Sunday, September 23, 2012

‘Questions of Identity in Assam: Location, migration, hybridity’ by Nandana Dutta

Language controversy
“The biggest and most interesting manifestation of the identity crisis in Assam has been the shadow boxing among the two large linguistic and cultural groups, so similar and yet so determinedly different – the Bengalis and the Assamese. The language controversy is part of this uncomfortable relationship, traceable both to the introduction of Bengali as the official and educational language under the British, and to the impact of the Bengal Renaissance (the intellectuals of Assam in those years were the Bengalis). The major dimension of the perception of threat to the community has therefore been not so much the religious as the linguistic and traditional-cultural dimension. The religious dimension of the identity question, Assamese against Bengali Muslims, is a secondary aspect of cultural distinctiveness. It is only in the face of the rapid and large-scale influx of Muslims from Bangladesh in recent years that the numbers began to make a difference in religious terms. The perception of the local, indigenous, Assamese Muslim, who has been an integral component of Assamese society, has gradually come to be affected by the presence of an ‘in-your-face’ religious fundamentalism that is of recent origin.”
(p. 143, ‘Questions of Identity in Assam: Location, migration, hybridity’ by Nandana Dutta – Sage)

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