"Rethinking Adivasi History" panel discussion at Teen Murti House, Teen Murti Marg > 3pm on 6th September 2011

Time : 3:00 pm

Entry : Free (Seating on First-Come First-Served basis)

Place : Seminar Room, Nehru Memorial Museum & Library ( NMML ), Teen Murti House, Teen Murti Marg, New Delhi
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Event Details : The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library cordially invites you to a panel discussion on ‘Rethinking Adivasi History’.
Over the recent past, many scholars have shed new light on the larger field of Adivasi history. The earlier focus of movements of resistance and times of rebellion as also the works on tribal identity and the idea of India remain relevant. But there have been fresh ways of asking old questions. Economic and ecological processes, state formation and changing modes of cultural expression are among the issues that are central to recent works.
What is are the multiple meanings of the very word ‘Adivasi’ ? What are the contests over its connotations and implications? How do these impinge on larger projects of writing histories?
To shed light on these and other associated questions, we are privileged to have three leading scholars with recent works join us on a panel.
Dr. Biswamoy Pati, Dept. of History, University of Delhi, Delhi
Dr. Pati is Associate Professor, at Department of History, University of Delhi, Delhi. He has several books to his credit along with publications in renowned journals. His latest book in Adivasis in Colonial India: Survival, Resistance and Negotiation, New Delhi, 2011.
Studying Tribals in Colonial India
His presentation would focus on certain problems encountered by a social historian while attempting to study a 'world' that seems to be 'remote' to us. It would negotiate stereotypes and some basic ideas/notions that exist about tribals and their life which prove to be major stumbling blocks.
Dr. Sanjukta Das Gupta, Dept. of History, University of Kolkata
Dr. Das Gupta is an Associate Professor of History at Calcutta University and an associate editor of the Calcutta Historical Journal. Her research interests relate to rural societies, adivasis and the agrarian history of India. She is the author of Adivasis and the Raj: Socio-economic transition of the Hos, 1820-1932, Delhi, 2011 and has also co-edited Narratives of the Excluded: Caste Issues in Colonial India, Kolkata, 2008 and Narratives from the Margins: Aspects of Adivasi History in India, Delhi, 2011 (forthcoming). She has been a Visiting Fellow at Uppsala University, Sweden and at University of Rome, La Sapienza.
Dr. Das Gupta will be speaking on:
Continuity and Change in a Tribal Village Society under Colonial Rule: A Study of the Hos of Singhbhum, 1820-1932
At a mass meeting held on 30 March 1981 at Mangla hat in Chaibasa, Western Singhbhum, an adivasi political organization named the Kolhan Raksha Sangh (KRS) declared that Kolhan was a sovereign state independent from India and that the Independence Day of Kolhan would be celebrated on 2 December 1982. Later in the year, a delegation of the ‘Free State of Kolhanistan’ went to England to complain of the ‘aggression being committed by India on Kolhan’. Representatives of the KRS presented a memorandum to the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Countries claiming that Kolhan was legally outside the territory of India, since the South West Frontier Agency, created in 1833, was a non-regulation region and thus not an integral part of the territory of British India at the time of the transfer of power in 1947. Independent India, it was argued, could not claim power and jurisdiction over Kolhan and the adivasis of the region were entitled to self-government under Wilkinson’s Rules.
This incident reveals how a large section of the Hos of western Singhbhum Hos have come to perceive British rule today and indeed how they have internalised the notion of the paternal benevolence of the colonial administration? People in Kolhan harbour rancour and resentment against the Indian government who, they believe, had interfered consistently with the autonomy that Hos had enjoyed under Wilkinson’s Rules, yet failed to undertake any schemes for development of their lot. This leads us to the question as to why British rule could capture the imagination of a community of people living in what had been a ‘little-known part of the Empire’ and has continued to remain a little-known part of independent India. Why did radical leaders seek justice and fair play from far-off England in their demand for a better deal for the tribals of Kolhan? How is it that memories of British arms and wars of conquest have been erased from popular memory? To arrive at a conclusion we shall attempt to understand British colonial rule impacted upon the relatively isolated, village-based society of the Hos.
The political integration of the Hos within the colonial empire had crucial implications which ultimately led to the weakening of tribal communal solidarity of the Hos. British rule could penetrate the internal domain of the tribal social organisation in a more complete form than had occurred under the indigenous rulers. Based on Wilkinson’s Rules of 1833, British policy in Kolhan applied the principle of direct rule, first under a Political Agent of the South Western Frontier and later, under the Commissioner of Chota Nagpur, together with the Deputy Commissioner of Singhbhum. Professing a policy of non-interference, the new rulers apparently retained the communal structure of the village, and utilised the manki-munda system and economic organisations for the governance of the tribal villages. Yet, by incorporating the village leadership within the framework of British administration, colonial rule redefined their roles and their relationship with the rest of the community. At the same time, the village gradually became enmeshed within an increasingly complex network of external relationships.
A major change occurred in the relationship of the traditional leadership with the rest of the village community. From their customary position as the first among equals, mankis and mundas were transformed into government servants, answerable to the British government upon whom they had come to depend for their continuity in office. Along with this, there was a redefinition of the status of the Ho peasantry. Such changes naturally impacted upon the Ho economy as well, profoundly affecting the lives of village communities. The weakening of communal solidarity that occurred as a result of British rule was the outcome of a repositioning within the internal hierarchy of the community. This became apparent, for instance, in the increasing distance between the villagers and their traditional leaders. Despite this, the village leadership could still retain much of their former prestige during the period of our study. In particular, they played a significant role in successfully controlling and containing the spread of political discontent and violent mass upsurge among the Hos during the period studied.
Dr. Prathama Banerjee, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.
Dr. Prathama Banerjee is Fellow at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi. Her work was on changing conceptions of time in colonial modernity. The study was a simultaneous exploration of the rise of history and credit rationality on the one hand and of the constitution of some peoples as 'tribes', on the other. By staging encounters between adivasi-s and the modern middle classes, the work sought to understand how temporality itself came to be reconceptualised, leading to unprecedented notions of politics and practices. This work was published as Politics of Time: 'primitives and history-writing in a colonial society in 2006.
Dr. Prathama Banerjee is currently working on a history of the idea of the political in 20th century Bengal. This is partly an intellectual history, partly a history of practices that produced the political as distinct domain, act and subjectivity.
Dr. Prathama Banerjee will be speaking on:
Adivasi & Dalit: Rethinking 'political' history
One way of rethinking adivasi history is to set up an analytical comparison between the dalit and the adivasi - the two political subjectivities that centrally mark our 20th century history. 'Dalit and adivasi' seem to work as an easy and self-evident pairing in everyday democratic politics today, such as in BSP rhetoric. In the language of the state and of constitutionalism too, the categories of SC and ST seem to work in analogy and equivalence. Concealed underneath, however, there are a set of important distinctions between the histories of these two political subjects. In my presentation, I provisionally dwell on three registers in which the 20th century dalit and the 20th century adivasi have fared differently, namely around the question of language, around the question of numbers and representation and around the question of religion. I feel that such a comparison has the value, even if limited, of reopening what appears as settled questions of democracy and governmentality. In other words, I feel that the adivasi question works as a critical limit-case that reflects upon both our political and historical imagination.

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"Rethinking Adivasi History" panel discussion at Teen Murti House, Teen Murti Marg > 3pm on 6th September 2011 "Rethinking Adivasi History" panel discussion at Teen Murti House, Teen Murti Marg > 3pm on 6th September 2011 Reviewed by DelhiEvents on Tuesday, September 06, 2011 Rating: 5

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