Thursday, August 10, 2006

Literary Reflections of Migration in Assamese Literature Particularly in Reference to late Umakanta Sarma

Pritima Sharma

The growth of indigeneous population suffered a very serious and violent setback in the early part of the 19th century when three Burmese invasions of Assam took a heavy toll of Assamese life .Assamese population was completely massacred by the invading Burmese forces . The last being in the third decade of the 19th century . Practically the land of Assam became a graveyard of Assamese population . As a result a great famine in 1825 occured and in 1826 on the basis of Yandaboo Treaty Assam was taken over by the Britishers . That a major chunk of agricultural and residential land lying vacant was itself a source of attraction for the advent of outsiders particularly neighbouring East Bengal Muslim communities from the region of Myamansingh. Since then the migration continued to remain unabated till today . The then Bengal sent over half migrant to Assam . Some from Chotanagpur ,Bhagalpur etc. A great majority of population were garden coolies or agricultural labour who crossed the agricultural land .
In the Gazetteer of Bengal and Northeast India edited by Gait and Ellen the following information is sound . The whole of increase since 1991 was due to immigration for the number of persons born and enumerated . Since then the growth of immigrant population has changed the democratic pattern of Assam’s population .
In Assamese literature this issue of migration forms an important theme among most of the novels . Among the novelist , Late Umakanta Sarma has elaborately delineated this theme in most of his novels .This paper looks into the novels of Umakanta Sarma where migration forms the core issue .
TheMythical ‘Bharanda’ of the ‘Panchatantra’ is the bird with two heads and a single body. Once one head found a luscious fruit and ate it up alone without sharing it with the other head. In the quarrel that ensued, the other head, out of spite, ate a poison fruit which killed the bird itself. This mythical allegory is used by novelist Umakanta Sarma to depict ground reality of present Assam in his novel ‘Bharanda pakhir jak’, 1992 (Flocks of Bharanda birds). The delicate relationship and the grounds of conflict between Bodos and Assamese constitute the theme of this magnificient novel . Then follows another novel Megar Sa ( the shadow of floating clouds ) which dealt with the lives of the poor and the marginalized who are displaced .
In “Ejak Manuh and Ekhan Aranya ”(A group of people and a forest ) in 1986 reflects a massive opus on the beginning of the tea plantations with bonded labourer in the colonial age . Labourers are the main protagonist in this work and the novel is truly their story . The ethnic conflict and the loss of cherished communal values reflect in his minor works . Kajolir Rog ( ailments of kajoli) his last novel is based on migration of hard working Maimanshingia peasants from East Bengal to Assam and the resultant problems .This novel gives a strong social message and showed how migration has changed the democratic pattern of Assam’s population .


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