Arupjyoti Saikia is Professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences in IIT Guwahati, India. His previous books include "A Century of Protests: Peasant Politics in Assam since 1900" and "Forests and Ecological History of Assam, 1826-2000"

February 19, 2020 /

THE NINETEENTH CENTURY SAW THE emergence of many ideas related to meaningfully transforming the Brahmaputra to serve the government and the country. Experts toyed with ideas on how to tame the river. If other rivers of the world could serve the cause of the governments of the countries through which they flowed, why should the Brahmaputra not be trained in similar ways? It was only a matter of the appropriate calculations and necessary engineering works. What was called for was a plan for the river’s regulation to achieve the desired goals. The river, despite its erratic temperament, was bound to behave according to the rules thus framed. After two centuries of political, economic, intellectual, and bureaucratic negotiation, the river has become part of India’s national imagination. India’s stake in the Brahmaputra is now firmly established. The genealogy of this belief in the expertise, knowledge, and governance of the river goes back to the mid-nineteenth century as the example of the Kalang, a distributary of the Brahmaputra, shows. The Kalang is the river on the banks of which I have partly grown up.