From Assam

Wednesday, 02 December 2020



From Assam

Arunav Barua | April 20, 2019 17:53 hrs

The present times call for a careful reading of the current scenario that pervades Assam with factors that lead us to a question - the question of belongingness, the question of worth, of being a part of the larger whole. History has turned the equation haywire, for history has been ignored with such impunity that no longer are we sure where we stand. What had been by all means Assamese or “from Assam” has been muddied by some forces that be, to an extent wherein we are no longer sure what we mean when we say “from Assam.”

To put matters in perspective, let us look at the Assam that all of us grew up with. Words which would bring memories of home, words like Bihu, Bhaona, Naam, Naamghar, tea, oil, paper, vibrant fields of lush agriculture spanning throughout the land, beautifully clad damsels in Saraswati Puja; the words are many, too many to name here, but the general gist of the purpose is that we have a newness, a neo-existence of the changing dynamics of things that were “from Assam.” The most important are the people or the populace of this land.

Who is an Assamese? There are varied and differing schools of thought which have attempted answering this question. Many claim that by virtue of being citizens of the state, they are from Assam. We had a long drawn out process of finding “true” citizens by an exercise which by all means is of no importance any longer as almost everyone has the right of citizenship now by virtue of their having been here a few years, not amounting to even decades. 

Let us look at this equation through another eye; perhaps, the equation is answered by a simple question: “Do you speak Assamese at home?” There is a school of thought which upholds the view that speaking Assamese as your first language is the only factor that qualifies someone to be called so. But then, Assamese has dialects and languages such as Bodo, Mising etc and all have their firm place in our heartland. So speaking Assamese would have all of these dialects too. 

Then again, languages such as Hindi, Bengali, Nepali, Marwari, and others I have not named, have been a part of our remembered past for as long as we can remember. So there is a definite place all of these languages have in our land. This school does have its adherents and they shall always find a place in the hearts of every Assamese, but their definition lacks totality.

Then, we have a group which vociferously supports the idea of being Assamese by virtue of blood, or belonging to a race by virtue of being from a family which has had a history of years of being from Assam; years which could be more than a century. They have a definite claim by all rights, to being called Assamese, but then so do others, the races that have been named, for they too have had a long history in this land. 

Assam and all things Assamese has a simple cut out task at hand under current circumstances. We have to fight tooth and nail to save not just the Assamese language from possible extinction by virtue of being made a minority, but saving all things that are “from Assam.” The beautiful coherence of all tribes and languages, with their precious dialects, the understanding and the bond that people from all faiths enjoy here, the innocence that is fostered in the hearts of all who come here, to the land of Sankaradeva. When we are threatened, we fight, but not until the last reason for peace disappears, not until we have no option left but action...

Things might change, new equations created, new demographics encouraged. For many, this heralds bad news but let us look at our land once. We have been a shining example of an inclusive, moderate, all-encompassing land. All who venture here, one day, fall in love with all things Assamese. That has been the norm and that shall be the mark of the times. Let us see where the current fiasco leads us, let us wait and see the strings being untied, for we are an old land, among the first to have had language and culture in the world, no less. 

There are definitely forces beyond our understanding or comprehension which will play a role in the assay that history unleashes on our land in the next few years. For those who fear our language disappearing, let us understand that the Brahmaputra will never dry out. For, as long as Luit flows through our veins, there will be this race of people who ask for nothing more than a chance to play Bihu songs and dance to the Rhythm of a Pepa.

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