Commercialisation of Land and Resources, Land Alienation and Issues of Identity: A Study of the Tiwa Tribe of Assam

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:45
Location: Hörsaal 16 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Dola BORKATAKI, K.K. Handiqui State Open University, India
Assam is an abode of several communities each having their own socio cultural idiosyncrasies. Different groups have moved into this region at different points of time and contributed to the rich and vibrant cultural diversity of the region. However, today the region is ill famous for ethnic violence and bloodsheds. It is understood as a vortex of identity politics. The diversified landscape of the region hosting a myriad of different communities, each with its own tradition, culture, practices etc, has been often held as the prime cause of all the ethnic troubles that the region is beset with. But, the roots of these rampant identity assertions and ethnic conflicts  lie more in the issue of land, its access, control and distribution. Land is precious because of its economic and socio cultural significance and hence alienation of land inevitably leads to antagonisms and conflicts. It has been witnessed over the years that the State encroaches the land belonging to the indigenous communities in the name of development but these communities are hardly developed in this process. They rather become marginalised and impoverished. Thus land alienation and displacements due to developmental projects, privatization of communal land etc has led to ethnic clashes and mobilisations, thereby turning the region highly volatile.

This paper attempts to understand the impact of commercialisation of community holdings on the indigenous communities and their social relationships. It would analyse the case of the Tiwa tribe of Assam who have been incessantly asserting their identity and striving for autonomy due to land alienation, displacement and underdevelopment. Thus by highlighting the case of the Tiwas, the paper would analyse how elite centric development exploits and deprives common people thereby triggering ethnic movements and how the issues of land and identity creates a divide among people and fractures their social relationships.