growth in per capita income. However,
there is a perception in common that the role and status of women in the Northeast regions is higher compared to the rest of India. This paper
is trying to analyze the status of women in two of the Northeastern states, namely Sikkim and Manipur in terms of female participation in
education, labor market, freedom of movement and political participation. An attempt has been made to study the status of women in the
Northeastern region i.e., the states of Manipur and Sikkim in comparison to the rest of India. The indicators reveal that women have a very
low degree of freedom of movement and low level of control over themselves in the Northeastern region. The present paper will analyze the status
of women in the states of Manipur and Sikkim in comparison to India as a whole, and also attempt to review the aspects in which women from these
two Northeastern states can influence the women of India. The study has used four basic indicators of development based on secondary data. The
study elucidates that the Northeastern states are better off compared to the nation as a whole in terms of gender equality and status of women
per se. However, the study will attempt to review the gender inequality within the two states of Northeast as inequality between women and men
exists in the Northeastern region in spite of the presence of various matrilineal and matriarchal ethnic groups who by and large do not believe
in sex discrimination. The study would however reveal that gender gap exists in terms of education, labor market, freedom of movement and political
participation in the region. A large gender gap exists in political participation among the populations of the two states both at the levels of
state and nation. The secondary data reviewed for the purpose of the present paper reveals that among Northeastern states, Manipur shows relatively
lesser degree of gender inequality in terms of work participation, literacy and sex ratio; the situation is however different in Sikkim. Although
Sikkim is considered as a much safer state compared to Manipur which further helps in evaluating the indicator which involves freedom of movement
and political participation of women in the region. Thus, the study concludes with a question on how these two states can influence the gender
dynamics of the country as a whole and also observes that access to education and employment are not the only enabling factors that guarantees
gender equality. It primarily prescribes to change the mindset of the people in order to bring about gender equality in the Northeastern states
and also in India as a whole.
Struggle, Gender, Education, Inequality
Tai:Ahom of Assam: Historical to Contemporary
Historical review suggests that Ahom community of Assam, originated from China. One branch went to Burma while the other branch
settled down in the banks of Brahmaputra. In course of time, they began to mix with the local Hindu culture and thus converged with
this culture. As a result, we find that this community almost lost their grip on their mother language. Thus they speak the local
Ahom language of Assam. In this paper I would like to trace the historical journey of this community and find out whether they have
any similarity with the Tai community of the Southeast Asia. The present paper will also discuss the efforts which are taken by the
community to uphold the long-lost tradition especially through literature, by preserving the manuscripts and through social media.
Ethnic, Identity, Chronicle, Revivalism
Prospect of Tourism Promotion and Revenue Generation in North East India:A Lesson Learnt in Yunnan,China
Sriparna Pathak Raimedhi
The history of the globe is one of migration, and the North-eastern region of India is no exception. Linguistically and culturally, Northeast
India is one of the most heterogeneous regions of the world and it has been a stage for a plurality of a transitional continuum from community
and collectivity to nationality. Northeast India is the home of many tribes, sub-tribes, minority communities and ethno- political collectiveness
that have been continuously moving through various formative and developmental phases. The region has around 430 languages and dialects of
different language families that are used in a complex and wide ranging ethno and socio- linguistic configuration.
In China Yunnan at a similar level has been an impoverished and landlocked region characterised by an uncongenial terrain for a very long time.
In all, Yunnan has 26 different minority groups including the Dais who are of Tai ethnicity and the Tibetans. Sporadically, the province has
witnessed secessionist movements as well. (Plant and Huang 2011:3) In several ways, the region of India’s Northeast and the province of Yunnan
mirror each other in terms of socio-economic and political development. Nevertheless, fact also remains that both the regions are resource rich
and have tremendous potentials and scope for economic development.
Beyond cultural similarities, Yunnan and Northeast India currently are also being emphasised as points of focus in bolstering trade and economic
ties between India and China, as part of initiatives such as the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar forum for regional cooperation (BCIM) and the
Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), which aims at greater integration of trade and
investment between the four countries. However, to a very large extent benefits of the initiatives and the policies have not trickled down
and a lot of scope for betterment remains. The case of the Kolkata-Kunming corridor is no different. While various possibilities for enhancing
trade and road connectivity between Yunnan, the Northeast and West Bengal were discussed in 2012, and an action plan also was approved, not much
has been done as of December 2014.
Beyond the existing proposals for trade, exchange and mutual benefit, there is another aspect from which India and the North-eastern region in
particular could gain. That aspect is that of the promotion of tourism. China has benefited immensely from the display and preservation of the
diverse cultures existing in various provinces and the example which stands out the most is that of the Hakka structures, or the Yunnan
nationalities museum. Similarly, Northeast India has a lot to gain in the form of revenues, if tourism could be better promoted. While the Hornbill
Festival in Nagaland is definitely one of the hugest festivals in Asia, but the fact remains that it is held once in a year. While the Ahom mounds in
Sibsagar await declaration as UNESCO heritage sites, aspects of North eastern history and culture continue to be dissipated in the sands of time.
If a closer look at Yunnan’s tourism and revenue gathering methods could be studied in detail and policy recommendations for Northeast Indian historical
and cultural sites could be made, then tourism, which already is the fastest growing segment of the traditional services sector, could be of immense
utility to the region
This paper seeks to outline the promotion of tourism in Yunnan and seeks to arrive at lessons that could be utilised for historical and cultural
monuments in Northeast India. The sources of information for the paper will include secondary and primary sources in Mandarin, Assamese and English
along with interviews conducted with individuals from the Yunnan and Northeast India respectively.
Potential, integration, Yunnan, infrastructure, revenues, tourism
The Apatanis:An Insight into the Cultural Heritage of a Unique Agrarian Community of Arunachal Pradesh, North-east India
Sreyashi Chaudhuri and Kuntal Narayan Chaudhuri
North-east India is the home for numerous indigenous people. The Apatani people, inhabiting the Ziro valley of Lower Subansiri district, Arunachal
Pradesh, are one of the foremost tribes of this region. The Apatanis belong to the Tibeto-Mongoloid stock. Their folklores trace their descent
from the legendary ancestor, Abotani. Unlike most of the other tribes in North-east India who practice shifting or slash- and-burn (jhum) cultivation,
the Apatanis are settled agriculturists and practice permanent cultivation. Their sustainable agriculture is the source of an economy which is quite
different from the surrounding populations. They practice environmentally sustainable, traditional sedentary agriculture in the form of the unique
paddy-cum-fish cultivation (which is linked with animal husbandry), an example of a highly evolved indigenous farming system. The Apatani society
is patriarchal. The participation of Apatani women in the paddy-fish cultivation and their socio-economic position has not been adequately explored.
Gender inequality and violence against women, similar to the rest of the country, prevails among the Apatanis. This paper briefly investigates their
language, beliefs and practices with the focus on the role of women in this traditional micro culture.
Heritage, Tradition, Inequality, Ecology, Knowledge