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Understanding Ethnicity

Updated: October 25, 2014 1:00 pm

The concept of ethnicity is very much linked with the issue of identity and also linked with aspect of culture. Ethnicity is an accepted state of mankind. It is one of the most common ways in which people announce and assert their individuality by maxim who they are or who they are not. In contemporary world however, with mounting interdependence and contact among the international group of people, there seems to be a kind of expansion of the limits of the accredited humankind. However, despite the various forces of globalisation, issues relating to ethnicity, may be in wide-ranging forms, seems to continue as a universal predicament. The problem becomes more challenging when it is coupled with violence and militancy.

Ethnicity is seen to be very closely related with the demands of identity formation of an ethnic group and is usually ‘viewed as a device as much as a focus of group mobilisation by the leadership of ethnic group through select use of ethnic symbols for socio-cultural and politico-economic purpose’. Ethnic cohesion as well as ‘we’ feeling is actually created through social and political processes, especially in the context of competition for scarce resources.

North East India, popularly known as seven sisters, comprises the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. For administrative purpose, of late, Sikkim has also been included in the North East India. The region is considered as cultural corridor between India and South East Asia, and has a tremendous strategical importance, not only because of its geography but also because of its history, demography and culture. The region provides shelter to numerous peoples of various ethnic affiliation having different social structures, cultural heritages and cultural linkages across the international borders. There is a rich assembly of cultures and communities in the rugged expanse of the eastern Himalayas. Connected with the main body of the country by a narrow strip of land, sharing four international borders and having cultural linkages with trans-Himalayan societies, North East India has shot into limelight in the recent decades owing to a series of ethnic-cultural movements, mostly reflecting sub-national sentiments.

The North Eastern region, in fact, is too diverse a region and each state or sub-national group which is today in the hang on of insurgent politics has a distinct history and culture of its own. Apart from socio-economic and political factors, socio-historical and cultural factors have also been acting as strong propellants for these movements and until these factors are understood in their proper context it would be difficult to judge the mind-set of the participants of the diverse ethnic organisations, belligerent or otherwise.

Ethnicity in North East India is a collection of eleven original essays offered by renowned teachers and experienced researchers to acquaint readers about the dynamic nature of ethnicity in North East India to understand the mechanism according to which the character of its commonality becomes clearly visible. This book is a perfect read for scholars, policy makers and policy analysts, and students of social sciences particularly those concerned with the North East India.

By Nilabh Krishna


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