Book review: Mrinal Talukdar, Post Colonial Assam (1947–2019)

Date01 September 2020
DOI10.1177/0019556120945998
Published date01 September 2020
Subject MatterBook Reviews
430 Book Reviews
Mrinal Talukdar, Post Colonial Assam (1947–2019). Guwahati, India:
Nanda Talukdar Foundation and Kaziranga Book, 2019, 382 pp., `750.
DOI: 10.1177/0019556120945998
The location of Assam is unique in its own way because of its geo-political space
and surrounding international borders. The annexation of Assam by the British,
established new administrative, economic and social linkages between Assam and
the rest of India. After the annexation, Assam began to witness rapid changes in
terms of its economic transformation, large-scale immigration from East Bengal
and other parts of India, resulting in a major shift in Assam’s demography. It was
the politics of migration which had largely been engineered by the colonial state
that brought enormous demographic changes in Assam leading to frequent ethnic
conflicts. The post-colonial Assam and its socio-economic and political dynamics
are also rooted in the understanding of this process of migration. Mrinal Talukdar’s
Book Post Colonial Assam 1947–2019 is the description of different phases of
post-colonial Assam and its series of upheavals.
The book gives an account of the turbulent period of Assam engaged in politics
of illegal immigration, rise of different ethnic movements and the confrontation
with different militant organisations, especially with United Liberation Front of
Assam (ULFA). The author discusses various efforts taken by the Centre and the
state government to conciliate the demands of the ethnic groups of Assam and
efforts to solve the problem of illegal migration from Bangladesh. The book is
an incorporation of myriad issues that the post-colonial Assam has been witness-
ing since the Gopinath Bordoloi’s Indian National Congress Party (Congress) led
government to the emergence of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and then to the rise
of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2016, which brought a new phase in the
political scenario of Assam.
The book begins with the challenges that Assam had confronted incessantly
after Independence, that is, the financial constraints and challenges from unabated
influx of migration which later on led to the series of agitations for existence and
identity. Post-Independent Indian federal structure is based on the strong Centre
with unequal power structure between the Centre and the states. Assam had to
bear the burden of financial constraints and indifferent attitude of the Centre
towards illegal immigration problem which became a cause of confrontation with
the Centre. The author has highlighted the financial relationship between Centre
and the state, which is more conflicting than cooperative. It has been marked by
constant long-standing sense of grievances. The decades of neglect by the central
government has left not only Assam but the entire Northeast with severe com-
munication and transportation bottlenecks and near absence of modern industries.
Underdevelopment of this region breeds insecurity and creates a sense of relative
deprivation.
Apart from this, the author also analyses the identity assertion of various ethnic
groups that have emerged in the post-colonial Assam. Different ethnic minority
groups increasingly felt that they have remained much more backward than the other
sections of the people in the state. The author gives a critical account of the passing
of Official Language Bill of 1961, Medium Movement of 1972 and the Assam

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