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Death of an Adivasi: Interpreting and Understanding Bikram Hembrom's Death


· Arjab Roy Indian Institute of Information Technology Guwahati (Guwahati, India)


07/29 | 09:40-10:00 UTC+2/CEST


This paper’s objective is to contribute towards the idea of ‘Adivasi Studies’ as proposed by Prathama Banerjee (2016).Banerjee lays out its potential with the necessity of multilingual interdisciplinary interactions seeking to recover “the deep historicality of peoples now called tribes” (21).

This paper focuses on an episode of death in a Bengali short story titled “Bikram Hembrom” (1965) written by Dr. Balaichand Mukhopadhyay (pseudonym: Banaphool) with the plot set immediately after India’s independence in 1947 around Santhal Pargana near Birbhum District of West Bengal. The paper reads the Santhal protagonist who is the erstwhile Honourary Magistrate of Santhal Pargana, Bikram Hembrom’s death as a socially transformative moment in post-independence India. It interprets Bikram Hembrom’s death as an indication of individual and collective acculturation of indigenous members from their ‘home’ towards the modern new ‘world’. Bikram’s subjective experiences in the context of the social formations of his time that extends from colonial to postcolonial India are relevant while highlighting the significance of the forest in the story. The paper explores the crucial role of Forest Acts in understanding the changes that Nehruvian India promise. The paper argues that the independent Indian state sought to efface the differences and autonomy of indigenous communities thereby integrating and subsuming them within a broader national identity.