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Insights on Assam õ


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efore the advent of vaishnavism in assam, lord siva and Mother Goddess Parvati were the presiding Deities of all groups in what was then called Kamarupa. The earliest forest people


were the Khasia and Jayantia. Then came the Indo Mongoloid groups in large numbers through Tibet and Bhutan. They pushed the Khasi and Jayantia to the hills. Later people came from China, Myanmar and elsewhere. Why it is that they all adopted Saivism I am not able to answer. My research shows the tribals worshiped Siva in many different ways and forms, such as the Bathow God. Vaishnavism came to this region in the 15th century during its heyday. It was at that point in time the


injected into the psyche of the people of this region. Shankardeva S 3


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Vishishtadvaita philosophy in which no duality of God is accepted and no female principle required. To Shankardeva, Radha was just a disciple of Krishna. He also did not believe in ritualism but taught that one could approach God directly through the recitation of His name and avoid all the middlemen. Assam is a hotbed of casteism and tribalism, because most of the


people here are tribals. Some are included in the Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes list in India’s constitution, others are not. Those listed get reservations in education and jobs; those who are not are agitating to be listed. I always say that Ambedkar did a dis- service to the nation by putting these schedules in the constitution and not as an administrative order with a set time limit. Homogeni- zation is not possible, as the tribals would like to remain tribals and


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not become a part of the mainstream. The Nagas have lost their tradition to Christianity. They now go


and listen to Christmas carols and no longer worship their own Gods and Goddesses. This is how Christianity has played havoc with the culture of our tribal regions. In Mizoram, there is even one small group, the Bnei Menashe, who believe they are a lost tribe of Israel. Since 1970 several hundred have emigrated to Israel. The people of Arunachal, on the other hand, have retained their own culture and not converted. Here in Assam, this kind of situation was prevented because the Ahoms are very strong and Shankaradev preached unity in diversity. When tea was discovered in upper Assam, it was found to be even better than what was grown in China. The local population did not want to work the plantations, so the British brought workers from Bihar, Telangana and Mysore. Many died during the journey to As- sam or were treated badly upon arrival. The tea garden workers you see today are descendants of those people. Delhi needs to understand Assam in a better manner. The “Look East” policy is good, but the biggest obstacle to development is the “chicken neck” corridor with India (see map, page 20). There is a railroad, but not enough trains. Transport by road is very expen- sive. If the route were severed by militants, the Northeast would be ô ô U 3


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from the outside. Industrial development has not taken place here because transport is so costly. We need a route through Bangladesh. Five million Bangladeshis entered Assam in 1971. These immi-


grants are a big problem; they are eating into the vitals of the As- samese race. They put the identity of the state in danger. There is talk of giving citizenship rights to the Hindu Bangladeshis. But if that is done, then eventually the Muslim ones will also be given an order in their favor by the Supreme Court. These migrant Bangladeshis should be distributed all over India. This is a very sensitive issue and if not handled properly the present BJP ruling party will be beaten down. Just shouting “Hindu, Hindu” will not win them elections in Assam.


april/may/june, 2017 hinduism today 23


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