The Northeastern region of India is one of the most sensitive are of the country for its strategic locations. Most of the social movements in the context of Northeast India have politico-historical dimensions. Although the region witnesses several social movements over the centuries, it is only recently that social scientists have begun to study its textual and contextual significance in depth. Intensive case studies need to be carried out on different types of social movements to make the people more educated about the multifarious dimensions of different manner to link these ideas with the civil society. In fact, in recent years, studies on social movements occupy a central place in contemporary interdisciplinary social science research, however, information from Northeast India is inadequate even today and hence this treatise is a welcome addition to the literature.
Against this backdrop, the icollection of research articles accommodated in this book includes 12 contributions by eminent social scientists on varied dimensions of social movements prevailing in Northeast India. In one chapter, the book underlines that the new social movement approach emphasises the cultural nature of the new movements and vies them as a struggle for control over the production of meaning and the constitution of new collective identities. It stresses the expressive aspects of social movements and places them exclusively in the terrain of civil society, as opposed to the state. This approach also emphasises discontinuity by highlighting the difference between the new movements and traditional collective actors.
Presenting the key theme of the book, it highlights that going by the traditional ways of understanding, all kinds of movements originate from the challenged identity, which could be felt from any viewpoint. This varies from ‘singular identity’ to plural (identity) affiliation’. Plural affiliations are adjusted to adapt oneself to the complexity of the society. The traditional movements that are rooted in the economic deprivation alone have been faded rather than losing its relevance.
Explaining the causes of the movement for Kuki, the book states that initially, the relationship between the Kukis and the Karbis were very cordial and they assisted each other in times of needs and difficulties. Even today, the Kuki elders do narrate some of the past memorable incidents that took place in their relationship with the Karbis. But with passage of time, changes swept over the region particularly withe introduction of the new administrative set-up under the Sixth Schedule.
In another chapter, the book points out the effect of social-religious movement on the Rabhas in Assam. It underscores that the Rabha society has passed through various socio-religious movements spearheaded by different groups from time to time. Every movement has a certain positive direction towards social change. The Rabha, once a backward tribal community living in different part of lower Assam, have been influenced by various religious forces since the 19th century.
In this perspective, it cannot be gainsaid that the book will be of attention to book lovers, who are concerned to study Northeast India in general and those who pursue social movements and civil society as well as political affairs in particular.
By Ashok Kumar