Colonial politics of labelling communities have had disastrous consequences which continue to impact the lives of the colonized. Identities were created and circulated through this act which in turn had categorised, included and excluded the communities living in the colonial fringe. Karbis were labelled ‘heathen’, ‘worshippers of malignant demons’, ‘unwarlike’, ‘timid’, ‘coward’ ‘bloodthirsty’ and such other colonial vocabularies which continue to haunt them. Colonial authorities persisted with the misnomer, ‘Mikir’, over the ancient indigenous nomenclature Karbi and the label remained in force for centuries. Colonial categorisation of Karbis into Hills and Plains simply because of geographical locations continues to divide and distance the tribe psychologically, socially, culturally and politically. The colonizers however saw in the Karbis their ‘industriousness’ as it served the colonial enterprise.
Author: Dharamsing Teron & Linso Timungpi
Dharamsing Teron (b. 1957) is an indigenous activist hailing from the Karbi people in Assam’s central hilly region of Karbi Anglong. He has been in the forefront of a long-drawn autonomy struggle since 1986 participating in the political, cultural and literary aspirations of the Karbi people. He has initiated documenting vanishing Karbi folklore and publishing books in English, which include the popular ‘Karbi Studies’ series in a collaborative effort with young Karbi researchers, writers and translators. He is currently the founder Director of ‘Centre for Karbi Studies’ which aims to foster indigenous research initiatives in the ‘most under-researched area’.
Linso Timungpi is an Assistant Professor of Geography. She is an executive member of Centre for Karbi Studies and has translated Karbi fiction into English.