Why do tribals of india face alienation?

Posted by Priyanka Brahma Basumatary
May 26, 2017


Karl Marx, the prophet of communism explained in one of his pioneer work titled, The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1844) about the theory of estrangement, in other words, ‘alienation’. However, the journey through the pages of this manuscript leads one to only reflect on the repercussions of capitalism, that is, the capitalist mode of production which results in the alienation of the individual from 1) the self 2) the fruit’s of one’s own labour 3) alienation from the process of production and 4) alienation from the species-being. The theory of Alienation by Karl Marx initiates the process of understanding ‘estrangement’ in urban areas and as a concept gets entwined with the idea of an individual located in an urban society. This self-styled engagement with the idea of alienation doesn’t assist the layman in understanding the problems of alienation confronted by the indigenous people of India, who are colloquially addressed as ‘Tribal’ (a constitutional category). Alienation is like a double edged sword, both sides cut open an overwhelming amount of issues faced by the others and the one that others, as well. Therefore, there is a necessity of dusting the idea of Alienation, in order to pursue for a clearer understanding of ‘Alienation of the Tribals’ within various institutions of the society, for instance, education. While referring to the idea of alienation as a double edged sword, the underlying assumption is that both the parties, that is, the other and the one that others get alienated from reality in one sense or the other. On the one hand, the tribals get alienated in the form of being excluded from the fruits of economic and social prosperity or modernity in the midst of getting adjusted to a superior project of national integration rather than ensuring social, political and economic security of the so called, tribal people of India. On the other hand, the community of people other than the tribals have a very hazy understanding of ‘who are the tribals?’, this is the alienation suffered by the mainstream community, the alienation from a knowledge system that exists beyond the quarters, the comforts of offices of power, the institutions, the territories and the borders that this community maintains as its own. This aversion to the presence of traditional systems of knowledge of the tribals residing in the corners of India has to be brought to visibility as clear as daylight amidst screams of imposition of the ‘national culture’ in the form of language, religious ideas and culture in various regions of the country. Therefore, as an effort to bridge the gap between the societies and cultures, the following is a myth from the indigenous community who identify themselves as the Bodos from Assam. At first, the story will be written in Bodo language and later, its translation will be provided in English. So, the title of the story is ‘Kachari Theory Of Thunder and Lightning’ as documented and later explained by Rev. Sidney Endle in his work, ‘The Kacharis’ (1911):

Agalaiau sase raza dangman aru biha hoasa sase, hingzhausa sase, dangman. Hoasani nau Roana, hingzhausani nau Raoni, dangman. Lase Lase bisur gaded zaaba Raonaia gagai binanaukhonu haba khamnu namainai. Sanse Raonaia runuian thahoinai. Amphara bini bifaia ikham zanu namaiba manakhuise, manathu bi runuiau thanakho bifaia mithiakhauman. Ampha bini sase bandia runuiau nunanoi razani sigangau khithanaisui; abanu razaia thangnanoi sanghoinaisui balui “ Afa, nangnu ma nango? Hathi nanggoba hathi hugan; gorai nnangoba, gorai hugan; theobo nang manau dukh da kham”, hannanoi khithanaisui. Aba Raonaia hannaisui, “Angnu mungbo nanga; nang sumai labasu ang khithagan.” Ampha bifaia mungbo uphai manikhai sumai lananoi khithanaisui, “Nangnu zikhonu nanggo, bikhona hugan.” Hanba Raonaia bungnaisui, “Angnu Raonikho haba khamnanoi hu; abasu ang mikham dui langgan.” Aba bifaia bibadi khorang khnananoi manau zabra-sin dukhu mannaisui. Amphare bifaia guninanoi sumai lanaikhai haba khlamnanoi hunu zathan khlammnaisui; khintu be khorangakha Raonini siganga khithanu bada hunai; binikhai raubo khithai-a-khise. Ampha Raonia mairang sun thangba duigathanau sase buruia Raoniniau sangnaisui, balui, “Nangsurha ma zaadang?” Aba Raonia khithanaisui, “Zangfra adaha Haba zaagan”. Aru buruia hannaisui, “Maunithu hingzhausa zang haba zaanu?” Raonia bungnaisui, “Ang khithanu haia.” Abanu buruia hannaisui, balui, “Ai, be khorang thik na?” hannanoi sangba, buruia sumai lanaisui. Aba Raonia akhrangsau birlang-naisui, aru Raunikho birlangnai nunanoi Raonaiabo guzarinanoi hasu-langnaisi. Bikhonu mansuifra akha khrumniakhonu “Raona guzaridang” hannanoi bungu; aru Raoni khatlangnanai thap nainifinba bini makhanga at baidi nuiu, bikhonu akha mablibnai hanu; Barafra eroi bhabiu.

There was once a king who had one son and one daughter. The son’s name was Raona and the daughter’s Raoni. As they gradually grew up together, Raona wished to marry his sister. One day Raona remained alone in an outhouse unknown to his father; and when the latter wished his son to come to dinner, the young man cold not be found. However, a servant saw the youth in the outhouse and told the king, who going to the boy asked him what was the matter. “if”, said the king, “you want an elephant, I will give you a horse; but do not abandon yourself to sorrow in this way.” And then Raona replied, “I am in no special want of anything, but, if you give me a promise an oath, I will tell you what is the matter.” Thereupon, the king, seeing that there was no help for it, took an oath saying, “Whatever you want, I will give it to you.” And then Raona said, “Give me permission to marry Raoni, and then I will eat my food.” On hearing this the king was sorely troubled in his mind; but remembering the terms of his oath, he took steps to bring about the marriage, at the same time forbidding anyone to mention the matter to Raoni, who, therefore, heard nothing about the proposed marriage with herself. But one day Raoni went to the village stream to clean the rice for the daily meals, when an old woman met her and inquired, “what is going on in the palace today?” And Raoni replied, “The son of the hose is to be married today.” And when the old lady asked further “But to whom is he to be married?” Raoni replied, “Mother, I cannot say.” And then said the old dame , “Raoni, it is you that he is going to marry.” And when Raoni inquired, “Mother, can this be true?” the old woman took an oath to confirm what she had said. And then Raoni at once flew right away up into the sky, and when Raona saw Raoni ths flying away, he shouted after her, doing his utmost to catch her. It is these loud shouts and threats of Raona that men call “thunder”; and when Raoni occasionally looks back to see if her purser is gaining upon her, she in doing reveals for an instant the brightness and beauty of her face, glowing like fire; and it is this bright, dazzling beauty other countenance that men call “lightning.”

Myth can be described as the collective dream of a society and this story of Raona and Raoni cannot merely have one interpretation. This myth is an insight into the collective conscience of the Bodo community of Assam. However, one should note the simplicity in the manner the story was narrated and the usage of complex metaphors in the story. The story takes us back to an era without science and scientific knowledge. But, the question that needs utmost attention is that, does that make tribal sources anything lesser than any scientific knowledge? If, yes, then why?

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