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Ethnographic Discourse of the Other

Ethnographic Discourse of the Other:

Conceptual and Methodological Issues

Edited by

Panchanan Mohanty, Ramesh C. Malik

and Eswarappa Kasi

Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Ethnographic Discourse of the Other: Conceptual and Methodological Issues,
Edited by Panchanan Mohanty, Ramesh C. Malik and Eswarappa Kasi

This book first published 2008 by

Cambridge Scholars Publishing

15 Angerton Gardens, Newcastle, NE5 2JA, UK

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Copyright © 2008 by Panchanan Mohanty, Ramesh C. Malik and Eswarappa Kasi and contributors

All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system,
or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or
otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.

ISBN (10): 1-84718-583-5, ISBN (13): 9781847185839


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .............................................................................. viii

INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................. 1
Conceptual and Methodological Issues of Ethnography
Panchanan Mohanty, Ramesh C. Malik and Eswarappa Kasi

CHAPTER ONE .............................................................................................. 8

Understanding Forager Worldview and Changing Ideology
of Human-Nature Relationship (A study with reference to Sulung,
Nyishi and Khampti Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh in North-East India)
Dr. Maguni Charan Behera

CHAPTER TWO ........................................................................................... 39

Arsenic Menace in Bangladesh: An Inquiry into Social Exclusion
and Health Needs of Rural Poor and Women
Dr. Rita Afsar

CHAPTER THREE ........................................................................................ 69

The Other Maternal Uncles in Indian Languages
Prof. Panchanan Mohanty

CHAPTER FOUR .......................................................................................... 91

Religion, Beliefs and practices among The Koyas in Andhra Pradesh
Reddi Sekhara

CHAPTER FIVE.......................................................................................... 113

The Issues and Concerns of Dalit Labourers in Nepal
Dr. Shyam Bahadur Katuwal

CHAPTER SIX............................................................................................ 127

Upliftment of Women in Social Development
Saraswati H. Bammanal, Syed Pasha and Dr. G.R. Patil
vi Table of Contents

CHAPTER SEVEN ...................................................................................... 137

Between Ethno-Methodology and Ethnography: Constraints
and Strategies
Dr.Bindu Ramachandran

CHAPTER EIGHT ....................................................................................... 142

Filipino Male Cyborg Sexualities and Chatroom Masculinities:
Methodological Issues
Alvin Concha, MD

CHAPTER NINE ......................................................................................... 171

Marginal Communities and their Livelihoods: Role of NGO
in the Watershed Development in Anantapur District of Andhra Pradesh
Eswarappa Kasi

CHAPTER TEN .......................................................................................... 194

Linguistic Groups of Migrants in Pune city, India
Dr. Vijaya P. Khairkar

CHAPTER ELEVEN .................................................................................... 206

Change and Continuity as means to Perpetuate Cultural Anxieties:
A Brief Study of Tushu brata Rites and the Worship of Goddess Manasā
in Specific Districts of Lateritic West Bengal (India)
Ms. Lopamudra Maitra

CHAPTER TWELVE.................................................................................... 234

Trapped in Poverty: Plantation Workers in Sri Lanka
Shobana Rajendran and Anoma Abhayaratne

CHAPTER THIRTEEN ................................................................................. 247

Ethnographic Method and its Applications in Cultural and Social
Anthropological Research
Dr. Devesh K. Sahu & Ms. Ankita Arya

CHAPTER FOURTEEN ................................................................................ 254

Between Kşatriya Ja:Tisna:Taka and Bluestone
Smita Mohanty
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other vii

CHAPTER FIFTEEN .................................................................................... 277

The 'Indian' and 'Islam' in Indian Islam: Conceptual Problems
of Sociological and Ethnographic Discourses on Indian Islam
Shireen Mirza

CHAPTER SIXTEEN ................................................................................... 296

Ethnographic Discourse of the Other in India: Response to Refugees,
with focus on Refugees from Bhutan
Sreeja CT

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN .............................................................................. 309

Representation of the Other: Portrayal of Ethnic Minorities in Media
of the West European Countries
Azmat Rasul

Contributors............................................................................................. 323

The present book developed out of a variety of papers invited for the
International Conference on Ethnographic Discourse of the Other
organized by the School of Humanities and School of Social Sciences,
University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India during July 3-5, 2007. We
express our deep gratitude to the anonymous referees for their insightful
comments and suggestions on the papers incorporated in this volume. We
fondly remember all the institutions and individuals who have provided
sponsorship, encouragement and various kinds of help without which this
book would never have seen the light. We are greatful to the following for
financial support: Indira Gandhi Rastriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal;
Centre for World Solidarity, Secunderabad; Dean, School of Humanities
and School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad,

We thank the Cambridge Scholars Publishing, U.K. for bringing out this
volume very promptly.

The Editors





1. Introduction
The conceptual and methodological issue of ethnography has emerged
from the tradition of cultural anthropology. Ethnography has dual
meaning: one refers to the process and the other refers to the product of
this process. Ethnography is interdisciplinary in nature and deals with the
allied disciplines of humancentric subjects, like language, education,
health, history, caste, tribe, gender, dalits and other focal themes of human
studies. In short, ethnography deals with a scientific interpretation of
human beings and their surrounding cultures. Meaning, nature and use of
ethnography are important for researchers as they can use this knowledge
not only to write about ethnography but also to evaluate ethnographic
writings, and this is the main intention of this exercise.

Ethnography as a process means ‘ethnography as field work’. It is the

study of people in naturally occurring settings or ‘field’ in order to capture
the meanings their social activities, involving a researcher participating
directly in it, and also collection of data in a systematic manner but
without meaning being imposed on them externally (Brewer 2000:10).
Ethnography deals with description of the people including their cultural
practices and communication abilities along with the distinctive medium
of their behavioural interpretation. So it focuses on the cultural
interpretation of behaviour. It is a mediation of cultural communication or
transformation between two human beings. From the process point of
view, ethnography gives the ideas about data collection, participant
observation, interview, and recoding of human activities in natural settings
2 Introduction

besides the road map of describing and preserving cultural practices of the
concerned people. As a product, it means a documentation of the entire
cultural behaviours of the people or group of people including their
livelihood, social institution, rituals, beliefs, economy, cultural dynamics,
indigenous knowledge, knowledge shifting, language, literature, history,
and all related biological and ecological information. So, the term desires
a double meaning, referring to a form of research and to product of that
research: ethnography as a practice produces ethnographies. (Hammersley
2007:1479). The goal of this volume is to provide a comprehensive notion
on ethnography which will help researchers to read, write and understand
ethnography and its cross-disciplinary functions.

2. The Nature of Ethnography

The first task of ethnography is to document stable cultures, patterns of
social interaction, institutions, and so on, as they exist in the world
independently of the researcher. By contrast, constructionism is concerned
with the interactional or discursive processes whereby cultures,
institutions, etc. are continuously and contingently produced and
sustained. In line with this, constructionists do not only use informants'
accounts as a source of information about the world or even about
informants' own experience, but rather study them as exemplifying
discursive practices, narrative strategies, or distinctive voices. Moreover,
in its more radical forms constructionism treats the social phenomena
studied by ethnographers as effectively constituted in and through the
research process itself, and especially through the process of writing
(Clifford & Marcus 1986). Certeau argues that the writer of ethnography
first appears in the guise of the woman because ethnography is initially in
competition with an ‘older’ form of writing, that is, the contemplation of
and transcription of biblical revelation ((cf from Clough,1992.16-17).
Ethnography instead proposes a writing that seemingly owes nothing to
the contemplation of historical tradition and everything to the
observational methodology of empirical scientific research. Ethnography,
therefore, founds itself on “a form (a network of formal relations)” that
“consists more in what scientific research gives itself as work rules than in
what it receives a law of history”. (ibid) As a set of methods, ethnography
is not far removed from the means that we all use in everyday life to make
sense of our surroundings. However, it involves a more deliberate and
systematic approach and also distinctive mentality. This can perhaps best
be summarised as seeking to make the strange familiar, in the sense of
finding intelligibility; and rationality within it, and making the familiar
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 3

strange, by suspending those background assumptions that immediately

give apparent sense to what we experience (Hammersley and Atkinson
1995). Ethnography can be written in many styles and in many formats. A
typical ethnographic study describes the history of the group, the
geography of the location, kinship patterns, symbols, politics, economic
systems, educational or socialisation systems, and the degree of contact
between the target culture and mainstream culture. Specialized
ethnographies may focus on specific elements of socialisation of the young
or the role of a significant person such as the head of the community.
(Fetterman 1998: 12. cf. Wolcott 1973). In his recent study Hammersley
() has laid down the significant characteristics of ethnography and stated in
practical terms, as a method, ethnography usually involves most of the
1. People’s actions and accounts are studied primarily in everyday
contexts rather than under conditions created by the researcher, such as in
experiments or highly structured interview situations. In other words,
research takes place “in the field”.
2. Data are gathered from a range of sources, including documentary
evidence, but participant observation and/or relatively informal
conversations are usually the main ones.
3. Data collection is "unstructured" in the sense that it does not involve
following through a fixed and detailed research design set up at the
beginning. Nor are the categories that will be used for interpreting what
people say or do build into the data collection process itself via
prestructuring of observation, interviews, or documentary analysis.
4. The focus is usually on a small number of cases, perhaps a single setting
or group of people, typically small scale, with these being studied in depth.
5. Analysis of the data involves interpretation of the meanings and
functions of human actions and how these are implicated in local and
wider contexts. What are produced, for the most part, are verbal
descriptions, explanations, and theories; quantification and statistical
analysis play a subordinate role.

In this volume, we have tried to include the above methodological and

conceptual notions from different fields where scholars have applied the
ethnographic tools and techniques.

3. Use of Ethnography
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other, is interpreted here as a theoretical
and empirical description of the research process and products from the
4 Introduction

view points of allied disciplines, such as anthropology, linguistics,

literature, history, sociology, culture studies and subaltern studies. In this
context, we have used the Other in the sense of the hierarchical society
mainly, woman, tribal, and marginalised people across the world, who live
under economic, social, cultural, and linguistic deprivations. Applying the
methodological tools of ethnography, how the ethnographers or
researchers have described the social realities from different time and
space consciously is the main focus of this book. We are interested to see
how the processes and products are shaping the contemporary form of

This volume comprises seventeen chapters and each chapter tries to

convey the ethnographic knowledge in a different form and content. The
first chapter of the volume deals with the tribal livelihood culture of
Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India, where Manguli Charan Behera
mainly focuses on the three tribal communities namely, Sulungs, Nyishis
and Khamptis. His main intention is to describe the ethnography of these
three communities how they are surviving with their traditional pattern of
livelihood, such as shifting cultivation, hunting and fishing activities.

The second chapter by Rita Afsar deals in detail with arsenicosis patients,
a cross-section of the community members and health service providers,
what kind of health care is currently available, what types of barriers are
there to use these services, what kind of services would patients and
communities prefer to see and what is considered reasonable by the health
care service providers.

In the third chapter Panchanan Mohanty vividly describes the Maternal

uncle as the dearest kin in the Indian society as he helps his sister and her
children in all possible ways. There is a separate word for it in all
languages belonging to the four language families of India, i.e. Indo-
Aryan, Dravidian, Munda, and Tibeto-Burman. Interestingly, the tiger, the
moon, the sun, the jackal, the mouse, the monkey, and the policeman are
also addressed as maternal uncle in various Indian languages. So I intend
to discuss the following three major points in this paper on the basis of
evidence taken from these languages:
(i) Why maternal uncle became the dearest kin term even for the speakers
of Indo-Aryan, a branch of the patriarchal, patrilineal and patrilocal Indo-
European people.
(ii) Why the tiger, the moon, the sun, the jackal, the mouse, the monkey,
and the policeman are called maternal uncle.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 5

(iii) Why Kamsa, maternal uncle of the Indian mythological hero Krishna,
was the latter's arch enemy.
(Key words: kinship, Indo-European, Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, Munda,
Tibeto-Burman, convergence, taboo)

Chapter Four presents a descriptive analogy of religion, beliefs and

practices among the Koyas in Andhra Pradesh by Reddy Sekhar.Y. He has
explained the present status of religion and rituals, process of Muttalamma
Panduga, clan worship, and ancestor worship, worshipng hill deities,
naming ceremony, first time feeding, magic and sorcery among the Koyas
which alternatively conveys the changing cultural concepts of Koyas. The
issues and concerns of dalit laboures in Nepal is represented by Shyam
Bahadur Katuwal in his Chapter Five. He has highlighted the dalit
deprivation and resistance, human rights, and reform movement in the
present context in Nepal.

Chapter Six is a team paper by Saswati H, B.S.Pasha and G.R.Patil, where

in they have searched the gender identity and necessity of their upliftment
for our social reconstruction. Seventh chapter deals with the
methodological issues of ethnography and its functions by Bindu
Ramachandran. She says that ethnography, the methodological enterprise
in the study of certain social realities such as how humans in a particular
social system think and behave, is a continuous process of ethno-
methodology where the construction of such social realities in social
situations is studied.

In Chapter Eight Alvin Concha carried out a cyber-ethnography that aimed

to describe the creation and expression of male sexualities among self-
ascribed Filipino men in online chatrooms, describe the virtual
environments wherein cyber male sexualities are constructed, and discuss
the extent to which virtual male sexualities reflect contemporary physical
world male sexualities and implicate masculinities.

Chapter Nine concentrates on the livelihoods of marginal communities in

the drought prone areas: the role of NGOs in the watershed development
in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh in India by Ewarappa Kasi. He
has discussed questions of vulnerability, marginal communities and their
livelihoods in India and Andhra Pradesh, watershed development
programmes in Andhra Pradesh (A.P), drought prone area programme
(DPAP), watershed development in Ananthapur District, afforestation and
soil conservation and water conservation, management land development
6 Introduction

programme (LDP) and positive impact through watersheds programme in

this chapter.

Chapter Ten describes a linguistic group of migrants in Pune city by

Vijaya P. Khairkar. He defines the linguistic enclave of a migrant
community, the causes of migration related to the enclave formation, and
he also attempts to demonstrate the impact of socio-economic life of the
migrating community around the Pune city. Chapter Eleven based on the
historical response and as well as ethnographic responses of the change
and continuity as a means to perpetuate cultural anxieties: Lopamudra
Maitra has studied the Tushu brata rites and the worship of goddess
Manasā in specific districts of lateritic West Bengal (India). Her intention
is to give a notice on the holistic sketch of folkloric interpretation of the
Tushu brata and its relation with economy and environment in the local

Chapter Twelve is a joint research report by Shobana Rajendra and

Anoma Abhayaratne in which they explore the main root of persisting high
level of poverty in the plantation sector in Srilanka with a view to provide
implications for poverty reduction policies. Similarly, Chapter Thirteen
encompasses the theoretical inclination towards ethnographic method and
methodology. Devesh.K.Sahu and Ankita Arya have made their ideas about
theory of ethnography and its application in social anthropology with
working definitions and uses of ethnography in anthropological research .

In Chapter Fourteen Smita Das, how the Most Indian's especially the
Hindus are brahmana by behaviour and intellectuality when they utter the
mantras, slokas and analyse sastras. The process of intellectuality functions
within their utterance in an excellent and wonderful way of speech
delivery, dialogic orientation, access to word knowledge, mnemonic
technique, analysing skills, etc. Likewise they are tribal by belief, when
they worship a god like Jagannatha, their ancestor deity in the form of a
wooden log. They believe in a genealogical legacy, kinship-‘kutumba’
(family) relationship with a supernatural power belong to the Munda
racial root. Shireen Mirza, in her paper tried to discuss the notion of
‘Islam’ and ‘Indian’ in sociological and ethnographic discourses. Tracing
the roots historically, she presented clear picture about the Indian Islam in
Chapter Fifteen.

Chapter Sixteen attempts to locate the ethnographic discourse of the

‘other’ in India, through the dynamics of care and attitudes of the Indian
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 7

government towards the refugees who were granted asylum in Nepal by

Sreeja C T. She has tried to verify the massive and mixed flows of forced
migration, the lack of specific refugee-protection law, the political
convenience of the Indian government in utilising an ad hoc approach to
refugee issues, which works in its bilateral relations with neighbors,
among other issues that contribute to the defining of a refugee in this
discourse. A felling of ethnic minorities and media in Europe is described
by Azmat Rasul in Chapter Seventeen. He has given his own views on how
the ethnic minorities especially Muslim are stereotyping Muslims in

Brewer, J.D.2000. Ethnography. Buckinghum: Open University Press.
—. 2001. The Ethnographic Critique of Ethnography: Sectarianism in the
RUC. Edited by Alan Bryman. Ethnography, Vol.IV.London: Sage
Bromly, Yu.V.1984. Theoretical Ethnography. Moscow: Nauka
Clough, Patricia Ticineto.1992.The End(s) of Ethnography from Realism
to Social Criticism. NewYork: Sage Publications.
Fetterman,D.M. 1998. Ethnography Step by Step. (second edition).
Thousands Oaks: CA.Sage.
Greenberg, Joseph H. 1971. The Science of Linguistics. Edited by Anwar
S.Dil. Language, Culture and Communication. California. Stanford
University Press: Stanford.
Hammersley,M. and Atkinson, P.1995. Ethnography. (second edition).
London: Routledge.
Hammersley,M. 2007. Ethnography. Edited by George Ritzer.The
Blackwell Encyclopedia of Socioogy.Vol. II. Blackwell Publishing
Marcus, G.E .and Fischer, M.M.J.1986. Anthropology and Cultural
Critique: An Experimental Moment in the Human Science. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press.
Spillman,Lyn.2007. Culture. Edited by George Ritzer.The Blackwell
Encyclopedia of Socioogy.Vol. II. Blackwell Publishing
Wolcott, H.F.1973.The Man in the Principals Office:An ethnography.
NewYork: Holt. Rinehart and Winston. (reissued by Waveland Press)




In this paper an attempt has been made to study the dynamics of forager
worldview and the changing ideology of Human-nature relationship in a
comparative perspective. In fact, changing ideology of Human-nature
relationship is studied, not with reference to time and space but with
reference to different cultures. Changing ideology so studied is aimed at
giving an understanding of the dynamics of forager worldview as reflected
in Human-nature relationship. Forager worldview is used in generic sense
and therefore, is the expression of worldviews across culture, and over
time and space. The premise of the paper is that the ideology of Human-
nature relationship, in terms of the relationship between Human-nature-
super nature, varies across the culture concomitant to the extent and
variation in the foraging activities. In view of this, three tribes, namely
Sulungs, Nyishis and Khamptis of Arunachal Pradesh in northeast India,
have been selected. These three tribes manifest variations in the extent of
foraging activities in that at one end there are Sulungs who are gatherers at
heart and at the other there are Khamptis who are virtually settled
agriculturists, but depend on gathering, hunting and fishing to supplement
their subsistence needs. In between are Nyishis who depend on shifting
cultivation and foraging activities for their subsistence.

I. Conceptual Framework of discussion

Human nature relationship is a process of human adaptation that establishes
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 9

a moving balance between the needs of a population and the potential of

its natural environment. By itself, the term adaptation connotes the
relationships that a culture and organism establish with the environment
(Steward: 1972; Rappaport: 1967 and Vayda & Rappaport: 1968). In the
former case environment apparently refers to natural environment while in
the latter case it refers to both natural and social environment.

The interaction of Human with nature implies the existence of a social

environment. Human, his social environment and the nature are interlinked
(cf. Sarkar: 2001) in that “individuals or populations behaving in certain
different ways have different degrees of success in survival and
reproduction and, consequently, in the transmission of their ways of
behaving from generation to generation” (Vayda & Rappaport: 1968:493).
Though the statement is made in a different context, it is clear that human,
his social environment or more specifically his culture and the nature are
functionally and structurally interlinked. However, such relationships
apparently represent a world of appearances of interactive process in that
they are explained as ‘subsistence strategy’ (Ingold: 1980: 144; cf. Lee:
1968; Woodburn: 1972; Gould: 1982; Weissner: 1977, 1982; Cashdan:
1985; Draper: 1978 and Smith: 1988) – at least for the people of hunting-
gathering category. The strategy may be of ‘immediate returns’ type or
‘delayed returns’ type (Woodburn: 1980, 1982), but the ideological
subtlety behind such appearances could be a ‘giving environment’ with
metaphoric expressions like ‘nature is ancestor’ or ‘forest is parent’ (Bird-
David: 1990) in certain communities. Human-nature relationship may
necessitate sharing2 as a mechanism of adaptations (cf. Lee: 1968; Ingold:
1980; Woodburn: 1972; Gould: 1982; Weissner: 1977, 1982; Cashdan:
1980, 1985; Kaplan, Hill & Hurtado: 1990; Winterhalder: 1986,1990;
Marshall: 1961; Hames: 1990; Draper: 1978 and Smith: 1988), but sharing
when reflects in the ‘way of thinking’ (Barnard explains in terms of
Foraging Mode of Thought, Barnard: 2002) of the people, it represents
ideological aspect of cultural reinforcement.

Human-nature relationship in terms of adaptation strategy is the

understanding of Humankind’s material activities upon nature in an
ecological perspective. The relationship apparently manifests a physical
reality in that there exists ‘the application of a complex set of
representations, ideas and idealities’ (Godelier: 1986: 132). Godelier
(1986) was stressed on ‘the mental part of reality’ in ‘the use of both
human body and the material means’ while explaining productive forces.
He finds “inside all mankind’s material activities upon nature a complex
10 Chapter One

set of mental realities whose presence and intervention are essential if this
activity is to occur at all” (ibid: 132). He concludes, “ if thought is present
at the heart of the most material aspect of social activities, a fortiori, there
can be no social relation which does not contain within it an element of
thought, mental part” (ibid: 137). Obviously, Godelier’s analysis has
Marxian content in that he explains the mental reality associated with
‘labour processes’.

In a general sense, adaptation strategy could be a representation of

appropriation of labour in foraging activities along with ‘ideas and
idealities’. Understandably, foraging is a material reality and concomitant
to it, drawing on Godelier’s line of thinking, there is a mental reality in
terms of indigenous perception of such activities. To put it in a straight
way, adaptation strategy with its associated physical and mental elements
is another way of presenting the ideology of Human-nature relationships.

Keeping with this line of thinking, ideology of Human-nature relationship

is a “culturally constituted relationship between two entities, or referents.
One may be called ‘schema’ and the other the ‘object’ (GudeHuman:
1986). Ideology entails an ‘organised thought’3 (Lull: 1993) that offers a
sense of order and meaning (schema) on the world of appearances (object).
Seliger defines ideology as an action oriented set of beliefs organised into
a coherent system (McLellan: 1986) and in this sense ‘ideology of Human-
nature relationship’ includes both action and concomitant belief system.

In brief, ideology of Human-nature relationship among foraging people,

and its understanding with reference to supernatural gives us forager world
view. The understanding of the concept of worldview in this line agrees
with Redfield’s universal elements of worldview and the nature of their
integration in the ‘primary worldview’. Broadly, the elements are Human,
nature and God. Redfield observes that “the separation of God from nature
and of these two together from Human is… made in some degree and in
some sense in every worldview”, but in the ‘primitive worldview’ the
Human-nature-supernatural relationship tends to be ‘unitary’ and ‘morally
significant’ (Redfield: 1962: 271). The stress here is to understand Human
in relation to his place in nature and society. He, therefore, says
“worldview attends especially to the way a Human in a particular society
sees himself in relation to all else. It is the properties of existence that as
distinguished from and related to the self” (ibid: 270). This also agrees
with the understanding of ideology as ‘organsied thought’ of relationship
between ‘schema’ and ‘object’. When this ‘thought’ exists in relation to
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 11

belief in supernatural, there arises the concept of worldview.

Conceptually, worldview is different from culture and ideology. Culture

has a wider scope and includes worldview while ideology is contained in
the worldview. Essentially, ideology is an independent variable and
changing ideology of Human-nature relationship is comprehended in this
line of thinking to understand the worldview in its dynamic aspect.
However, it is assumed that an analysis of one variable would throw light
on the understanding of the other. In a broad sense, changing ideology and
worldview could be perceived with reference to cultural variations also.

Human’s relation with nature changes over time and space. A community
redefines its relations when put to a different natural setting. Conversely,
in two different environmental conditions people behave differently.
Environment compulsion of Apatanis in the form of limited land
resources, for example, has evolved an adaptive strategy (Haimendorf:
1946, 1950, 1962, 1980, 1982, 1989; Behera & Mantaw: 1996;
Ramakrishnan: 1997 and Singh: 1991, 1994a, 1994b) quite different from
their Nyishi neighbours whose land resource is not limited in a spatial
scale. Apatanis are found to have the tradition of planting trees after
cutting down trees even in clan owned forests. The Nyishis of plains and
hills have apparently distinct behavioural pattern in their interaction with
nature. Nyishis in plains for example, kill indiscriminately using guns and
surplus meat is sold. They use explosives in rivers. In hills Nyishis still
follow traditional norms, believe more in sharing the surplus than selling.
Nyishis in plains exploit nature for subsistence needs and commercial
uses. Concomitant to these differences, there is the difference in various
aspects of their cultural behaviour. Mutual reciprocity for example, is not
as pronounced in plains as it is in the hills. Undoubtedly, it could be
assumed that there exists variation at ideological level in terms of
Human’s relation with nature between Nyishis of plains and hills.

What I want to emphasize on the basis of foregoing discussion is that

ideology is not neutral and it changes with the change in culture and
human adaptation strategy. Then it logically follows that a study of
changing ideology of Human-nature relationship would provide an insight
into the nature and process of change in such relationship. Ideology being
culture specific, its change, therefore, could be studied with reference to a
community’s belief system over time and space. But in the absence of
comparable time series data a comparative study across the culture is
assumed to reveal the nature and process of change in the ideology of
12 Chapter One

Human-nature relationship. Such a study incorporates not only a space

dimension but also a time dimension in that an inference to change over
time could be made with reference to cultural variations.

The paper, therefore, begins with the premise that a study of the
worldviews in a comparative perspective would provide an understanding
of changing ideology of Human-nature relationship. In the conventional
development paradigm, Human’s relationship with nature is more
exploitative and thus unsustainable with the increasing level of material
development. But there is a shift in paradigm (Mohanty: 1991) and the
concern for a sustainable development and environment friendly
relationship is growing day by day4.

Hunter -gatherer societies represent the ideal type of harmonious Human-

nature relationship. But as societies transform to agricultural and industrial
ones the relationship becomes increasingly exploitative and detrimental to
environment (cf. Gadgil & Guha: 1992: 11-68). The transformation of
societies from hunting-gathering stage is a historical process and its study
therefore, requires an analytical concept appropriate to capture the essence
of the nature of transformation in the ecological perspective. Hence, for
the present analysis, the concept of mode of resource use (ibid.) has been
adopted. This concept, applied to understand the historical categorization
of societies, provides an analytical frame along topics of economy, social
organization, ideology and ecological impact. Essentially, the present
paper draws upon the topic of ideology.

Human-nature relationship in our time has been perceived as opposite to

what it used to be in hunting gathering societies. Understandably, the
change in its ideology could be better appreciated with reference to
societies that still pursue foraging activities for subsistence needs, partially
or fully. In Arunachal Pradesh, however, tribal communities pursue
hunting-gathering activities at varying degrees. Hence, the term forager is
used as an ideal category following Barnard’s definition. His category is
more comprehensive than hunter-gatherer- shifting cultivator’s category
on the mode of resource use scale in that it includes “populations which
retain values associated with foraging culture” (Barnard 2002: 6). Mode
of resource use as an analytical tool examines the distinctive
characteristics of social categorization across such aspects as technology,
economy, social organization, ideology and ecological impact in relation
to resource use. Obviously, these aspects, except ideology, do not explain
community’s perception about such uses. Ideology reflects on the
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 13

perception of the community about its relation with the resource base i.e.
the nature. Discussion in other aspects about the nature and extent of
resource use limits the scope of the concept of mode of resource use in
dealing with ideological base of the community in a holistic perspective.
Barnard’s ‘foraging mode of thought’, however, is an improvement over
mode of resource use concept in that ideological perceptions form the core
of discussion across the topics of foraging mode. Hence, in this paper, an
attempt is made to explain the ideology of Human-nature relationship by
formulating an analytical frame with relevant tools from both mode of
resource use and foraging mode of thought concepts. In agreement with
this line of thinking, such themes as land, kinship and politics have been
chosen from mode of thought frame and ideology from mode of resource
use scale. A discussion on land directly relates to Human-nature
relationship following Barnard’s line of discussion. Other topics have least
of such relations, though a discussion on these topics have indirect bearing
on the relations in that they define Human-nature relationship in terms of
‘universal kin system’ (Barnard: 1978) and of social control and
management of natural resources in terms of the system of political
organization. Apparently, the present discussion is analytically more
comprehensive in its scope than above two concepts in addressing the
issue of the ideology of Human-nature relationship.

With this backdrop, three tribes, namely Sulung, Nyishi and Khampti5
have been selected as samples for case study. A single tribe with different
levels of economic pursuits by different sections of its people could have
been a better sample. But relevant cross-section data on a single tribe are
not available adequately for any meaningful analysis. Obviously, the
choice is on a comparative study across the communities. However, the
influence of time variable on each community has been considered
wherever possible keeping the comparative perspective in view.

II. Methods and Materials

Data for this paper have been collected from both primary and secondary
sources. The author is in touch with the Khampti tribe since 1986 and has
been conducting field studies every year for various research assignments.
Field study for this paper was conducted in Chowkham circle, particularly
in Momong village, from 10th June 2001 to 15th July 2001. Data on
ideological perceptions of Nyishis draw on a previous paper (Behera &
Rikam : 1997). However, during field study from 18th May to 20th June
2002, the above data were crosschecked. During this period also data were
14 Chapter One

collected on Sulungs and on the extent of foraging in subsistence for

Nyishis. Estimates on the extent and variation of foraging in subsistence
draw on data collected in Sanchu village of Sulungs, Watte and Tajo
villages of Nyishis and Momong village of Khamptis. Sanchu village with
42 Sulung households and 344 persons was studied during field study. The
village is in Chyang Tajo circle of East Kameng district and is a
rehabilitated village of Sulungs with a Middle school. Two Nyishi
villages, namely Watte in Sepa circle with 14 families and 174 persons,
and Tajo in Chayeng Tajo circle with 40 families and 261 persons, were
studied from 4th May to 29th May, 2002. Both villages are in East Kameng

It should be mentioned that the method adopted to estimate the extent of

foraging in subsistence in Momong village was followed in Sulung and
Nyishi villages. However, necessary modifications have been made to
accommodate exceptions in terms of food intake or contribution of
Sulungs from foraging activities to Nyishi masters.

In Momong village of Chowkham circle in Lohit district, 70 households

out of a total of 107 Khampti households were recorded having surplus
rice production. Of total population at 846, surplus households (70) had
510 persons and deficit households (37) had 336 persons. Surplus
households naturally do not forage to supplement food shortage. But they
gather bamboo and cane shoots, plantain flower (pikoy), leafy vegetables,
wild roots, and leaves for spices, citrus fruits, and fungi and in winter, a
type of bettelee for curry purposes. They also go for hunting and fishing.

According to a rough estimate, an individual, on an average takes one

kilogram of solid food (maize, rice and curry, etc.) excluding beverages
like local beer. The estimate is arrived at by recording total rice and
quantity of vegetables cooked in a day for seven days and deducting 15
percent of it as waste. (The waste is given to hen, pigs or thrown. Waste is
found to be a regular feature). Total quantity is divided by number of
persons who took meals during these days. Sometimes it was found that
members (including me also) who took meals were more than members of
the household. Even when some members of the household take food
elsewhere, the total quantity of rice almost remains the same usually
cooked for household members. Quantity is increased when guests are
included. Average daily intake of one kilogram of foodstuff holds true for
three sample tribes.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 15

In Momong, data were collected from five surplus households and six
deficit households. Of the deficit households, three were from households
whose produce lasts up to 6 months and others from households whose
produce lasts up to 10 months. The field study was conducted for a period
of one week from 25th June to 1st July, 2001. Households were selected
from a list of households prepared with the help of Chow Soepey Mannoi
on the basis of surplus and deficit criteria. Data collected for the period of
one week were supported by information collected using time line
technique of participatory methods (cf.Mukherjee: 1997: 69-71). Items
other than rice, maize, etc. were recorded about 500 grams as daily
average intake of an individual in surplus households. These included
vegetables, fish and meat. It was found that children used to take
comparatively less of vegetables and non-vegetable items while females
consumed comparatively a substantial portion of vegetable items. Male
folks, however, used to take both items, comparatively more of non-
vegetable items, in sufficient quantity. Intake of non-vegetable items with
only meals is estimated. Consumption of non-vegetable items with
beverage has not been taken into consideration.

In winter, approximately for three months, surplus households mostly

depend on vegetables like potato, cabbage, reddish, brinjal, pumpkin, pea,
etc. produced by them. In spite of production they also collect tender
leaves, spices and leaves to prepare a fish soup called pasa, and undertake
hunting and fishing. Khamptis, like other tribes of Arunachal Pradesh,
preserve surplus meat and fish for lean days also. They, now a days,
purchase dal, vegetables, fish and meat from the market. Meat from
domesticate animals is mostly used in parties and with beverage, and very
occasionally in meals. Quantity of collection during winter months could
roughly be balanced with the production and purchase during other nine
months of the year.

Conventional anthropological tools like observation, discussion, interview

and participatory methods like time line technique were used for collection
of primary data. For secondary data reference has been made to earlier
works on respective tribes.

III. Foraging in Subsistence: Extent and Variations

Foraging is an adaptation strategy for subsistence security for those people
who completely depend on it and also for those who supplement shortage
of food supply with it. There is however, no general agreement to the
16 Chapter One

validity of foraging portrayals of hunter-gatherers as being an exclusive

adaptation strategy (cf. Kent: 1992; Bird-David: 1992b; Hitchcock &
Ebert: 1989; Vierich : 1982 and Testart : 1982). The concept of ‘silent
trade’ speaks of the economic relations between hunter-gatherer people
with their neighbours. The !Kung, for instance, trade with the Tswana
Bantu and the Semang in the Malaya Peninsula with the settled Malay
agriculturists (Ember and Ember; 1994:261, cf. Coon: 1948:594:
Herskovits: 1952: 185-87). One may argue that it is the produce from
hunting gathering activities that provide them the medium of exchange.
But such an argument would be too simplistic because all their material
needs are not satisfied directly by their hunting gathering pursuits. The
argument contradicts the very basis of trade and does not differentiate
between direct and indirect roles of a phenomenon. As non-foraging
activity exists among the foragers, so also foraging activity among non-

Sulungs (Stonor: 1972; Deuri: 1982) are virtual serfs of Nyishi and Miji
tribes of the state. They inhabit inaccessible terrains of East Kameng,
Papumpare and Kurung Kumey districts. Their concentration is more in
Chayeng Tajo, Bameng, Khenewa, Pipu-Dipu and Sewa circles in East
Kameng district. Nyishis of Arunachal Pradesh (cf. Shukla : 1965) have
spread over present Lower Subansiri, Kurung Kumey, Papumpare and
East Kameng districts of the state. They inhabit almost central region of
the state and to their northwest, there is the inhabitation of Sulungs.
Khamptis (Gogio: 1971; Behera: 1994) inhabit eastern part of the state in
Namsai sub-division of Lohit district, and in adjacent Bordumsa circle of
Changlang district. However, they are one among Humany eastern tribes
of Arunachal Pradesh.

Sulungs are “at heart food-gatherers and hunters who infinitely prefer a
nomadic life in the forest” (Stonor: 1972: 14; cf Haimendorf: 1950:7) even
though “maize, millet is grown in fair quantities as subsidiary crops”
(Stonor: ibid.) Food –gathering “consists almost entirely in collection of
wild sago” (ibid: 15) along with occasional expeditions to collect a great
variety of leaves, fungi, fruit, bamboo shoots, etc. (ibid: 16). I was told
during field study that collection of bamboo shoot is a regular feature in
their annual calendar of food gathering during July to September, because
shoots are preserved for the whole year and used daily with staple food. It
was also reported that all Sulungs do not cultivate rice, maize and millet
regularly but most of them cultivate at least few sago palms from which
they obtain their foodstuff. However, even to these days, bulk of the
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 17

supply is obtained from the forest directly and as it was in 1940s, “for
most of the wet summer months they live by food gathering and hunting”
(ibid: 14). “Their poverty and their nomadic habits rule out the keeping of
pigs or mithun and the domestic fowl is the only animals kept, with the
exception of a few small dogs for hunting and watch-dogs” (ibid; cf.
Deuri; 1982). However, the fowls are used mainly for sacrifices in times of

Sulungs draw their resources for subsistence needs from nature either
through direct collection or through cultivation. Their relationship with
Nyishis, however, has not affected their adaptation strategy for
subsistence. Their cultivation practice of rice, maize and millet, though
believed to have been learnt from the Nyishis (cf. Stonor: 1972; Deuri :
1982), could be viewed in terms of their cultivation of sago palms also.

The adaptation strategy of Nyishis operates across such axes as tump

rongngo/rongngo panam (shifting cultivation), nyoro ganom6 (hunting),
phobu eanom (fishing) and gathering of nane ow (leafy vegetables), tarr
denam/engin (tuber),etc. (cf.Shukla :1965). They produce paddy, maize,
millet, root crops and a few vegetables, in their jhum plots. They not only
take meat, fish and vegetables obtained from hunting, fishing and
gathering, with rice, maize and millet, they also take these items as
substitutes at the time of shortages of food crops. Of course, they
domesticate7 animals like sebe (bos frontalis), sebing (goat), erik (pigs),
shei(cow) and porok (fowl), but they use them mostly for ritual sacrifices
and feast. They also domesticate eikh (dogs) that accompany them in

To carry out their adaptation strategy for subsistence through shifting

cultivation, fishing, hunting and gathering, Nyishis use tools and
implements made of resources like bamboo and cane available in the
nature. Bamboo and cane work includes daily use household articles like
egein/ebber (baskets made of bamboo splits for carrying articles), Peoig/
pehek(bent bamboo blades used for weeding), chungchak (a pot shaped
basket for carrying grain during sowing), nara (a cane bag used by male),
chiknya/emchi hunia (dibbling stick), erru puk (bow and arrow), etc.

Even for making some articles of daily use, weaving, etc. they also depend
on nature. They use hides and skins of animals for making chukh chenam
(pouch), sattam(shields), saruks(belts), etc. Nyishi women use tachak
chaknam/pober(a spindle made of bamboo) for spinning and locally
18 Chapter One

available creepers and plants for preparing dyes for the clothes they weave
in their tapo/ezi chunham (indigenous looms).

For subsistence needs Nyishis entirely depend on natural resources. They

turn to nature for their food supply either through collection or through
cultivation, and for the food requirements of their domestic animals. Their
subsidiary activities like bamboo and cane work, weaving and pottery also
depend on natural resources.

Khamptis, on the other hand, are settled agriculturists who practise both
dry land and wet rice cultivation. They irrigate their fields by indigenous
methods of embankment. Almost all Khampti households husband flower
plants, medicinal plants and plants having religious significance in their
compounds. They carry out trade with neighbouring people and sell forest
products like honey, ivory, rubber, elephants, besides agricultural products
like rice and potato. Though they are agriculturists, they supplement their
food supply with hunting, fishing and gathering. They gather edible roots
and leaves and house building materials from forests. For their subsidiary
activities like bamboo and can work, ink Humanufacturing, dying of
yearn, etc. they largely depend on natural resources (Behera : 1994; cf.
Cooper: 1995: Dalton: 1973; Elwin: 1959). The relationship of Khamptis
with the nature goes beyond their survival strategy, for they use forest
resources to obtain items of conspicuous consumption. For their survival
also they use resources more extensively than the Nyishis and Sulungs
with added practice of wet rice cultivation and associated irrigation.

IV. Empirical Data

All 42 families in Sanchu village of Sulungs in Chayeng Tajo circle of
East Kameng district approximately produce, on an average, for three
months of the year. During this period they also gather vegetables and
hunt animals and birds in nearby forest. The population of this village has
been recorded 344 and their total consumption of the year from production
at the rate of 750 grams during three months stands at 20124 kgs (344 ×
650 grams × 90 days). Consumption from foraging could be estimated at
the rate of about 350 grams for three months and one kilogram for 9
months (say 275 days at (344 × 350 grams X 90 days ) + (344 × 1kg × 275
days) = 105436 kg which stands at 84 percent of total consumption.
Sulungs so far have not learnt producing vegetables and they do not
purchase from the market either.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 19

About 55 percent of individual household items go to its Nyishi overlord.

Whenever they collect sago or hunt animals, they keep about 25 percent of
it for respective masters. Besides, they exclusively collect honey or
prepare sago or hunt for the masters on deHumand. Roughly, 40 to 50
percent of their foraging items go to their overlords. They also collect raw
materials from forest for house building and this may add 4 to 5 percent
more to their foraging items. In fact they build small huts at various places
during hunting and gathering also.

Of the two Nyishi villages, namely Tajo and Watte, Tajo has 8 families
with 59 persons who roughly depend on Sulung slaves for their
subsistence from foraging for about 6 months (185 days). For other 6
months (180 days) they depend on foraging at the rate of 400 grams per
individual per day. Total consumption of these families from foraging was
estimated to be 70 percent. These 8 families, on average, depend on total
foraging for six months (185 days). Of remaining 32 families, 4 families
depend on non-foraging for 6 months, 20 families for 4 months and 8
families for 3 months. On an average this comes about four and half
months. These families also get benefit from the Government social
security schemes like BPL (Below poverty line) quota of rice and
sometimes purchase from the market. Hence, roughly their dependence on
non-foraging subsistence has been calculated to be lasting for a period of
six months (185 days). This is because, they feed pigs and hens from the
rice purchased. They use little of it for self-consumption because they find,
as I was reported, its taste different from their own produce. These
households annually consume about 51344 kg from foraging, which also
constitutes 70 percent of their total consumption. In total, the villagers of
Tajo depend on foraging for about 70 percent of their total food

No family in Watte village depends on Sulungs for foraging to supplement

their food shortage. Of 14 families, three are surplus families; three
produce for five months, two for three months and six families for four
months. On an average, the village produces for five and half-months and
depends on purchase and BPL rice for another one and half months.
Naturally, the villagers depend on foraging for five months (150 days) and
7 months (215 days) on non-foraging sources of subsistence. It was found
that they consume more of tubers collected from jungle and meat of wild
animals during lean period. At the rate of 400 grams for 7 months and one
kilogram for 5 months they consume 41064 kilograms i.e. about 66
percent from foraging. On an average, the two Nyishi villages depend on
20 Chapter One

foraging for about 68 percent of their subsistence consumption. Because of

the large sample size of Tajo village, the average is slightly influenced.
But considering the difference between 66 percent for Watte and average
at 68 percent for two villages, the influence could be of a tolerable margin.
They also collect house-building materials, which could be placed at 5
percent of their total foraging items.

Following the method described in earlier section, the extent of foraging in

the subsistence of Khamptis is presented as under. At the rate of 500
grams of consumption from foraging in one kilogram of food intake per
day per individual, it comes about 37 percent per year. (Total food intake
for 12 months = 365 kg; total consumption from foraging for 9 months at
the rate of 500 grams = 135 kg). Similarly, consumption from foraging
constitutes 50 percent of total food intake during the year for the 37 deficit
households calculated at the rate of 550 grams for about 11 months.
During winter, they depend more on foraging than on producing and their
annual purchase is very negligible. A little calculation shows that total
consumption for 846 persons for 12 months comes to 308790 kg.
Consumption form foraging is estimated at 129834 kg [(510 × 270 days
×500 gram) + (336 × 330 days × 550 grams) ] which stands at 42 percent
of total food intake.

Bamboo, cane, timber, thatching materials, etc. are collected for house
building and for sale. Twenty households during 2000 had sold ninety
percent of their collections from the jungle. However, this excludes
extraction of forest resources for formal sector activities. On an average,
roughly 30 percent of materials collected are sold for use in non-formal
sector activities. This includes materials used by tenant households of
Khamptis, though they do not make any direct payment.

It was reported during field study that Khamptis who have purchasing
capacity, even prefer jungle vegetables because of food habit. Such
vegetables are now available in the market for sale and well-to-do
Khamptis usually prefer vegetables prepared through traditional methods.

The following table may give a rough idea about the nature and extent of
foraging in subsistence and its variations among three tribes:
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 21

Table –1: Extent & Variations of Foraging in subsistence

Name of the tribe % share in % share of foraging

Subsistence for other purposes *

Sulung 84 55
Nyishis 66 5
Khamptis 42 30

Source: Field data

*Calculated converting total foraging to money value.

V. Ideological perceptions
Sulungs depend on nature for their subsistence needs. Their needs are few
which are obtained without much damage to the nature. Perhaps, for this
reason, they do not have a well-defined Human-nature relationship from
conservation point of view. They believe in malevolent and benevolent
spirits, which are supposed to cause diseases (cf. Deuri: 1982:78-89), but
do not have elaborate rituals or belief in spirits of nature for good catches
during hunting or fishing. At the end of one or two unsuccessful hunting
expeditions, they perform Masuwai in the jungle by sacrificing a fowl so
that games are available in their next attempt (ibid., 39).To a Sulung
,nature is capricious and beyond human control, but at the same time
nature is ‘giving’ though the idea is not well defined in their belief system.
Nature is ‘giving’ because they do not go for any rituals in order to obtain
subsistence needs from foraging in the nature.

Nyishis profess ‘animism’ and believe in wiyus (spirits) –both benevolent

and malevolent. There are wiyus in the jungle, on the lofty hills, in
shadowy recesses and inaccessible caves on the top of the tall trees, in the
rivers, and inside and outside the house(Shukla : 1965 :83). Besides, they
also believe in a supreme power and this belief is in the process of being
organized into ‘Donyi-Poloism”8.

The worldview of the Nyishis’ is better reflected in their beliefs in wiyus.

To a Nyishi, nature follows its own capricious ways, beyond human
control. A nyi (Human) is a part of the community of beings that includes
other living creatures, as well as elements of the landscapes such as
streams and rivers. Their relationship with natural objects is either
mutualism or antagonism and this relation puts restraints on resource use.
22 Chapter One

That the nyi is a part of the community of beings is embedded in their

myths. Abo Tani, their mythical ancestor, was believed to have married to
the daughters from plant kingdom, animal kingdom, etc. which helped in
the propagation of different creatures. His wedlock with Yayi Changchi,
the daughter of Jangte Ane, propagated human race. Pate (tiger) happens
to be the brother of Abo Tani, and hence, Nyishis avoid killing of tigers.

As the legend goes, Abo Tani and wiyus were contemporaries. Wiyus were
jealous of Abo Tani’s supernatural power and always were in search for
the opportunity to harm him. Tu Tungung as Bingdarbo (Mediator who
settles disputes, presently gingdung) settled the dispute by demarcating
area for their dwelling. Abo Tani was allotted areas suitable for human
settlement and wiyus were given inaccessible places, trees and hills, rivers
and marshy land for their dwelling. So, the Nyishi do not cut nor use trees
like domrang, sangrik (ficus species), tara posi sangkang because they are
believed to be the dwelling places of the wiyus. Sanda dumbangbo (any
tree with a special structure), osso dumbangbo (cane with special
structure), hatek hanek (knotted bamboo) etc. are believed to be the
dwelling place of wiyus. Nyishis do not use leaves of kamyar plant, for
wiyus are believed to use it. Sangne netebo (very big trees), aleng patebo
(peculiar shaped big stones), senyik (marshy land), sele koibo (deep river
with dark-colour water) and distant and inaccessible forest and mountains
are believed to be the shelters of wiyus. Tab (snakes) and birds like pup
(owl), puwa(crow) are dreaded as wiyus.

That the belief system of the Nyishis puts restraint on resource use could
be comprehended from the following example. Peagaa (horn bill) is a
much sought after bird among the Nyishis. Its hibu (beak) is decorated on
the top of the gopiya/bopiya (hat) that gives a social status to its user. But
still, they do not go for its indiscriminate killing in the belief that one who
does so will never prosper. They use the term Khumom-ho/who to mean
misery of all sorts for the present and future. Nest-killing is practised but
silently, lest the shewu/swng(the protecting spirit in the jungle) would
harm the hunter. This belief stops indiscriminate killing because the killing
expedition in a particular nest breaks silence and checks further killing.
They do not kill all members of its family in the fear that the killer’s
family would be subject to supernatural punishment. In the same line of
thinking, Nyishis do not kill a male peaga flying alone as they know that it
carries food to the female bird that hatches egg in the hole-nest. Its killing,
as the people believe, amount to the destruction of its family of starvation
that would bring bad-luck to killer’s family.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 23

There are some specific trees having specific uses. For example, trees like
kora, karsing, porio, tai are used as house building materials and trees like
kora, ninch and plants like tajar are used for constructing ugang (ritual
structure). After major rituals with mithun sacrifice, such as ganda wiyu
panam, himi panam, entire community observes taboo for five days when
outside work including felling of trees are prohibited. The Nyishi also
observe restraint in the matter of harvesting trees during flowering and
bamboos during shooting period. They strictly observe taboos because of
the fear of supernatural punishment consequent upon their violation.

Use of land resource for shifting cultivation is not indiscriminate; rather it

follows norms consistent to their belief system. The selection of new jhum
plot is based on the ritual wiyu kokanam in which chicken lever or egg
yolk is examined. Sometimes, dreams also play significant role in
selecting a jhum plot. The jhum cycle is limited to particular fields for a
number of decades and fallow period is at least above ten years. Moreover,
jhum fields are selected in places where tajar plant and kokam leaves grow
abundantly, for such fields are believed to be fertile.

The Khamptis are Buddhists of Theraveda cult (Kondinya: 1986) but at

the same time they also profess ‘animism’. This dichotomy in faith is
blended in a way to give a distinct identity to the Khampti ideological
base. They believe in ‘animism’ for material gains and worldly happiness
and use this material wealth in the line prescribed in Buddhist tenets to
gain spiritual welfare and after life happiness (Behera : op.cit;35). Being
Buddhists, the Khamptis attribute sacredness to trees, animals and to
natural objects and as followers of animism they are subject to nature’s
caprices. Rituals to appease phi-noy (deity of the hill/forest), phi-mung(
village deity) etc. are associated with agricultural and forest activities.
Like the ‘hunter-gatherer-shifting cultivators’, they perceive Human as
one among the community of beings. But Khampti’s dependence on
nature, as has been mentioned, indicates about their perception of nature as
being subject to human control even to some extent.

The dichotomy in perception that the nature is capricious and Human is

one among the community of beings without any control over nature in
one hand, and that the nature is subject to human control on the other, has
shaped the ideology of the Khamptis in a way to evolve a tradition of
careful and restrained resource use.

To a Khampti, land is a free gift of nature and occupation of land for

24 Chapter One

agricultural use is need based. A household is allowed to, with the

permission of the Chau man(village head), to control as much cultivable
land as it can reclaim and use. Risks involved in maintaining community
fencing, irrigation channel are, as it was found during interview, factors
responsible for restrained land use for cultivation. But those who can
afford have no restriction for occupying more land. Agricultural fields are
generally in compact areas so that fencing, irrigation and crop protection
can be done effectively. This practice, perhaps, has been evolved and
retained to cope with the shortage of labour force, because, well-to-do
Khampti males hardly work and inflow of labour input after the abolition
of slavery was stopped quite for a long time. More agricultural plots
around settlement area mean shrinkage of adjacent forest area. This
adversely affects the collection of vegetables, fire-wood, and thus, the time
of women folk who have to attend to weaving and other domestic chorus
after collection (Behera & Mantaw:1996). Consequently, the Khamptis
practise restrained use of land for cultivation, perhaps for minimizing risk
rather than maximizing profit (Scott:1976). Moreover, the seasonal
demand for community labour restricts the household to cultivate land
simultaneously in more than one village.

At ideological level, on the basis of the experience from day-to-day

interaction with nature, the Khamptis have developed the practices of
restrained resource use with regard to non-cultivated lands. Religious
beliefs supplemented to a significant degree by customs provide
overarching framework within which they carry out such practices. For
example, Ton Mei Hung (peepal tree), trees having seven or more
branches (believed to be the abode of spirits) are wholly protected. Some
trees have specific use, eg. tonliu (simul)- used in making bier,
kamko(nahar) branches used during Sangken festival, and thus are
protected. The Khamptis have the belief that Ariyanitya (the future
incarnation of Lord Buddha) will get enlightenment under kamko.

There are restrictions on the harvest of trees in certain seasons. At the time
of flowering, harvesting is prohibited because of the belief that trees will
yield soft wood prone to insect-infection. Same belief prohibits bamboo
harvesting during Nuen Napi (fortnight preceding full moon day) and
when shoots are tender. Harvesting of bamboo and trees are prohibited
during festivals such as Nawa and Sangken.

In earlier days, the Khamptis followed a practice called Tang Ton Mei (to
put a new tree in place of old one) to appease phinoy. Perhaps this was the
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 25

traditional way of forest conservation, which in latter years has been

diluted to the practice of putting a branch in place of the felled tree. Any
violation of traditional practice of resource use is linked to supernatural
punishment like maa (madness), khom tuk (soul loss), etc.

The rationality behind taboos, beliefs and practices associated with

restrained resource use is the prudence which seemingly contributes
towards ensuring long term sustainability of resource use (Gadgil & Guha

Ideology, in its broad perception of “ the Human-nature relationship, as

well as specific practices promoting resource conservation or destruction”
(Gadgil and Guha, 1992 :14) could be explained with reference to
Barnard’s topical axes like ‘land’, ‘politics’ and ‘society and kinship’ for
better presentation of forager world view. That land holds a specific
meaning to the foragers beyond its economic use is evident in the attitude
of the Sulungs, Nyishis and Khamptis, and as is embedded in social
practices. “For foragers, land is a matter of knowledge as well as
ownership. Knowledge is collective, not just individual, and right to
resources are vested in descendants of the original ancestors. Traditional
ownership concepts are collective, when it comes to land, because the
knowledge of the land and its natural produce is held collectively, and
because the produce, before it is obtained, is owned collectively…foragers
maintain a sharp distinction between movable (or individual) and
immovable (or collective) property.” (Barnard: 2002: 15). Elwin describes
Human-land relationship of the tribals in a general sense but means in the
context of Arunachal Pradesh. His view corroborates with Barnard’s
contention that for foragers, ‘land is a matter of knowledge as well as
ownership’. To Elwin, “ the tribal people are bound to their land by
Humany and intimate ties. Their feeling for it is something more than
mere possessiveness. It is connected with their sense of history, for their
lands tell of the great journeys they made over the wild and lonely hills
and of the heroic pioneers who made the first clearings in the forest”
(Elwin: 1959: 66).

Among Sulungs (cf. Deuri: 1982), Nyishis (cf. Shukla :1965) and
Khamptis(cf. Cooper: 1993: 149; Behera:1994: 63-67) land traditionally
belongs to the community/clan/tribe. It is worth mentioning that the term
community is used to mean village community in a single clan village. In a
multi-clan village land belongs to clan and at the same time to the village
community in which a particular clan is a constituent. Above village
26 Chapter One

community, there is usually ownership at the tribe’s level. A

family/clan/village community may enjoy usufructuary rights of land
within the customary frame of tribe’s ownership of land (territory of the
tribe) but not across it. In other words, a whole village or a family or a
whole clan from a village may move to a new place within the boundary of
the land that belongs to the tribe and enjoy usufructuary rights according
to customary norms. The old land that is left behind belongs to the clan in
case of shifting of a family, to village if a clan shifts and to the tribe in
case the village community as a whole shifts.

Sulungs relate their territorial bondage to their mythological origin. They

believe that “ originally they were in heaven but long ago they descended
to earth and began to settle in a place where wild sago-palms were
abundantly available and that place may be Sakmakhang” (Deuri : 1982-
6). Their narrations not only preserve their emotional bondage to lands
they had occupied in the past but glorify the course of migration to the
present settlement via such lands.

Nyishis’ dombwe banam (oral narration) is rich with the story of

migration, their relation with various places and the significance of such
places in their belief system. Villages assume the name of first settlers and
in course of time name of the village and clan identity go together. For
example, Joram is the name of a village and as clan identity it is inherited
as the title of an individual belonging to the clan. However, Humany
villages are named after a significant characteristic of the place where the
village is settled. Emchi is named after emchi plant that used to grow
abundantly in the area.

Khamptis maintain a chronicle called chetyu, where they record among

other events, the story of their migration, relation of the tribe with a
particular place and the way they occupied a particular place. Besides,
their oral tradition is rich in such stories. Makum, a place in Assam, for
example, has a place in Khampti oral tradition. ‘Ma’ means come and
‘Kum’ means gathering. Makum, therefore, relates to the event when they
had a gathering there before they attacked Matakas, a neighbouring
people. Name of villages signify characteristic and importance of the
place. Chowkham is named after Chong(temple) and Kham (gold),
Momong after momong (Humango) and Namsai after nam (water) and sai
(sand). Namsai literally means sandy river. Interestingly, clan identity of
most of them has been derived from the significance of their earlier place
of habitation. Humansai clan, for example, came from a sandy area,
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 27

Humantaw from the village in the lower reaches and Humannow from the
village in the upper reaches of a river. Humantaw and Humannow literally
mean villages in lower and upper reaches of the river respectively.

Relation with land fosters the notion of identity of the clan and/or the tribe.
Khampti as the name of a group has its origin in the significance of the
place, referring to either a place full of gold (kham-gold, ti-land) or a place
which they adhered to (Kham-to adhere to, or to stick to; ti-land) (cf.
Behera : 1994:21-22).The term Nyishi also refers to people (Nyi-Human)
of hills. However, the origin of the term Sulung is not known. Presently
they call themselves ‘Puroik’, meaning ‘Human’.

In terms of ‘ritual association’ (Barnard: 2002: 14), land has specific

significance. Sulungs mythology does not say much about the relation of
land to its creation by supernatural being. Nonetheless, they believe in the
spirits that occupy land for their dwelling. The ritual association with land
is not so pronounced in their ideology as it is with the Nyishis. To a
Nyishi, land has a creation myth and belongs to both their ancestor Tani
and wiyus. The land that does not belong to them belongs to wiyus and so
they perform rituals before its use. Even they also believe in the spirit of
the land that also belongs to them and therefore, performs rituals before its
use. The selection of new jhum plot is based on the ritual Wiyu Kokanam,
in which chicken lever or egg yolk is examined. However, for Khampits
ritual association of land lies in their belief that land has a presiding deity
and some places, which have not been brought under use, are dwelling
places of spirits. However, such places are rare in their territory.

In terms of perception of leadership “foragers tend to have a political ethos

in which leaders emerge for specific tasks. The position of leaders is not
hereditary” (Barnard: 2002:9). The ideal is consistent with Sulungs, as
they do not have “any head-men or any indigenous institution of that kind,
although an outstanding Human will presumably make his presence felt.
(Stonor :1972: 13). Nyishis also in a similar manner do not have any
“recognized chiefs or Councils of Elders as controlling authorities”
(Shukla : 1965: 71; cf. Haimendorf: 1950: 50-55) in their traditional social
system. However, gingdung (mediator), a Human well versed with
customary norms and being influential, makes his presence felt when
reconciliation of two opposing parties is to be initiated. Gingdung is not a
hereditary position and any body can assume the role provided he has the
qualities as mentioned and is acceptable to rival parties. Khamptis, on the
other hand have hereditary chieftains at village and tribe levels (Behera
28 Chapter One

:1994:58-60; cf. Deuri: 1984:1; Mishra : 1995) and their political

ideologies do not subscribe to the ideals of ‘politics’ of the foragers in
spite of their preservation of foraging practices in subsistence strategy.
Foraging ideology among the Khamptis is reflected in Human-nature
relationship than in socio-political relations, as these relations are linked to
the forces and phenomena related to non-foraging activities.

Nyishis and Sulungs identify a personal relationship, being ‘one among

the community of beings’ through their creation myth. The creation myth
of Khamptis (Gogio: 1971, Behera : 1994) does not speak of a common
origin for living and non-living beings but their association with them has
established a type of relationship in that they are inseparably linked to
their ‘adaptive strategy’. Khamptis, no doubt exert control over nature by
way of modifying land resources for cultivation and irrigation. Their
dependence on nature goes beyond survival needs but their relationship
could not be perceived to be of exploitative type, for they believe in
phimung (custodian of the village), phinoy(custodian of forests and hills)
and other spirits associated with natural resources. Concomitant to this
belief, the Khamptis perform rituals to propitiate the spirits so that they
can use natural resources for their material requirements. Such beliefs and
practices put restraints on indiscriminate use of resources and manifest a
harmonious relationship that recognizes the significance of nature with
which they interact.

The worldview of the Khamptis does not recognize his supremacy over the
nature but places him as one among other members in the nature. In this
sense, the worldviews of Nyishis, Sulungs and Khamptis recognize a
universal kinship (Barnard: 1978) in that all of them are bound with the
nature, with which they interact for one reason or the other.

Universal kinship has a wider connotation that transcends human society

and agrees with Barnard’s contention that “ forest, land, animals, etc. may
also be classed as ‘kin’, thus inhibiting, for foragers, that negative
reciprocity which is inherent in an accumulation mode of thought”
(Barnard: 2002:12; c.f. Bird-David: 1990,1992). Khamptis’ practice of
putting a branch in place of the felled tree, at least does not speak of an
ideology that subscribes to negative reciprocity. Nyishis and Sulungs
manifest ‘universal kinship’ that accommodates Human and other
creatures –living and non-living – through the creation of myth. Human-
nature relationship, thus perceived along the axis of ‘ideology’ following
‘mode of resource use’ analytical frame, establishes the foragers’ ideology
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 29

of ‘universal kinship’ in a wider sense among the three tribes studied, at

least in activities that relate them to nature. The ‘restraints’ in the use of
natural resources do not subscribe to an idea of negative reciprocity in
their relationship with nature. Rather there exists a type of generalized
reciprocity9 that what they get from the nature does not equal to what they
offer in return in rituals associated with their belief in this regard.
However, a type of balanced reciprocity is associated with the exchange
practices in marriage, at least in principle and in making payments to a
clan member in the redemption of the obligation he owes to others. Here
time lag exists in the exchange system and for this reason, the latter type
of exchange, in my opinion, is of generalized type.

Among Sulungs and Nyishis kinship relationship is limited to clan and

phratry in relation to exchanges. It extends beyond along the matrimonial
line but does not cover the whole tribe. But their common origin secures
their kinship solidarity through creation myths. Khamptis, on the other
hand, do not have a common origin and are stratified into phan-chu,
paklung and phaneon groups (Behera :1994 :13-14) . But their kinship
across the clan is recognized over a period of time through institutions like
marriage in that one family is related to another family by matrimonial
relation and thereby to all families in the clan.

VI. Viewing Forager worldview

The attempt to understand the forager worldview vis-a vis changing
ideology of Human-nature-relationship in a comparative perspective
makes it evident that the spectrum of world view of the forager category is
not an integrated whole. However, it does not present the picture of
complete ramifications either. Conceptually, forager category is inclusive
of a wider rage of economic pursuits and by itself, it contains
commonalities and differences. It is but natural, as Redfield observes
(1953), that the Human- nature-supernatural relationship, which is unitary
in ‘primary world view’, gets dissociated with the change in economy.
Essentially then, the forager worldview does not present a static picture
about its universe. By definition, forager category has assumed economic
changes as the basis of analysis and thus has studied different worldviews
within it. Simplistic though apparently, this assumption answers to the
dynamics of the forager ideology of Human-nature relationship.

With a change in economic pursuits, Human’s relation with the nature

takes a new meaning. When a community does not have the need to
30 Chapter One

modify the nature for its subsistence and considers the nature ‘as giving’
or ‘as a store house’, it takes a casual attitude in its relationship with the
nature. On the other hand, if it finds the nature capricious and uncertain
and does not have the ways and means to control the nature or minimize
the risk of uncertainty for its subsistence, it probably becomes subdued
and submissive in its relationship with the nature. But the community that
can exercise at least some control over the nature and can modify it for its
members’ subsistence, establishes a different relationship. Understandably,
therefore, Sulungs don’t have a strong feeling for the super nature as the
Nyishis do have in their relationship with nature. Sulungs’ dependence on
nature for sustenance is not uncertain because of their foraging of sago,
which is not subject to much variation. Nyishis, on the other hand, are
seemingly more vulnerable to uncertainties. Probably, this could be the
reason for their wide range of sustenance activities; hunting, fishing,
gathering, domesticating and producing, than those of Sulungs. Their
uncertainty has made them more submissive to the nature with the belief in
the spirits of the nature. Their Human-nature –supernatural relationship is
well defined and more pronounced than that of the Sulungs.

Khamptis, however, exercise control over nature. But this control is not
full-fledged to meet their subsistence needs. They depend on the nature
directly and this could be the contributing factor to the continuity of their
earlier worldview. Their relationship with nature is a divided entity. A
Khampti enjoys individual ownership over cultivated land as long as he
cultivates it. Even when he shifts the village, he holds the right to his land
for three years and if he returns to the village during this period, he
cultivates his earlier plots. Khamptis have village chieftains to regulate
land relationship. But in terms of their foraging activities, they enjoy
collective ownership, and the produce from the collective efforts is shared
(cf.Gogoi: 1971; Behera: 1994). Over the years, collective efforts in
agriculture have given place to individual operation (ibid). Their ‘ritual
association’ with land and belief in the supernatural in their relationship
with nature is more diversified and diluted than the Nyishis. The practice
of tang ton mei by Khamptis substantiates to the point.

Khamptis’ social relation is of ‘universal kin’ type but it is not inclusive

like that of the Nyishis’ in that the latter recognizes hills, forests, animals,
etc. as kin through their creation myth. Sulungs and Nyishis did not have
the necessity to regulate their land resources for subsistence needs and
therefore, does not have political institutions or functionaries in their
tradition as do the Khamptis. Present inhabited area of Khamptis is their
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 31

conquered territory and does not have mythological significance like that
of Nyishis and Sulungs.

In spite of apparent differences, there is a level of integration in the forager

worldviews. This again relates to the assumption that goes into the
formation of forager category. The extent of foraging in subsistence has
both differences and commonalities. Differences have emerged consequent
upon economic diversities and thereby explain distinct worldviews. But
commonalities present an integrated picture in that all the tribes have
universal kin system, ritual association with land and a Human-nature-
supernatural relationship in one form or the other. The difference that
exists matters, as does the similarities. Both together define forager
worldview in its dynamic aspect as is reflected through changing ideology
of Human-nature relationship in comparative perspective.

The forager worldview is a continuity in change. It displays change with

the change in ‘infrastructure’ and continuity because the ‘superstructures’
do not change along with the ‘infrastructure’.

During field study among the Khamptis, Chow Suliksa Namchum, Chow
Thanin Humansai, Chow KeHumang Namchum, Chow Soepey Humannoi
and Nang Helina Humantaw helped me in Humany ways- accompanying
me to different villages, acting as interpreter,and being first inforHumants
and hosts in their respective villages. I am sincerely grateful to them,
Unfortunately, Chow Suliksa was no more during my last field study in
June and July 2001. I fondly remember all his help and affection he had
shown me during all my previous field works since 1986. My insight into
the Nyishi worldview is the result of my interaction with Shri Joram Begi,
present Director of Higher Education Government of Arunachal Pradesh,
Sri Tana Showren, Faculty, Department of History, Arunachal University
and of my earlier work with Sri N. T. Rikam, presently a Lecturer in
History, D.N. Government College, Itanagar. Sri Kata Rangmo. DAO,
East Kameng District, Seppa, a Nyishi by himself, was my interpreter
during my field study to Sulung and Nyishi villages in May and June
2002. I am sincerely grateful to all of them. I am also gratefully indebted
to Prof. Alan Barnard for his valuable suggestions to improve upon the
earlier draft structurally.
32 Chapter One

Revised version of the paper Presented at The Ninth International Conference on
Hunting and Gathering Societies, held at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, 9th to
13th September, 2002, Session-33: South Asian Hunter-Gatherers.
Sharing is a functional mechanism to fight against uncertainty. As Cashdan
(1980) puts it, sharing is a means ‘of buffering environmental variability’ for
hunter-gatherers, whose interaction with nature for their subsistence is marked by
mobility and therefore, discourages ‘storage’ (cf. Ingold: 1983). Draper (1978)
and Wiessner (1977) also believe in sharing as the kind of “insurance” against
environmental variability with which Human interacts for his survival needs. In
Wiessner’s (1977) discussion, sharing is a strategy of ‘pooling risk’ and takes the
form of a “storage of social obligations” even though the “mechanism for
economic levelling among the !Kung”. In hunter-gatherer societies, Human –
nature relationship is marked by uncertainty with regard to access to food supply in
that demand for food is limited by its immediate availability due to variation
and/or deleterious environmental conditions and lack of mechanism to buffer the
variability. Sharing as a mechanism to buffer such variability and minimize risk in
food supply is associated with Human’s attempt to secure subsistence needs from
nature. This speaks of an economic component behind sharing patterns, though
sharing may be a mechanism to foster social net-works (Kent: 1993) and
sociability (Sahlins: 1972; Aspelin: !979).
Organised thought may include the values, beliefs, opinions, icons, symbols,
idealizations, conceptualizations, formulations, dreams, etc. of individuals or
collectives (Drew: 1998). Organised thought enables human beings to impose a
sense of order and meaning on the world of appearances. It further provides
humanity with a means to wrest a sense of individual and collective identity, a
sense of ongoing selfhood, of ontological security. The notion of identity, thus
grounded in sets of representations produces a feeling of permanence and stability,
the belief of being something. (ibid).
Sustainable development means development, which meets the needs of the
present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own
needs. Sustainability refers to the sustenance of development in a long perspective
and emphasises on the needs of the Humankind in relation to environmental
sustainability. Environmental stability on the other hand, emphasises (Ghildial &
Pandey: 1999) stability for the biological and physical systems. There are several
linkages, which operate towards such stability. The first one, socio-environmental
linkage, stresses on the issues of intergeneration, equity and common interest of
Humankind to save nature. The second one is econo-environmental interface. This
raises the issues of valuation and internalization of environmental costs. The socio-
economic interface deals with the vital matters relating to targeted relief to the
deprived against the loss he suffers from environmental damage. There are
geographers who talk of the development as part of ecology in that development
helps nature to help Human and other creatures (cf. Pande & Pandey : 2001 :208).
World Development Report (1992) warns that without adequate environmental
protection, development will be undermined and without development
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 33

environmental protection shall fail. Obviously, development and environment are

interrelated and it is in this line of thinking that the concept of sustainable
development emerged in Brundtland Report (1987).
By all means Sulugns and Nyishis come under hunter-gatherer shifting
cultivator’s category in mode of resource use scale. Khamptis do not fall into this
category because they are settled agriculturist. Their inclusion into the category
would give rise to conceptual questions. But Khamptis, on the other hand, also
display characteristics of shifting cultivator’s and hunter-gatherer’s activities
(Behera : 1994). Barnard’s concept of ‘forager’ (Barnard: 2002), however provides
answer to the opposing realities about Khamptis and this justifies the use of the
concept forager category for the analytical frame of discussion.
Nyoro ganom in Nyishi language literarily means roaming in the jungle.
Figuratively it means hunting. Nyishis also use this term to indicate casual hunting
as distinguished from Nyoro Shotto, which means a professional hunter, and
hunting as a profession.
Tun me sonam (livestock keeping) is an economic pursuit of the Nyishis, but
animals are not used to supplement food shortages. They use sacrificial meat
mostly in feasting and rarely to substitute shortage of foodstuff. For supplementing
food supply they depend mostly on hunting, gathering and fishing. Tun me refer to
domestication practice of animals other than sebe (mithun) while wet pheera refers
to domestication of mithun and excludes goats, pigs and fowls. This distinction is
made on the basis of religious significance of animals.
Earlier, Nyishis did not have any place of worship. Now they have established
Nyedar Namlo, literally meaning the ‘Home of Pure’, wherein the image of the
Donyi-Polo is housed and regular worship has been organised. The first Nyedar
Namlo was inaugurated on 22nd April 2001, at Doimukh. Nyedar Namlo
movement has now spread to Humany places in Nyishi area and is being
spearheaded by the Nyishi Indigenous Faiths and Cultural Society. The author was
present during the inauguration of Nyedar Namlo at Doimukh and occasionally
participates in its functions with Mr. Tana Showren, a founder member of the
For reciprocity and its types, see Sahalins: 1972. Reciprocity may be generalized,
balanced or negative. Generalized reciprocity is a mode of exchange in which
neither the value of the gift is calculated nor the time of repayment specified. In
balanced reciprocity, giving and receiving are specific as to the value of goods and
the time of their delivery. In negative reciprocity the giver tries to get better of the
exchange by the use of guile and deception, or at least hard bargaining. Among the
Navajo, according to Clyde Kluckhohn, as Sahlins quote (ibid. 200), “to deceive
when trading with foreign tribes is morally accepted”.

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38 Chapter One

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I. Introduction
The term ‘social exclusion’ is used as a shorthand term for what can
happen when people areas face a combination of linked problems such as
poverty, low and or irregular incomes and health problems, particularly the
threat of arsenic hazard that often cause health disorder, known as
arsenicosis. The social context for this paper is the health concern arising
out of arsenic crisis in a poverty-ridden, unequal and sex segregated
Bangladeshi society. Over time a whole range of studies reveal that
although the threat of arsenic looms large for the country as a whole, the
prospects of people in certain social and ethnic groups and in particular
geographic areas remain grim. Indeed, in the most deprived local areas,
concentrated disadvantage is reinforced through lack of opportunities and
social support that would enable the people who live there to improve their
situation. Given that arsenicosis is caused by contamination in the source
of water, it is likely to affect poorer groups more than non-poor, because it
is related to nutritional status. As under-nutrition is a defining aspect of
poverty, and also poorer segment of population is less likely to afford to
change the arsenic contaminated source of water, they are more
susceptible to arsenic menace. One area of particular concern is the degree
to which health care professionals and facilities are easily available to
women and girls and to poor households. Large-scale epidemiological
studies suggest that men are more likely to develop arsenicosis and other
arsenic related health problems (DCH and UPSHON 2000; Majumder et
40 Chapter Two

al. 2001; Columbia University 2003; Yunus 2003; AAN 2004). On the
contrary, one small-scale study carried out in Faridpur and Comilla
districts (WHO 2002) found higher prevalence of arsenicosis among
women than men. Moreover, social surveys also suggest that it is more
difficult for women to gain access to (often men too) health professionals
for both diagnosis and treatment (APSU, 2004). Therefore, it is possible
that the higher arsenicosis prevalence among men reflects that women are
more likely to be excluded from health services. It is also possible that
poorer households face greater difficulties in accessing health care
services and their needs warrant particular attention.

It is in this context, topic guides were developed to explore in detail with

arsenicosis patients, a cross-section of community members and health
service providers what kind of health care is currently available, what
types of barriers are there to use these services, what kind of services
would patients and communities prefer to see and what is considered
reasonable by the health care service providers. More particularly the key
questions that are addressed in this paper relate to:

• What types of arsenic related health problems are found in the

village and what impact do these have on the life of patients?
• Which types of health care are available and where are they
• Do patients receive health care specifically for arsenic and which
health care providers patients use?
• Whether and what types of problems do the patients have in
accessing health care services (with particular focus on gender
and class differentials)?
• What are the unmet needs of the patients and the community
members in connection to arsenicosis?

II. Study Focus and Notes on Data

This qualitative report is based on the analysis of the responses gathered
by using focus group discussions (FGD) evolved from the key themes for
this study which were:

• Social exclusion as a result of arsenic menace, with especial

emphasis on differential impacts along gender and class in
relation to accessing existing health care services
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 41

• Social inclusion through need assessment for poor and women

with regard to health care services for arsenic led health disorder
or arsenicosis
• Social vision on arsenic mitigation and health care through
exploring the preferred types of services and activities including
modes of community participation

This document covers the whole gamut of experiential contents of the

individual patients with regard to barriers in accessing health care services
for arsenicosis and other forms of exclusion in their day-to-day life
situation to wider social impacts. Needs assessment based on the perceived
gaps in the existing health care services and demands for such services as
revealed by exploring the level of knowledge and awareness of the
patients and community members about arsenic induced problems in
arsenic affected areas is also presented in this document. Finally the types
of health care services and activities which both the community members
including the patients and service providers prefer for arsenic mitigation,
and also the preferred mode of people’s participation are covered in the
study. One distinction is important at the beginning– that is distinguishing
between 'access' and ‘social impact’. In essence, 'access' is about health
care services being accessible and inclusive (ie in their culture, policies,
practice etc), something that is often seen in terms of tackling barriers to
access. 'Social Impacts' – in the context of this study- is about the
individual and households’ experience with arsenicosis and whether and to
what extent it generates sector's wider social concerns (e.g. arsenic

The study was carried out in arsenic contaminated Upazilas1 where at least
100 patients had been identified. Upazilas with at least 100 patients were
listed in accordance to their geographical locations from Bangladesh
Arsenic Mitigation Water Supply (BAMWSP) database. The Upazilas
were clustered as far as possible into those where significant health
interventions had taken place and where only limited health interventions
were provided. Significant health intervention areas were those where
either government or non-governmental organizations provided
coordinated, continuous and comprehensive healthcare for patients with
arsenicosis including patient screening, tube well screening, provision of
safe water options, patient management and awareness-raising. Areas of
limited health interventions were those where service provision was not
comprehensive, that is, only some of the above services are provided, and
they are provided in a sporadic and un-coordinated way.
42 Chapter Two

From the list, five Upazilas were selected. Two were selected from the
group of Upazila where significant health interventions had occurred and
the remaining three from the group of upazila where the arsenicosis
patients had received limited health interventions (Table 1.1).

A total of seven FGDs were undertaken in each upazila; four with

community members, two with arsenicosis patients and one with service
providers. Four villages in each of the upazila were selected to participate
in the qualitative study (Diagram 1.1). A FGD was held with community
members in each of these villages and a FGD with patients were carried
out in two of the villages. Another FGD was undertaken with healthcare
service providers of Government and NGO sector and private health care
providers in each upazila. FGDs with only community members were
conducted in villages where there is no significant clustering of patients
with the exception of Bahram village in Champai Nawabganj and those in
Laksham Upazila.2 The opposite holds for the other two sample villages in
each Upazila where we conducted both patients plus community members’
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 43
Table 1.1: Some Characteristics of selected upazila

Division District Upazila # of # of % of Tubewells # of Health

Households Tubewells contaminated patients intervention

Dhaka Narshingdi Manohordi 36866 35662 9.14 220 Limited

Chittagong Comilla Laksham 96019 40170 79.42 1791 Limited

Rajshahi Chapai Sadar 63027 19046 28.74 499 Limited


Khulna Jessore Sharsha 75830 19816 23.59 312 Significant

Khulna Satkhira Tala 71566 22511 33.61 192 Significant

Source: Arsenic Policy Unit (2006) Social aspects of access to healthcare for arsenicosis patients, Arsenic Policy Support Unit,
Dhaka, Bangladesh
44 Chapter Two

The FGDs with patients were conducted in groups of approximately 10

participants while the FGDs with the broader community were conducted
in a group of a maximum of 15 participants. Each FGD was planned to
span over a period of approximately 3 hours. A team of two members, one
facilitator and one recorder conducted the FGDs.

The notes taken during the focus group discussions was transcribed and
analyzed thematically. Extracts from the transcripts are used to illustrate
key points. All the names have been removed from the text to ensure
confidentiality and codes have been ascribed to extracts. The names of the
villages are, however, real and this is done intentionally to generate greater
understanding of the geographical variations.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 45

Social Exclusion: Social Inclusion: Need Social Vision on Arsenic

Capturing Gender and Assessment for poor Mitigation based on Needs
Class Contours of the and Women re health Assessment and Mode of
Individual Experiences care services Community Participation
of Arsenicosis

Major Goals:
Mapping existing
health care services
for arsenicosis;
Focus Group Social Impact
Discussions: Assessment of
arsenic across
• Patients
Additional Focus gender and class
• Community
Group with lines; identifying the
Service needs of the
Providers community,
particularly women
and poor groups, and
exploring preferred
types services as
well as realistically
achievable activities
including modes of

Study Areas: Sharsha, Tala, Laksham, Champai Nawabganj Sadar and Manohardi
[2 Villages from each Upazila]
[4 Villages from each Upazila]
[1 Service Providers: Government & NGO in each Upazila]

Figure 1.1: Schematic diagram showing the interactive continuum of the key
themes and the methodological approaches adopted to achieve the major goals
46 Chapter Two

3. Major Thematic Analysis from Focus Group


3.1: Social Exclusion

3.1.1. Genesis of Arsenic Contamination and the Types of Health
Service Providers in the Sample Villages

The villages that we covered in FGD can be broadly divided into two
categories in terms of detection and confirmation of arsenic contamination.
One is the first wave of arsenic detection, which took place around mid
1990s, and Samta and Tangra villages in Sharsha Upazila, Jessore district,
and Chamagram, Rajarampur and Maharajpur in Champai Nawabganj
Upazila were among those villages. All the remaining villages fall under
the second wave category where arsenic was detected during 1998-2003.

In most cases, community members recalled the massive public awakening

that was observed at the outbreak of arsenic contamination in certain parts
of India, particularly West Bengal triggered arsenic testing in ground
water in the bordering districts of Bangladesh. In some villages such as
Samta arsenic led mortality was considered to be the immediate factor that
drew attention of Directorate General Health Services (DGHS) for testing
arsenic in the ground water (Box 3.1).

Box 3.1: Arsenic led mortality—The immediate cause for arsenic

detection in water

In late 1995 four people died of arsenic poisoning in Samta village and this
came as a news item. A noted journalist made a feature article on arsenic and
its fatal impacts in the New Nation, which provoked thorough investigation
into the causes of the mortality and subsequent testing of arsenic in ground
water in the village by a Department of Public Health and Engineering (DPHE)
led team composed of doctors from National Institute of Preventive & Social
Medicine (NIPSOM) and Japanese experts. (Source: FG with community

In the case of second wave arsenic detection villages too DPHE took the
lead under BAMWSP. This involved many local and national NGOs for
arsenic testing in the ground water. The villages that had more patients
attracted greater attention both in terms of diagnosis and treatment, which
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 47

often include motivational services by NGOs.

3.1.2. The types of health service providers in the sample villages

Respondents were asked to provide information about when arsenic was

detected in their villages and by whom, and also which organizations were
involved in providing health services for arsenicosis and arsenic
mitigation. The information obtained from the focus group discussions
about the types of existing health care services for arsenicosis in the
locality was used to classify the upazilas in terms of the availability of
health care services/ activities for arsenicosis. More specifically three
criteria for the classification were used: (1) detection of arsenic
contamination in ground water and identification of arsenicosis patients;
(2) number of health care providers for arsenicosis patients including
government and NGOs; and (3) provision and coverage of arsenic free
water sources. The following rules were used to classify the health
services in the Upazila (Table 3.1).

Table 3.1: Criteria for categorizing health care facilities in the upazila, based on
datafrom the FGD
CCategory Criteria and rules
GooGood All t Three criteria are present
Inte If tw Two of the three criteria are present
PoPPoor If o No criteria are present or If two criteria are
present but at low levels

The ranking exercise gives an indication of the types of health care

services available in an upazila in relation to the other upazila
(Diagram 3.1). It should not be interpreted as absolute in terms of level
of satisfaction. In fact, if we consider the level of satisfaction of the
patients, then none of the sample areas could qualify because we
observed widespread discontent and dissatisfaction among arsenicosis
patients and also community members in general about the quality and
the types of health care services that are available.
48 Chapter Two

Diagram 3.1: Ranking study areas by the types and quality of existing
health care services

Good: Jessore & Satkhira

Not so good: Laksham &Narsinghdi
• Thorough
patients’ +TW • Thorough patients’+ TW
verification verification
• Limited health • Health care service: good in
care service past, now unsatisfactory
• Arsenic free • No provision for arsenic free
water in some water

Bad: Champai Nawabganj

• TW + limited patients’
• Unsatisfactory health care

Sample villages of Sharsha and Tala are ranked highest in comparison to

other study areas. In these villages, a two-stage screening process was
followed in late 1990s; tube wells were examined for arsenic
contamination and arsenicosis patients were identified. The screening
process was repeated in 2003. Respondents indicated that the government
took the lead in identification of arsenicosis patients and arsenic
contaminated tubewells. In some villages, for instance those in Sharsha
Upazila NGOs have also been active.

What distinguishes sample villages of Tala and Sharsha from other

Upazila, is the proactive role that an NGO in Sharsha, and to a limited
extent the Upazila Health Complex (UHC) Tala, played in treatment and
motivation of the arsenicosis patients. These villages are also blessed with
arsenic mitigation schemes of both government and NGOs and as a result,
there are several types of arsenic free water sources covering larger
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 49

number of people than the other villages. However, NGO activities for
arsenicosis patients in Samta, Tangra and Kaliani villages in Jessore
district have shrunk considerably over time. In Laksham the active role
played by one individual doctor was thought have significant influence on
the level of service provision.

Sample villages of Chamapai Nawabganj present a very different scenario.

The administrative wing of the UHC operates here which does not offer
any health service but maintains register of arsenicosis patients. Previously
an NGO was quite active and provided a few dug wells in the sample
villages. However, due to paucity of funding it now supplies vitamins to a
few patients who were registered with it at the beginning and does not
enrol any new patients.

Respondents stated that all the sample villages have NGO run health
programmes, which largely provide health education and awareness
raising and/or nutritional services. With the exception of Samta and
Betmali none of the villages have government run satellite clinic or Family
Planning Welfare Centre (FPWC) although barring a few, all study
villages are covered by the government Expanded Immunization
Programme. In-depth interviews with the hospital staff revealed that the
number of arsenicosis patients barely exceeds five a month. The exception
to this was Laksham where on average 30 patients seek treatment for
arsenicosis per month.

From the above analysis we may say that individual initiative emerged as a
critical factor in the delivery of health care services at the government
level whilst for NGOs the continuity of funding and priority of the funding
agencies emerges as the most decisive factor, which needs to be examined

3.1.3. Gender and class composition of arsenicosis patients

On account of class contour of arsenicosis, there was a general consensus

amongst respondents that poorer families bear a greater burden from
arsenic as they use arsenic contaminated water more often. The reasons for
this include lack of affordability and also the level of awareness to look for
alternative water sources. “Women among the poorer group suffer more
than men” was another broad based view drawn from FG discussion with
patients and community members. They tried to justify their view by
offering the following explanations:
50 Chapter Two

• In a patriarchal and patrilocal society, women are almost solely

responsible for cooking and other household works – many of
which require water. Water is largely collected from arsenic
contaminated sources as they have little time and money to fetch
arsenic free water. Moreover, they also drink contaminated water
in the absence sufficient quantity of arsenic free drinking water,
which if available is preserved for the husband and male children
(see Box 3.2).

• Under the existing system, women generally serve the best and
the larger quantity of food to husband and children and eat last
and the least which results in malnutrition leading to their low
immunity. Existing statistics reveal higher rates of stunting
(48.5% versus 49.1%) among girl child than boy, and girls’ and
women’s higher mortality than men on account of fever and other
water-borne diseases and also anaemia (BBS, 2003).3 There is
little wonder that women are more susceptible to arsenicosis than

• The proportion of literate adult women is 49% as opposed to 71%

men (UNDP, 2004) and women are likely to have less exposure
to media and public meetings, seminars, etc. where people learn
about arsenic and other dreadful diseases. Hence, they might not
be fully aware about the threats of arsenic and often use arsenic
contaminated water for cooking.

However, the participants of Sharsha Upazila also expressed the opposite

view during community FGD. According to them men are more
susceptible to arsenicosis than women as they work in the field and outside
home, their intake of water is higher than women. To quench their thirst
they drink water from wherever it is available and in this process they are
more likely to drink arsenic contaminated water.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 51

Box 3.2: Gender disparities in eating nutritious meal

One male member of a FGD with community members in Monohardi


Women eat less. They keep better quality and more food for the male
members of the family. Thus they become weak and more susceptible
to arsenicosis.

While elaborating on this another women member of FG said:

Unlike men women cannot afford to buy anything they like. They are
often malnourished and have limited access to arsenic free water.
Similar views were expressed in FGDs with community members in
Laksham, CNG Sadar and Tala. Women eat less and only the leftovers
as they eat last. They are more malnourished and as such have low

The effects of arsenicosis are multidimensional in nature impacting on the

conjugal, social and work lives at varying degrees. In Box 3.3 below we
document some direct quotes from the patients to generate understanding
about the depth of the problem. The social stigma associated with
arsenicosis, which affects social relations and creates psychological
tensions. Given the patriarchal social norms and values prevailing in the
society, however, women often bear greater burden than men. Several
cases emerged where girls shared their frustrations about being rejected for
marriage; similar stories were not heard from men. In addition there were
a few cases of divorce and strained marital relation that had occurred as a
result of aftermath of arsenicosis.
52 Chapter Two

Box 3.3: Social tensions of arsenicosis patients

Life has become meaningless, if I put my hand forward for handshake,

those who know about my disease, they immediately stepped back and
those who do not know were annoyed as if I am suffering from leprosy
(FGD with patients, CNG Sadar).

Another patient added that he could feel others’ concern and

‘differential treatment’ when they neither touch the food that we offer
nor use the same glass that we have used (FD with patients, Laksham).

This is a dangerous disease, some patients moved out of village, others

died and for us, we hesitate to mix up with people. This has dwindled
the prospect of marriage for unmarried girls in the village (FGD with
Patients, Tala).
In this context, a patient shared her sad experience. My daughter, Z and
Respondents also disease
I had the same felt thatand
everybodyhave impacts
in the villageonknew
poverty andthis,
about well
which made it impossible for me to find a groom from the same villageto
of people, particularly since the disease can impede the capacity
work, which
for my oftengreat
Z. With lead difficulty
to work loss. Box 3.4her
we arranged below documents
marriage with a direct
quotes from patients to illustrate the severity and the dimensions
from Sylhet district who demanded Taka 10,000 initially as dowry of work
we paid it at the time of her marriage. However, after marriage when he
discovered blisters and black spots in Z’s body he immediately sent her
back and this time he demanded Taka 20,000 if we want to send her
back. As we failed to mange this huge sum of money, so Z is living
with us and I am not sure if ever she would be able to live with her
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 53

Box: 3.4: Arsenicosis and constricted workability

I could not continue my job as a domestic help when the owners of the
house detected my disease (FGD with patients, Laksham).

My feet are affected by arsenicosis and consequently, I feel pain and

cannot walk without shoe or sandals. It constricted my capacity to work
on farm and I lost my job as a agricultural labour and I am now
compelled to look for non-agricultural work, (FGD with patients,

This view was also held by a few other male patients of villages like
Samta , Tangra, Jalapur that had dominant agricultural economy.

I used to work as a plumber. However, after I had this disease I feel

pain and burning sensation when I touch water. Hence, I left the job
and took up rickshaw pulling. My income halved in this process, (FGD
with patients, Monohardi).

A young man of our village failed in the medical examination that

detected arsenic in his body although he left no stone unturned to
manage paper works and money to finance his overseas migration for
employment (FGD with patients, Monohardi).

I get burning sensation while washing clothes and grinding spices. I get
tired too easily and cannot sleep well at night (FD with patients, Tala).

3.2: Social Inclusion through Needs Assessment

3.2.1. Barriers in Accessing Health Care Services

The term social inclusion is used to mean an easily accessible and

satisfactory health care service for arsenicosis patients. This is particularly
important for women and poorer section of the population, who can be
easily by-passed by the existing services. This is due to their extremely
limited purchasing power, lack of education and the existing socio-cultural
norms which privilege the needs of the rich over the poor and men over

One of the major needs of the patients in the process of social inclusion is
described as lack of “su-chikitsa”, which literally means lack of both good
54 Chapter Two

and fair treatment. In this section we present the reasons for lack of “su-
chikitsa” including the barriers, which the respondents report facing in
accessing the existing health care services from the government hospital at
the Upazila level. Factors associated with “su-chikitsa”, which the service
providers experienced in the process of delivering those health care
services are also discussed.

Patients, community members and service providers identified a large

array of supply side barriers to assessing good health care services. In
analysing the findings from FGDs there was remarkable consistency
among the three groups of respondents. Opinions and feelings expressed
by the patients were largely congruent with the other two groups.
Community members often supplemented and complemented what the
patients had said about the barriers. In addition, the service providers also
clarified their positions whilst explaining many of the supply side factors.

Major barriers to accessing “su-chikitsa” from UHC, popularly described

as hospital can be seen from Table 3.2 below. This Table provides an
overview of issues raised by respondents and highlight agreements
between all three groups of respondents. However, it is important to
elaborate on some major barriers in terms of both supply and demand, and
to comment on local variations observed from the FGDs. This will enable
a greater understanding of the problems associated with health care for
patients with of arsenicosis.

Table 3.2: Major supply side barriers to “su-chikitsa”

Supply side barriers Patterns of responses Service providers opinion

from patients and
Community members
Long distance between Universal [Emerged Union Health Centres
village and hospital from all FGs] largely lack doctors and
other necessary staff.
Long waiting hours in Universal [Emerged Gross mismatch between
hospital from all FGs] the demand and supply
Anomalies and Partial [Emerged Influential people normally
discrimination in the order from all FGs but do not come to hospital. As
in which patients are seen Laksham] a matter of courtesy, for the
e.g. breaking serial for rich betterment of the hospital
and influential people, need and to avoid any un-
to purchase serial no. or to intentional consequences,
swap from back to front they are given priority.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 55

‘Doctors do not give Universal [Emerged The doctor-patients ratio is

enough time and attention’ from all FGs] very high (1:60 on an
Irregularities by doctors Partial [Complaint There is no recognised
e.g. late arrival, taking long about “same treatment for arsenicosis
tea break, long chat with medicine for different patients. Doctors often
medical representatives, diseases” emerged prescribe vitamins to
unscheduled suspension of from all FGs. strengthen patients
visiting hours, prescription Responses on other immunity system and
of same medicine e.g. irregularities vary in ointment for skin
Paracetamol and anti- nature and by region problems.
histamine for different (Box 3.4)].
Lack of free supply of Universal [Emerged Supply of medicine from
medicine from hospital, from all FGs. From Dhaka office is
low quality and quantity of patients’ FG, inadequate.
supply Panchashkur village a
vivid account of
supply of medicine
that crossed expiry
date is described in
Box 3.4].
Lack of facilities and Universal [Emerged Universal.
equipments for X-ray, from all FGs
blood and other testing,
Lack of specialist doctors, Universal [Emerged Universal
acute shortage of female from all FGs]
doctors, lack trained
doctors and field staff to
provide service to
arsenicosis patients
Lack of sitting arrangement Universal [Emerged Universal
in the hospital and lack of from all FGs]
separate room for patients
for medical examination

Time and money

One major problem identified by respondents was the distance of the UHC
from the village and lack of adequate transportation facilities. Respondents
noted that by and large UHCs are between five to ten kilometres from
patients’ home. Hence, they either walked this distance or take rickshaw
van. This involves not only time but also money. In addition, the waiting
period after coming to the hospital is often long and can be compounded if
56 Chapter Two

the serial is not maintained properly and/or doctor is absent. This is

frustrating for the patients. Women patients interviewed from one village
in Satkhira district reported that some of the women patients found it too
difficult to walk to hospital which is 8 Km away from their home. They
indicated that even after reaching they hospital they are kept standing
waiting for the doctor in the absence of any sitting arrangements.

Respondents stated that poor population often refrain from seeking

treatment from hospital as it involves loss of a day’s income due to the
time they spend in going to the hospital and seeking treatment. Whilst time
is a reason why both men and women do not go to the UHC there are
gender differences in the perception of this phenomenon. For a man going
to hospital equates to work loss, for a woman going to hospital means
wastage of time as she needs to rush her household chores which remained
unattended in her absence.

From various FGs we calculated that on an average a patient waits for

about an hour after getting token to visit the doctor in addition to around 2-
4 hours that s/he spends for traveling to hospital from home. Hence,
patients can lose income for the whole day. Furthermore they perceive
themselves as going home almost empty handed as they often do not get
medicine from the hospital. Patients of one village in Laksham gave the
following breakdown of cost they incur for seeking treatment: Taka 60 for
transportation both ways, Taka 3 for the fee to collect entry ticket for
going to the doctor and Taka 20 for unwritten charge for medicine (if
available). Some patients pay additional monies in order to receive
treatment from MBBS doctor privately.

Gender values
In addition to heavy domestic workloads, cultural values have taught
women to nurse others and treat their own disease as a matter of shame.
Hence, women are often not encouraged to seek treatment. In some places
religious values and Purdah also pose barriers to women accessing
treatment, for example preventing women from sharing their problems
with male relatives or doctors or allowing doctors to examine them. These
orthodox attitudes among many women and male members of the family
often discourage women from seeking treatment from hospital. There are
also indications from the FGDs that females are reluctant to seek treatment
and disclose they have arsenicosis due to the possible social and marital
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 57

implications of having this disease. These points are illustrated with

extracts from the FGDs (Box 3.5).

Box 3.5: Barriers to accessing health care for arsenicosis: the

experience of women
Unlike our men folk who are mobile and more open to share their
problems, we are rather more conservative. We are afraid of religious
norms and rules that taught us lajja, purdah and sambhram. As a result,
we are shy of sharing our health related problems with our
husbands/brothers, not to talk of parpurush like doctors. (FGD with
patients, Laksham)

Also some women patients do not open up with male doctors. For them
it is better to have female doctors (FGD with community members,
CNG Sadar).

Women feel more comfortable to discuss about their problems with a

lady doctor than a male doctor. With a female doctor they can disclose
their problems without hesitation and show the affected parts of their
body, which they cannot do with a male doctor (FGD with patients,

There are many girls who think that disclosure of arsenicosis will
jeopardise their prospect for marriage, and hence, they do not come to
the hospital (FGD with government service providers).

• Patient-healthcare providers relationship

From the perspective of patients and community members, the relationship

between healthcare staff and patients also emerged as barriers to accessing
treatment for arsenicosis (Box 3.6). Some respondents cited examples of
ways in which they felt doctors and other members of staff had not treated
them well, for example, not paying proper attention. Patients in one FGD
discussed the problem of unscheduled suspension of visiting hours by
doctors for their private practice. Respondents indicated that this causes
great sufferings for patients, particularly for those who have spent a
considerable part of their daily income and have walked a long distance to
seek treatment. As a result some patients prefer to seek treatment at private
58 Chapter Two

facilities. A further concern emerging from the discussions was the

different level of service received by richer patients compared to those
who are poorer. Based on their previous experiences, some respondents
believed that those with money and influence were more more likely to
gain better services from healthcare staff.

Another concern emerging from interviews was about the doctor’s

relationship with medical representatives of pharmaceutical companies
and owners of private clinics. Respondents felt that the doctors spent a
long time chatting with them during visiting hours and sent patients to
private clinics, which they felt were notorious for their low quality
machines for X-ray and blood test. While alluding problems of UHCs,
respondents complained about acute shortage of machines, equipment and
facilities for pathological and radiological testing.

Other respondents gave some examples of irregularities relating to

payment. For example in one case a doctor from UHC asked for money
from a patient, in another, a patient got medicine by paying Taka 20 to the
medical assistant. Community members also gave example of a doctor
who sold vitamin tablets for Taka 180 per patient.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 59

Box 3.6: Barriers associated with the relationship with health care

When I visited UHC doctor in the hospital he got annoyed to listen to

the same problem and got rid of me as soon as possible. But the same
doctor listened to my problems with care and attention when I paid for
my visit in his private chamber, and paid for the medicine I got good
treatment (FD with patients, Laksham).

As the doctors have turned their noble profession to a business, we do

not go to hospital. Rather we prefer private doctor or village doctor
even if we need to pay for visit and/ or medicine (FGD with patients,

If you do not have money and influential social connection at the

hospital, there is little scope for you to get either attention or time from
the doctor, not to talk of free supply of medicine (FGD with
community members, CNG Sadar).

Hospital provides treatment to those who can give money. Those who
do not have money are not likely to get doctors’ attention, free
medicine and facilities for X-ray and blood testing (FGD with patients).

Discrimination between the rich and poor patients persists. Rich and
influencial patients always get priority over poor patients and they do
not need to come early for maintaining serial as the doctors invariably
call them first (FGD with patients).

• Lack of national programs

Unlike widespread government programmes for immunisation, no
programmes exist for arsenicosis patients. Respondents in FGDs suggested

that there was limited recording and reporting of arsenic patients, although
this is noted as necessary in the Implementation Plan for Arsenic
Mitigation in Bangladesh. A large number of health service providers in
the FGDs, from both government and NGOs, were not aware of this
requirement. Whilst registration lays the basic foundation in the whole
treatment process, monitoring and supervision of patients are no less
60 Chapter Two

important. Respondents felt that in the face of limited and inadequate

registration and a lack of monitoring and supervision systems, the type of
treatment available for arsenicosis in UHCs (in the study areas) is largely
ad hoc in nature.

Attitudes in treatment
The slow and steady manifestation and recovery process of arsenicosis
often generates frustration and helplessness amongst arsenicosis patients.
As a result it is extremely difficult to sustain patients’ interest in seeking
long term treatment. The doctors interviewed for the study noted that the
major treatment for arsenicosis is preventive in nature, which demands
time and patience. The current treatment available to doctors is symptom

There was confusion and lack of clear understanding about treatment for
arsenicosis patients. In one FGD with community members of respondents
frankly admitted that they do not know where they should go for proper
treatment. In addition some patients and community members were
concerned that taking medication did not result in quick recover from the
disease, whilst others seem to lose faith in hospitals as a result of patients
not recovering (or be seen to be recovering) from arsenicosis (Box 3.7).

Box 3.7: Patients attitudes to recovery can act as barriers to

accessing health services

As we do not recover from arsenicosis, we do not go to the hospital.

One woman shared her experience during FGD that a few years ago
she took one of her neighbours who was suffering from arsenicosis to
hospital. After waiting for 2/3 hours they managed to consult the doctor
and got a prescription. However, her neighbour did not recover even
after taking the medicine as prescribed by the doctor. Therefore, they
lost their trust and do not go to hospital.

When we suffer from diarrhoea or high fever we immediately go to the

doctor and they gave us medicine to stop the motion or high fever, but
arsenicosis is like is pet disease it unfolds severity slowly and doesn’t
lead to quick recovery even if we have regular medicine.”
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 61

A further issue concerns the type of service respondents receive from

health care providers, in particular the apparent lack of treatment they
receive. Patients from one village had lost their trust in the hospital
authorities because they promised to inform them whenever ‘the doctor
and medicine are available in the hospital’ but did not. Other patients
were not satisfied with medication they receive, or were unhappy if they
only received advice rather than medication (Box 3.8). Service providers
on the other hand, declared that there is little scope for recovery from
arsenicosis using medical treatment. Doctors in one Upazila held similar
views and said that they do not have much to offer patients except for anti-
oxidants, vitamin tablets and skin ointments.

Box 3.8: Attitudes toward treatment can act as barriers to

accessing healthcare

Arsenicosis patients from one village also suspected that the ointment
they get from hospital are “less effective as these are diluted with a
large quantity of water”.

Doctors do not listen to our health problems rather tell us to go. They
just give us one piece of advice and that is ‘drink arsenic free water’.”

Respondents also commented that NGOs were very active at the initial
stage of arsenic detection and providing necessary health care services,
however, some have reduced their support services. Moreover they also do
not have enough trained doctors and field level workers and no monitoring
system is in place to account for the old patients.

Co-ordination between service providers

Finally, respondents felt that there were difficulties with coordination
between the government and NGOs and among different departments of
government as well as among NGOs themselves, particularly when they
operate in the same area and work on similar problems. Service Providers
from UHCs complained that there is hardly any forum where they can
work with the Upazila administration and DPHE on arsenic mitigation.

On the demand side, the patients identified three major barriers; poverty,
62 Chapter Two

lack of awareness of arsenicosis and availability of alternative health care.

Poverty and lack of awareness

Going to the hospital incurs additional costs and the outcome was
perceived as largely unsatisfactory as “the doctors do not pay adequate
attention” and nor do the patient get “free medicine” from the hospital. In
fact, supply of “free medicine” was regarded by some as the only reason
for villagers to go to hospital. In addition, due to lack of awareness, poorer
populations are often ignorant of the risk posed by arsenic, as illustrated
by one respondent’s comment about drinking water from tube well (Box

Box 3.9: Lack of awareness about risks of arsenic

If our parents managed to drink from this tube well and lived a happy
life, why do we need to change this tube well now?

• Alternative healthcare

Patients and community members also suggested that people do not

always believe in the health systems, particularly when they do not see
encouraging results. They suggested that patients and their families may
use of jharphonk (witchcraft) and other alternative forms of health care
such as village doctors and homeopaths. In some of the FGDs, respondents
gave an estimate of how many people they though consulted alternative
healthcare providers. This varied from 40% to 80%. A number of reasons
emerged to explain why patients might access these services. These
included alternative healers being nearer to the patient, consultation and
treatment being less expensive and, the approaches adopted by those
service providers being more consistent with cultural and social norms
(Box 3.10). In some cases these providers also provide pharmaceutical
products to patients.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 63

Box 3.10: Factors influencing why patients consult alternative


Poor people do not get necessary medicine from hospital. Also they do
not have access to specialised doctors. What they get easily in the
village is the service from pharmacist and/or FWV. As they do not
have enough money to buy medicine, they go to a homeopath who
supplies medicine for free or at nominal price (FGD with community
members in Tala).

In our village we strictly follow purdah and religious norms. Jharphonk

and panipara are highly prevalent here as we rely more on traditional
healers (FGD Laksham).

We all go to village doctor Mr. X who charges only Taka 10 as

consultation fee and poor patients often exempted from paying.
Moreover the sample medicine that he gets from pharmaceutical
companies, he distributes those for free to the poor patients.

Community members in Laksham Upazila suggested that 80% of

villagers go to local doctors and explained this in the following way:
Whatever medicine hospital doctors prescribe we have to purchase
from local pharmacy, owned by the village doctor. We therefore, do
not see any justification for going to the hospital. Instead, we go to the
village doctor, and consult him any time of the day without much
hassle. He also offers us medicine on credit, which is particularly
beneficial for poor patients who prefer to pay for it by instalments.

3.3: Social Vision on Arsenic Mitigation and Health Care

3.3.1. Preferred Mode of Arsenic Mitigation by Community

Members and Service Providers

From discussions with the patients, community members and both

government and non-government service providers we found a broad
based consensus on a large number of strategies to overcome the barriers
that they identified in the existing health care services for arsenicosis.

Respondents from different communities unanimously suggested provision

64 Chapter Two

of doctor’s service at the village level for the treatment of arsenicosis

patients. They also suggested that these services be provided at regular
intervals and include a free supply of medicine, particularly to poorer
patients. In addition, they also emphasised the need for systematic
registration of arsenicosis patients and the regular monitoring and follow-
up of these patients. They also felt the need for community members to
participate and collaborate with government and NGOs in planning,
designing and implementing an effective strategy for health care services.
For example, villagers are ready to notify the visiting doctor about any
new patient in the village provided a few of them are given training. They
also showed their eagerness to provide space for specialist doctors and
health assistants who might go there at regular interval (once/twice a
month). In addition they suggested an active role for the mass media in
raising awareness of the public about arsenicosis and gave priority to the
supply of arsenic free water. They were also willing to contribute free
labour and 10% maintenance cost for the arsenic free water sources.

While fully endorsing the above recommendations made by villagers,

service providers tried to refine a few of the suggestions made by villagers
by providing ideas about technical and implementation arrangements. For
example they suggested systematic registration of arsenicosis patients at
regular intervals, updating, monitoring and follow-up. Similarly they
recommended forming of a Cell of doctors, health assistants, local govt.
representative, NGO workers from Upazila to village levels to coordinate
and monitor health care services and arsenic mitigation. They also
suggested monthly meeting of DPHE and UHC, Upazila Nirbahi Officer
(UNO), representatives from local bodies and NGOs in order to share
information and monitor arsenicosis patients and arsenic mitigation
schemes. Other suggestions included deployment of trained service
providers, with special provision for women to treat female patients;
adequate supplies of equipments and medicine at the UHC, providing free
treatment for poor arsenicosis patients; and using, radio, TV and print
media, text books, government, LG members and chairmen, and NGOs in
raising public awareness.

These suggestions for improved health service provision can be brought

together in model for effective health care delivery and arsenic mitigation.
This model includes programmatic interventions at the centre along with
structural arrangements and the mode of popular participation needed for
the effective implementation of those interventions as suggested by
respondents (Diagram 3.3).
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 65

Diagram 3.3: Proposed strategy model for effective healthcare services

and arsenic mitigation

Structural Programmatic interventions: Mode of popular

arrangements: • Systematic registration of participation in
Cell formation arsenicosis patients at regular arsenic
with doctors, intervals, updating, monitoring mitigation
health and follow-up Villagers show
assistants, local • EPI type crash health their eagerness to
govt. service for arsenicosis in arsenic provide space for
representative, ‘hot spot’ once/month at primary specialist doctors
NGO workers school premise and health
from Upazila to • Monthly meeting of DPHE assistants who
village levels and UHC, Ministry of Local might go there at
for coordination Government and Rural regular interval
& monitoring Development and Health, (once/twice a
health care Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO), month)
services & representatives from Local
arsenic bodies and NGOs for Villagers are
mitigation. information sharing and ready to provide
monitoring of arsenicosis space, free labour
Village level patients and arsenic mitigation for construction
health centre for schemes. of arsenic free
arsenicosis • Deployment of trained water sources,
patients at service providers, with special 10% contribution
regular intervals provision for women to treat for the
for poor patients female patients, adequate supply maintenance, and
including of equipments and medicine at also assured of
women UHC, free treatment for poor their regular
Provision for arsenicosis patients participation for
arsenic free • Supply of arsenic free water planning and
water sources with effective participation of implementation
on priority basis the common people strategies
• Radio, TV and print media,
text books, government, LG
members and chairmen, and
NGOs must raise public
• Involvement of villagers in
arsenic mitigation plans and
66 Chapter Two

Whilst the recommendations presented in the schematic diagram broadly

represent views of respondents from the five districts, in many cases
however, these are specific to the local micro-context. For example
patients from one village in Sharsha demanded training for keeping rain
water clean and making use of unemployed youths in the door-to door
public awareness programme about dangers of arsenic contamination.
Patients from Tala Upazila suggested health centre at the Union level and
bus service from one of the villages to UHC. They also suggested that the
local primary school could be used for the delivery of health care services.
Furthermore, they felt that the Union Parishad4 should take responsibility
for informing the arsenicosis patients about the date and time of visit by
specialist doctor in the school or local health centre, to avoid confusion,
time and work loss. Patients from another village also added that mosques,
madrassa, colleges and primary schools could be used for delivery of
health care at the village level on a fortnightly or monthly basis. In
another village in Tala respondents suggested the use of a health card or
identity card for arsenicosis patients, which would help not only in the
process of registration but also in monitoring and follow-up. In devising
strategies for the supply of arsenic free water it is critical to unsure
universal access, with particular attention to the needs of the poor and

4.Concluding Remarks
The study unfolds clear cases of social exclusion particularly for the poor
and women who are suffering from arsenicosis. Time and distance are
significant barriers to accessing health care, especially for the poor and for
women. This is particularly problematic as it is important that patients are
diagnosed early and that they continue to attend healthcare facilities to be
monitored and receive treatment over a long period of time. The
implementation of mobile clinics and follow up by village health workers
would significantly reduce these problems and thus would increase access
to healthcare services considerably. It is important, however, that these
two services are coordinated to ensure good communication of
information and a comprehensive treatment service. The lack of women
doctors receiving training and the specific need for them to provide care to
women is also problematic. It is therefore recommended that women
doctors should be prioritised for training in arsenicosis. Training should
also incorporate the importance of registering and reporting procedures
and how to do this. Regular monitoring and supervision from Directorate
General of Health Services (DGHS) would ensure that doctors maintained
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 67

good practice in all aspects of identification, reporting and treatment of

patients with arsenicosis.

A significant number of patients continue to access alternative forms of

healthcare for arsenicosis. There is a need to gain a greater understanding
of the role and interventions provided by these alternative health care
providers (for example homeopaths, pharmacists, village doctors etc).
Further research would be useful in establishing this information. If these
service providers are found to be providing a lot of inappropriate services
to arsenicosis patients thought should be given to delivering awareness-
raising to them with a view to facilitating the dissemination of better
information and links with allopathic medicine.

Upazila means sub-district. It is the second tier in the rural administration.
With regard to deviation, it was extremely difficult to stick to a particular
criterion due to lack of accurate and/or reliable data on arsenicosis patients. Unlike
updating of arsenic contaminated tube wells, which were largely done by DHPE,
there was no systematic registration of patients suffering from arsenicosis.
At the national level 30% of the adolescent girls (13-19 years) suffered from
anaemia as against 26% boys during 2001/2003 (BBS, 2003).
Union Parishad is the local government body at the Union level.

Arsenic Policy Support Unit (APSU) (2006), Social Aspects of Access to
Healthcare for Arsenicosis Patients, APSU, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
—. (2004), Risk Assessment of Arsenic Mitigation Options, APSU, Dhaka,
Asia Arsenic Network (AAN) (2004a), Integrated Approach for Mitigation
of Arsenic Contamination of Drinking Water in Bangladesh: An
Arsenic Mitigation Project in Sharsha Upazila, Jessore, Dhaka: Japan
International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and AAN.
—. (2004b), Samta: Coalition Against Arsenic, Dhaka: JAICA and AAN
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. (2003), Statistical Pocketbook of
Bangladesh 2003, Planning Division, Ministry of Planning, Dhaka.
Columbia University Cohort Study. (2003) Arsenic in Drinking Water: A
Global Public Health Problem, [PowerPoint Presentation at National
Dissemination Workshop, 22 October] Dr. Habibul Ahsan, Principal
Investigator, Dhaka Project Office and New York Department of
68 Chapter Two

Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia

Dhaka Community Hospital (DCH) in association with UPSHON/
Bangladesh Arsenic Victims’ Rehabilitation Trust (2000), Arsenic in
Bangladesh: Report on the 500- Village Rapid Assessment Project (A
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare – UNDP financed Survey),
Majumder, Arunabh, D. N. Guha, Nilima Ghosh, Binay K.Dey, Amal
Santra, Subhankar Das, Sarbari Lahiri, Reina Haque, Allan H. Smith,
and Dipankar Chakraborti (2001), Epidemiological Study on Various
Non-carcinomatous Manifestations of Arsenic Toxicity in a District of
West Bengal, in Arsenic Exposure and Health Effects IV, C.O.
Abernathy and R. I. Calderon, eds. Elsevier Science Ltd.
World Health Organisation (WHO), Environmental Sanitation Unit
(2002), Patient Identification by DCH in BRAC Implemented Upazilas
as of June 2002, Dhaka.
Yunus Mohammad. (2003), Arsenic Epidemiology in Matlab: Some
Preliminary Observations, Presentation to 10th Asian Conference on
Diarrhoeal Diseases and Nutrition, 7-9 December 2003, Dhaka
[Summary of the paper printed in Conference Abstract Book, pp3-4]




1. Introduction
By `other maternal uncles' I mean those human or non-human beings that
are designated as maternal uncles. Data from various Indian languages
reveal that the term `maternal uncle' is used for the tiger, the moon, the
sun, the jackal, the mouse, monkey, and the policeman. Apparently it
looks quite strange, because there does not seem to be any similarity
among these seven entities, and there is also no reason why they should
be called maternal uncle. I intend to discuss this problem and give a
plausible explanation for it in this paper. But we must have a clear idea
about the term for maternal uncle used in various Indian languages and his
role in the social life of the Indians in order to understand the problem in
its proper perspective. So I will first deal with these things, and then
come to the central problem in what follows.

2. The `Maternal Uncle' in Indian Languages

It is well known that kinship terms are resistant to change and so are
kinship systems. For this reason, languages like Hindi and English show
striking similarities with respect to the consanguinal kin terms, i.e. father,
mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, etc. though their predecessors got
separated almost four thousand years ago. But there are noticeable
differences in the affinal kin terms between the said languages. One can
ask a question here as to why there are such differences. To answer such a
question we will have to take the changes in the societies which have
taken place during these four thousand years into consideration. First, let
us have a look at the proto-Indo-European (PIE) kinship structure which
70 Chapter Three

was "patriarchal, patrilocal, and patrilineal," (Friedrich 1979:207). Again,

after having analysed the PIE social structure Friedrich (1979:229) has
concluded: "Bride-capture, bride-wealth, polygyny, dominance of the
husband, concunbinage, and the `appointed daughter status', all articulate
functionally with the patrilocal family and patrilineal descent." Not only
that, these people also practised exogamy and each member was
supposed to marry a stranger from another society. Again, after marriage
the married woman ceased to be a member of her family and was treated
as a member of her husband's family. These are the reasons for which we
find a lot of variations in the affinal kin terms in the Indo-European
languages. The most significant example is PIE */awos/ which exhibits
wide semantic variations, i.e. from `grandfather' to `mother's brother'.
In Latin, it is retained as /avus/ `grandfather', and mother's brother in this
language is /avunculus/ which is the diminutive of /avus/. Scholars have
tried to explain that /avus/ originally meant `maternal grandfather',
and that is why maternal uncle was called /avunculus/. But Benveniste
(1973:182-3) rejects this position as there is no evidence to show that
/avus/ refers to `maternal grandfather', rather all of them connect it with
the paternal lineage on the one hand; and a specific expression like /avus
maternus/ is used to designate maternal uncle. A piece of supporting
evidence comes from Hittite which uses /huhhaś/ (< *awos) for
paternal grandfather only. Again, he argues that in a classificatory
kinship system, like that of PIE, mother's father must not get any special
importance. His contention is that in agnatic relationship father and
father's father are significant whereas in uterine relationship mother's
brother is taken into account. So he envisages that a man's father's father
is also his mother's mother's brother due to cross-cousin marriage, and this
is how he resolves the problem in Latin. Other scholars have also tried to
account for this problem in different ways. But as it is not really
concerned with this paper, I will not dwell upon it here.

However, Sanskrit uses /ma:tula/ for mother's brother and it is different

from both /ma:ta:maha/ `maternal grandfather' and /pita:maha/ `paternal
grandfather'. Greek has /me:tro:s/ for `mother's brother' which is an
analogical creation after /pa'tro:s/ `father's brother'. According to
Benveniste (1973:212), Sanskrit /ma:tula/ and Greek /me:tro:s/ "are recent
substitutes for an Indo-European designation which disappeared when the
mother's brother ceased to have a privileged position with respect to the
father." It is significant and interesting to note that in the Indian society,
mother's brother is the dearest kin for all people and he is the one who
always helps his sister's children at the time of the latter's needs.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 71

Krishna's bringing up of his sister Subhadra's son, Abhimanyu in the great

Indian epic Maha:bha:rata is a good example of it. So it can be argued
that the cordial relationship between mother's brother and sister's son is at
least as old as the Maha:bha:rata. It should be taken note of here that
on this account the society represented by Sanskrit is different from the
societies represented by other Indo-European languages. In other words,
it is an innovation in the Indo-Aryan society. But the question that one
can ask is: What is the source of this innovation? We will get the answer
if we look at the words for mother's brother in other Indian languages
belonging to the Indo-Aryan, Dravidian and Munda stocks. These
languages normally use /ma:ma:/ or its variants for mother's brother. Let
us take examples from two languages of each group.

Indo-Aryan Dravidian Munda

Oriya: ma:mu Telugu: ma:ma Bonda: ma:mu, ma:mun

Hindi: ma:ma: Tamil: ma:ma:, Kharia: ma:mu, ma:man

Among the Tibeto-Burman group of languages, some use the term

derived from /ma:ma:/ whereas others use different terms. For example,
Bodo uses /ma:y/, obviously due to its close contact with Assamese; but
Aka, spoken in Arunachal Pradesh, uses /as/ for maternal uncle. What is
interesting is that except Indo-Aryan, in all other stocks, the word for
mother's brother also denotes "father's sister's husband'. Only in Dravidian
it refers to `spouse's father' alongwith `mother's brother' and `father's
sister's husband'. Thus, a hierarchy can be established among these
stocks with reference to the meanings of the above said word.

Dravidian Munda/Tibeto-Burman Indo-Aryan

mother's brother= mother's brother= mother's brother

father's sister's husband father's sister's husband = spouse's father

In other words, the Dravidian society allows exchange of sisters and

cross-cousin marriage; which can be represented diagrammatically as
72 Chapter Three

FaSi <------ Fa <--------> Mo ------> MoBr

X <------> Y

The Munda and the Tibeto-Burman societies allow only the exchange of
sisters. Thus they form a part of the Dravidian system, and it can be
schematized as follows:

FaSi <---------- Fa <-----------> Mo -------> MoBr

Finally, the Indo-Aryan society allows neither of these.

It will not be out of place to discuss an important aspect of the practice

of marriage among the Dravidians. Even though a Dravidian male has an
option to marry either his mother's brother's daughter or his father's
sister's daughter, the former is invariably preferred. The question is: Why
is it so? We all know that giving a daughter in marriage is considered to
be an act of religious merit for her parents or those who officiate on their
behalf. This is popularly known as kanya:-da:na or `bride-gift' which was
originally practised by the Brahmins only and its sole motive was to earn
dharma or piety. Later it spread to other castes through the brahminisation
process. Thus, it is clearly a religious gift and "… the bride's people must
accept nothing in return; the slightest gift from the groom's side would be
construed as the "price" of the daughter, to accept which would constitute
sale. The groom and his people can expect gifts, hospitality, and acts of
deference from the bride's people, but must not reciprocate. x x x The
groom's party are the superiors and benefactors of the bride's." (Trautman
1995: 292). For this reason, it is considered unethical and irreligious on the
part of the bride-givers to accept anything from the bride-takers. Many
bride-givers do not drink water in the bridge-groom's house even to-day.
On the other hand, they regularly keep sending gifts and presents to the
latter and treat him and his family members with humility and respect. In
fact, "The idiom of kanya:da:na is the patrilineal idiom of complete
dissimilation of the bride from her family of birth and her complete
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 73

assimilation to that of her husband." (Trautman 1995:291). Though it is a

typical Indo-European custom inherited by the Indo-Aryans, it is prevalent
especially among the upper caste Hindus all over India including the
Dravidians. Actually, as pointed out by Trautmann (1979:170), the root
of preference for mother's brother's daughter over father's sister's daughter
lies here. Because after one's sister is given in marriage to another
person, presents and hospitality always flow from the former to the
latter. Then, if the former's son marries the latter's daughter the flow has
to be reversed; and this will lead to a conflict of interests. On the other
hand, if one marries one's mother's brother's daughter the question of
such a conflict does not arise as the flow of presents and respect which
was coming from the latter for his sister earlier will flow to his daughter.
This is the most obvious reason for which the Dravidian males prefer to
marry their mothers' brothers' daughters to their fathers' sisters' daughters.

The other point to be noted here is that all the Dravidian languages use
/ma:ma:/ or its variants. The present Indo-Aryan languages also use the
same instead of the Sanskrit /ma:tula/ or any term derived from it. So it
can be argued that Indo-Aryan has taken the term for maternal uncle
from Dravidian, and this indicates that a deeper cultural convergence
has taken place in this subcontinent over the millenia.

3. Relationship between Brother and Sister

A comparison between brother and his married sister among the Aryan
and Dravidian stocks shows that there is a marked difference. Following
the line of the Indo-Europeans, the Indo-Aryans treat the married sister
as an outsider as she is transplanted in her husband's family by breaking
away from her natal kins upon marriage. But the scene is different among
the Dravidians where sister acts as a binding force between her brother's
and husband's families. However, whether an Indo-Aryan or a Dravidian,
a brother has to send gifts and presents to his sister and her son(s) at the
time of festivals and convivial occasions. It is both amazing and
interesting that though usually a brother fights with another brother for a
share in the paternal property, he gives gifts to his sister and her son(s) on
his own regularly. Let us try to determine its cause now.

There are two words to denote `sister' in Sanskrit, i.e. /swasa:/ and
/bhagini:/. The former is inherited whereas the latter is an innovation in
this language. For this reason cognates for /swasa:/ are found in other
Indo-European languages, like soror in Latin, heor ~ eor in Greek, sestra
74 Chapter Three

in Old Slavonic, siur in Old Irish, and in Old High German, etc. But
amazingly this inherited term went out of use right in the Middle Indo-
Aryan stage, and the other term /bhagini:/ took over after that. This is the
reason for which Neo Indo-Aryan languages show only the terms derived
from /bhagini:/. For example:

MIA : sasa:, bhagini:, bahini:, bhaini:

Assamese : bhani

Bengali : bon

Gujarati : ben

Hindi : bahan

Kashmiri : benni:

Marathi : bahi:N

Nepali : bahini

Oriya : bhauNi

Panjabi : paiN

Sindhi : bheNi:

Now the question is: What is the source of Sanskrit /bhagini:/? And also
what is the possible cause of its retention in the New Indo-Aryan
languages? Scholars are of the view that the PIE *swesor consisted of
swe- `own' and sor `woman'. Thus, it was a classificatory term denoting
`own woman' or `a woman of one's own clan', e.g. sister or any
patrilateral female cousin (Friedrich 1979: 212, Benvineste 1973:173-4).
So the Indo-Aryans preferred a more concrete and definitive term
/bhagini:/ which consists of bhag+in+ŋi:p (Wilson 1979:528). The
meanings of /bhag/ are good fortune, happiness, welfare, prosperity
among others (Monier-Williams 1976:743). In other words, /bhagini:/
was an embodiment of fortune, welfare and prosperity. It is significant to
point out here that in the ancient Indian society, both brother and sister
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 75

had an equal claim over the paternal property (Karve 1965:355). Even
Manu, the law-maker of ancient India, had declared that "according to
law the right of inheritance belongs to both children (the son and the
daughter) without any distinction (whatsoever)." (Sarup 1967:40). This
is most probably the reason for which prosperity and fortune have been
associated with /bhagini:/. Not only that, in those days, after sister's
death her son was entitled to inherit the paternal property due to her
(Karve 1965:355). So it is not at all surprising that a man would send
gifts and presents to his married sister and her son in order to please
them so that he can enjoy the property on which they have a claim.
For this reason, right from the olden days, we notice a very cordial
relationship between maternal uncles and their nephews or sisters' sons.
For example, in the Maha:bha:rata the advisor of the Kauravas is their
maternal uncle Shakuni. On the other hand, in the absence of maternal
uncle, his son Krishna has acted as the advisor to the Pandavas. Not only
that he has looked after his sister Subhadra and her son Abhimanyu when
the Pandavas were in exile for twelve years. I strongly believe Ram, the
crown-prince of Ayodhya and the son of Kaushalya who hailed from
Koshala, decided to come to Central India on being banished from his
kingdom simply because it was the land of his maternal uncle. This must
be one of the major reasons for which he got an overwhelming support
from the masses while in exile. This is something not peculiar to India.
In many other societies, the relationship between maternal uncle and his
nephew is very intimate and cordial. In fact, this relationship is so close
that on the basis of his study of the peoples in South Africa and
Polynesia, Radcliffe-Brown (1952:19) described maternal uncle as a "male
mother". A discussion from this perspective will make it clear as to why
the tiger, the moon, the sun, the jackal, the mouse, the monkey, and the
policeman are addressed as the maternal uncle.

4. The Other Maternal Uncles

4.1. The Tiger

First, let us consider the tiger. It is called maternal uncle in the states of
Orissa, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, and Nepal. What needs to be
mentioned here is that there are very strong Tibeto-Burman and Munda
sub-strata in West Bengal and Orissa (Chatterji 1970, Mohanty 1997,
1999). It is reflected in the facts that West Bengal has eight Tibeto-
Burman and six Munda languages each of which are spoken by more than
one thousand speakers whereas out of a total of about twelve Munda
76 Chapter Three

languages ten are spoken in Orissa. The reason for mentioning all these is
that the tiger has an important role to play in the lives of the peoples
belonging to the Tibeto-Burman and Munda stocks. To be specific, it is
treated as a god in Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. For example, we find
folk-tales regarding the origin of tiger among the Adi, Tagin, and Tangam
Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. It is the son of the god Kaddong Battey and
goddess Peddong for the Adis. The Tagins believes that the supreme lord
and creator Abotani is the ancestor of both men and tigers. The Tangams
consider it a son of the mythical mother Pedong Nane. When a tiger is
killed they perform certain rituals with a moral teaching to the tiger at the
end which is as follows: “you have been killed because you have been bad
and have done wrong to us and so you should not take it ill. Now go back
to your home in the jungle and try to live a good life. Do not harm
anybody and nobody will harm you.” (Ghosh and Ghosh 1998a:58).
According to the Angami and Rengma Nagas, the man and the tiger (along
with the spirit) are the sons of the same mother, but the Konyak Nagas
treat them as friends and kinsmen. (Ghosh and Ghosh 1998b). In Manipur
the people “…put a high premium on the role of tigers in folk tales and
literature, and analogies. The tiger is always compared with a brave man. x
x x It is considered as a dangerous animal.” (Singh 1993:49). The Lakhers
of Mizoram are quite superstitious about the tiger as it “… has the power
to cause sickness or ill luck. Therefore, when a tiger has been killed, a
special ceremony called chakei ia is performed where laughter is
forbidden.” (Chattopadhyay 1978:235). There are quite a few Naga tribes
like the Mara:ms, Quoirengs, and Kabuis for whom to see a tiger
“…means an attack of sickness due to some evil spirit.” (Hodson
1974:130-131). About the Sema Nagas, Hutton (1968:77) reports as
follows: “The dead body (of a tiger) is treated much as that of an enemy, at
any rate in many parts of the Sema country, the head being taken back
with the village and hung up outside it where the heads of enemies are
hung.” Also “Eclipses are said to be caused by a tiger eating the sun or the
moon, as the case may be, and in the case of the former they foretell the
death of some great man within a year.” Thus, the speakers of the Tibeto-
Burman languages except the tiger as a god, a kin, and a friend; and at the
same time they are also very much afraid of this dangerous animal. A
similar trend can also be noticed among the Munda tribes. For example,
the Soras call it kinnasum or tiger-god, and at the same time they are
mortally afraid of it. The following statement of Elwin (1955:525) proves
this point : "It is further taboo to speak or make any kind of noise through
out the rites for someone killed by a tiger.” There is a group of Santals
who also worship it when “… in Ra:mgarh only those who have suffered
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 77

loss through that animal's ferocity conscend to adore him. If a Santa:l is

carried off by a tiger, the head of his family deems it necessary to
propitiate the ‘Ba:gh Bhu:t' (tiger devil).” (Dalton 1973:214). Though
tiger is the va:hana or vehicle of Goddess Durga, the embodiment of
power in Hindu mythology, there is little doubt that it was the most
dangerous among all the animals in the olden days. For this reason the
compound `man-eater' refers to the tiger only, and not to any other
animal. Again, the forests of the North-Eastern and Eastern India were
full of tigers. In fact, fear for the tiger is so deep in the minds of the people
of North-Eastern and Eastern India that 'tiger-clubs' are found in the
villages of Manipur, a North-Eastern state, to protect people from its
attack and the fifth day in the dark fortnight of the Hindu month of
Bha:drava (August-September) is observed as the RakSa:pancami:
`protection fifth-day' in Orissa. In the evening of this day the Oriya
people worship Lord Shiva and his sons Kartikeya and Ganesha; write a
mantra, which is a prayer for protection, on a palm-leaf and put it at the
main entrance of the house, and shut the door after throwing out a portion
of the food offered to the abovesaid gods for the tiger. It is clear that the
purpose of all these is just to please the tiger by giving it food so that it
will not kill them and also to pray to Lord Shiva and his sons to protect
if and when the tiger attacks them1. Not only that, expressions like tiger-
like strength, tiger-like ants, tiger-like bee, tiger-like flies, and tiger-like
moustaches are noticed in day-to-day conversation of the people in these
areas. No other animal has the privilege and distinction of being used
like the tiger in the above expressions. In Himachal Pradesh, people use
/ba:gh/ 'tiger' for the wolf. Its name is a taboo and it is not uttered in the
evenings because it is believed to bring bad luck during night, especially a
death news. Children are also dissuaded from behaving in a cranky manner
by taking its name. It is so dreadful an animal for the people of Himachal
Pradesh that they call it /ma:ma:/ just to meliorise its frightening effect.
Though its voice is very harsh, they refer to it as /ku:kNewa:Li:/ literally
'cuckoo'.3 The point to be noted here is that /ku:kNewa:Li:/ is feminine,
which means that it is transformed into feminine in the process of
meliorisation. So I want to argue that the reason for addressing the tiger as
maternal uncle lies here. In other words, love and respect on the one hand
and fear on the other hand have elevated the tiger to the status of maternal
uncle. It has been discussed above how the tiger is loved and respected as
a kin and as a god. So it is quite natural if an endearing term is used for it.
Let us now consider the evidence wherein an endearing kinship term is
used out of fear. This kind of evidence can be adduced from folk-tales and
also from the Ja:taka stories, which are supposed to have been written in
78 Chapter Three

Eastern India. In a Bengali folk tale entitled ‘The boy with the moon on
his forehead’, the boy met a gigantic demon while going to his uncle’s
place in the north of a forest, and addressed him as uncle. In return, the
demon said, “… I would have swallowed you outright, had you not called
me uncle, and had you not said that your aunt had sent to you to me.”(Day
1969:422). It is also reported that in Nepal “… neither gun, bow, or spear,
had ever been raised against him (tiger). In return for this forbearance, it is
said, he never preyed on man : or if he seized one would, on being
entreated with the endearing epithet of “uncle”, let go his hold.” (Crooke
1993:324). There are quite a few tribes in India belonging to different
linguistic stocks, e.g. the Dravidian Oraons and the Tibeto-Burman Nagas
who claim their descent from the tiger. In a Manipuri folk-tale entitled
‘The tiger and the heron’ when the tiger threatened to eat an old man, he
said, “Grandpa, what good in eating me. I am too weak.", and the tiger
went away. The old man’s son also saved himself from the tiger
addressing it as 'grandpa' (Singh 1993:17). It should be pointed out that
most tribes in the North-Eastern India have relatively less kinship terms.
So they tend to use one term, which is classificatory in nature, to express a
number of relationships. So the term 'grandpa' here actually does not mean
either father’s father or mother’s father, but all male relatives. To take an
example, in Purum, spoken by an old Kuki tribe of Manipur, kapu means
father’s father, all male agnates belonging to and above his generation, and
all male members of mother’s father’s and wife’s father’s families
including mother’s brother, his son, wife’s elder brother, and his son (Das
1945:142). But 'grandpa' has been used in the translated text because he is
the eldest male resident in a house-hold. If we take the Ja:taka stories, in
the Baka Ja:taka, the crab calls the crane maternal uncle in order to get
mercy when it comes to know that the latter has an intention of killing it.
Again, in the Ga:maNicaNDa Ja:taka, Ga:maNicaNDa is addressed as
maternal uncle by a horse-keeper, by the village headman and by a
prostitute so that he would do favours to each of one them. Then, after
coming face to face with the tiger in Di:pi Ja:taka, the lamb decides to
convey its mother’s regards to the former and tries to establish a
relationship with the former by calling it maternal uncle.

It is widely known today that the Egyptians universally observed animal

worship, and these animals were either the most benevolent or the most
malevolent. The same is also true of India, though there is a difference in
degree: “Every living creature that can be supposed capable of effecting
good or evil in the smallest degree, has become a sort of divinity and is
entitled to adoration and sacrifice.” (Dubois 1817:445-446). So I want to
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 79

argue that the tiger, that is very dear and at the same time has potentials of
causing harm to others, was addressed as maternal uncle so that this
address would soften its heart when it tries to cause harm and as a result, it
would not do so. This was the reason for using the term maternal uncle for
the tiger. It is interesting to note that its seed lies in the Tibeto-Burman and
Munda stocks which had a close contact with each other in the pre-historic
times. (Bhattacharya 1976, Dalton 1978). Oriya and Bengali have
appropriated it from these languages and developed it in a way which is

4.2. The Moon

The moon is called maternal uncle for a very similar reason. But before
discussing that I must mention that the moon, according to the Hindu
mythology, was born from the churning of the milk-ocean along with
Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Since Lakshmi is worshipped as the
mother-goddess by the Hindus, one may argue that the moon, being her
brother, automatically becomes maternal uncle. But such an argument is
not at all convincing, because if it is accepted then what will follow is that
all the other things or beings like the stars, the Uccaiśrava: horse, the
Kaustubha gem, and Dhanvantari, the heavenly doctor, who were born
from the said churning, should have also been addressed as maternal
uncle. Actually the case is not so. The moon is considered a source of
life as it refreshes the vegetable and animal kingdoms at night. Again,
there are a lot of folk-songs and folk-tales found in various Indian
languages in praise of the moon because of its soothing light. Not only
that, there is a festival in Orissa called Kuma:rapu:rNima:, which is
observed by the unmarried girls for a fortnight and it culminates on the full
moon day of the Hindu month Ka:rtika (October-November). The main
aim of observing this festival is to request the moon-god to get them
grooms who are very handsome, rich, and good.

It is also well known that the waning moon in the dark fortnight is
considered inauspicious and harmful by various peoples. This is the
cause for which words for the moon have changed from time to time in
different languages. For example, the early Greek word for the moon, i.e.
me:ne:, which was there as an inheritance from the Proto-Indo-European
(PIE) parent, became obsolete very quickly, and sele:ne:, occupied its
place. It should be noted that sele:ne:, literally meaning `radiant', was
derived from śelas `radiance'. Interestingly, this substitute also fell under
taboo in course of time, and was replaced by phenga'ri which literally
80 Chapter Three

meant `that which shines'. Latin, another Indo-European language, has

retained the said PIE word only in the word for `month', i.e. me:nsis. For
the moon, it uses lu:na which literally means `that which glitters'.
Sanskrit, the other cognate Indo-European language, has dropped the said
PIE word altogether. The most commonly used word for the moon in it is
/candra/ which literally means `shining'. It is derived from the verb root
/cand-/ `to shine' and has cognates like candeo, candidus, incendo in
Latin. Again, English words candid, candle, cinder, etc. have also come
from the same source. However, /candra/ of Sanskrit has been inherited
by many Neo Indo-Aryan languages like Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, and
Marathi, etc. But some other Neo Indo-Aryan languages, such as Oriya,
Assamese and Nepali use /jahna/, /jonba:i/ and /ju:n/ respectively, not the
words derived from /candra/. There is little doubt that these words have
been derived from /jyotsna:/ `moonlight', and these languages have opted
for a replacement obviously due to the tabooing of /candra/.

It should be pointed out that /candra/ has also been subjected to taboo
partly in Sanskrit in course of time. It is evidenced by the Hindu
tradition that no one should look at the moon on the Vina:yaka-caturthi:
day, which falls some time in late August or early September. Not only
that there is even a ritual of /candra-darśana/ `looking at the moon',
observed by the traditional Hindus, on the day following the
/ama:ba:sya:/ or the no-moon day. The Sema Nagas believe that even
“Seeds sown at the wane of the moon do not sprout.” (Hutton 1968:220).
Further, "There is a widespread belief that the light of the full moon
turns humans who are so disposed into were-wolves and causes lunacy
if one sleeps in its beams. Very common in Europe and America is the
idea that, during the night of the full moon, more crimes are committed,
more children are born, and more patients committed to mental
hospitals than at other times." (Eliade 1987:90). So I want to contend
here that because of the love discussed above and the fear that it will be
harmful unless its bad effects are warded off, the moon is addressed as the
maternal uncle in many Indian languages, the only exceptions being
Assamese from the Indo-Aryan stock, and the Munda and the Tibeto-
Burman languages. It is certainly surprising and interesting that when
other NIA languages treat the moon as the maternal uncle, Assamese does
not do so. As has been mentioned above Assamese uses /jonba:i/ for the
moon and it means ‘moon-sister’. In other words, the moon is female in
Assamese, and therefore, there is no scope for it to become maternal
uncle.4 The same is found in the Munda languages. All these languages
treat the sun as their Supreme Deity or His visible symbol. Further, in
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 81

most of them the moon is the sun’s wife (Das 1945:33; Elwin 1955:80,96;
Dalton 1973:186). But it is treated the sun’s sister by the Bonda speakers
(Elwin 1950:141) and as the sun's younger brother by the Pa:uRi Bhũiya:s
( Roy 1935:279). On the other hand, there is a chaos in the Tibeto-Burman
languages, which surround Assamese, regarding the relationship between
the sun and the moon. For the Purums, the sun or Ni, is the wife of the
moon called Hla (Das 1945:200). According to the Khasi and Jaintia
tribes, the sun (Ka Sngi), water (Ka Um), and fire (Ka Ding) were three
sisters; and the moon (U Bymai) is their younger brother (Barkataki
1970:149). In Adi, the sun (Donyi) and the moon (Polo) were identical and
both had equal light and heat (Ghosh and Ghosh 1988a:85). Similarly, the
ballad of Nu:mit Ka:ppa tells us that long ago there were two sun gods in
Manipur (Hodson 1975:111). But in all these languages, the moon has
been portrayed as a wicked character. For example, in the Khasi and
Jaintia folk-tales, the moon tried to make love to his sister, the sun, who in
turn threw ashes on his face and he became pale.2 The Adi community
decided to kill the moon so that they could have night to rest. The Lepchas
of Sikkim also have a similar tale. (Stocks 1925:363-365). In Meitei, the
Moon-God Pakhangba is reported to have three hundred names, the most
frequent ones of which are “Harava (destroyer), Leithingai (trouble-
maker), Leinung longa (one who hides in a place).” (Singh 1993:201).
From all these, it is clear that there was a negative attitude towards the
moon among the Tibeto-Burman people. These are the most probable
reasons for which the moon is not addressed as maternal uncle in
Assamese and in the Munda and Tibeto-Burman languages.

4.3. The Sun

The sun is addressed as maternal uncle only in Bengal though it is not as
frequent and popular as the moon. The reason for it seems to be that there
is a long tradition of sun-worship in Bengal (Bhattacharya 1977) which
may be ascribed to the Tibeto-Burman and Munda influence on the
Bengali society. Then, according to the tradition mentioned above, the
moon and the sun are treated one and the same. So as the former is called
‘maternal uncle’, the latter automatically becomes another ‘maternal

4.4. The Jackal

The jackal is also called /ma:ma:/, i.e. /śeya:l-ma:ma:/ or 'jackal-maternal
uncle' in Bengal. Indian folk-tales and folk-lore are full of incidents which
82 Chapter Three

attest that the jackal is the most shrewd among all animals. In Manipur,
Assam, and West Bengal, it is portrayed as a wise and learned animal. It
is called /śeya:l paNDit/ ‘jackal, the learned one’ in Bengali and
Assamese. It also helps and assists others at the time of their troubles. In
Bengali folk-lore, it is the most significant of all animals. It is portrayed as
a teacher as well as a match-maker. For example, let us take the following
rhyme (Bhattacharya 1963:47) :

ek je chilo śeya:l,
ta:r ba:p diyeche deya:l,
śe karechilo pa:Thśa:la:,
paRto śetha:y a:Rśula:.

(There was a jackal.

His father constructed a wall.
He started a school.
The cockroach used to study there.)

Here the jackal is portrayed as a teacher who educates other animals. The
cockroach is just symbolic and it has found a place here most probably due
to the demand of rhyming with /pa:Thśa:la:/ ‘school’. Regarding match-
making, there is a tale “The match-making jackal” in which the jackal with
the help of its intelligence marries a very poor weaver with a princess
(Day 1969:407-413). As discussed above, under the Dravidian influence,
the maternal uncle is the dearest and the most important kin in Eastern
India and this is what he normally does for his nephew. So it is quite
natural for the Bengalis to honour the jackal by addressing it as maternal

4.5. The Mouse

The mouse is called maternal uncle mainly in the states of Maharashtra
and Gujarat. It is clear from the use of the expressions like /undirma:ma:/
and /undarma:ma:/ `mouse-maternal uncle' by the Marathi and Gujarati
speakers respectively. The reason for which the Marathi and Gujarati
speakers do so is similar to that of the tiger among the Eastern Indians.
The mouse is the vehicle of Ganesha, the god with an elephant head, who
is the most popular god of Maharashtra. There are also some Marathi folk-
tales in which the mouse is portrayed as an intelligent animal. For
example, in the folk-tale entitled “His tail for a song,” a mouse makes a
fool of five persons, i.e. a carpenter, a potter, a gardener, a herdsman, and
an oil-merchant. At the end, it buys a drum and two sticks and sings the
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 83

whole story in the form of a song (Dexter 1938:70-76) 5. At the same time
we know that a mouse can consume so much of food grains in a day that it
is enough for a meal for six people. Thus, the mice cause the greatest
harm to people by creating shortage of food. Sen states that
“…mu:Saka has been derived from the Sanskrit word Mu:Ska denoting
‘the stealthy one’ or destroyer…” and “It is the destroying habit of the rat
which brought the animal in contact with GaNeśa, the ‘Vighnara:ja’ and
turned it in to his mount. x x x Even Manu advises the kings not to select
‘Mahidurga’, a fort which was made with brick-ramparts around as it is
infested with rats or mice. Such was the dread associated with the creative
among the ancient people who considered it as a ‘vighna’ or trouble.”(Sen
1972:26).6 So my contention is that the Marathi and Gujarati speaking
people have established the relationship of maternal uncle with the
mouse so that it would not cause any vighna or trouble to them. Most
probably this is the reason for addressing the mouse as the maternal uncle
in Marathi and Gujarati. It will not be out of place to mention here that
mouse-worship is prevalent in the western parts of India.

Another important point to be noted here is that the Dravidian speakers

including the Dravidian tribals normally use /ma:ma:/ for an elderly and
respectable male stranger. Clearly under this influence a stranger is also
called /ma:ma:/ in rural Maharashtra and in parts of Gujarat; though
throughout North India, the supposedly abode of the Indo-Aryans, /ca:ca:/
`father's brother' is used for such a person. In the urban areas of
Maharashtra and Gujarat those people who do not employ the English
word `uncle' prefer /ka:ka:/ `father's brother' to /ma:ma:/; and it is
essentially due to a process which we can call `secondary aryanization' or
the influence of the New North Indo-Aryan languages, particularly
Hindi. However, coming back to the main point, the elderly and
respectable men in rural Maharashtra are addressed as /ma:ma:/ in
contradistinction to /ca:ca:/ in North India (For example, /ca:ca:/ Nehru
is used for Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent
India). The village people, during difficult times, go to them for help; and
the latter oblige the former. There are also a few important persons in
Maharashtra for whom the Marathi speakers have used /ma:ma:/ out of
love and respect, e.g. Shelar ma:ma:, ma:ma: Varerkar, and ma:ma: Kane.
Shelar was a contemporary of the great Maratha Shivaji, and the people
of his area sought his advice when there was a necessity. For this reason,
all those people including Shivaji used to call him /ma:ma:/. On the other
hand, Varerkar was a socially committed dramatist whose plays were
very popular among the masses of Maharashtra during the first half of
84 Chapter Three

the 20th century, and Kane was a pioneer of the hotel-industry in

Maharashtra. Kane's hotel in Bombay was quite famous for serving
people with home-made type food. It is said that even Sardar Ballabhabhai
Patel, the veteran freedom-fighter and the first home minister of
independent India, was a frequent visitor to Kane's hotel. People liked
Kane's food so much that they called him /ma:ma:/ out of affection and

4.6. The Monkey

Regarding the monkey, it is called /ma:ma:/ mainly in the Bhojpuri-
speaking areas of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.8 In every version of the
Ra:ma:yaNa it is Hanuman, the chief of the monkey-army, that helped
Rama in each step when the later was in exile. It should be mentioned here
that Rama is worshipped in almost every household in Bihar and Uttar
Pradesh, and being his greatest devotee, Hanuman is also worshipped
along with him. But Wolcott (1977:657) has pointed out that “Stories
about Hanuma:n’s adventure and prowess, rather than about his service to
Ra:ma, appeal to Bhojpuri men.” Not only that, “When men gather to
share pipe, tobacco, and the prepared betel leaf preparation called pa:n,
they are most likely to discuss not the feats of Ra:ma or LakSmaN, but
those of Hanuma:n.” (Wolcott 1977:657). It is because for them
“Hanuma:n is a doorway to God” (Wolcott 1977:655) and “Hanuma:n is
important as a protector” (Wolcott 1977:656). For this reason, he is called
sankaT-mocan ‘danger-shield’ and many men wear a “protective
medallion” carrying the Hanuma:n image round their necks. They believe,
“…strength of limb and body and virility are dependent on Hanuma:n-
pu:ja: (worship of Hanuma:n); safety and well-being in this life are
dependent on Hanuma:n-sm ti (remembrance of Hanuma:n)”. (Wolcott
1977:658). Again, in certain areas, e.g. in Ranchi, men seek Hanuman’s
grace and blessings by invoking his name during the traditional Indian
sports like “bowmanship, swordsmanship, stick-fighting, and wrestling.”
(Narula 1991:23). Women also worship him for “the cure of barrenness”,
though its importance is secondary.

On the other hand, in Bihar, if a monkey is killed somewhere, it is

believed that nobody can live there. “His bones are exceedingly unlucky,
and a special class of exorcisers in Biha:r make it their business to
ascertain that his bones do not pollute the ground on which a house is
about to be erected.”(Crooke 1993:53). Also in the Mirzapur area of Uttar
Pradesh, though seeing his face is considered to be lucky it is a common
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 85

belief that taking his name “…in the morning brings starvation for the rest
of the day.” (Crooke 1993:215). So people call it /hanuma:n/
euphemistically in the morning. Most probably due to these reasons the
monkey is referred to as the maternal uncle in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

4.7. The Policeman

The reason for addressing the policeman as maternal uncle is not very
different, and it is a late 19th century or early 20th century phenomenon.
The word `policeman' gained currency in India only after the advent of
the British. A cursory glance on the administrative systems of India in the
past as well as at present reveals that the policemen were and still are
extremely powerful and capable of causing all kinds of problems. Prior to
independence, Indians were was mortally afraid of them, because they
could put anybody behind the bars and also torture him in various ways.
The situation is not very different after almost five decades of
independence. However educated, influential or rich one may be, nobody
wants to go the police-station or get involved in a police case unless it is
absolutely necessary even to-day. From all these, it follows that the fear
the people have for a policeman is no less than that for a tiger and he is
no less harmful than a mouse. In fact, this fear for the policeman and his
mischief potentials have prompted people to make an effort to lead a
peaceful life by addressing him as maternal uncle. It is also true that a
person having a policeman as a relative gets respect from others because
of the latter. Thus, this is the most probable reason for calling a policeman
as the maternal uncle. Actually the policemen lost the respect they used
to get from the masses only after they started misusing their power and
became thoroughly corrupt; and for this reason people started making fun
of them. Oriya uses /polisma:mu/ only to indicate contempt for the
policemen; and this is the reason for which in some other languages, like
Gujarati and Marathi, /ma:ma:/ is also used in a derogatory sense.
However, this disrespect for the policemen in general and the use of
/ma:ma:/ in a derogatory sense, have nothing to do with the maternal
uncle status of the policeman.

5. The Kamsa Episode: an Exception

Kamsa, the maternal uncle of Krishna, is the most popular metaphor for
maternal uncle in the Indian tradition. Though I have argued above that
the relationship between maternal uncle and his nephew is very close and
the former is like a `male mother', Kamsa was Krishna's arch enemy and
86 Chapter Three

he tried his best to kill the latter by all means. So the Kamsa episode
demands an explanation so that the hypothesis put forward in this paper is
not at stake.

The Kamsa episode has been described in detail in Maha:bha:rata,

Harivamśa, and Śri:madbha:gavata. But interestingly each description
is different from others in certain ways, and these differences hold the
clue as to why Kamsa was so cruel to Krishna. According
Śri:madbha:gavata, Kamsa is the brother of Krishna's mother, Devaki.
But as per the descriptions of the A:diparva in Maha:bha:rata,
Ugrasena and Devaka are brothers; and Kamsa is the former's son
whereas Devaki is the latter's daughter. In other words, here Kamsa is
Devaki's cousin, not brother. Again, according to the same description,
Kamsa is not the real son of Ugrasena. He was born after a demon had
forcibly enjoyed Ugrasena's wife, Pavanarekha. Harivamśa has also
portrayed him as an illegal child of Ugrasena. There are two important
things which have to be taken note of in these descriptions. Firstly,
Kamsa was not Devaki's real brother; and he was made the latter's brother
at a later period. Secondly, he was a demon, not a normal human being.
It is further corroborated by the facts that the well-known demon
Jarasandha was his father-in-law and Shishupala was his bosom friend.
Therefore, it is highly unusual to expect human-like behaviour from him;
and there is nothing surprising if he tried to kill Krishna instead of being
affectionate towards him. There is also another reason for which Kamsa
had a strained relationship with Krishna. Krishna's father Vasudeva was
King Ugrasena's prime minister. After growing up, Kamsa started
opposing his father in every step. But on such occasions Vasudeva
always used to support Ugrasena and in this process incurred Kamsa's
wrath. So it is quite natural on Kamsa's part to be revengeful on
Vasudeva's son, Krishna.

6. Conclusion
From what has been discussed above, the following conclusions can be
drawn: (i) Maternal uncle was not an important kin for the Indo-
Europeans. That he is quite important in the Indo-Aryan kinship system
makes it clear that they have converged with the non-Aryans, or the
Dravidians to be specific through contact and convergence. It is
evidenced by the fact that they use the term that the Dravidians do.
Speakers of the Munda family also use the same term which is indicative
of convergence of Munda with Dravidian. (ii) The relationship between
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 87

maternal uncle and his nephew is very close in Indian society. (iii) The
Ja:taka stories provide evidence for the argument that alongwith the
people who help at the time of need, those who have the potentials to harm
and those whom people are afraid of are addressed as maternal uncle in
Indian languages. In the latter case, people try to soften the potentially
harmful person's heart and establish kinship with him by elevating him to
the status of maternal uncle. This is the reason for which the tiger, the
moon, the sun, the jackal, the mouse, the monkey, and the policeman are
called maternal uncle in Indian languages. (iv) Kamsa is not a
representative maternal uncle in the Indian tradition and there are obvious
reasons for which he was so cruel towards his nephew, Krishna.

* In this paper [T, Th, D, R, N, L, S] have been used for the voiceless unaspirated
retroflex stop, voiceless aspirated retroflex stop, voiced unaspirated retroflex stop,
unaspirated retroflex flap, retroflex nasal, retroflex lateral, and retroflex sibilant
1. I owe gratitude to Prof. K.K. Mishra, University of Hyderabad for this
2. Tyler (1964) reports that a very similar tale exists in the Polar regions.
3. I am thankful Dr. Kaushalya Verma, Himachal Pradesh University for this
4. In some parts of Bengal, the moon is also treated as a mother who gives food
and life-span (See Bhattacharya 1962:178). Again, the tantric and yogic texts,
according to which yoga is the unification of the sun and the moon, treat the sun
as the eater as well as the father’s seed and the moon as the food as well as the
mother’s ovum (see Dasgupta 1962:235-236).
5. For a similar tale where the rat has been replaced by a monkey see 'Monkey
losing the tail' in Seethalakshmi (1969).
6. For a comparison see Frazer (1954:530-531) who mentions about an ancient
Greek treatise on farming that contains a piece of advice to farmers as to how to
propitiate the mice and rid their lands of them.
7. Thanks are due to Professors Padmakar Dadegaonkar, University of Hyderabad
and Bharati Modi, M. S. University of Baroda; and Dr. G. Uma Maheshwara
Rao, University of Hyderabad for these pieces of information about Marathi,
Gujarati, and Dravidian languages respectively.
8. This fact was brought to my notice by Drs. Kamal Swroop, Azamgarh (Uttar
Pradesh) and Maheshwar Mishra, Barauni (Bihar).
88 Chapter Three

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I. Introduction
Religion is considered as a part of human’s mechanisms to conduct their
daily life by bringing in particular contact with their natural environment.
Therefore the primitive man tried to evolve a mechanism to come over the
crisis while encountering the problems of life in a margin of uncertainty,
anxiety etc.. and this mechanism was slowly took the forms of belief in the
existence of super humans or supernatural power. It is stated that
experiences of certain day to day sudden happenings of disease, death and
the un expectable things led the tribal people in believing in other than the
material visible world i.e. in the invisible spirit-world or supernatural
power.(Vidyarthi and Rai1985). This contact is established into two ways.
They are one way is by controlling or over powering the spirit by
enhancing or practicing some techniques and canalizing the power, for
good or bad. The second way is by offering puja or worship to propriate
the superhuman power for acquisition of the thing or object desired.

The religious life among the tribals is based on their myths and legends.
Their belief in Bonga or Bhagavan is referred to the attributed of objects,
which are supernatural. Similarly Saoras believe the Kithung as the creator
of the earth and man.

One of such form is Animism. It is faith in spirits, animals, plants, trees,

ponds, rivers, stones, hills or mountains are all abodes of spirits. Bongaism
is another form of primitive worship as expanded by Majumdar (1967). It
is conceived by the ‘Ho’ as a power which gives life to all animals and
plants. He believed that Bonga or Mana or an impersonal spirit forms the
92 Chapter Four

substratum of primitive religion everywhere.

Naturalism is another form of belief, which prevails among the tribals.

Sun, moon and earth are considered the creator or supreme power. The
tribals have attached themselves to the animals and plants in the form of
totem, therefore totemism is a common feature of the Indian tribal people.
Taboo is another sacred belief, which is a rather negative custom of any
belief. Magic is another dimension that is considered as an integral part of
tribal communities. Magical practices are practiced by tribal people as
apart of their belief system to cope with the upward natural events,
inadequate technical means and associated with full of danger and
uncertainty. Magical practices are aimed at both for welfare and evil
spirits. For example, Mundas go to the top of hills and thrown down stones
of all sizes, so that, they believe the rumbling of thunder and then rain
would follows.

Their superstition is that an individual or his family acquires powers of a

far-reaching and compulsive kind of through ancestor worship. As they
believe existestence of ancestors and their interest are worldly affairs. The
religious dimension among the survived with the rituals they perform
occasionally. The objects offered for the rituals are ranged from sacrifices
–animals, eggs flowers, fruits, cereals like paddy, maize, coconut, liquor
etc. They offer mortuary sacrifices and feast to all the elders.

According to Ramond Firth (1971) Religion provides a reference for the

explanation of many events in human life, which seem obscure and
demand a meaning. It constitutes a system parallel and opposition to the
logical-empirical systems of science. The credit of having laid the
foundations of an anthropological study of religion belongs to Edward B.
Tylor (1958) in his well known theory he maintains that the essence of
primitive religion is animism, the belief in spiritual beings, and he shows
how belief has originated in a mistaken but consistent interpretation of
dreams, visions, hallucinations, cataleptic states and similar phenomena.
He has also given definition of religion as the belief in super naturals.
However, each society or group of people has traditional method of
controlling these powers to sub-ordinate them through certain actions of
occultism or esoteric practices, rites, rituals and ceremonies or celebrations
in accompaniment with offerings, prayers or sacrifices so as to appease,
placate or propriate in order to enjoy and trouble free life. With the
passage of time these are handed down from generation to generation are
entrenched into the tickly woven fabric of culture.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 93

Frazer depicts that religion is the propitiation on conciliation of powers

superior to man, which are believed to direct and control the course of
nature of human life. Evans-Pritchard illustrates religion as the way in
which society sees itself as more than a collection of individuals by which
it maintains its solidarity and insures its continuity. Marrett.R.R found that
Animism omitted reference to supernatural powers. He coined the term
animatism to include force that may become infused in people, animals or
objects. The ethnographic prototype of such power is the Melanesian and
Ocenian concept of mana.

The present study is to understand the religion, beliefs and practices

among Koyas in Andhra Pradesh. Especially it concentrates on different
types of religious practices relating to carious sociao-cultutral and
economic aspects of the Koyas. This paper also attempts to understand the
concepts of spirits and magico-religious ritual practices among Koyas.
Apart from this study it concentrates on the changes occurred in rituals,
beliefs and practices over a period of time.

II. Methodology
The present study Religion, beliefs and practices among the Koyas is
produced from the two sources. One is primary data that is collected
through personal interaction with key informants. Another one is
secondary data mainly from published resource material, which are
available at Tribal Council Research in Hyderabad, and University of
Hyderabad, and Integrated Tribal Development Agency, Bhadrachalam,
Khammam district.

Without rapport building one cannot get the data from key informants. For
authenticity of the data it is very important. I have used schedules for
constructing the ethnographic profile of the village. This helps in
understanding the economic, social groups and kinship networks, political
aspects in a holistic perspective. Questionnaires and case study techniques
are used to collect detailed information from individuals. As a part of
typical fieldwork method of participant observation most of the data
collection for this study was relied on observation. This method
extensively utilized for collecting the data on nature of magic practices
and sanctify of rituals etc.

In addition to the above formal tools of field, the camera technique for
photography is used in the fieldwork. Photographs are taken for the
94 Chapter Four

suitable situation ad appropriate contexts.

III. Ethnographic Profile of Koyas

The Koyas are one of the predominant tribal groups of southern region of
the country India. According to the year plans of ITDA, Bhadrachalam
relate to the Koya community. The koyas are major traditional groups
distributed over a large part of the Khammam district. Their habitat
extends from the Sileru River in the Northern to the Sabari River in the
west. The Sileru is river branch of the Godhavari and they occupy its belt
and their population extended in East Godhavari, West Godhavari and
Khammam districts. The present site is Maddigudem habitat, which comes
under Chintoor Mandal and ITDA, (Integrated Tribal Development
Agency) Bhadrachalam.

The Koyas are popularly known as Koi, Koyalu, Koya dorallu, and
Dorallu sattam. Major categories of the Koyas living in Andhra Pradesh
are Racha Koya, Lingadri Koya, China Koya, Raja Gond, Kottu Koya are
major categories. Each category again subdivided into many sub
categories like Gotee Koya, Basa Koya, Kommu Koya, Gampa Koya,
Patadi Koya, Yeddu Koya, Adi Koya and Dora Koya etc.

Khammam is one of the districts of Andhra Pradesh having a large tribal

population. Geographical area of Khammam district is 1587 square
kilometers. It is located between 16 45 of northern latitude and 29 47 and
81 37 eastern latitude. Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, East Godhavari bound this
tract and West Godhavari districts Its direction of south by Krishna
District and West by the Nalgonda and Warangal district.

The folktale of the Koyas referring that there was a big egg before the
creation of the universe. The upper part of the egg became the sky and
lower part of the egg became the earth. Instantaneously the god Brahma,
the Vishnu and Maheswara came out of the broken egg. Later Brahma
created Bhumikkaraju. Over period of time Bhumikaraju has given birth to
101 children under the Rela tree (Cassia Fistula), which was situated on
an island surrounded by seven seas. The descendants of 101 people
became the Koyas.

Maddigudem is a homogenous Koya settlement where the present study

was conducted. It is one of the villages include in the integrated
Development Agency of Bhadrachalam in Khammam district. The
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 95

neighboring villages of this village are Vidyanagar, Boddugudem,

Edugurallapally, Jinnetogu, Challakavvam, Uppanpally, Katuk pally etc.
Maddigudem is part of Eduguralla palli panchayat, which comes under the
Chintoor mandal of the Khammam district.

IV. Religion and Rituals

The village is Maddigudem there are two gudems named Boddugudem
and Maddigudem. Muttalamma is the main village deity worshipped by
both gudems. The shrine is situated at the middle of the village. It is a
wooden image, which is adjacent to a tree. The tree is considered as
Muttalamma tree. In front of this tree there is a wooden pole, which is
erected vertically, and it is attached to basket at the top. It consists of two
small pots placed in opposite directions. Koyas place turmeric and
vermilion sachets in the pot. It is attached a flag of light yellowish color.
This flag is changed at the time of Muttalamma’s image prepared with a
wooden structure. There is another wooden trunk fixed and it is half of the
length of the Muttalamma’s image. It is decorated with vermilion and
turmeric. They place some wild boar bones and jaws on the top of the
image, which is used for slaughtering the animals in sacrifice during the
ritual celebrations. These jaws and bones are replaced with the new ones
every year at the time of Muttalamma panduga.

The main purpose behind the worship is that only after worshipping
Muttalamma they go for sowing, harvesting and hunting. They offer first
crop to their deity after which they consume grains. Without offering they
do not take any crop and it is considered sin.

Muttalamma festival is performed once in three years. The ritual is

performed four days continuously. Before going to the shrine first they
clean their houses and smear the floor and walls with cow dung. After that
they apply rangoli to it. They keep the utensils and clothes clean to avoid
pollution. People normally promise their deity that they should offer
sacrifice if their desires are fulfilled.

IV (a). Process of Muttalamma Panduga(festival)

It is the most important festival, which is performed by the Koyas. They
offer every thing according to their promises made as returns to her for
coming out of crisis. First day all the people in the village bring turmeric
water to Muttalamma in a big procession. The whole community
96 Chapter Four

participates in the procession. At the same time the poojari does pre-
worshipping preparations near the Muttalamma Image. Poojari cleans the
place in front of the image and applies rangoli there. Muttalamma image is
decorated with turmeric ad Vermillion by poojari. Water is taken by
poojari’s wife or daughter in law and poured on the image of the
Muttalamma meanwhile he recited mantras.

The second day also they bring turmeric water to Muttalamma. This day
actual function takes place. Almost all the community people participate in
the festival. Some of them get possessed by devaras (spirits). They remain
in trance. Poojari tries to pacify them through the act of chanting mantras
and pouring turmeric water on them. Third day they sacrifice two or three
goats to the Muttalamma. This task is done by the poojari along with the
chanting mantras. They share meat and it is taken to their homes for
cooking. They have sent off their deity before the sunrise. They enjoy the
whole night with dancing and singing along with drum beating.

The fourth day early in the morning they all gather at one place to send off
their deity. They prepare one small auspicious structure with bamboo
sticks and neem leaves are placed on the top of the structure. It is held by
the Voika clan people only because their high status among koyas. This
tradition is transmitting from generation to generation. The traditional bath
is given to the person who is actually going to carry the structure. They
wear traditional dress i.e. white dhoti and white cloth tying in the fore
head like a turban. Four persons assist the person who actually holds
structure because he is fully drunk. Then big procession takes place along
with drum beating by men and the women singing. Poojari has been
moves around the procession and sprinkles turmeric water on the
procession. The materials placed in the small structure is given below
jaggery, cereals like dal, candle, flower, sugar mixed with rice, coconut
and turmeric and vermilion. The first day they sacrifice a cock at the rime
of lifting the structure and it is carried nearly half kilometer to the Bali rai
in a procession. It is in the middle of the village. They sacrifice one Bucca
(buffalo) there and finally they carry the structure to the outskirts of the
village and sacrifice one goat there. After completion of the process all the
devaras go out of their bodies. Later they come back to the village and stay
under tree for some time. They eat whatever they bring along with them
and they take away meat to their homes. Thus the Muttalamma ceremony
is finished.

In the ritual process poojari plays a significant role. He has to follow

Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 97

certain restrictions during the ceremonial occasions. For example he

should observe fasting for one day before the ritual starts and he has to
keep distance with the menstruated ladies. They have to keep distance
from cow dung at the time of chicken fox (Amma Posindi). They consider
this disease because of the Muttalamma so it is sacred. They do not use hot
water and wash clothes during that time. They mix the neem leaves
powder with water and place it in the sun light for some time then they
give bath to the effected person.

IV (b). Clan Worship

Madivi clan people do not eat goat. All the Madivi clan people get together
at once in the year near Bhadrachalm at Ramavaram village. It is informed
earlier to their clan people by sending message through persons. All the
clan people gather at one place and participate in the traditional procession
by holding the flag. It follows a speech delivered by the clan elders who
explain the audience about their origin, history and their tradition. After
that Madivi clan people give a big feast. The expenditure is shared equally,
this is known as penu panduga.

Madakam clan also worship perform the rituals. They worship the Jammi
tree. They do not use Jammi wood as firewood because they it as sacred.
Those have the Madakam the supreme cone from distant places to attend
the festival. On the day of the festival all the clan people gather at one
secret place (which they did not disclose even to the researcher) and
celebrate the ritual in the same way as explained. Uran clan they do not
eat tortoise because they believe that they are descended from the tortoise.
These three are majority clans in this village.

IV (c). Ancestor Worship

Koyas worship their ancestors during some of the festive occasions.
Especially during the time of, Pachcha Panduga. They perform pooja in
the name of their ancestors. They clean the some corner of house facing
the east and apply rangoli to it. They place one basket on the wooden
stool. They place coconut, turmeric, vermilion, guggliam, and some new
grains in the basket. The process of the ceremony is done by eat what they
prepared. No chanting is used in the ancestor worship. It is done mainly in
three festivals. On the occasion of chikkudu festival, pachcha festival and
kotta festival.
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IV (d). Worshipping Hill deities

Chintanamma: It is the hill deity worshipped b the Koyas, situated in the

south direction of the village. Chintanamma is the name of the deity so
that they call the hill as chintanamma Konda. The idol of the goddess
chintanamma is situated on the top of the hill ad it is the non-
anthropomorphic stone having the one meter height. It is surrounded by
the big stones as fencing. The Koyas perform ceremony before cutting the
bamboo. They sacrifice one buffalo or goat for the deity along with
chanting. After that they go for cutting bamboo. At the time of all the
celebrations, they perform Pooja in the hill deities. Like chintanamma all
the hill deities Budida, Poddulamma, Poturaju are worshipped in the same

V. Rituals
Rituals are associated with regular occasions such as in the agricultural
seasons, birth, marriage, illness and other rare occasions. Rituals are
mainly divided into two types. They are life cycle rituals and annual
rituals. The life cycle rituals are Purudu ceremony, naming ceremony,
tonsure ceremony, first feeding, ear piercing ceremony, puberty ceremony
marriage and death ceremonies. The annual ceremonies are like festivals
bhumi panduga, chigurukose panduga, samalla panduga, jonna, chikkudu,
gaddi and veduru panduga. There are two important rituals hunting rituals
and fishing rituals.

The life cycle rituals, which confer the social roles, involve a passage from
one stage to another. Although culture defines these stages in different
ways all cultures celebrate the passage from one to another with rites of
passage. It is to note that these passage rites ceremonies are informal
without much involvement. However these celebrations much depend
upon individual family economic status the poor out of anxiety and fear do
not hesitate to fall in debts to celebrate these rituals.

V (a). Purudu (purification) Ceremony

The whole pregnancy period since from conceiving to till the child birth
the pregnant women is not paid special attention in this community but the
pregnant woman’s family promise to their deity to offer a hen, coconut for
easy delivery, this shows their attachment and faith in their deities.
Delivery takes place under the supervision of a traditional midwife. She is
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 99

known as Mantrasani. During that time of cutting of the umbilical cord

she uses very crude methods. During that time husband is generally kept
away from this place. The people and children can witness the delivery.

To get them out of the pollution created by the child birth and to give him
a first bath the poojari wife on behalf of this sacred bath the surroundings
are cleaned, later they apply turmeric and vermilion to the deity and
poojari’s wife comes back to this house with turmeric water which is given
to the deity and this tur4meric mixed with the water which is taken by the
all members of the family. Until the fifth day Mantrasani Pays regular
visits to this house to look after the child meanwhile she paid to be 50
rupees and offered a sumptuous meal, which includes liquor and chicken.
This ritual conducted on the fifth day of delivery end is called is the
Chinna Purudu.

On this account the close relatives are invited to bless the child. The China
Purudu follows the Pedda Purudu ceremony on which a lavish feast is
arranged on the day. But this ceremony is not compulsory and celebration
depending upon their financial position at that time. Mantrasani is once
again paid 50 rupees, a hen a saree. Mother’s brother’s roles of relatives
who are not only bring blessing but also gifts. Mother’s brother has to
offer something special and more than other relatives as an obligation.
After completion of the purudu mother will go as usual daily work in the
field as well as in the house. Before Purudu she cannot allow to do work.

V (b). Naming (Peru Pettadam) Ceremony

By the Mokku families some Koyas families of Boddugudem approach
Muttalamma of Maddigudem village for naming their children, if they
have such obligation. Because those who were deprived of children will
pray her for the same and leave it to her choice to name the children
blessed by Muttalamma. They offer coconut, dhoti, turmeric, vermilion,
and guggilam to a specialist who possess spirits and resides in
Maddigudem. He put the children in the makeshift arranged at the deity
and spontaneously utters some name. This name is given to the child. This
happens at any time before the child acquires six moths. For non-mokku
families they perform strictly this activity is three months after the child is
born. Here their personnel interests give names. Now a day Telugu cinema
hero and heroine names are given. After this process a small feast is given
to the affinal as well as consanguinal.
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V (c). Tonsure Ceremony

This ceremony also divided into two types. One is for (Oath) Mokku
families, individual families associated with the mother’s brother visit of
holy places according to their promise for this ceremony. Where child’s
hair offer to the deity. Generally they offer the hair at Ammavari Jatara
held at Sarivella. For mokku families celebrate this ritual in house of
mother’s brother by taking the chills to his family. This is done at the
outside premises of mother’s brother house. The only difference between
these two types is that in the first case hair is left at that holy place itself
and in the second type the hair will be collected by the mother’s brother
and these hair is spread in the cattle’s shed of his house which they believe
that these hair possess the supernatural power to protect cattle from any

Role of Mother’s brother as it is clear with the above description the

importance of mother’s brother in this ritual apart from taking child to his
house or taking mother’s brother with them to the mokku place. He offered
with new lungi (which is gift for him in terms of cloth) that is compulsory.
In return in some cases depending upon the position of mother’s brother,
he may return the new saree and new clothes to child but this is not
compulsory. If mother’s brother is rich, he offers blankets to his sisters.
Actually in this process no feast is given, but a sumptuous food is prepared
with chicken for their family members.

V (d). First Feedings

Relatives are called and child is given food for the first time, at the age of
six months by head of the household. Some relatives utter the names of the
ancestors with the intention of inviting their blessings. At that time a small
feast is given to their close relatives, belonged to both husband and wife

Ear piercing is common for women of but the males undergo only if there
is oath. This ceremony takes place in front of the Muttalamma deity. The
ear is pierced with the Thumma Mullu later a gold is tied. Puberty stage is
also important among them. This starts with the report by the daughter to
the mother regarding the first menstruation. Taboos attached, the concept
of pollution exists here, and she is made to sit separately for seven days
without touching any one and joining in the regular daily work. No bating
for seven days. The girl is served a nutritious and special food to make her
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 101

to recover the blood lost and to make her strong. After seven days by
taking traditional bath she joins in the mainstream work.

V (e). Marriage
A sacred institution preferably performed in the summer season as they get
free time. The concept of bethral at the time of birth is not prevails. They
look marriage alliances only after the puberty is acquired. It indicates that
the absence of child marriages. Predominantly four forms of marriages are
practices in the community marriage by negotiations, marriage by
elopement, marriage by exchange. It is observed that marriage by
negotiations is mostly found. Parents of the groom visit house of bride
accompanied by groom with Kallu (which is locally available liquor)
bottles. They keep these bottles in front of the parents bride asks the
acceptance of bride for their son. The bottles are drunk together by the
both families of bride accepts the alliance, if not bottles are taken back.
The members of the groom’s family pays second visit to the brides house
for further talks such as date fixing requirements of bride in terms of tali
etc. With the bottles here also the marriage takes place for five days. The
activities are take place in these five days goes as follows.

First day they called relatives with the help of members of the groom’s
family constructs a permanent shelter (Pandiri) in case of elder’s
marriage. The traditional bath is given to both the groom and their relative
houses. Second day groom is taken to one of the families of his lineage
and he is given bath and new clothes by that family it is called as pelli
koduku cheyyadam (preparation of bride groom). He offered sumptuous
food. Third day the bride likes bridegroom is taken to her one of the
families of lineage, she is also given traditional bath, new clothes,
sumptuous food there it is called as pelli Kuturu cheyyadam (preparation
of bride). Forth day a big feast is arranged which includes liquor, mutton,
for the visited relatives. The relatives in the evening accompanied by the
items such as tali (Nalla Pusalu) ceremonial chain represent marital status,
saree, bhasikam (amulet) to the bride house along with big procession and
drum beating if bride’s house is in the village. Otherwise the bride with
her relatives wait at the groom’ village until they are received in the
above-mentioned manner. Fifth day (day of the marriage) both are given
specially traditional turmeric bath is given to them to keep their bodies
cool from the heat generated in their bodies due to the conscious feeling of
becoming united it is called nalugu pettadam. A big size basket full of
paddy is tied with the pasupu thadu (turmeric) and the paddy is pounded
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for some time by the couple later the groom ties tali around neck of bride.
The newly married couple goes for traditional rounding around the basket
for three times. The new couple will take meal only after all the relatives
are finishes their food.

V (f). Death (chavu)

Like other areas of the world Koyas also have no definite knowledge about
the nature of death. But they take it as the terror. They have notion
regarding death it is accidental event and some of the sudden death are due
to magic which was done by vejju (traditional health practitioner). When
death occurs in the family a series of rituals are followed at different
stages. Like before funeral (chinnadinam) after funeral (pedda dinam).
They deal with different pattern of doing the process of various rites. They
are observance in the house of the deceased, funeral feast and annual death

V (g). Observance in the house of the deceased

As soon as the death takes place in family generally it is the loud mornings
of the family, which breaks death news to there nearer relatives in the
village and out side the village. Dead body is kept on the cot in the house
for two days for relatives of long distance. All the villagers gather at that
place. Dead body lies on the cot of which his head is directed toward door
the house because they believe the soul after death goes out of the body.
Later members of the corpse with household and some elder people give
bath to the corpse with water brought by the villagers to the spot.

V (h). Disposal of corpse

After completion of this process corpse is a worn by new clothes and
corpse is taken to graveyard along with cot by the all villagers and their
relatives. Pyre is arranged by villagers to burn the all villagers will also
bring the dead body in firewood required to burn the dead body. Corpse is
moved around the deathbed thrice along with cot. Later they place cot on
the deathbed and keeps two big wooden trunks for not displacement of the
burning dead body. Anybody in village can lit the dead bed expect two or
three people. They have to wail till the dead body is totally burnt. In case
of child death below the age of six years dead body is given bath with
turmeric water and the body is buried in some open place. Some grains are
placed on the cemetery because he is child. If death occurs between the
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 103

ages 6-14 years, dead body buried or burnt whatever they like.

V (i). Chinna dinam

Later they observe the pollution in the house they of to the pond or stream
to take bath. Then all relatives leave the place. House is cleaned and
smeared with cow dung. All the utensils and clothes are kept clean. Cots
are also washed to remove pollution. On the cremation day in the evening
who carried corpse collectively and near relatives are given small dinner it
is known as china dinam. On the day of chinadinam elder people in the
village will carry the methuku (the food which is liked by dead person) and
one or two liquor bottled to the graveyard. They sprinkle some liquor on
the cremated place and they drink remaining liquor.

V (j). Pedda Dinam

On the eleventh day this ritual is performed. Some families perform this
ceremony within two to three months or before one year, depending upon
their economic condition. The house and all utensils are cleaned on the
day and they sprinkle turmeric water in the house. All community
members will attend the feast, which will be given by that family on the
pedda dinam. Koyas believe in rebirth that elders are reborn as children.
The song is sung at the ceremony performed at the time of Pedda dinam. It
is believed that the dead man’s soul asks for food, water, and bullock cart
and axe. In reply to this people who have gathered to sing this song as
repentance and seeking forgiveness for not providing these things when he
was alive. They invite the soul by saying that it should enter someone’s
body and satisfy all his needs, which he was not able to do so when he was
alive. Usually the soul is possessed by the daughter-in-law or any close
blood related kin of the person.

VI. Annual Rituals

VI (a). Bhoomi (Land) Panduga

This ritual is celebrated to mark the beginning of a new season to give up
their leisure activities and to get busy in sowing season. It commences in
the month of May just before the agricultural sowing season is started.
They strongly suspect that evil spirits will harm them in case they do not
celebrate the Bhoomi Panduga. The whole community collectively
participates in the ritual. It is the predominant and highly venerated among
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all of the annual rituals. Day before the ritual they clean houses and smear
the floor with cow dung and apply rangoli on the floor. They wash vessels
and clothes to abide by the purity concept. Later all men and women go to
the shrine of Muttalamma. On the day of the ritual pooja will be celebrated
on the name of the muttalamma. They bring one healthy plan and plant it
in some other place in the village. There is no controversy regarding the
place of planting. They perform pooja to it and after they sacrifice two
goats. The meat is shared among villagers and men go for haunting.
Before going for hunting they celebrate a small ceremony called shikaru
devata panduga (haunting deity). They keep an egg at a distant place and
hit the arrows. Only after successfully breaking the egg they go for
hunting. In the evening they come back with hunting animals. They eat its
meat and participate in a communally arranged dancing programmed with
drum beating. They enjoy whole night with beautiful dances. Again in the
morning they go hunting for four days continually. After that they stop
going to hunting and concentrate on agricultural activities.

VI (b). Vittanala Panduga(Sowing Festival)

On the fifth day the haunting comes to an end the villagers take little
amount of Jower and a hen to the Muttalamma shrine. The entire hen will
be sacrifice by the poojari and blood of the cut hen will be mixed with the
sample jower. This jower will be distributed among the villagers as they
take it to their houses and mix with the larger amount and spread in their

VI (c). Chigurukose panduga

This festival celebrated during the month June-July season. The purpose
behind the ritual is to weed out the useless herbs and plants, which grow
after sowing. Poojari or those who know the process also can do the ritual.
They sacrifice one or two chicks and break two or more eggs and coconut
to the deity. First it is commonly done in front of the deity orally. Later all
the families perform separately in their fields.

VI (d). Samalla Panduga

Apart from all the festivals this is also important because during month of
August crops come to the home. It is performed before harvesting they
offer chicks to the field on the harvesting day they clean their houses by
smearing the floor with cow dung and apply rangoli to it. They prepare
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 105

sweets and cook the meat. After these performances new grains are
consumed it is known as the Pachcha panguga.

VI (e). Jonna panduga

This is the most auspicious festival regarding agriculture compared to
other festivals performed by them. It is celebrated in the month of October.
It is performed before harvest of the jower. It is believed that otherwise it
brings harm to them in times of harvesting. This is the tradition prevailing
for a longer period. First the whole community in front of the image of
muttalamma does it. Later is done in the field and sprays water on it. They
draw rangoli on the cleaned floor in the rectangular shape. They place
vermilion, turmeric, rangoli and guggilam.

In addition to this they place some jower put on the rasada leaves. The
poojari and landowner perform the whole ritual process. They offer two
hen and one chick to the deity. After drawing the lines with rangoli poojari
starts reciting mantras after some time they sacrifice two hens. They place
the heads of hen on the spot. The bodies are thrown in field and chick is
sacrificed on the east boundary of the field. Nearby some other person
boils water in the spot for the preparation of the rasadamm (sacred
food). The main ingredients consists in the rasadamm are boiled milk
rice, turmeric, water and the jower. Later they add chicken flesh to it.
After some time poojari ties the three jower plants together with thread it
is called pogukattadam. Priest dips (tied plants with jower) into the boiling
pot and sprinkle into the field. He does it for three times it is taken on
three rasada leaves to place it in the end of the harvesting programme.
Later rasadamm is consumed there itself and they may harvest at any
time after the ritual. As they believe that if it is not performed it will affect
the lives of the family in terms of deaths by snakebites and attack from any
wild animal such as tiger during harvest. Therefore each and every family
tries to perform this festival without fail.

VI (f). Chikkudu Panduga

The poojari collects eggs and chicks are collected by the poojari on the
ritual day. The place in front of the muttalamma is cleaned. Eleven eggs
and ten chicks along with the rice on the leaves are kept in the racks of the
design. Down side the racks beans are kept and they forced the chicks to
eats the rice kept on the leaf. The particular chick, which eats the rice, will
be sacrifice and the remaining chicks that do not touch the rice will be
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killed and thrown away. In the process the poojari and another person
recite mantras until the end. As they did not cut the beans until the ritual is

VI (g). Kottala Panduga

This ritual is done only by Madakam clan as they claim that it is their
traditional festival. It is celebrated in two phases one is before harvesting
and another is after harvesting. In first phrase they offer a cock to the
maddi tree where goddess (muttalamma) image is there. Then it is cooked
and consumed there and start the harvesting paddy. The cut crop kept in
the field for drying. Afterwards they bring new paddy to the house and it is
crushed to extract the rice. They perform a pooja in the name of their
ancestors. This includes mixing of new rice with the milk and boiling. The
boiling food is taken and the corners of house decorated with turmeric
powder and vermilion for bringing the sublime atmosphere. For these
reasons it is known peddala panduga. The cooked food is equally shared
among the family members.

VI (h). Haunting Ritual

In addition to the festivals they observe some of the rituals, which are
compulsory for them. But these rituals need not be celebrated always with
a big feast or ceremony etc. The place where the hunt animals fall down
they observe and practice which includes cutting the skin from five parts
of the animal according to its different parts. Even the place where arrow
is hit and tail to purse the shikaru devata to support them in their future
haunting efforts. Before lifting the animal to bring inside the village five
leaves of maddi tree are smeared with the blood to keep the cut skin on
them for arranging these around the hunt animal the legs of animal are tied
crossly so that a bamboo can be inserted for easy carrying. After this
process completed one of the person imitates the movements of animal
while revolving around the place where animal is cut and shared by them.
They will act like animals as they follow this part haunting process as a
ritual as they claim that they will be feed from the sin of killing an animal
by mourning.

VI (i). Fishing Ritual

Before going for catching the fish they celebrate fishing ritual. First they
clean little portion of the floor at the bank of the river or pond and
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decorate with rangoli, vermilion and turmeric. One egg is placed on the
cleaned place. It is celebrated by poojari with continuously chanting
mantras. He places his hand on the cleaned part and performs pooja to the
deity. Later one chick is forced to eat rice. After that only it is sacrifices to
their deity and head is placed in front of the cleaned portion. Later they
catch fishes and share equally. In ritual functionaries they worship neeti

VII. Vejju as medium between spirit and members

Their power comes directly from supernatural force, spirits or gods. A
person can become devara or vejju as a result of long practice of mantras
or as result of mystical experience. Now the vejju frequently comes to
village. His native place is Bastar district in Madhya Pradesh. At the time
of Bhumi panduga come and sowing seeds in village. For his activities
they give some amount of money 2000/ for once in a year. He attended to
all the festivals advices them as what rituals have to perform in order to
get rid of themselves from evil forces. He does it as mediator between the
spirits and the members of the group.

Vejju as a medical practitioner he is another shaman who is known as

medicine man. Unlike the folk medicine practitioner vejju claims medical
knowledge directly from supernatural forces, spirits or gods. He also
rescues the victims of the snake and scorpion bites through mantras. He
diagnosis the spirits inside client through face and pulse reading He does
not give any type of thread or something. (antharalu). Comparison
between role or status enjoyed by the ritual specialists is poojari and vejju.
Poojari is always a sacred specialist for Koyas. He performs all kinds of
pooja for the food and welfare of the community. It is believed by some
that vejju or devara sometimes does harm to the society. The community
looks the position of the poojari on the top because he undergoes some
ritual restriction such as fasting and sacred bath etc. He participates in
mainstream activities like any other member of the community expect at
the time of pooja.

VIII. Practice of magic

The local term for magic is mantram in Koyas. In magic no appeal is
made to spirits as it is done in the case for religion. The objective is
believed to be fulfilled directly by the spiritual techniques like by using of
appropriate actions, objects words. Thus reciting of words is believed to
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have dynamic power. It is apart of religion may figure in the life of the
people those have belief in supernatural unknown to known god. But it is
much of the religious ritual containing the magical elements. It is
especially connected with economic activities of justice and medicine.
Magic may be used to fortify individual or community in any undertaking
such as love war, haunting, gardening and other economic pursuits. The
virtue of the magic may be held in the objects used, oral formula, spell, the
person or magician or magical expert in matters.

The magical experts (witch doctor or witch) may gain his power by
knowledge and severe training. He may learn it from by other experts by
saying some honorium to them or inherit it. It may reside in some part of
his person. He may have to observe special taboos or special regime of life
an account in certain circumstances. There may be a great importance
which may due to magic and protection by magic may be sought. There
exists a strong belief regarding magic either benevolently or malevolently.
Magic is playing a key role in their daily life. When there are no rains they
perform imitative magic, which is called Bhimuni pelli. Magic is done for
the better harvesting driving out spirits and welcoming the spirits also.
Mainly magic used for the curing of the diseases among the koyas. As
mentioned above some families to take revenge use it malevolently.

In malevolent procedure the sorcerer or ejju obtains different items,

which are touched with the subject such as hair of the earth on which the
subject walked. Sorcerer prepares a doll, which resembles the subject and
injects some evil spirit through mantras this is buried in the field of the
subject. It is believed that ultimately it results in bringing ill luck to the
subject, which is termed as contagious magic. Magic is done in times of
troubles agriculture, hunting etc. Those who perform the process of magic
is known as vejjollu among them. Witch doctor or Vejju can predict the
diseases of death or natural calamities through the practice of the magic.

In the process if fever occurs they suspect it in terms of evil spirits and
they go to the ejju if it is very serious. He starts shivering while chanting
mantras and keeps some pieces of noted in his mouth, after some time he
bites near by the naval of the layperson. Then patient scream with high
intensity then ejju splits the peaces of bones on the floor. Then the
patient lives that it is object, which cause him fever, and it is removed
now. Patient feels that spirit also gone out the screamed sound and also in
the form of pieces of bones. Some of them also belief in spirits called as
gali (air), Demons(Bhutas) and Deyyam. They believe that all the spirits
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 109

behave more or less in the same manner. Behavior of the spirit is

suspected that it is caused for fever. That who is affected by these spirits
gets his warm slowly and increases suddenly. Then others cannot
understand the person’s murmur inside which. Some people behave like
mad people they do such as laughing loudly biting and bating the people
even their close kin also. They sat in unconscious state. Magic is done
clandestinely but the person never accepts openly and reveals his
knowledge. Although they stay amidst villagers only some will be known
as they practice secretly. As they say somebody wants to learn the magic
from the experts they have to pay amount. Those who are learning the
magic he takes one goat, turmeric, vermilion and other material and goes
to the graveyard in the midnight. While performing pooja to the spirits he
has to sacrifices the goat he should careful otherwise he and his family
will be in troubles.

IX. Other functions

When people suffer from dearth of rain all villagers collectively participate
in pacifying the spirits and ancestors. This ritual is widely known as
Bhimuni pelli. They celebrate it when their crops fail due to the dearth of
rain. On the day of ritual which they make one large structure with
wooden pillars. They place two small baskets which are also made by
bamboo they keep two mud dolls in that baskets. These two dolls represent
the image of bride and groom. Before that poojari will keep groom doll
along with him. The bride doll is kept with the community. All the
villagers will bring the mud doll along with water they pour water on
persons and sing songs. They sacrifice goat or buffalo and shared equally.
They boiled and eat there only immediately the rain follows.

Magic is not only malevolent but also benevolently. It could be used for
increasing the food production, curing disease. They are frequently
meeting with the witch doctors. They offer sacrifices for the things. It
indicates how it interwoven in their life but they never consume any new
crop without offering to the god or supernatural. Sometimes some of the
feathers of peacock tied and made into a broomstick, which is used, for
driving out spirits. With this broom patient will be beaten irregularly until
the evil goes out from his body. Among close relatives may exist property
disputes. Madakam Papaiah grabbled his close relative’s land and did
magic on him. In the village there is no witness for magic is done to
replace the chief or others. Some people believe that magic or witchcraft
ensure. Their economic stability and also it breaks the economic stability
110 Chapter Four

of the enemies. And there are no evidence of magical rites in the

reproductive cycle i.e. witchcraft is used for barrenness. In case of barren
they visits vejju for medicine only. But it is sure that pregnancy is not
because of witchcraft. The case of Kavusu Subbamma reveals the black
magic clearly. She is thirty years old and she use to go the santha(market)
for purchasing the vegetables. In the market one of her relative distribute
biscuits after coming from market she fell down. Another existing belief
regarding magic is that of any body is deprived of wealth due to failure of
crops, he thinks it is because of furriness of spirit on him and to appease
this spirit they give poison to some body for killing him, if not poison they
bury some of the magical material midst of roads on the outskirts of the
village. So that if any body crosses this he falls pray for that. This is turn
as said above pacify the furious spirit and brings him good luck in terms of
well growth of crops etc.

X. Changing Patterns
As change is permanent feature of culture which clearly through
Ogbourn’s concept of culture lag where he says changes in material
culture is swifter than non-material and in this religion is the last one to
fall prey. Present site at present the phenomenon of religious conversation
seems to be evolving rapidly have been already two families converted
fully. They are reading bible and doing prayer as followers of Christianity.
There is one church named Rahebotu mandiram in the village. The
converted people attend the church and they have the Christ photos in their
houses. This Christianity influenced in the village by Loyola institute for
tribal development agency (LITDS), which is, established a base to spread
Christianity indirectly through different food and medicine. When
villagers fall in troubles and become more susceptible they give moral
support in terms of saying Jesus is the one who can save you and prey

Culture contact has only some influence in the village in terms of their
assimilation of many major Hindu festivals, which were absent earlier in
their lives. Festivals like Dasara, sankrathi are new celebrations. They
have learnt from the non-tribal people. A surprising change in the attitudes
of the native people is their momentum towards urban hospitals for the
health problems unlike the earlier where they use to visiting witch doctor.
Through many of them still pay visit to him their interest in moving
towards city is under improvement. The reasons may be up to their feeling
the witch doctor himself going to health centers. This is an interesting
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 111

development in the boded guide in their belief system. They not only
curtained their visit to witch doctor but not following those spirits
possessed women and men’s order. They are avoiding even consuming the
juice herbs, which was very rampant earlier. There is change in their
material culture of religion for example they offering agarbatti and using
samurai for their ritual performances. By these changes are quick clear in
the houses, which are nearby main road than the houses located remotely
meaning near by dense forest.

XI. Conclusion
Religion is the essential and powerful institution in every society. With
regard to religion, an attempt has been made to study the Koya community
and various aspects relating to festivals and rituals are converted for the
study. It is found that the Koyas are closely associated with the socio-
cultural environment. Their belief system is highly in super naturalistic
nature. They worship gods and goddess like muttalamma, chintanamma,
Banadevata. Besides they worship ancestral spirits, ghost and supernatural
beings. However they are not static in nature with their culture and
religion at the same time they are dynamic and changing their attitudes,
customs due to contacts of non-tribals.

Bose, N.K.(1971), The tribal life in India, National book Trust, New delhi.
Durkheim.E. (1915), The Elementary forms of Religious Life Tranx. New
Elwin,V.(1954),. tribal Myths of Orissa, Oxford University Press, London.
Evans-pritchard, E.E. (1937), Witch craft, Oracle and Magic among
Azande, Oxford.
Firth, R. (1971), Elements of Social Organization Tavistock publications,
Frazers, J.J. (1935), The Golden Bough The magic art and the evolution of
kings, New york.
Freud, S. (1953), Moses and Monotheism Random house, New York.
Malinowski, B.(1954), Magic Science and Religion Dowrleday &Co.Inc,
Garden city, New York.
Marett,R.R . (1990), The Threshold of Religion Methen, London.
Majumdar,D.N. (1967), An introduction to Social Anthropology, Asia
publishing House, Bombay.
Radcliff,B. (1952), Structure and Function of Primitive Society, Oxford
112 Chapter Four

University Press, London.

Tylor, E.B. (1871),.Primitive Culture, London.
Vidyarthy, L.P. (NA)Tribal Culture of India, Concept Publishers, New




I. Introduction
As in other south Asian countries, untouchables are also considered as the
lowest group of people in the Varna System in Hindu belief, i.e. Sudhra.
The Varna System denotes human as the creation of different parts of the
body of divinity Purusha defining the social standing and their jobs.
According to this system, untouchables have no any Varnas. It is the
Manusmriti ( a classical Hindu text) that defines and justifies the caste
systems, classical jobs and behaviour and practices to be shown by
different castes in Hindu religions in Nepal. By which, Dalits are
considered a lowest untouchable castes in Nepalese Hindu class system.
Traditionally, Dalits were considered as the isolated group of people to
such an extent that their shadows to the upper class people, access to
eating-places, school and water sources were denied, and worship in
temples forbidden by so-called upper castes. Dalits or untouchables”
(laborers, cobblers, and manual scavengers) occupy the lowest position
within the caste hierarchy in Nepal (Gautam and Upadhya, 2001).

Notwithstanding different versions, “pani nacalne choi chito halnu parne

jat” caste/ethnic group of Nepali society specified in the legal code issued
in 1854 ( guided by Varna system), during the reign of King Surendra
Bikram Shah, represents Dalits of the present context of Nepalese society.
Pani nacalne choi chito halnu parne jat means the caste from whom water
is not accepted and whose touch requires sprinkling of holy water.

Thus, untouchables have no any chance of getting jobs of their interests

and choice rather than to accept the most tedious, low-income and
unhealthy jobs neglected by so-called upper castes. Traditionally, many
114 Chapter Five

Dalits involved in the jobs of cloth washer( dhobi), leather workers

(Chamar), landless agricultural labourer (Haliya or Haruwa), scavengers
(hunter also called bhangi or chura), street handcrafter, sweepers, tailors,
blacksmith, folk artists (Gaine) etc. Such a practice of jobs is still in
existence in most of the Nepalese Dalit communities. In modern phase,
such traditional jobs of Dalits come under the preview of informal sector.
The untouchables are widely neglected, abused, discriminated, and
deprived class in the socio-economic, political, and educational sphere of
life in the country. They are forced to perform menial tasks, like removing
dead animals or cleaning human excreta. They have not only been
discriminated in the choice of occupations but also in the access to
educational benefits, political power, and participation in government jobs.
Because of which, they would not contribute to the developmental process
of the country even if they constitute a meaning portion in the total
population of the country, it is said to be more than 20 percent.

The untouchables are known by different common names to describe

different untouchables in different communities, like Harijan (a term
coined by M.Gandhi in India to regard untouchables is common in Tarai
belt), Haris (in Muslim community), Achhoot, outcastes, neech Jati
(Lower castes in almost all community in Nepal). However, the term Dalit
popularised by Dr. Ambedkar is most common, appropriate, and popular
word to denote different categories of untouchables and downtrodden
people in different communities in Nepal. The term Dalit is basically came
to be in use in 2024(BS) to denote all categories of untouchables and
downtrodden people in different communities (Pandey, 2005). In different
laws and white papers of government, the term Dalit indicates the people
who are economically abused, politically neglected, educationally
backward and oppressed in religious and cultural ground because of castes
discrimination in society. Nevertheless, because of their heterogeneity in
language, religion, and culture in Nepal, it is very difficult to denote all
untouchables by a single word. There is no consensus between
publications of government, views of scholars and organizations regarding
the inclusion of different groups of people into the category of Dalits in
Nepal. The Population Census 1991 categorised 11 cultural castes as
Dalits. Local Development Ministry has categorized 22 different caste
groups as Dalits, the Committee for Enhancement of Ignored, Oppressed
and Downtrodden Group (termed as Upekshit, Utpeedit ra Dalitbarga
Vikas Samiti) has identified 23 Dalits cultural groups in Nepal.
Bishwakarma (2001) specifies that there are eight major caste groups and
twenty-five identified sub-castes within the Dalit community of Nepal.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 115

However, the Dalit Commission formed in 2002 noted 28 cultural groups

within Dalits in Nepal. They are (CBS, 2003):
(i) Hill Dalits: Kami, Sarki, Damai( Dholi), Lohar, Sunar,
Gaine, Badi, Parki, Chunara, Kuche, and Kadara.
(ii) Newar Dalits: Kusule, Kasai, Chyame, Pode, and Dhaier(
(iii) Tarai Dalits: Tatma, Paswan, Dushad (Paswan and Pasi),
Bantar, Mushahar, Khatway, Chamar (Harijan/ Ram), Dom,
Halkhor, Badimar, Gothi and Jhangar( Dhagar).

Nevertheless, only 21 castes among them can be observed in the

population census 2001. They are: Kami, Damai/Dholi, Sarki, Chamar/
Harjan/Ram, Mushahar, Dusad/Paswan/Pasi, Sonar, Lohar, Tatma,
Khatwe, Dobi, Santhal/Satar, Dhagar/Jhangar, Bantar, Chidmor, Dom,
Gaine, Badi, Halkhor, Koche and Patharkata/Kushwadia including some
other unidentified Dalit group of people. Thus, such a fluctuation in the list
of Dalits make difficult to specify the exact population size of Dalits in
Nepal. Taking the Dalit Commission as an authentic source and the
recorded population of Nepal in the Population Census 2001 (CBS, 2003),
the population of Dalit in Nepal would be 2989080 (12.91% of total
population of the country) However, the census has not provided figures of
many Dalits, including the Dalits in Newari community and the Tarai
community. Thus, if all these Dalit populations were counted in the 2001
census, their number could increase significantly. Consequently, some
sources say that the population of Dalits is low enumerated and thus may
reach to 4.5 million or about 20-21 percent of Nepal's population (see
Bishwakarma, 2001, Dahal et al, 2002 and Jha, 2003).

Socio-economic, political, health and nutritional, educational, and

employment status of Dalits in Nepal, as compared to other castes, is very
poor. Dalit women are more sufferers than men within the Dalit society.
As compared to Dalit of Tarai with Hill Dalits, Tarai Dalits are living in
more vulnerable situation in most aspects of life. In the Learning and
Sharing Series I entitled, “Empowering Dalits,” Helvetas Nepal (2005)
refers that ninety percent of Dalits live below poverty line and have little
or no land ownership. Their literacy rate is only 18 percent in comparison
to the 48 percent of national average and 58 percent for Brahmins. The
literacy rate for women Dalit is only of 3 percent as compared to the 30
percent to Brahmin females. In the life expectancy record Dalits are in
miserable condition. Their life expectancy is said to be 42 years as
116 Chapter Five

compared to 57 for national figure and 61 of Brahmins.

Most of the Dalits’ livelihood is based on agricultural activities; wage

earning and caste- based traditional work, such as black- smithy,
leatherwork, tailoring etc. However, they are compelled to compromise
with deprived life due to comparatively low holding of land, food
deficiency, low income, low income to expend on clothing, education and
medicine (see Sharma et. al., 1994 and TEAM Consult, 1999). The
political representation of Dalit as compared to their population size and
other classes is also low even today.

II. Discrimination and violence against Dalits

Despite their significant numbers, they continue to suffer from
discrimination and human rights abuses due to their caste. Legal
protections for Dalits have been poorly implemented, and discrimination
against Dalits is still very much a part of everyday life in Nepal. Caste and
racial discrimination against Dalits is not only limited to the Hindu
community but also common in other religious groups in Nepal. The Dalit
Muslims ( Arzal) are discriminated against by the upper-caste Muslims(
Ashraf) and Dalit Christians discriminated against by upper Caste
Christian Priests and Nuns.

Dalits are segregated from other castes, based on the belief that they are
“polluted.” They are also prohibited from touching non-Dalits and their
ritual possessions including to carry dead bodies of upper castes in
funerals, inter-caste marriage with upper castes, entering and using public
places of non-Dalits (e.g. hotels, shops, restaurants, and temples). If they
are entered in the restaurants, they have to use separate glass and plate to
drink water and eat meal (JUP, 2001). There are evidences of physical
violence and attacks on Dalits from upper castes and even among Dalits of
different caste group, in the name of lower and upper caste symbol (see
ALRC, 2003:8, The Kathmandu Post, October 25, 2003, Bhatta, 2003 and
HRW, 2003).

Though the caste-based discrimination on Dalit is more flexible in the

eastern region compared to the western and the far-western region, it is not
only common from the high caste Hindus and the Indigenous Nationalities
but also equally observed within the Dalit groups even today. The caste-
based discrimination is noted in the every day life of people and this is
equally noted in the government offices, corporations and NGOs (Dahal,
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 117

D.R. et.al , 2002).

Because of deprivation, many Hindu Dalits have been converting to other

religions especially Christianity for monetary benefit including allurements
of education and jobs. Similarly, discrimination problems faced by Dalits
in Hinduism are another important reason of the conversion of Hinduism
into Buddhism.

In spite of the constitutional and legal restrictions, untouchabilty in the

ritual issues still exists in rural and semi-rural society of Nepal. Access to
eating-places and use of same dish, worship in temples, drawing water
from the same well as upper Hindu Castes, weeding between Dalit and
non-Dalit and any other such ritual and private programs are forbidden to
Dalits in Nepal. In urban areas and public places, because of the
evelopment and exposure with media, rigidity on caste system and
untouchabilty is being gradually disappearing. However, most of the
people still hesitate to equal behave upon Dalits in their ritual and private
programs. In some occasion, if Dalits were treated as a non-Dalits, Dalits
feel a sense of pride; upper castes feel a progressive action. That means
equity treatment between Dalit and non-Dalits could not be normal
practices in Nepali society.

Legal provisions and concessions made for the social and economic uplift
of Dalits, marginal people and other deprived people in order to enable
them to achieve upward social mobility could not be reached to the
approach of target people. These are limited only to the upper in Dalits,
who have already been enjoying better educational facilities and
comparatively better quality life than other common Dalits.

III. Violation of Human Rights of Dalits

Domination of the Dalits by upper castes in all spheres of life and even
from their own upper caste dalits is common in Nepal. Studies indicate
discrimination, domination, and human rights abuse on Dalits just because
of their caste. According to the HRW (2004), human rights abuses against
Dalits are found in virtually every sphere of life in Nepal, including
marriage, religious practice, access to land, and access to education. The
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has also
noted that despite government action to ban certain forms of
discrimination, the caste system still takes a huge toll on Dalits in Nepal.
By recognizing the importance of eliminating caste-based discrimination
118 Chapter Five

in Nepal, the Committee also has suggested Nepal government to improve

its legislative framework ensuring equal rights for all and prohibiting
discrimination against Dalits. Oppression of Dalits has also occurred
during the internal armed conflict between the government and Maoist.
The government sees Dalits as tied with Maoists, so Dalits have come
under attack of government security forces because they are suspected of
supporting the rebels (HRW, 2004).

IV. Dalit Workers

Experiences, practices, incidents and studies in Nepal advocate that the
Dalit community is one of the most deprived sections of the society. Dalits
are economically, educationally, socially, and politically deprived, abused
and discriminated from upper castes and within from their own castes.
Concomitantly, the status of Dalit workers is not very different to that of
Nepali Dalits, in general. As the Dalit society as a whole has the pathetic
situation in Nepali society, the status of Dalit workers is much lower to
that of general Dalits.

However, the position of Dalit workers has been assessed in the overall
framework of Dalit’s social structure. They suffer from multi-cornered
discrimination, deprivation, and exploitation in the society. Dalit workers
suffer not only from economic exploitation but also have become victims
of the worst form of jobs, dehumanisation, and social deprivation
including sexual harassment/abuse to the female workers by upper castes
and male co-workers. Unhygienic occupations have been socially imposed
on them and they are paid very low wages for such work.

Traditionally, Dalits are known by their caste-based occupations. The

goods and services they produce have artisan value even today. Their
occupations in the past were considered a source of their livelihood.
However, they have been gradually disappearing from the scenario of their
caste and craft based traditional occupations and shifting to other
occupations due to following reasons:
(i) Feeling of low social prestige and status on their traditional
(ii) Difficulties to compete with the machine made goods in
terms of price, quality, and quantity.
(iii) Attraction towards the other modern job in the labour
(iv) Attraction towards the easy source of income.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 119

(v) Disliking of young educated Dalits to their traditional jobs.

In general, due to social, economic, cultural, and religious composition

and attitudes of Nepalese society along with poor educational background
and low voice of Dalits in the political structure of the country, Dalits are
mostly found engaged in informal sector of economy, like agriculture,
construction, home-based work or domestic servant of the employers or
creditors for livelihood. They find a difficulty in acquiring jobs in the
formal sector. Being untrained and unskilled and not guarantee of getting
better and safe job in the formal sector, there is no alternative to the Dalit
labourforce other than to accept the informal jobs even if it is inhuman in
nature. The Dalit workers in the informal sector do not comply with rules
and regulations for job security, wages, and social security. Thus, they
have to face always hardship at job, exploitation, blackmailing and
cheating from employers.

In the absence of appropriate rules and regulation for secured employment

and income in informal sector, Dalit workers are always afraid of being
pushed out from whatever they earn and their facilities are subject to
permanent insecurity. Consequently, it becomes difficult for Dalits to keep
their poverty away and improve quality of life. So, many of Dalit workers
have to live a life of squatters and slum dwellers in an unhealthy
environment where education and health facilities are very difficult to
obtain. Thus, Dalits are spinning within the vicious circle of poor health-
education- poverty. The case is more serious to the Dalits of Tarai than the
Dalits in Hill.

As such, the labour market where the Dalit workers has to work is
characterized by informalisation of labour hiring, unfreedom in economic
relations and various forms of extra-economic coercion. The labour hiring
process is informalized to such an extent that there is neither any fixed
duration of working hours nor any standard wage that every worker is
paid. Dalit workers are primarily hired on negotiable wages. Similarly,
they face various forms of unfreedom and exploitation by employers.
These include widespread use of unpaid labour services, the practice of
untouchability, caste oppression and verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.

The Dalit workers, who are mainly involved in agricultural and

construction sector, have to perform various kinds of extra labour services
for the employers. These services are clearing channels, irrigation,
applying fertilizers, threshing, non-agricultural work, and domestic works
120 Chapter Five

including cutting firewood, removing dung and laying dung cakes,

washing and cleaning in the houses, and mud plastering in the houses.
Sometimes, Dalit workers are asked to come early and collect the required
tools and instruments before other workers arrive, and stay to put them
back after other workers leave. They could also be asked to feed and care
the cattle. There are different reasons to perform such labour services. One
of them, unemployment among casual Dalit workers is most common.
Unemployment among causal Dalit workers is severe in Nepal. Because of
the unemployment, they have to perform labour services in the hope that it
would satisfy the employers and improve their chances of being employed.

The indebtedness level among Dalit workers households is very high in

Nepal. Indebtedness among Dalit workers’ household would be another
important cause of compelling Dalit workers for extra services. The
employers are the most important source of credit for the Dalits
households. For the credit, Dalits have to give extra-labour services to the
employers, in addition to the duely payment of loan with interest.

Dalit women, besides their involvement in traditional caste-based jobs,

also go to agricultural work with their male family members. They have
also to involve in domestic works in the employer or creditor’s house.
They are responsible for sanitation work of upper caste households. They
would remove the dung from the cattle-shed, bath their children, and do
various kinds of cleaning, washing and other laborious jobs in different
ceremonies in the houses of the employers and creditors.

Dalit manual workers have been facing severe caste hostility, including the
practice of untouchability and verbal abuse from the upper castes. Sexual
abuse against women workers is very common at work places (Mandal
and Chaudhary, 2003). Thus, many female Dalit workers feel insecure in
going to work by themselves and only worked in groups.

Despite the constitutional provisions and government policies for the uplift
of Dalits in Nepal, they have not been received any remarkable help from
the government. Though many of the Dalit children are getting education,
the quality of it is not so good that they may be expected to get a better job
to any significant level. Being numerically a major component they do not
enjoy the same political power as of non-Dalits. They have failed to get
the full attention of politicians, academicians, and non-governmental
organizations. Therefore, their problems neither have been properly
addressed nor have been tried to be solved by the government or non-
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 121

governmental organisations.

The males of the Dalit community have largely become traditional

jobholders and agricultural labourers, porters and construction labourers.
Besides their traditional jobs, some of the Tarai Dalit workers become
rickshaw pullers and maidservant for outer work. The prospects of these
occupations appear to be not very bright. Being mostly unorganised they
are not in a position to improve their well-being and enjoy neither
protection against inflation nor are they covered by social security
measures. The returns of these occupations may also decline in near future
because of increase in supply of machine made products at large quantity
and migration of workers from other communities (caused by increase in
population and job-migration). The expected decrease in demand for their
traditional jobs based on skills and other new jobs when machine-operated
jobs will be introduced. The jobs for maidservant is also certain to
decrease when domestic appliances like vacuum cleaners, dishwashers,
washing machine etc. will become common and be used on large scale.

Being mostly uneducated and unskilled, the prospect of changes in their

traditional occupation appears to be difficult. The prospect of their being
absorbed in the formal sector is also bleak as such jobs are growing at a
very slow rate, especially after the globalisation, privatisation and
introduction of structural adjustment programs( SAP) in the economy.
After privatisation, the sector which could have provided them such jobs
has itself become sick with no sign of revival in near future due to
introduction of advanced technology and foreign investment. Modern
technology, particularly mechanisation, considerably smoothed the
demand for labour. As a result, while a few workers were always required
on a regular basis, there will only a few occasions when the entrepreneurs
including land owners needed to hire many workers, creating a jobless
situation to the Dalit workers.

In future, there is a danger that Dalit workers will not be able to get
opportunity of the unskilled jobs in the government sector as the
government is leaving its active participation in economic activities in the
name of privatisation and globalisation. Similarly, political leaders and
organisations have not successfully raised their voice and mobilise
opinion in favour of the Dalits workers, being concentrated more in the
other sectors of development.

As Dalits did not have sufficient asset base in the village, they migrated
122 Chapter Five

permanently along with their families to the town. They got involved in
different occupations and changed their occupations according to the
available opportunity. However, despite occupational change they have
maintained some links with their traditional occupations.

Child labour in Dalit community is another common problem. Dalit people

do not have land to support themselves for the whole year nor do they
have access to other forms of better income generating jobs, due lack of
education and opportunities. Thus, there is no other alternative to the
parents other than to send their children in hard labour before they have a
chance to grow up and mature in a normal way. They manly involve in
domestic service, in restaurants as a plate cleaners, carpet and garment
factories, brick kiln, tobacco (beedi) factories, and construction works,
which are sometimes very tedious and hazardous. Girls are socially more
disadvantaged than boys and are more vulnerable to physical as well as
psychological abuse. Cases of sexual exploitation of a girl child often go
unreported. Such circumstances forced many girl children into prostitution
and trafficking” (Bajracharya, 1999).

V. Reform Movement
Being impressed by the reform movement led by Dr. Ambedkar, many
Dalits, politicians, social activists, and non-governmental organisations
have been involving to abolish discrimination against castes and to bring
Dalits in main stream of political and developmental process of the
country. The Humanist Association of Nepal (HUMAN) is a leading
organization in the country to fight against all kinds of inhuman
discriminations on Dalits in the name of caste, race, and religion and so
on. It has been involving in supporting Dalits economic activities,
organising educational, training and awareness programs along with
advocating the rights of Dalits in Nepal.

The slogan of inclusion of Dalits is most popular in the manifesto of all

political parties in the country. As the beginning of inclusion in politics, 18
seats out of 330 seats in the Interim-Parliament formed in January 15,
2007 is given to different Dalit leaders. Besides that, many I/NGOs,
commissions and committees are undergoing social transformation. To
abolish caste-based discrimination on Dalits, government, in addition to
the constitutional provision, has also taken legal measures as in the Civil
Liberties Act of 1954 and Civil Code Act (Tripathi, 2002).
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 123

VI. Conclusions and Implications

Overall development of the South Asian countries is difficult unless all
sections of our society actively participate in the socio-economic, political
activities. However, Dalits, in the name of untouchable castes could not
feel that they are the part of the developmental process. They could not
uplift their status because of lacking of easy approach to the developmental
programs launched by government. Thus, untouchablity is remaining as a
deep-rooted problem in the development process of the country. Caste-
based discrimination remain a central feature of life and social interaction
in Nepal, and the government regularly fails to prosecute individuals who
engage in caste-based discrimination.

The quality of life (QWL) of Dalits and the workforce cannot be improved
until and unless the vicious circle of poor health-education-poverty is
broken by the joint intervention of Dalits and non-Dalits with the keen
support of government, politicians, lawyers, journalists, teachers, religion
leaders, I/NGOs, donor agencies and so on. Dalits and Non-Dalits have to
come out from the feeling of upper and lower castes and get ready to
change their superstitions of castes and religions. For this, educational
programs and programs for generating employment and opportunity in
employment can play a vital role. Thus, government has to ascertain
certain quotas in government jobs for Dalits and encourage activities that
create employment opportunities to the marginal people like Dalits.

Although education is the important element to empower Dalit

community, there is big gap between touchable and untouchables
regarding the educational levels and voice in government. There is a
question that why are Dalit communities not educated and empowered as
other communities in the country? The answer is unrealistic government
policies. Thus, government, and I/NGOs should discuss with Dalits about
their problems and solutions and organise education campaign against any
cultural, traditional, or manmade hindrances to the Dalit people to obtain
educational facilities provided by the government and to get the
empowered in national politics.

Access to the school and university education should be made easy for
Dalits by making the provision of scholarship for Dalits, aimed at
improving their status. Informal educational and training programs should
be launched by I/NGOs to aware Dalits about their rights and improve job-
oriented skills. Similarly, awareness program for non-Dalits is to be
124 Chapter Five

organised just to aware them that discrimination in the name of castes is

nothing other than an act of inhuman or a product of ill- mind.

Political empowerment is the root for the development of any community

and nation. Economic and social development can only be achieved if
people have political power. Dalit community did not have enough voice
in the government in the past Shah dynasty as well as in the present
interim parliament formed on 15 January, 2007. The population-
proportionate participation of Dalit parliamentarians in the interim
parliament is not satisfactory. It is only 15.45 percent (18 persons)
whereas Dalit communities constitutes more than 20 percent of the total
population of the country.

Thus, Dalits seats in parliament and local political bodies, in order to

ensure their voice in rule and obtain a proportionate political voice, are to
be clearly stated in the constitution and keep all political parties, in
practice. It is necessary to unite Dalits and aware them about their rights to
uplift and empower them economically, educationally, socially and
politically with a view to bring them in the main stream of developmental
process. In this regard, non-governmental organisations and political
parties should advocate against caste and gender discrimination from the
grassroot level. Consultation and discussion with Dalit and non-Dalit
groups to take positive steps for the elimination of social and economic
discrimination against Dalits should be started.

Because of the discrimination on Dalits, we can already make out the

position of Nepali society. Thus, if the state policies to treat Dalits as equal
to other citizens, fail in the right time, by implementing changes in the
constitution, laws and policies, the future of developed Nepal will be far

The traditional jobs of Dalits and the goods and services produced by them
should be preserved and promoted as a heritage of the country. Their
traditional jobs should be developed as a respectable profession by
improving their quality of operation. If so, everybody will accept all jobs
without hesitation and irrespective of their origin of caste and ethnicity.
Thus, there will not be a question of upper and lower castes in terms of
jobs and it will trigger the development across the caste and have positive
impact on national development itself.

Working together makes it possible to change views of society, regarding

Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 125

the Dalits (untouchables) and attain justice by working together. Thus, let
us unite to fight against discrimination and abuse on Dalits in the name of
caste and to change the way of thinking and attitude of society.

ALRC (2003), Alternative Report to the 16th periodic Report of State
Party Nepal to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Kathmandu.
Bajracharya, Hridaya, (1999), “Child Labour in Informal Sector”, In Jha
Hari Bansh (ed), Status of Informal Sector Workers: The other Side of
Economy in Nepal, Centre for Economic and Ttechnical Studies(
CETS) in Cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES),
Bishwakarma, P. (2001), “Caste Discrimination and Untouchability
Against Dalits in Nepal”, Conference Paper prepared by the Society
for the Liberation of Oppressed Dalit Castes, Nepal for the Global
Conference on Caste Discrimination, March 1-4, 200, New Delhi.
CBS (2003), Population Monograph of Nepal Vol.I, Central Bureau of
Statistics, Kathmandu.
Dahal, D.R. et.al (2002), Situational Analysis of Dalits in Nepal, National
Dalit Strategy Report Submitted to the Action Aid Nepal, Care Nepal
and Save the Children US for National Planning commission,
Gautam, R. and Upadhyaya, Umesh (2001), Garbage Cleaning
Community and Child Labour in Nepal,
www.gefont.org/research/sweeper/html/ chapter1.htm.
Helvetas Nepal (2005), Empowering Dalits, Helvetas Nepal, Kathmandu.
HRW (2004), www. hrw.org/English/docs/nepal7322_txt.htm
Human Rights Watch Communication with Expert on Dalits in Nepal,
January 2003.
Jha, Hari Bansh (1999), Status of Informal Sector Workers: the other Side
of Economy in Nepal(ed), Centre for Economic and Technical Studies
(CETS) in Cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES),
—. (2003), Dalit of Tarai and Dalit Women(ed), (in Nepali), Centre for
Economic and Technical Studies, Kathmandu.
—. (2003), “Economic Violence against Dalit Women” (in Nepali)”, In
Dalit of Tarai and Dalit Women(ed), Centre for Economic and
Technical Studies, Kathmandu.
JUP (2001), Dalit in Nepal and Alternative Report For WCAR 1-2, Jana
126 Chapter Five

Utthan Pratisthan , Kathmandu.

Mandal, Ramhirdaya and Chaudhary, Bindu (2003), “Untouchabilty and
Discimination With Dalit Women”, In Jha, Hari Bansh(ed), Dalit of
Tarai and Dalit Women( in Nepali), Centre for Economic and
Technical Studies, Kathmandu.
Pandey, Madhu Sudhan (2005), Nepal Ka Dalitharu (Dalits of Nepal),
Pairavi Prakashan, Kathmandu.
Sharma, Khagendra, Gyanu Chhetri, and Sita Rana ( 1994), A Modest
Study of the Current Socio-economic Situation of the Lowest Status
Caste and Tribal Communities in Nepal. Save the Children, US,
TEAM Consult (1999), The Conditions of the Dalits (Untouchables) in
Nepal: Assessment of the Impact of Various Development
Interventions. Report Submitted to UNDP, Kathmandu.
Tika Bhatta(2003), “Dalits Beat up Family,” The Kathmandu Post,
September 13, 2003.
TKP (2003), “Public Apology Made for Beating up Dalit Woman”, The
Kathmandu Post, October 25, 2003.
Tripathi, Hari Bansh (2002), Fundamental Rights and Judicial Review in
Nepal: Evolution and Experiments, Pairavi Prakashan, Kathmandu.




Since independence a number of innovative schemes have been launched

for the upliftment of women in our country. The VI Plan (1980-85) a land
mark in the history of women’s development which adopted a multi
disciplinary approach with a three pronged thrust on health education and
Employment. Eventhough women are active agents of change and play a
pivotal role both in the family and the society the development processes
had by passed women and hence women still live in an unequal world.
Micro-credit is a recent addition to India’s poverty alleviation strategy.

Women represent nearly 50 per cent of the world’s population perform

nearly two-thirds of the world’s work and receive only one-tenth of
world’s income and own less than one per cent of the world’s property.
International donors are enthusiastic about these programmes as they
believe that they will enable poor women to gain access to credit and that
this credit progressively results in poverty alleviation and Empowerment
of women.

In India, as per the 2001 census women constitute about 48 percent of total
population. Women comprise one third of the national labour force and a
major contributor to the survival of the family. But even after 58 years of

They are suffering from exploitation and illiteracy. The development of

women belonging to the depressed class is really Challenging. They
should be helped to improve their self- awareness capability. Skill and
confidence which ensures their participation in the decision- making
process. It is felt that organisation of women groups is one of the most
128 Chapter Six

effective tools for involving women in the development process and this
task can be fully performed by the involvement of self – help groups in
women’s Empowerment. The benefits of self- help groups are based on
co-operation rather than competitions.

Currently micro finance programmes are being promoted as a key strategy

for simultaneously addressing both poverty alleviation and women’s
empowerment. Where financial service provision leads to the setting up or
expansion of micro enterprises there are a range of potential impacts

• Increasing women’s income levels and control over income

leading to greater levels of economic independence.
• Access to networks and markets giving wider experience of the
world outside the home, access to information and possibilities
for development of other social and political roles.
• Enhancing perceptions of women’s contribution to household
income and family welfare1 increasing women’s participation in
household decisions about expenditure and other issues and
leading to greater expenditure on women’s welfare.
• More general improvements in attitudes to women’s role in the
household and community.

Microfinance programmes targeting women have been a welcome

corrective to previous neglect of women’s productive role. For some
women in some contexts microfinance programmes have indeed set in
motion a process of empowerment where all the above elements have been
mutually reinforcing.

Many evaluation of microfinance programmes have assumed that high

take up and repayment levels indicate positive impact on women and have
not investigated further. Some have anecdotal information from
participatory consultations and gender workshops. Many programmes
have had negative as well as positive impacts on women.

Where women have set up enterprises this has often led to small increases
in access to income at the cost of heavier work loads and repayment
pressures. In many cases the loans have been used by men to set up
enterprises over which women have little control. In some cases they have
been employed as unpaid family workers with little benefit. In others there
have been indirect benefits and improvements in various aspects of
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 129

women’s well-being as a result of greater recognition of their role in the

household and community.2

In some cases women’s increased autonomy has been temporary and led to
withdrawal of male support. In some programmes there are increasing
fears that women’s small increases in income are leading to a decrease in
male contribution to certain types of household expenditure. Within
schemes impacts often vary significantly between women.

There are difference between women in different productive activities and

between women from different backgrounds. In some contexts schemes
mainly benefit women who are already better off. In others poorer women
are freer and more motivated to use credit for production. In most cases
the poorest women are bypassed in both individual and group- lending
programmes or are least able to benefit because of their initial low
resource base lack of skills and market contacts. There are also individual
differences between women form similar background and within the same

Positive impact on non-participants cannot be assumed even where women

participants are able to benefit. Women micro entrepreneurs are frequently
in competition with each other and the poorest micro entrepreneurs may be
disadvantaged if programmes do not include them. Where women employ
labourers it cannot be assumed that they give better wages and conditions
of work than men.3

Benefits for women’s families cannot be assumed. Women may employ

daughters and daughter in laws as unpaid family labourers increasing their
workload. Although increased family income channeled through women
often benefits children considerably anecdotal evidence suggests they may
often still prioritise the interests of boy children. Negative impacts are
even more likely where women do not control the loans.

Moreover, increased funding has been accompanied by pressures from

donors to adopt a financial systems approach which prioritises cost
efficiency and financial sustainability. These emphases have been a
reaction to inefficiency low repayments and lack of impact of many
previous microfinance programmes. This approach takes demand for
credit and repayment levels as indicators of success requires microfinance
programmes to be ultimately self- sustaining and preferably making a
130 Chapter Six

These emphases favour large organizations in order to benefit from

economics of scale and group lending where groups take much of the
responsibility for savings and loan repayment. Targeting women is being
increasingly advocated because of evidence of their higher repayment
rates. However evidence suggests that the prioritization of cost efficiency
and financial sustainability may further dilute the potential contribution of
microfinance programmes to women’s empowerment. This is particularly
the case where there is an implicit (and in some cases explicit) prioritization
of donor interests.

Impact on empowerment cannot be inferred from take-up of financial

services or repayment levels. Women may repay through taking loans
elsewhere and getting into serious debt. As noted above, loans may be
controlled by men. Some researchers have expressed concerns that
women’s microfinance programmes may be merely using women as
unpaid dept collectors mediating between development agencies and male
family members increasing their dependency on men and / or conflicts
between women to fulfill repayment targets.

The overriding concern with repayment rates puts further pressures on

groups to exclude those likely to experience greatest problems is the
poorest. In some cases increased funding for large organizations in the
same area who may have been challenging gender subordination on a
wider basis. The degree to which this is a result of women’s own decision
to switch allegiance because of better credit terms or because of pressure
from men to get access to credit while maintaining their own power is

In some cases adoption of this approach has led to cutbacks in support

services. There are dangers that the concern with short term cost efficiency
may jeopardize long term organizational and client sustainability. Long
term sustainability requires both attention to developing the skills, earning
capacity and empowerment of clients and institutional learning which may
entail substantial costs in the short term.

In view of these potential disbenefits to women there is an urgent need for

evaluation of the impact of programmes on women’s empowerment. We
know very little about the relative numbers of women within most
programmes who benefit or fail to benefit who these women are or the
contextual and organisatinal factors influencing this.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 131

Importantly for most women in most programmes it is likely that the

contribution of microfinance services to empowerment could be enhanced
through a combination of changes in the way services are delivered. More
effective support services or linkage with services provided by other
agencies including organisatins challenging gender subordination directly.
Impact evaluations are likely to be more reliable and have clearer
relevance for policy if they are clearly linked to the development of a more
comprehensive framework for participatory planning.4

Women’s needs in relation to microfinance are diverse, context specific

and change over time. Evidence also indicates differences between women
within programmes and between women and development agencies about
the aims of microfinance programmes. The only way in which such
flexibility and diversity can be adequately addressed to ensure benefit to
women is through a participatory planning process.

The need for such a process is signaled both within the financial systems
approach itself and empowerment approaches where the need for grass
roots participation is assumed. However, experience suggests the need to
address some of the shortcomings of existing systems of participation.
Participation takes time skills and resources which are often in scarce
supply particularly for very poor women and ‘participation’ per se 1 is not
necessarily empowering.

In relation to microfinance programmes evidence suggests that women

often prefer individual rather than group loans and that in many contexts
group formation has been problematic. Savings and credit groups often
discriminate against very poor and disadvantaged women. Groups do not
necessarily go on to question or address wider issues of gender
subordination limiting women’s ability to increase and control incomes or
achieve their other aspirations. Such an approach would differ from the
financial systems approach in taking a multi dimensional view of
empowerment and prioritizing the needs of poor women participants and
disadvantaged non-participants over those of donors.

I. Objectives of the SHGs

i. Promote saving habits.
ii. Meet small and urgent credit requirements by themselves.
iii. Utilize the amount borrowed frugally and develop the habit
of repaying the loans.
132 Chapter Six

iv. Augment family income

v. Uplift economic conditions by earning independtly.
vi. Avail bank loans and Government’s financial assistance
vii. Develop expertise to market the products without the
interference of middleman and
viii. Purchase immovable property in the name of women or
jointly with her husband.

As on June 19, 2002 it covered 18.59 lakh women who got enrolled in
1.08 lakh SHGs in both rural and urban areas. Women below poverty line
are the focused group. It also pays attention on welfare of windows
destitute, divorcees, physically handicapped women, women belonging to
weaker section and adolescent girls. About 47 per cent of the members
belonged to SC/STs. The training course covered the following wide
spectrum of activities, nursing, computer training, export garments
making, mat weaving, silk reeling and twisting, handloom spinning and
weaving, cement hollow block making, micro concrete roofing, seed
production, leather goods making etc.5

Owing to historical and social factors there are inherent differentials in

skill and knowledge endowments amongst different strata of society in
general and women in particular. Hence the need for human capital takes
many forms schooling, on the job training and health and nutrition.
Women want self-employment. The Government has been implementing a
host of gender focused schemes. The SGSY the only self Employment
programme is currently being implemented. It aims at promoting micro
enterprises and to brining the assisted poor families above the poverty line
by organizing the process of social mobilization, training and capacity
building and provision of income – generating assets through a mix of
Bank credit and Government subsidy. The SHGs are powerful tools of
socio-Economic Empowerment of the poor in the rural areas.

The NABARD has been taking keen interest in developing SHGs in order
to Empower the womenfolk economically since 1992-93 bank loan
disbursed was Rs. 7992.90 lakh and NABARD refinance were at Rs.
7935.52 lakhs. The NABARD has also conceptualized the Vikas
Volunteers Vahni (VVV). It is an experiment in social engineering in the
field of rural banking by adopting a multi pronged strategy on the part of
the lending institutions.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 133

II. Micro Finance Through SHGs

The women self-help Group is defined as a voluntary group valuing
personal interaction and mutual aid as means of altering and ameliorating
problems, perceived as alterable pressing and personal by most of its
member. The SHGs are homogenous groups of rural poor voluntarily
formed to save whatever amount they can save out of their earnings and
mutually agree to contribute to a common fund of the group to be sent to
the members meeting their production and credit needs.

In this context to bridge the gap between the demand and supply of funds
in the however ranges of rural society, SHGs, which operate on the
principles of mutual trusts and co operation have emerged as informal
financial institutions for the poor under the guidance and support of Non
Government Organisation. (NGOs)

The concept that SHGs could work as local financial intermediaries

eventually gained wide recognition. When NABARD began exploring the
possibilities of establishing linkage between SHGs and banks. The
beginning was made with NABARD pilot project in Karnataka (1991-92)
of linking SHGs with formal banks, medicated through the NGOs. Mysore
resettlement and development agency. The SHGs of the country are
concentrated in southern India and about 2,9000 are Andhra Pradesh alone
followed by Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra, However as many a
7670 are also working in Uttar Pradesh. About 90 percent of these groups
cover ‘women’s city.’

III. Micro- Credit and Savings

Micro-credit is given to the women through self Help Groups for produced
purposes by the banks. The economic empowerment of the poor women is
the only means to poverty eradication. Financially increased access to
credit liberates them economically and socially. In the rural areas women
are involved in wide ranges of income – generating activities. It is found
that majority of the women (59 percent) belong to petty business units
because the rural women find it easy to manage the petty business with
their inherent skills and little education. Further, everyday then can get
revolving credit. The petty business units are mostly milk vending, petty
shops, banana leaf cutting, vegetable vendors, cloth merchant, Tiffin
center etc. Some of the women folk process masala and coffee powder.
They packet them in small measurements. Like 50 grm and 100 grm and
134 Chapter Six

sell them to the wholesale dealers.6

IV. Role of Micro-Finance through SHGs

in rural Development
In view of the dismal performance of IRDP (Integrated Rural
Development Programme) and the poverty alleviation programme.
Swarnajyanthi Gram Swarazgar Yojana (SGSYS) has been introduce to
merge earlier six self Employment programmes namely IRDP,
Development of women and child in Rural areas (DWCRA) supply of
improved tools kits for Rural Artisan (SITRA). Ganga Kalyan Yojana
(GKY) Million wells scheme (MWS) and training of Rural Youth for the
self Employment such as organizing the rural poor into self Help Group
training credit linkages and other forward and backward linkage including
transfer of technology infrastructure and marketing support by all
members, maintaining of books, completing regular transaction of saving
and lending among members with little or outside support.

SHGs established systems of handing savings and credit transaction on

their own norms of savings and lending. Self Help. Groups pay the cost of
the accountant; self-Help Groups would require additional funds for
supporting income generating activities. The fund mobilized through
linking the self-Help Groups will get formalized and cluster association is
help and ended by the leaders, Association appoints a cutler associate to
implement various activities of cutler association and support the systems
at SHGs level.

V. Graduation of Mature SHGs into Micro – Enterprises

Of over 16 lakh SHGs credit linked with banks. Over 4 lakh SHGs are
how over three years old. The core needs of savings and credit for
consumptin and production of these SHGs are being met by the banking
system. Theses SHGs have not only availed loans but have also availed
loans more than once. It is being emphasized that a member of that older
SHGs would now be in a position to graduate into micro enterprise for
millions of poor households in rural areas. Though micro enterprises is not
a panacea for the complex problem of chronic unemployment and poverty,
yet their promotion is a viable and effective strategy for achieving
significant gains in terms of incomes and assets of poor and marginalized
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 135

VI. Micro – Finance and the Government

It was announced in the Union Budget for 2005-2006 that the Government
of India intends to promote micro finance institution (MFIs) in a big way.

For this purpose, the micro finance Development Fund (MFDF) was
redesignated as micro finance Development and Equity Fund (MFDEF)
and the corpus of the fund was increased from Rs. 100 crore to Rs. 200
crore. The central Government is considering the need to identify and
classify the MFIs and rates such institutions to empower them to
intermediate between the lending banks and the clients. To facilitate the
process of rating of MFIs., NABARD has decided to extend financial
assistance to commercial banks and RRBs by way of grant to enable them
to avail the services of credit rating agencies for rating of MFIs.

VII. Micro – Finance and the Reserve Bank

In view of the new paradigm shift in micro finance, the Reserve Bank
decided to revisit the issue of microfinance in a comprehensive manner.
Accordingly several initiatives were taken in the recent period. First
consultative were arranged with several representatives of micro finance
institutions in select centers to obtain their views. Second based on such
consultations a Technical paper on policy relating to Development,
Regulation and supervision of micro finance services was prepared and
was discussed with the representative of MFIs on July 18, 2005.

There are arguments both for and against each structure. These dilemmas
are very contextual and only strengthen the argument that no unique model
is applicable for all situations. They have to be context specific. The four
pillars of microfinance credit system are supply demand for finance
intermediation and regulation. Whatever may the model of the
intermediary institution. The end situation is accessibility of finance to

1. Meenakshi Malhotra : “Empowerment of women” (In 3 volumes) ISHA Books
Delhi - 2004, pg.1.
2. Ibid., pg. 2.
3. Ibid., pg. 3.
4. Ibid., pg. 5.
136 Chapter Six

5. The Indian Economic Association 89th IEA Annual conference volume 27-29th
December, 2006. Part – II, Department of Economics Kurukshetra University,
Kurushketra, Haryana. Pg. 1089.
6. Ibid., pg. 1090.
7. Meenakshi Malhotra, “Empowerment of women”, op. cit. pg. 154.



Field work is considered as the part and parcel of anthropological research
with specific methodologies. That does not mean that anthropologists and
sociologists can conduct field work in all types of societies, in the
contemporary situation. As researchers they are experts in making rapport
with any kind of societies with the aid of their research techniques, but
some times they are restricted from entering in to alien cultures. This is
mainly because of the fact that a person’s [anthropologists] moral
commitments, values, personal restrictions and restrictions imposed by
ruling party or government on certain cultures and research areas may not
permit a scholar to conduct field work among all societies and groups.

Margaret Mead [1964:5] writes:’ We still have no way to make an

anthropologist except by sending him into the field: this contact with
living material is our distinguishing mark’. Actually field work is an
initiation ceremony in the life of an anthropologist as researcher. Evans –
Pritchard’s [1951] ideal anthropologist conducts his field work with not
less than two different societies which enables him to think comparatively
and not in terms of just one society. But this does not usually work parallel
with the quality of research. The quality of information is not always the
function of a long stay with the people. In fact the period depends on the
nature of the research problem and researcher’s ability to collect maximum
relevant data within a particular period. By this time process of
‘nativization’ will take place which helps the anthropologist to establish
more rapport with the community. There is also another side for this
138 Chapter Seven

process. Most of the informants(especially from tribal areas) admitted that

they also learn more about their own culture through discussions and in
attempting to answer anthropological questions systematically. An
anthologists usually collect the information systematically not excluding
the information in between which some times seems to be unimportant to
the informant but later became important in certain occasions.

As far as an anthropologist is concerned, the community, group or people

of an ethnographic investigation are considered as the ‘other’ .This is also
true in the case of emic reality, where the subject of investigation is one’s
own cultural group or parent community, the researcher does not assume
that he is a member of that group, rather he considers them as the ‘other’
because the ‘other’ is his subject of investigation. So in Anthropological
field work the concept of ‘other’ is not an empirical reality but a
methodological truth and mental frame.

Ethno methodology explains the ‘other’s methods’,-method proposing to

investigate how people construct their world that makes sense of what
others say and do in the course of day to day social interaction. This is an
abstract level concept tends to ignore the information actually transmitted
during interaction but concentrating purely at the ‘performance level’ of
interaction. The performance level of interaction or social order, is first
originating in the mind of the actors who are the members of the
community, group or any other social institutions. This is because of the
fact that society confronts the individual as a series of sense impressions
and experiences which the individual must some how organize into a
functional pattern. The rituals and ceremonies in all the societies explain
this statement. The ordered steps and functions imparted on each
individual in a ritual are organized in such manner that the final function
of that ritual is performed in a coherent pattern.

An anthropologist while collecting information on a particular cultural

trait is concentrating mainly on the visualized aspect of that performance
or its coherent pattern. The sense impressions and experiences of the
individuals related to that cultural trait are not taken into consideration at
that movement. In fact as the carriers of such impressions and experiences
the individuals may also not conscious about the methods which lead to
the formation of such ‘patterns’. More over they may not be able to
express or reveal such circumstances that they have gone through. It is the
researcher who is reconstructing the mental make of the people as
performers to construct or make sense of their social world. The validity
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 139

and reliability of this ‘reconstruction’ is the question when we go through

the gap between what is performed and what is there in the mind of the
performer before these impressions and experiences are visualized in
social action. No methodology is there to read the mental configuration of
the performer of each social action and also one can not measure the time
taken for the creation of an impression and its performance. Of course
anthropologist can observe their activities for long time, can ask them
about the psychological pressure they are undergoing before every crucial
movement in life and can also build up statements based on previous
literatures on these areas. Again reliability is major constraint. In the
present day situation every thing is commercialized including the rituals.
Even the person in action cannot judge or predict the real state of affairs
regarding what is going on in his mind and what is actually performed.
Some of them can also read the mind of the researcher regarding his
expectations from them and they will act accordingly. In most of the
cultures social actions and behaviors are become rituals and anthropologist
are really confused about the clear demarcation of traditional, transitional
and modern and the real.

Anthropological field work therefore is a didactic experience and

dialectical interplay between the researcher as well as his informants.
Srivastava [1991] opines that societies that have had a larger exposure to
anthropological investigation have respondents who not only posses an
idea of the mechanics of field work but can also steer it, often suggesting
relevant questions to the field worker’. This is especially true in the case of
researchers studying one’s own community or group where he is biased
with information. Madan [1994:136] has given the tactice of handling this
difficult situation that one has to learn not only to live intimately with
strangers but also to live [behave] strangely with intimates. One has to
cultivate empathy for other cultures; contrariwise one has to create
distance between oneself and one’s culture and society in order to be able
to see oneself in the round, as it were’. Here the ethno methodological
reality of make sense of what others say and do in the course of day to day
social interaction became easy and accessible. This perspective will help
researchers from all categories with out the discrimination of outsider or

Depending on secondary information will never give such a deep insight

but it is through field work that the researcher ‘realizes’ himself, and is
able to interpret his own culture and social reality. Information will be
created and cross checked out of the continuous struggle and correction to
140 Chapter Seven

come in terms with the self and the’other’.How far the ‘other’ accepts this
feeling is really a question in front of ethno methodological strategy . This
is a main problem faced by anthropologists working in village and caste
studies. Evans –Pritchard [1973:3] clearly stated that ‘one cannot really
become a Zande or a Nuer or a Bedouin Arab, and the best compliment
one can pay them is to remain apart from them in essentials. In any case
always remain oneself, inwardly a member of one’s own society and a
Sojourner in strange land’. This statement supports Madan’s (1994:136)
argument regarding ‘self’ and ‘other’. Taking all into consideration it is
clear that ethno methodological approach cannot make moral judgments
about meanings, but it is a very good method of analyzing how individuals
make sense of the social world for themselves.

Ethnography or writing on the people is the second stage .It is the

description based on the analysis of people’s activities. Earlier this term
was used for first hand anthropological studies of what were called
‘primitive societies’, but now applied to writings based on observational
studies in any social context. The way of presenting the facts about a
community or any social situation involves many factors. First is the
ethical dimension of presentation. Can we present all the information from
the field without the consent of the concerned population or individual?

In some of the societies there are many restrictions for men in entering
certain areas exclusively meant for women. If a researcher avoids those
situations for not getting access, then his description regarding that
community is incomplete and it is chiefly from the male perspective. More
over it may not be possible for the solitary anthropologist to observe every
thing that goes on in the community. When an event is taking place the
anthropologist cannot be present at all places of action and this will be
reflected as a gap in the ethnographic description. Gananath Obeyeskere
(2004) opined that ‘good ethnography goes beyond the native point of
view and beyond the surface reality of every day understandings. For
example the physical like death, birth, marriage…etc may carry different
meanings in different cultures. Each culture recognizes the meaning of
each phenomenon in a distinctive way though the underlying phenomenon
is identical. An ethnographer’s duty here is much more responsible that he
has to make clear the differences.

But in the case of non-material realities or unconscious materials the

ethnographer is in a particular dilemma. He must either deny its existence
or he must adopt a tricky and comfortable position saying that these non-
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 141

material realities while they exist do not manifest themselves in cultural

form or social life. These unattended non-material realities left by both
anthropologist and informant highlights vague explanations of socio-
cultural life. Regarding such situations, Obeyeskere opined that the
ethnographer has one rational choice if he is to deal directly with these
processes. He must make his interpretations on the basis of a theory, a set
of abstract rules or a philosophical grammar or some such nomological set
of concepts that can help grasp that phenomenon that are elusive by their
very definition.

Thus Ethnography, the methodological enterprise in the study of certain

social realities such as how humans in particular social systems think and
behave is a continuous process of ethno methodology where they study the
construction of such social realities in social situations.

Evans-Pritchard, E.E. (1951), Social Anthropology. London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul.
Madan, T.N. (1994), Pathways: Approaches to the study of society in
India. Delhi: Oxford University press.
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anthropologist & the native in methodology of fieldwork (ed)by V.K




I. Introduction
In a separate paper, (Concha 2007) I have written about the results of a
cyberethnography that I did, which aimed to describe the creation of male
sexualities among self-ascribed Filipino men in online chatrooms, describe
the virtual environments wherein cyber male sexualities are constructed,
and discuss the extent to which virtual male sexualities reflect contemporary
physical world male sexualities and implicate masculinities.

For over two years, I went to chatrooms in the Yahoo chat system as
participant observer. I chatted with chatroom goers who spoke Filipino or
Bisaya and who self-identified as males. The results of such study were
derived from cyberethnographic descriptions of chatroom environments,
textual analysis of conversations and webcam screenshots and discourse
analysis of masculinities in chatrooms. I summarized the results of the
study in the succeeding paragraphs.

Chatroom selves are self-ascribed and ephemeral selves. They constantly

change. They are selves that last until the next technological advancement,
until the next shift in context that finds the present selves uneasy and
wanting to relocate to a different stance and strategy or until the next wave
of whims of the makers of the selves. The chatroom provides a generous,
lenient and non-judgmental context for chatroom goers. It has an indulgent
ambiance. It allows the creation of multiple and diverse selves. Chatroom
selves take advantage of the freedom that cyberspace affords them.
Behavior is not necessarily a personality pattern or a disorder. The
chatroom sanctions a whole range of behaviors that give freedom to
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 143

persons, but which would have been unacceptable in the physical world. It
permits easy shifting among identities, and it permits disappearances and
sudden appearances of online identities.

The research eventually reminds us that we play multiple roles in life that
require more than one fixed self. It also teaches us a potentially powerful
and empowering practice of determining for ourselves the sexual identities
that we want to project in particular situations, without the fear of being
rejected, denigrated or silenced. It tells us that it is possible to create and
express sexual identities that are multiple, fluid or malleable if other
identities around it subscribe to attitudes of open-mindedness, acceptance
and respect for the countless possibilities that persons may articulate

Under these conditions, the practice of masculinities as seen through male

sexualities can become a promising energy that can engender
emancipatory, non-oppressive and egalitarian ways of socializing. These
are the brands of masculinities that are a strong and viable force, which
can undermine a patriarchal culture.

The main purpose of this present paper is to discuss conceptual moods as

well as methodological and ethical issues of doing cyberethnography,
especially within a sexualities research that deals with very personal issues
of participants. In this paper, I refer to “cyborgs” as conceptualized by
Haraway (1991), who talked about cyborgs as hybrids of humans and the
technology that provide them the characteristics they would otherwise not
have without the technology or in offline contexts. In the succeeding
sections, I will describe research methodologies of online research, and
then proceed to discuss how I dealt with research issues as I did my study.

II. A survey of cyberspace research

Cyberspace research (or online research, Internet research) is increasingly
gaining popularity since 1994. Interactions of researchers with participants
took place in virtual chatrooms:
The on-line venue has been used for qualitative research since
approximately 1994, when a few research companies began experimenting
with discussion groups by borrowing chat room technology. This has
evolved into a dimension of qualitative research, aided by customized
software that creates virtual facilities with waiting rooms, client
backrooms, and focus group rooms. (Sweet 1999)
144 Chapter Eight

Advantages offered by studies done over the Internet include saving time
and money spent on travel and easy access for participants, especially
those from other countries. “Online homes participating in the very
experience of fieldwork [in] cyberspace can bring together physically
dispersed people.” With the Internet technology, “[t]he researcher can now
engage in research on a world-wide, low cost, almost instantaneous scale –
and ways which potentially overcome some of the barriers imposed by
more conventional research approaches.” (Illingworth 2001)

Flexibility, speed and more engaging experience for research participants

were also seen as positive features of online research. (Niles 2005)
Research participants were observed to give deeper insights and “truthful”
opinions and the medium allows for more probing questions from
participants and researchers. (Desai 2005)

It would not be good practice to underestimate the potentials of the

Internet in advancing the frontiers of our academic knowledge. “The
Internet is not only a rich source of research information and facilitator of
collaborative research contacts [;] it provides a rich, complex setting and
medium for qualitative research.” (Clarke n.d.) Illingworth also said that
The Internet provides a medium whereby the researcher has access to a
world of behaviour and ideas - in the form of emails, bulletin boards,
discussion forums and chat rooms through which individuals may share
their innermost thoughts and feelings. (Illingworth 2001)

“As cyberspace rapidly becomes a rich medium for communication and

the number of users increases, it is becoming an attractive target for social
and behavioral research.” (AAAS n.d.) Notable online studies on behavior
using different methodologies are worth mentioning here.

Online surveys have been employed in order to describe offline behavior,

(Matsuoka 2005) as well as online ones like socializing, (Preece,
Nonnecke and Andrews 2004; Boase, Horrogan, Wellman and Rainie
2006) use of software, (Shiu and Lenhart 2004) shopping (ACNielsen
2005a; ACNielsen 2005b) or surfing. (Fallows 2004; Fallows 2005)

In a study on the utilization of a parenting website, Madge and O’Connor

used both an online questionnaire survey and online synchronous group
interviews to meet their objectives. (Madge and O’Connor n.d.) Through
online in-depth interviews and participant observations, Hamman was able
to explore the role of fantasy in the construction of the online other.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 145

(Hamman n.d.b) In another study, Hamman made use of a combination of

online interviews, email questionnaires and participant observation in
finding out research participants’ perceptions on the relationship of their
online lives and offline activities and friendships. (Hamman 1999)

Doheny-Farina also used participant observation in gaining insights on the

representations and sense of self in a multi-participant virtual reality
network. (Doheny-Farina 1995) Kizior participated in a “Virtual
Symposium” on Ethics and Technology in order to observe and explain
the lurking behaviors of fellow participants. (Kizior 1999) MacKinnon
used case studies to “[explore] the phenomenon of bodylessness and its
ramifications for the criminal corrections process” as related to Internet
and computer-related crimes. (MacKinnon 1996)

“Most internet studies written and published in the past decade project a
feeling of innovation in both the conceptual and the methodological
understanding of fieldwork in cyberspace.” (Kuntsman 2004) Classic
(offline) ethnography became the inspiration of many researchers who
started employing ethnographic principles in doing research in cyberspace.
This gave way to a growing research methodology genre called virtual
ethnography or cyberethnography. Because of the virtual nature of the
research, what constitutes as symbols of power in the physical context –
such as race, sex, gender, class or appearance – lose their potential to call
forth subordination. According to Kuntsman, cyberethnography is
“dehegemonizing” because it lessens power relations between
ethnographer and study participants. (Kuntsman 2004)

Hamman wrote an ethnography of an “eWorld Hot Tub,” a virtual place,

which is in fact a chatroom, to describe the texts and contexts of online
meetings. (Hamman 1996b) Another of Hamman’s ethnographies was
done among cyborgs in a narrow-bandwidth space of AOL chatrooms to
describe cybersex within those rooms. (Hamman 1996a; Hamman n.d.a)
Mason did a virtual ethnography within his private mailing list for the
supporters of a European football team. (Mason 1999) Armentor utilized a
combination of case study and virtual ethnography in researching on the
public online community’s character, organization, and communications in
a romance web chatroom. (Armentor 2005)

Illingworth used a combination of data gathering techniques, including in-

depth online interviews, semi-structured email interviews, online
discussion group participation, and so on, to test the Internet as a research
146 Chapter Eight

tool, contribute to the debates concerning its value in research and “to
explore the implications of the use of the Internet for the feminist research
project.” (Illingworth 2001)

The book of Markham entitled Life Online: Researching Real Experience

in Virtual Space (2000) is an account of how the researcher “immersed”
herself in online life to come up with narratives that “depict the
complexity and diversity of Internet realities… [to] learn how to be
embodied there – a process of acculturation and immersion which is not so
different from other anthropological projects of cross-cultural
understanding.” (Amazon 2006)

Eley studied online storytelling among elderly support group members and
combined online and offline methods in gathering data. She claimed to
have made use of the ethnographic tradition in doing her research. She
described her technique as follows:
Online methods have included observation of an older people’s virtual
discussion area, “harvesting” and e-mail interviews with some members
and participant observation and archival “harvesting” of an online
bereavement support group and e-mail interviews with some members.
Offline methods have included participant observation of a “traditional”
bereavement support group and informal interviews with members and
associates... The content of storytelling in the support groups was also
explored. (Eley 2003)

Gajjala did an online research that “centered (on) ongoing studies of South
Asians online and the centrality of woman as symbol for cultural/national
identity.” (Gajjala n.d.) She came up with a more specific definition of
“cyberethnography,” which she refers to as a methodology anchored on
“studying through doing.” She describes the process of cyberethnography
as follows:
The approach emphasizes the doing of technology, building of
cyberspatial environments and sustained interaction and “being” online in
order that the researcher may understand the everyday practices associated
with the context, as well as begin to engage the specifics of such an
engagement. Living online thus emphasizes immersion so that there are
relational links between the ethnographer and the subject(s) being studied
and so that the ethnographer understands how the spatio-temporal praxis
of being in such environments might shape her subjectivity. Thus the
researcher not only inhabits such spaces, s/he also learns to code herself
into existence within such spaces by building, interacting and collaborating
within them. Thus s/he dialogically produces cyberselves. (Gajjala 2005)
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 147

Many researchers also employed linguistic and discourse based analyses

of CMC in their methodologies. In their study of a virtual theater in
Internet Relay Chat, Danet and associates wrote:
Our approach draws on sociolinguistics and discourse analysis; the
ethnography of oral genres of verbal art; Shakespearean studies and
analyses of literary genres; research on communication and popular
culture; and recent studies of language, play and performance in computer-
mediated communication. (Danet, Wachenhauser, Bechar-Israeli, H.,
Bechar-Israeli, A. and Rosenbaum-Tamari 1995)

In a study to evaluate gender democracy in CMC, Herring combined

online survey, ethnographic observation and discourse analysis in
collecting and analyzing data from two academic electronic discussion
lists. (Herring 1993) Panyametheekul and Herring studied gender effect on
turn-taking and response patterns in a Thai chatroom and drew on
conversation analysis to process chatroom transcripts. (Panyametheelul
and Herring 2003) Herring, Kouper, Scheidt and Wright did a study on the
discursive construction of blogs and used content analysis in approaching
their data. (Herring, Kouper, Scheidt and Wright 2004)

In studying an online newsgroup that discusses soap operas, Baym made

use of a mixture of surveys though open-ended questions, online and
offline interviews with the members and message analysis. (Baym 1995)
In her book Cyberpl@y: Communicating Online, Danet used textual
analyses of emails, ethnographic studies, website critiques and case studies
in various online “places” in order to discuss “playfulness in grassroots
communication and culture in the Internet in the mid- to late 1990s.”
(Danet 2001) Parrish studied chatroom interaction and used conversation
analysis, an active branch of ethnomethodology, in approaching his data
set. (Parrish n.d.)

Finally, Campbell used discourse analysis to examine concepts emerging

from “frames of play and performance emerging from an online erotic
encounter between two gay male interactants on Internet Relay Chat.”
(Campbell 2003)

The foregoing studies tell us that “cyberspace enables (and even forces) us
to re-examine and reframe old concepts of fieldwork.” (Kuntsman 2004)
At the same time, our usual concepts of research participants and data also
need rethinking.
148 Chapter Eight

III. Cyberspace researches are a different kind of research

In this section, I will tackle the features of cyberspace research that
differentiate it from physical space research.

Cyberspace blurs the borders of many roles, dimensions and spheres,

which we easily think of as distinct in the physical world context. (Gajjala
2000) Offline, we often think of research participants and texts as distinct
entities; online, and especially in chatrooms, participants present
themselves as texts. Offline, at one particular time, we are either authors or
readers of texts; online, we can be both readers and authors of texts at the
same time, and we can be performer and audience at the same time.

It is also difficult for us to visualize cyberspace as a “space” (a physical or

a temporal space, for instance). Even if the experience one gets by being in
the Internet is “place-like” (Mason 1999), we never regard the Internet as
something that has physical dimensions as width, length or height.

Mason refers to cyberspace as “postmodern relocalizations” (Mason

1999). Perhaps more accurately, cyberspace gives another presence to
persons going to it on top of their physical geographical presence. That
second presence is in a non-physical environment. The effect is that people
who are physically present in different geographical locations are also
simultaneously present in a common location – cyberspace.

Most importantly, it is difficult to classify cyberspace as a private sphere

or a public one. A useful view on cyberspace is the metaphor concept
proposed by Waskul (n.d.): “It must be emphasized that labels of public
and private are metaphors applied to the context of cyberspace… Public
and private metaphors are applicable only so long as we agree that
dimensions of cyberspace are like physical places.” (Waskul n.d.) But, of
course, we don’t.

Boundaries of social situation, such as time, space and location are all
distorted or eroded in computer-mediated communication, giving us new
events, behaviors and situations. At best, the private-public divide in
cyberspace is conceptually and experientially blurred. (Waskul n.d.) To
date, there is no convention yet that regulates communication boundaries
in cyberspace. Some refer to it as “publicly private” or “privately public.”
(Bakardjieva and Feenberg n.d.; Waskul n.d.) Consider what Bakardjieva
and Feenberg said about this, which has great implications in obtaining
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 149

informed consent before data collection:

One of the few shared beliefs people have about online communities is
that they are essentially forums for meeting and communicating with
others. Thus, online communities often welcome anyone who wishes to
join. This ethos contradicts the argument for the right to privacy online.
What sense does it make to ask for special permission to join a virtual
community as a researcher when it is open to everyone to join as a
participant? If people go online in order to be heard, why should they be
concerned about privacy? (Bakardjieva and Feenberg n.d.)

Doing research online also challenges our notions of “self”. When a

cyborg researcher interviews another cyborg, is the researcher dealing with
people or researching text? (Basset and O’Riordan n.d.) Should cyborgs be
treated as subjects or cultural production? Must the focus of online
research be the representations – projected personas in cyberspace – or the
persons before the computers?

As cultural and textual productions, cyborgs would invoke issues of

intellectual property rights in a research setup. However, in a “publicly
private” or “privately public” interactive “space” like the chatroom, where
anybody can gain access to these textual productions, no intellectual
property rights is asserted. Cavanagh explains this in further detail:
If we treat online texts, whether on web sites, distributed through mailing
lists, or as exchanges in chat rooms as texts per se, then it is evident that
our only responsibilities as researchers lie in issues of intellectual property
rights. However, if these texts are seen as interaction then the situation is
somewhat different. In seeing textual production online as a form of self
presentation and production which occurs within co-present, co-ordinated
spaces of interaction we divorce the text from the subjectivity of the
“author”, aligning it instead as interactive ritual. Thus we are considering,
not the expression of individual personalities, but the strategic means and
forms of interaction within the media. The data is therefore, by
implication, a product not of individual agency but of social ritual…In this
instance… the data takes the form of an insight which is not peculiar to
any specific individual and therefore does not attach a need to obtain
informed consent from the participants. (Cavanagh n.d.)

Moreover, especially in cyberspace, “a self is not a fixed entity that one

carries around… rather it is a process that emerges in the course of social
interaction.” (Waskul n.d.) Cyberspace is a venue wherein the
constructedness of the self is being highlighted. This is partly because of
the narrow-bandwidth communication afforded by cyberspace. The
150 Chapter Eight

receiver only gets messages (mostly textual only) which are selected by
the sender to be conveyed through the medium. The other non-textual cues
that usually accompany offline communication such as voice and gestures
are filtered out most of the time in online communication. (Mason 1999)
This makes cyberselves vulnerable to different interpretations by
cyberspace goers and prone to different online situations. “Cyberselves are
always situated.” (Waskul n.d.) This kind of environment also promotes or
tolerates changes in self construction and representation through time and
location in cyberspace. Because this environment in cyberspace is
increasingly taken advantage of by cyberspace goers, a cyberself can now
be experienced as multiple, non-fixed, constantly changing, and in fact,

In offline research, especially those which are conducted in the positivist

tradition, data which are regarded as true are those which can be perceived
by the senses, verifiable and reproducible. In online research, “truth”
hardly ever exists beyond what is projected by cyberspace goers. A
“25/f/dvo” is “truthfully” an online persona who is 25-year-old, female
and from Davao, even if in the physical world, he is a 48-year-old male
from Cebu. In other words, online “truth” is self-ascribed.

Yet when we think about it, “determining truth may be no more

problematic in online research than in offline research.” (Carter 2005)
Even in an offline (positivist) research, a participant who places “5 feet
and 6 inches” after “height” in a survey form will most likely be regarded
by the researcher as that tall. And under a very simplistic data gathering
technique, such survey form answer can be regarded as the “truth.” Of
course, a more meticulous data gathering technique can confirm the
answer by actually measuring the participant’s height. Yet this is just not
possible in online research, let alone in a chatroom environment where the
interface is almost purely textual.

The least that one can say in all these is that truths present themselves
differently in online research. There is little probably that one can verify
what another one willfully projects in cyberspace. Moreover, there is no
point in trying to disprove a persona that is willfully projected online. As
Hine puts it, “[t]he point for the ethnographer is not to bring some external
criterion for judging whether it is safe to believe what informants say, but
rather to come to understand how it is that informants judge authenticity.”
(Hine 2000 as cited by Carter 2005) The cyberethnographer’s interest is
precisely that persona which is projected, the discourse that creates and
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 151

recreates it and/or the discourse that is created and recreated by it.

“[E]thical considerations should entail an interplay between codes of

conduct and an intimate understanding of the nature of the online
environment.” (Waskul n.d.) Hence, cyber research is a different kind of
research because it is carried out in a different kind of space, among a
different kind of selves who are projecting a different kind of truth. In
order for a cyber research to be context specific, there is a need to
reconsider, to say the least, the offline research ethical principles as
regards their applicability in this present research.

IV. Cyberethnography
The research that I did among Filipino cyborgs in chatrooms drew on
knowledge production by methods of cyberethnography, a fairly new
genre of qualitative research.

There are several definitions of cyberethnography out of the many varied

ways that it had been employed by many researchers in their studies. One
description of cyberethnography that I find useful to elucidate the methods
in my research is that of Gajjala’s (2000): “cyberethnography is a study of
online interaction. It is unique mainly because of the nature of online
interaction which blurs and complicates the boundary between
transmission and print media… Cyberethnography includes the notion that
online texts are ethnographies. Online interactions are both discursive
subjects and living texts, it is possible to look at email lists, bulletin boards
and websites as ethnographic evidence concerning the discursive subjects
who inhabit cyberspace as well as to view the subjects themselves as
active ethnographers of the various worlds.… they live in.” (Gajjala 2000)
These notions imply more than one approach to data in cyberethnography.
Online interaction in chatrooms can be aptly reported much like
ethnographic descriptions of offline research.

If we pursue Gajjala’s definition and take online texts as ethnographies in

themselves, then cyberethnography requires more than ethnographic
descriptions. I applied principles of textual analysis to examine some
datasets in my research. I found Kintanar’s (1999) approach to textual
analysis very useful for this purpose. Textual analysis involves reading,
interpretation and criticism of data. Such tasks can be organized according
to the purpose of the text, what the text tells us about the author, who the
intended audience of the text is, the author’s use of evidence and rhetorical
152 Chapter Eight

devices to convince the audience and the historical, political and socio-
cultural context of the text. (Kintanar 1999)

Further, if we also take online texts as ethnographic evidence of discursive

subjects in cyberspace, it makes great sense to analyze not only the online
texts as they are, but also the discourses that they serve towards. Thus,
apart from ethnographic description and textual analysis, I also added
discourse analysis in my approach to the dataset in order to better
accomplish a cyberethnographic research. Estrada-Claudio’s (1999)
version of doing discourse analysis was particularly helpful for me. Apart
from arriving at an analysis of textual data, discourse analysis also
examine “claims to expertise or knowledge that (the) text is making,”
“discursive strategies… that reinforce its claim to knowledge,” as well as
the “form of consciousness or subjectivity (that) the text is imposing.”
(Estrada-Claudio 1999)

Thus, for my research, I took cyberethnography to mean the study of

online interaction, which aims to produce ethnographic descriptions,
textual analysis and discourse analysis of online data.

V. Research Environment
In this section, I will give a background of the chatroom environment and
the things that, in the context of online research, can take place in the
chatroom and that are not usually observable or practiced in offline
research. I specifically refer to the chatroom’s “indulgent ambiance,” as I
call it, and the researcher’s practice of lurking within chatrooms.

VI. Indulgent ambiance

The virtual chatroom is my field and it has an indulgent ambiance. An
indulgent ambiance such as that in a chatroom is lenient, generous and
non-judgmental. It has an optimal atmosphere for freely creating and
recreating an identity or several identities. It gives the cyborg a multitude
of possibilities to move from one identity to another, to merge or split
identities or to determine variations and intensities of the characteristics of
the created identities.

A wide-ranging set of behavior is also allowed in an indulgent ambiance.

In a chatroom, talking and not talking are equally acceptable. It is probably
preferable to have a webcam, but not having one or not showing yourself
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 153

to some cyborgs while your webcam is on is definitely not a major

problem. It happens. Every now and then, you get refusals to view others’
webcams. And you also get invitations to view, from time to time. As long
as a public chatroom is not full, you may enter anytime. You may leave
anytime too. With or without permission is acceptable. The chatroom is a
tolerant and permissive environment.

The Yahoo Chat system can be accessed through a web browser or

through the YM. With these two entry points to the chatrooms, it is
possible to log in to two Yahoo accounts or usernames at the same time.
The effect is being in one chatroom with two possibly different identities.
If, for instance, one logs in as LalakingPogi_1981 (sample username only;
confirmed unique in Yahoo profiles: 23 May 2007) through a web browser
and PrettyBabe90 (sample username only; confirmed unique in Yahoo
profiles: 23 May 2007) through YM at the same time, LalakingPogi_1981
and PrettyBabe90 will count as two chatters who can be in one chatroom.
PrettyBabe90 can declare to be “16-year-old female from Digos” and
LalakingPogi_1981 can describe himself as a “27-year-old male from
Quezon City.” LalakingPogi_1981 and PrettyBabe90 can even send each
other private messages. There is, of course, only one bodied person behind
the two usernames or identities in the chatroom in this instance.

Because of the many YM clients distributed in the Internet, it is now even

possible to log in to more than two Yahoo accounts at the same time using
just one computer. YM clients such as YahElite, (YahElite Website 2006)
Yaheh, (Yaheh Website 2006) Y!MLite (Y!MLite Website 2006) and
JAM (JAM Website 2006) are third-party downloadable software that
allows one to access to the Yahoo Chat system. (HelpBytes n.d.) For each
client, one Yahoo username can be used to enter the chatrooms. The
number of identities that one can field into a chatroom would be as many
as the entry points one uses to log in. Thus, one chatroom can, in theory,
be occupied by all the identities created by just one bodied person.

The countless possibilities of identity production in the chatroom, the

recognition and respect for such and the absence of resistance to these
possibilities make for an indulgent ambiance. The environment is generous
in acknowledging this kind of fluidity. It does not readily categorize or
stereotype the identities. It does not assign a moral value, precisely
because it recognizes the fluid, shifting and transient nature of the
154 Chapter Eight

VII. Lurking
One possible definition of “lurking” is: merely observing events without
contributing to the conversations while virtually present in a chatroom. In
physical world research, this is called “non-participant observation.” In
most newsgroups, only 10% post messages (posters); 90% are lurkers.
(Mason 1999) Frankel and Shang describe what lurkers-researchers do:
“On the Internet, group discussion formats make it relatively easy for
researchers to engage in covert or unobtrusive observation. An investigator
can record the online conversations of a community without making her
presence as a researcher known.” This practice is, to a large extent,
tolerated by cyborgs in a chatroom. Kizior explained:
If one registers for a list-serve it would be because that individual has
some interest in receiving whatever they have signed up for, whether they
be active or passive players. If one joins a chatboard, they do so because
they find the topic interesting and may want the opportunity to respond, if
not now then at a later time. There is no requirement that one has to be an
active participant. (Kizior 1999)

Lurking as a technique in data gathering has been employed in the past.

(Herring 1994) In his conversation analysis of chatroom communication,
Parrish lurked inside the chatroom all throughout the duration of his study
while gathering materials for analysis. Herring also lurked in many
computer-mediated discussion lists as part of “carrying out ethnographic
observations” in looking at gender differences in CMC. (Herring 1994) In
her research in an online group for support of those with breast cancer,
Sharf started data collection as a lurker, long before announcing to the
group members that she is also a researcher. Clarke described Sharf’s
Sharf (1999) started collecting material by ‘lurking’ out of curiosity on a
newsgroup created for support of those with breast cancer. Only after
harvesting interesting messages from the news group [did] she [announce]
her dual role of participant and researcher with each message she posted
with due regard that online groups have new members on an ongoing basis
and members may not read all messages... When a draft copy of her
research obtained unexpected publicity, Sharf contacted each of the 14
group members from whom she had collected material for permission. She
later provided the group with her draft research and obtained considerable
and useful feedback in the form of supplementary information as well as
perspectives on interpretation, all of which she was able to include in her
study. (Clarke n.d.)
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 155

Lurking can actually be combined with other tasks in data gathering. In

my experience in public chatrooms, I managed to save transcripts, take
screenshots and exchange private messages with other cyborgs in a
message window outside of the chatrooms while lurking.

VII. Cyborgs and self-ascribed identities

as research participants
In my cyberethnographic study, I entered the chatrooms as a cyborg and
subsequently dealt with other cyborgs as research participants. Cyborg
identities borrow so much from their being textual constructions. In the
chatroom, cyborgs are “bodyless” beings. (MacKinnon 1996) They exist
because of the texts that constitute them. They, most often, have bodied
persons behind their online persona, but their relationship to those bodied
persons is blurred.

In the chatroom, you put on a mask, somehow. You enter with a created
username that is (usually) different from your name in the physical world
precisely because you want to put on a mask and create an identity that is
novel and different from what you project in the physical environment.
You put up a performance that you normally do not show in the physical.
It may be seen as a means of “hiding” your physical identity, but it may
also have a host of other reasons behind it. For one, hiding behind a mask
in the chatroom is hardly a conscious effort. The chatroom environment
makes putting on a mask inherent among cyborgs.

A whole lot of possibilities can be done when one is anonymous. One can
experiment or explore other possible identities. One may also savor
anonymity for the fun of it. Or one may want to be anonymous to elicit
different reactions from other cyborgs. “Anonymity constitutes the
fascination of chatting for the users.” (Orthmann 2000)

After all, in a chatroom, one deals with other cyborgs who are possibly
putting up their own masks or performances too. The physical persons
behind the cyborgs may be total strangers to you, but they may also be
your friends from the physical world or another researcher. But you don’t
necessarily run after the bodied persons behind the masks. In cyberspace,
you are after the masks. You are interested with the representations, rather
than the authors of those representations.

The constructed representations of the self serve not only to explore a

156 Chapter Eight

variety of possibilities but also to be instructive of what and who we are.

“Donning a mask, adopting a persona, is a step toward reaching a deeper
truth about the real.” (Turkle 1999)

The textual context of chatroom interaction allows self-ascription of

identities. Sex – that which is biological, hence given, in the physical
world – is self-ascribed in a chatroom. Gender too is self-ascribed. And so
are geographical locations, age, attributes, occupations, and self-narratives.
And the practice is something that is tolerated, welcome – and encouraged
even – within the chatroom environment. Very few, if at all, endeavor to
verify that self-ascribed attributes match physical ones. Most cyborgs are
more interested with the self-ascriptions rather than with the bodied
persons behind them.

Identities in the chatroom heavily rely on “asl” – the chat acronym for
‘age, sex and location.’ It is usually the first information one asks of
another cyborg. One usually types “hi! asl?” to which another may reply
with “23 m dvo,” meaning 23-year-old male from Davao. Very seldom is
one’s “real” name asked. The usual usernames are, however, can be very
graphic and evocative, bearing strings like “huge penis” or “horny hunk.”

Other revealing “technologies of the self” would be text fonts, font sizes,
font colors and emoticons that accompany the texts. All combinations of
these “rudiments” of chatroom identities are chosen and deliberately
assembled by their authors. Chatroom identities are classic illustrations of
self-ascribed identities.

The chatroom name may not be used as a basis for establishing the identity
of cyborgs. To some extent, many Filipinos could be found in a Philippine
chatroom, and a lot of self-professed lesbians do chat inside a lesbian
chatroom. But the composition of chatters cannot be absolutized. Many
lurkers could be present in a particular chatroom out of curiosity. Some
cyborgs just want to hang around for no particular reason at all.

And then again, even if one claims to be a lesbian or a heterosexual male

in a particular chatroom, the identity could really be self-ascribed which,
for all intents and purposes, may not bear any resemblance to any of that
person’s (also self-ascribed) identities in the physical world, outside that
particular chatroom, or even in the same chatroom at a different time or
with a different set of co-chatters. Identities of chatroom cyborgs are, at
best, not fixed and not bound by geographical limits.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 157

Because it was difficult to apply a geographical framework in chatrooms, I

selected my study participants based on their capacity to speak Philippine
languages, especially Filipino and Bisaya. I surmised that the ability to
communicate in Philippine languages could be a rough basis for assuming
that the identities projected in the chatroom come from a bodied Filipino.
This is not fool-proof, however, since one need not necessarily be a
Filipino in order to achieve a good command of any of the Philippine
languages. Yet this is a part of the environment in cyberspaces like the
chatrooms, and one of the things that I had to come to terms with in my
cyberspace research.

All in all, cyborg participation in the research makes for a researcher-

participant environment that cultivates egalitarian relationships. “[The]
virtual (disembodied) participation is an ideal medium for conducting
unbiased research, fostering a ‘democratisation of exchange’… and non-
coercive, anti-hierarchical dialogue.” (Illingworth 2001) Cyborgs
interacting with cyborgs assure that everybody, researcher and research
participants alike, may wield only those powers that can easily be resisted
when deemed destructive.

VIII. Online data and trustworthiness issues

First impressions on my research when I presented it to others always
included doubts over the “validity” and “reliability” of the data that I have
gathered. “Closeness to the truth” and the difficulty of ascertaining the
relationship of the representations and the person/s behind the
representations have been pointed out as gray areas in my methodology.

If we go by qualitative researchers’ arguments, we will find ample points

of view that advocate a rethinking of the positivist concepts of
trustworthiness (validity, reliability and objectivity) of research data in the
context of post-positivist, especially qualitative, research. Guba and
Lincoln (1989, as cited by Crawford, Leybourne and Arnott 2000) suggest
that, in qualitative research, the trustworthiness criteria of positivist
research may be replaced by more appropriate concepts. Validity can be
ascertained by looking at the credibility and transferability of the study,
while dependability can replace reliability and confirmability can
substitute objectivity.

By ascertaining credibility, they refer to embedding the following

techniques within research methodologies: 1) prolonged engagement or
158 Chapter Eight

“investing sufficient time to provide scope to the study by learning about

context and culture;” 2) persistent observation or “providing depth to the
study by identifying those elements in the situation that are most relevant;”
3) peer debriefing or “exposing researchers to disinterested peers in order
to probe biases and explore meanings;” 4) negative case analysis or
“continuously revising a hypothesis until it accounts for all known cases;”
5) triangulation or “cross-checking information by use of multiple and
different sources, methods, investigators and theories;” and 6) member
checks or “testing interpretations and conclusions with members of those
stakeholder groups from whom data were originally collected.”

Transferability refers to arriving at “thick descriptions” taken from the

broadest dataset possible. Lincoln and Guba were also quick to claim that
the objective of qualitative research is “not… to provide an index of
transferability… (but) to provide the data base [with working hypotheses]
that make transferability judgments possible on the part of potential
appliers.” Ensuring dependability means demonstrating the stability of
data over time. Confirmability means the degree to which data evaluation
is rooted in contexts and persons within the dataset. (Guba and Lincoln
1989, as cited by Crawford, Leybourne and Arnott 2000; Lincoln and
Guba 1985, as cited by IDS)

Having described the research environment and the nature of my research

participants as well as their attendant conversations and other textual data,
it is obvious that not all of Guba and Lincoln’s prescribed criteria of
trustworthiness could be demonstrated in my study. While it is possible to
stay in a prolonged period in chatrooms, make persistent observations and
expose my work to disinterested peers to probe for biases and explore
meanings, the other criteria can only be partially met, if at all. When
dealing with the fleeting textual identity projections of individuals, it may
be difficult if not utterly impossible to triangulate or cross-check those
projections with the physical individuals, much less attempt to
demonstrate stability of the projections over time or establish that the
projections are in fact rooted in particular individuals. Of course, all these
do not definitely mean, however, that I cannot assure trustworthiness in
my methodology.

If we are to be sensitive of the nature of the field and the cyborgs that
constitute this research, coming to terms with the newly-emerging and
different angles by which “trustworthiness” can be looked at would
probably not be as difficult. Kuntsman emphasized this sensitivity through
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 159

a challenge to re-negotiate a different set of conceptual and

methodological framework in fieldwork. (Kuntsman 2004) Basset and
O’Riordan warns us of the “removal of internet text from their actual
context.” (Basset and O’Riordan n.d.) Marcus Leaning proposed a
“validity for meaning at a local level… by calling upon… locally
negotiated shared concepts.” (Leaning 1998) Clarke elaborates:
It is important to use the online medium for what it is good at rather than
slavishly adapting face-to-face methods. The approach and medium
chosen should suit the research goals and be sensitive to the target group
and context as well as [make use of] the functionality of the chosen
medium and minimise its limitations. (Clarke n.d.)

In other words, in keeping with being context-specific in my study, I found

it inappropriate to invoke concepts of credibility-transferability,
dependability and confirmability (which are used in the context of
researches done in the physical world) in this particular study. In a study
of self-representations which are largely textual, graphic, digital and short-
lived, what is captured as data in the medium of communication and
medium of data collection, and then “frozen” as emic, is itself an evidence
of credibility-transferability, dependability and confirmability of the data.
The data can no longer be potentially more credible-transferable, more
dependable and more confirmable than this in the context of online
research, and so therefore, can be said to have attained the “highest level”
of credibility-transferability, dependability and confirmability possible.

IX. Ethical considerations

The tensions
Crafting the methodology for this research had not been easy, especially
because of this relatively new approach to knowledge production within a
relatively new “research locale.” In particular, I had to make difficult
decisions regarding what to include as data gathering techniques. While
the ethnographic tradition possesses a rich track record as a research
design, its techniques – inclusive of participant observation, in-depth
interviews and taking of field notes – have always been employed within
the bounds of physical places until very recently. The metaphorical place
called cyberspace only partly – if at all – shares the features of a physical
research venue, making it difficult for me to extrapolate principles from
physical ethnography to this present work.
160 Chapter Eight

Furthermore, the experience of shaping and reshaping my methodologies

brought to the fore the raw distinction between data gathering for
“personal use” and data gathering for “research use.” One can actually
change or multiply personas within chatrooms as a personal experience,
for instance, but doing it for research purposes – with the view of making
the results public – might qualify as deception and require a different
ethical consideration. In other words, I encountered many things that I can
personally do, but which I cannot write about as research. As Thomas
(1995) puts it, “there are times, especially in research dealing with close
interaction in which ethical guidelines are not as clear cut as they seem.
This is true especially in participant observation or other research in which
boundaries can be blurred by the ambiguity of roles between researcher
and subject, or when it’s not always clear when the researcher is acting in
a personal or a professional capacity.”

The tensions surfaced as soon as I started becoming conscious that I would

be doing research in chatrooms and when I began talking to colleagues,
professors, advisers and members of the panel about my research. In my
preproposal presentation, a number of these tensions gelled as ethical
considerations in gathering and reporting research data. Is the chatroom
private or public? Shall I ask permission to save chat transcripts or take
screenshots? Shall I always identify as a researcher while I collect data or
shall I remain anonymous sometimes? Will lurking in chatrooms be an
ethical data gathering technique? How much information regarding my
research should I reveal to potential participants? When I report data, can I
use the pseudonymous nicknames of participants? Would granted
permission to view webcam suffice as consent to collect and report data?

As expected, the answers were not easy. The newness of cyberethnography

as a “research tradition” makes possible the exploration of novel and
ingenious ways of producing knowledge, yet exposes a great deal of
ethical questions that do not even require straightforward and absolute
answers, but critical negotiation.

I have reconsidered some data gathering techniques after the preproposal

presentation. A case in point is the taking of screenshots of webcams. I
have considered taking screenshots in order to describe the physical aspect
of projecting virtual identities. I originally planned to describe the physical
environment broadcasted by chatroom users, as well as behaviors that they
project over their webcams. I figured out that even the choice of what to
project (whole body, face only, chest only, groin area only, etc.) would
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 161

potentially be useful in the analysis of how sexualities are constructed and

represented in cyberspace. In the chatrooms, quite a few requests to view
webcams are granted by chatroom goers. I actually went as far as taking
screenshots of webcams which I was granted access to, both in cases
wherein I was using a username with “researcher” and in those wherein I
was using other usernames. I also showed a few of these screenshots
during my preproposal presentation to graphically illustrate chatroom life.

Along with my reconsideration of the ethics of my research, I gave this

particular mode of data gathering a second thought. Permissions granted to
those who request webcam access (whether they are researchers or not) are
only for viewing. Taking screenshots for research purposes are,
technically, not part of the permissions even if the usernames of those
granted permission imply that they are researchers. Following this logic,
taking screenshots as research data would, indeed, need a separate specific
request to do so – something which I have not done in the past.
Consequently, I disregarded the first batch of screenshots I took and
started to always ask permission to take screenshots. There were refusals,
and I respected them. Yet, quite a few were willing to have their
screenshots taken after I explained to them how I would use the shots.

X. Ethics in online and offline research

In this portion, I will mention and describe models of online research that
have been used to appraise some ethical issues within research
methodologies. These models will hopefully provide us with some bases
on which to consider whether the methodologies that I have proposed are
legitimate, acceptable and ethical or not.

Bakardjieva and Feenberg proposed an objectification-alienation model in

looking at online interaction. (Bakardjieva and Feenberg n.d.) Within the
events that take place in the interaction of cyborgs, there happens an
objectification of human subjectivities and subsequent alienation of
humans from their objectified production. Bakardjieva and Feenberg said:
Participation in online communities is a source of anxiety for members
and observers alike as it involves a complex and yet to be understood
dialectic of objectification and alienation. Objectification refers to
producing material and symbolic traces of one's conscious life. We
objectify ourselves in the products of our action that are observable,
interpretable and usable by other people… The Internet has opened up a
rich variety of new forms of objectification. Alienation, on the other hand,
162 Chapter Eight

implies the appropriation of the products of somebody’s action for

purposes never intended or foreseen by the actor herself, drawing these
products into a system of relations over which the producer has no
knowledge or control… [B]y virtue of objectifying themselves in a variety
of new forms, Internet users have made themselves vulnerable to new
unforeseen forms of alienation. Alienation may not always be harmful to
the person affected, but it is disrespectful and potentially disempowering
of its victims. (Bakardjieva and Feenberg n.d.)

The ethical response to this model is, of course, something that prevents
alienation of human subjects from their cultural production. If alienation
takes place in the researchers’ act of saving or using the products of group
communication, such as the chat transcripts, then a ‘non-alienating’ move
would be for the researchers to ask permission of their use preferably
before the production takes place. (Bakardjieva and Feenberg n.d.)

Owing to the view that the Internet is a means of communication – not so

much that it is an arena for social interaction – many are with the
standpoint that online research is a human subjects research. This point-of-
view focuses on the persons in front of the computers rather than on the
textual productions of these persons. This view has its own merits, because
after all, textual productions come into existence because of the persons
that produce them. No humans, no textual production. Walther elaborates
Human subjects research is that in which there is any intervention or
interaction with another person for the purpose of gathering information,
or when information is recorded by the researcher in such a way that a
person can be identified directly or indirectly with it. Even asking
someone a question may constitute interaction. (Walther n.d.)

The human subjects model further requires that “research on humans must
take care to respect autonomy (free will), beneficence (minimizing harm
and preserving privacy), and justice toward human subjects.” (Walther
n.d.) Walther added that “the research use of spontaneous conversations, if
gathered in a publicly accessible venue, is not human subjects research…
Behavior in public settings is in fact not protected from recording for
research.” But is entering a chatroom and conversing with other chatters
for the purpose of research really “spontaneous conversations?”

The single most important document in ensuring that human rights are
taken care of while conducting the research is the informed consent. If we
consider online research to be one that deals with human subjects, we will
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 163

have to deal with issues of obtaining informed consent in every data that is
gathered and saved, every time we interact with other cyborgs, every time
we enter the chatroom to participate in discussions, observe or lurk and, in
fact, every time we “switch” to cyborg mode, i.e., every time we open our

The human subjects model can be counterproductive as asking for the

consent of all participants may be improbable. (Basset and O’Riordan n.d.)
Bruckman even warns that “[t]he process of requesting consent must not
disrupt normal group activity. Note that in real-time chatrooms... the
process of requesting consent is often perceived as disruptive by
participants.” (Bruckman 2002)

At any rate, the task of profusely obtaining informed consent while doing
online research is not easy, of course, and practical considerations are
called for in these instances.

On the other hand, many online researchers and ethicists propose a

reframing of our ethical notions to accommodate peculiarities of
researches done over the Internet. Basset and O’Riordan see the human
subjects model as a “reductive view of the internet” (Basset and
O’Riordan n.d.) and emphasized the “need for an acknowledgement of the
textuality of the Internet as a form of cultural production, in a similar
framework to that of the print media, broadcast television and radio,”
(Basset and O’Riordan n.d.) Knobel also pointed out that
researching communities and practices on the Internet requires new
approaches to ethical conduct because what holds in physical space--or,
meatspace--hardly ever translates directly into cyberspace, and may even
hinder “good” research because, for example, the insistence on informed
consent from participants in the study may actually irreparably disrupt an
online community or series of interactions. (Knobel 2002)

In the following section, I will describe what I did in my research, while

keeping in mind the ethical dilemmas that I have encountered, the unique
features of cyber researches and the presently available ethical models that
we employ in research.

XI. Ethical approach for my research

Based on the foregoing models, an ethical approach to online research is
fraught with competing views. The least that one can do about ethical
164 Chapter Eight

considerations in cyberethnography would be to acknowledge ethical

pluralism. (Ess 2002) As for my research, I went back to the basic
principles of offline research and renegotiated these principles for use
online. I did not lie to cyborg participants about my personal details and
intentions when introducing as a researcher or when asked about them, but
I did not actively volunteer these information, either, especially during
times when I was just lurking in chatrooms.

In dealing with other cyborgs, the principle that I considered most

important is the “do no harm” or non-maleficence principle. No harm
could be inflicted on the bodied persons behind the cyborgs if I would not
attempt to link the usernames to a physical person. I took great care in
coding the actual names in such a way that the codes would closely
resemble the original, but would be syntactically different as to exclude
the possibility of using such codes to communicate with their owners. I
also checked the Yahoo profiles to verify the uniqueness of each coded
username and indicated in the final paper the date of verification.

I always asked the permission of individual cyborgs for me to record our

conversations within a private message window. Refusals were very rare.
Furthermore, I will always asked permission before I took screenshots of
webcams. As per advice of my panel, I only used the webcam screenshots
for textual/photographic analysis and neither reproduced them in any of
my research presentations nor showed them to anyone else.

However, it was not practical to always ask permission from everyone in

the chatroom before I recorded chat transcripts, especially when I was just
lurking or observing without participating in the conversations. I made up
for this omission of asking permission by changing the usernames,
translating the conversations from Filipino or Bisaya to English and
paraphrasing some conversational lines.

For cyborgs who additionally gave me other contact details such as email
by which the persons behind them could be further reached, I offered to
provide them with a copy of the drafts of my research as my way of
reciprocating them for being research participants and to solicit comments
and suggestions on my work. I had very low turn outs in this effort. Very
seldom could I go back to the research participants to talk to them for the
second time. I figured that, as it were, they might have already used a
different username after the first time we chatted. Yet even if they used the
same username and I saw them online again, they don’t usually exhibit the
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 165

same “mood” or “enthusiasm” to go back to previous topics or were

simply too busy with other things to talk to me again. The fleeting nature
of cyborg identities often precluded communication with them after initial

And then again, it was always possible that the stories or personal details
about themselves that cyborgs told me the first time we meet did not really
happen to them, so they could hardly carry on talking about them during
subsequent online encounters. While I did not intend to reconcile different
versions of personal details or narratives – recognizing that even “fiction”
that comes out of conversations in cyberspace (cultural production) is
constructed and owned by a particular person – this phenomenon rendered
triangulation very difficult, if not outright impossible.

Finally, I relied heavily on the promise that my study would help bring to
the fore new epistemologies of masculinities that would be useful in
espousing egalitarian, non-oppressive and liberating forms of
masculinities. I always thought that these intentions would hopefully
address the issue of justice to research participants and that, as long as I
would put all the data gathered for my study to good use, I could be
confident that I would not cause great harm to the study participants.

XII. Conclusion
I have thus discussed the prominent methodological and ethical issues that
I have encountered in doing a cyberethnography among self-ascribed male
Filipino cyborgs in chatrooms. Many of my research techniques were
based on my assertions that cyberethnography is a research method that is
different from physical ethnography because it is done in a different field
among different selves who discursively deal with each other using a
different kind of truth. The research methodologies consequently had to be
constantly reshaped and renegotiated in the course of data gathering.
Ethical considerations were likewise approached keeping in mind that
ethical pluralism is always a possibility in cyberethnography. Perhaps,
more than elsewhere, the process of contextualizing decisions on what to
include as technically acceptable and ethically sound research
methodologies requires special attention in an emerging research genre
such as cyber ethnography.
166 Chapter Eight

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I. Introduction
Livelihoods approach was first taken up by scholars like Diana Carney and
Scoons (1998). One of the important features of livelihood approach is
that, it focuses upon people’s assets (physical, natural, financial, human,
social and political capitals). It also looks at how people utilize these
assets and negotiate their problems.

The sustainable livelihoods approach goes back to the mid 1980’s when
Robert Chambers first initiated thinking in this area. These early
theoretical formulations were further developed in early 1990’s by
Chambers, Conway and others (1999). Since then, a number of
development agencies, Governmental and non-governmental, such as
Department for International Development (DFID), United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP), CARE and OXFAM, have made
efforts to implement it. There have been many attempts to define
livelihoods. Chambers and Conway defined livelihoods as “the ways in
which people satisfy their needs, or gain a living” (1992:5).

Carney offered an elaborate definition of sustainable livelihoods. “A

livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (including both material and
social resources) and activities required for a means of living. A livelihood
is sustainable when it can cope up with and recover from stresses and
172 Chapter Nine

shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets both now and in
the future, while not undermining the natural resource base”
(Carney,1998: 2).

A “Livelihood” is a set of flows of income, from hired employment, self-

employment, remittances or (usually in developing rural areas) from a
seasonality and annually variable combination of all these. Livelihood
implies systems of how people make a living and whether their livelihoods
are secure or vulnerable over time (Ahmed and Lipton, 1988).

Livelihood Security means “Secure ownership of, access to, resources and
income- generating activities, including reserves and assets to offset risk,
ease shocks and meet contingencies” (Chambers, 1988: 2).

A Sustainable Livelihoods (SL) approach aims to provide a wider view of

poverty than conventional income-based approaches. (Scoons, 1998) as
rightly viewed that Sustainable Livelihoods approach recognises the
importance of ability to access resources and entitlements, reduce risk and
vulnerability, and exercise voice; it therefore emphasises that the poor do
have assets, options and strategies, and that they are decision takers; its
concern with ‘getting below the surface’ to informal institutions and
processes is particularly important; and it offers the prospect of identifying
entry points for pro-poor change, and of sequencing activities in such a
way as to minimise the danger of appropriation of benefits by local elites.

The rationale for the promotion of a ‘livelihoods approach’ in the

watershed programme in states such as Andhra Pradesh lies in the desire to
take a more inclusive approach to community development and directly
address some of the criticism that the watershed programme, which is
essentially land-based, does not benefit the poor, many of whom are
landless. Such an approach focuses on people’s livelihood assets and
strategies. People’s own human capital – comprising the skills, knowledge,
ability to labour and good health – is one asset on which they can draw.
Hitherto, there has been insufficient differentiation in considering human
capital within livelihoods frameworks. DFID’s sustainable rural
livelihoods approach puts ‘people at the centre of development’. The
DFID-supported Andhra Pradesh Rural Livelihoods Project (APRLP)
covers five districts in Andhra Pradesh, with a total population of over 15
million. The target group for the project are the rural poor in those
districts, estimated to be up to 40% of the population (Seeley, 2001).
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 173

II. Andhra Pradesh Rural livelihoods Project

In Andhra Pradesh, since last few years participatory watershed
programme is being implemented, where, at present, Andhra Pradesh
Rural Livelihoods Project (APRLP) project aims to scale up ongoing
watershed programme activities in the State by supporting in the areas of
capacity building, livelihood support and convergence of other schemes
and services, collectively called ‘watershed plus’. The project is expected
to assist in macro policy evolution relating to evolving effective and
sustainable approaches to reduce poverty in the five drought prone districts
of the State. The project adopts a participatory sustainable rural
livelihoods strategy, which is based on an analysis of the capital assets
(physical, social, human, natural, financial and political) from which the
rural poor makeup their livelihoods (APRLP, 1999).

The Sustainable Livelihoods approach highlights access to assets as key to

enhancing capabilities. Pretty emphasizes that assets under the five
headings of natural, social, human, physical and financial capital are vital
for sustainable development (Pretty, 1999). In addition to identifying
assets, the nature of access is critical to determining ‘entitlement’, defined
by Williams as the ‘full range of resources that a person has at their
disposal for the realization of capabilities’ (Williams, 1999, p.194).

Pretty and Ward identify social capital as an important part of sustainable

livelihoods. It consists of formal and informal rules, norms and sanctions,
connections through networks and between groups all of which facilitate
relations of trust, reciprocity and exchange (Pretty and Ward, 2001, p.211;
Pretty, 1999, quoted in Marzano, 2002, p. 823).

Further Marzano (2002, 824) explains that sustainable livelihoods

approach helps to identify people who may be vulnerable by examining
people’s access to available assets and the livelihoods choices they
subsequently make. In this study, social – or political – capital influences
access to most other resources, and is therefore a key factor determining
vulnerability. Those with insufficient access to land will, if they have the
available labour within the household, rent or borrow plots of land from
other landowners in the villages.

According to Appendini (2001: 24) the central objective of the livelihoods

approach as was ‘to search for more effective methods to support people
and communities in ways that are more meaningful to their daily lives and
174 Chapter Nine

needs, as opposed to ready-made, interventionist instruments’.

Robert Chambers (at IDS) and Gordon Conway (at IIED), themselves
drawing upon insights from previous research on food security and agro-
ecological sustainability, are widely acknowledged for having put
livelihoods, then usually called ‘sustainable livelihoods’, at centre stage
(Chambers and Conway, 1992).

In the context of disaster analysis, Blaikie et al. (1994) elaborated an

access-to-resources model, which proved extremely useful in explaining
poor people’s livelihoods and their coping mechanisms in periods of crisis.
They partly built on Sen’s (1981) concept of entitlements, which was more
appropriate for understanding poverty and famine than the narrower notion
of property.

This is not to say that livelihood is not a matter of material well-being, but
rather that it also includes non-material aspects of well-being. Livelihood
should be seen as a dynamic and holistic concept. In the words of
Bebbington (1999: 2002)

A person’s assets, such as land, are not merely means with which he or she
makes a living: they also give meaning to that person’s world. Assets are
not simply resources that people use in building livelihoods: they are
assets that give them the capability to be and to act. Assets should be
understood only as things that allow survival, adaptation and poverty
alleviation: they are also the basis of agents’ power to act and reproduce,
challenge or change the rules that govern the control, use and
transformation of resources.

Further Haan et al (2005, 33) expresses that the improved understanding of

the holistic meaning of livelihood (and subsequently, of the
multidimensionality of poverty, which takes account of how poverty is
perceived by the poor themselves) is an important achievement of the
livelihoods approach. It reveals itself not only in its view on livelihood
outcomes, but also in its attention to a variety of capitals upon which the
poor draw to shape their livelihoods. Besides conventional assets like
land, livestock or equipment, these include various elements of human
capital and social capital. The emphasis is on the flexible combinations of,
and trade-offs between, different capitals.

A valuable step forward has been made by Scoones and Wolmer (2002) in
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 175

their study of pathways to crop livestock integration in Africa. Pathways

show that people do make their own livelihoods, but not necessarily under
conditions of their own choosing: ‘Livelihoods emerge out of past actions
and decisions are made within specific historical and agro-ecological
conditions, and are constantly shaped by institutions and social
arrangements (ibid: 183).

Depicting livelihood trajectories can perhaps best be described as

unraveling a historical route through a labyrinth of rooms, with each room
having several doors giving access to new livelihood opportunities; but the
doors can be opened and the room of opportunities successfully entered
only with the right key qualifications. (Haan et al, 2005: 44).

Livelihood trajectories should explicitly focus on matters of access to

opportunities, especially mapping the workings of power, starting with
‘power within’, via ‘power to’ and finally, to ‘power over’. The
livelihoods approach allows for both the intentional, strategic behaviour of
actors and the historical, socio-cultural repertoire; it represents a dynamic
standpoint on livelihoods, which take into account successes and failures,
as well as social and geographical mobility, rather than making rigid and
static assumptions about class, gender and so on. Livelihoods are usually
analysed in relation to a single location, seeking to understand the
geographical, socio-economic and cultural micro situations. More
emphasis should be placed on comparative research, or a systemic
comparison of livelihood decisions in different geographical, socio-
economic, cultural or temporal contexts, so that patterns can be recognized
as pathways, which go beyond the specific case (ibid).

III. The Question of Vulnerability

The sustainable livelihoods approach takes into account the vulnerability
context in order to understand the way people cope up with those contexts.
There have been many attempts to define ‘Vulnerability’.

“Vulnerability is best defined relative to some benchmark of ill-being”

(Alwang et al, 2001). Vulnerability related to dimensions such as
educational opportunities, mortality, nutrition and health could be
measured as well (Stefan Dercon, 2001). To briefly explain, ‘vulnerability’
is understood as the trends, shocks and seasonality over which people have
limited or no control. Yet, these critically affect their livelihood status and
possibilities. The trends are understood to be large movements, such as
176 Chapter Nine

population trends, resource trends, national/ international trends, trends in

governance, and technological trends. Shocks are understood to be short
intense bursts that could include human, crop, livestock, health shocks
(like epidemics), natural shocks (storms, droughts, etc), economic shocks
(depression), conflict (civil war), etc. Seasonality signifies cyclical
occurrence of events and these could include seasonal shifts in prices,
employment opportunities, food availability, health hazards, etc. These
are, of course, complexly inter-connected and this study proposes to
analyze a great deal from complex inter –working of the vulnerability

Prowse (2003,12; quoted Hulme et al 2001:9) defines ‘Vulnerability’ that

“what poor people are concerned about is not so much that their level of
income, consumption or capabilities are low, but that they are likely to
experience highly stressful declines in these levels, to the point of
premature death. This approach suggests that poverty can be seen as the
probability (actual or perceived) that a household will suddenly (but
perhaps also gradually) reach a position with which it is unable to cope,
leading to catastrophe”.

The sustainable livelihoods approach has been widely identified as an

instrument to eradicate poverty. However, our study seeks to use this
approach as a means to understand not only poverty but all the other forms
of deprivations and vulnerability contexts.

IV. Marginal Communities and their Livelihoods

in India and Andhra Pradesh
The term ‘marginal’ is used here to represent the tribal communities of
Andhra Pradesh and more so in respect of the Sugali Tribe in Ananthapur
District. The Macmillan Dictionary of Anthropology defines the term
‘Marginal’ or ‘Marginality’ as “in its economic, political and sociocultural
dimensions is an important element in most contexts of anthropological
research, and has varying dimensions which have been explored in
ethnography and anthropological theory to varying extents”. Thus “the
vast majority of the populations studied by anthropologist’s are to a certain
extent marginal ones: often doubly marginal, as in the case of ethnic
minority groups existing within Third World nations which are themselves
marginal to the world capitalist system”. It is further mentioned that
“anthropological research within Western nations also tends to focus on
groups which are in some way marginal to the dominant national society,
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 177

whether they are ethnic minorities or groups that are in some other way set
apart from the mainstream” (177-178).

The World Bank (2005) uses the term "Indigenous Peoples" instead,
which is defined in Our Operational Policies 4.10 (link to OP 4.10
provided below) as: The term "Indigenous Peoples" is used in a generic
sense to refer to a distinct, vulnerable, social and cultural group,
possessing the following characteristics in varying degrees:

(a) Self-identification as members of a distinct indigenous cultural group

and recognition of this identity by others;
(b) Collective attachment to geographically distinct habitats or ancestral
territories in the project area and to the natural resources in these habitats
and territories;
(c) Customary cultural, economic, social, or political institutions that are
separate from those of the dominant society and culture; and
(d) An indigenous language, often different from the official language of
the country or region.

A group that has lost "collective attachment to geographically distinct

habitats or ancestral territories in the project area" because of forced
severance remains eligible for coverage under this policy. Ascertaining
whether a particular group is considered as "Indigenous Peoples" for the
purpose of this policy may require a technical judgment.

Further, Anjana Chaudhary (2000,234) defined the term ‘Marginal Group’

as ‘a culture group that has relinquished some of its traditions and separate
identity and partially accepted the values and ways of life of a culture it is
in the process of adopting’.

Thus, the tribal communities in India are overwhelmingly marginalized

not only economically but also spatially, culturally, and otherwise. Andhra
Pradesh has a significant proportion of tribal population and is ranked fifth
in the country. Number of laws promulgated by the pre- and post-British
India affected the tribals adversely. These laws have threatened their
livelihoods and existence. These groups, who were forest dwellers, have
been denied usufruct rights over forest produce. Land reforms have not
benefited them in any significant way. Hence, they remain landless and, to
some extent, even homeless. The lack of education has resulted in their
exploitation by the non-tribals. Government officials have often colluded
or remained apathetic to this situation.
178 Chapter Nine

As Bokil rightly pointed out that the first and foremost problem before the
tribal communities in India is to earn and sustain livelihoods. This
problem is assumed alarming proportions because the traditional means of
obtaining livelihoods are increasingly threatened. In the past fifty years the
access to and control over the resources has undergone radical changes.
Thus, it is in this context demonstration of the tribal communities which
can make use of the available natural resources and obtain sustainable
livelihoods (2002, 163-165).

Many development programmes have been directed towards their

upliftment. The Government of Andhra Pradesh has implemented the
IRDP in order to change the livelihoods of the people through agricultural
development. This programme aims to bring about an integrated
development involving various agencies like forest, agriculture, education,
health, etc. The main thrust of the programme is towards an all round
development of the people. An integrated approach helps to bring about
effective administrative control, monitoring and evaluation of the entire
programme. Besides these efforts of the Government, non-governmental
organisations have also been involved in the development of tribal
livelihoods. Given these efforts of both the Government and NGOs, it
would be important to study the impact of these efforts on both the
livelihoods as well as the cultures of the tribals. Mere adoption of a
livelihoods approach would not lead to a sustainable development. It has
to be seen in the context of the lives and aspirations of the tribal people. In
fact, the analysis has to be integrated into traditional anthropological
concerns for a better understanding of the tribal development.

Baviskar (2001) as rightly mentioned that the decline of the state is

accompanied by increasing attention towards civil society institutions.
Among the social groups and associations of various kinds that are
considered to make up civil society, non-governmental organisations
(NGOs) have become especially prominent in the last two decades. Non-
governmental organizations (NGOs) have emerged around the world -
notably in the developing world - as major players in the developmental
action (Meyer, 1996:453). Given the profound implications of NGO
involvement in development, there is a great need to critically examine the
changing relations between NGOs, state agencies, multilateral and
bilateral funding institutions, and other social groups. The NGO sector in
India is characterized by tremendous diversity and heterogeneity. Ignoring
this diversity, unfounded generalisations are often put forward and unfair
comments and criticisms are offered. NGOs differ from one another in
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 179

size, in funding, in functions; in the levels at which they operate; and in

organisational structures, goals and membership (quoted in Baviskar,
2001: 4-5). In India, there are 14,000 NGOs registered under the Foreign
Contributions Regulation Act. In all there may be over 30,000 NGOs in
India. The close collaboration between academics and the NGOs practical
work is one of the reasons for the absence of rigorous studies. Social
scientists have close links with NGOs, and since many NGOs operate in
the cross-disciplinary space between academic research and activist
intervention, they offer to academics many opportunities to pursue their
work into the domain of non-academic practice.

There are many definitions of NGOs. The voluntary sector includes non-
governmental, non-profit organisations. They may be engaged in a variety
of activities: implementing grassroots/sustainable development, promoting
human rights and social justice, protesting against environmental
degradation, and many other similar tasks. Baviskar (ibid) as rightly
mentioned that some activists resent and reject the term non-governmental
organisation and instead designate themselves as social action groups,
political action groups or social movements. Anna Hazare’s village
development group at Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra and Ela R. Bhatt’s
Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in Gujarat are both
identified as NGOs but are very different from each other in terms of size,
membership, funding, approaches, strategies and outcomes.

I quote from Baviskar (2001) who also said that while there are many
definitions of NGOs, there are several classifications too. Shah and
Cahturvedi (1983) divide NGOs in three main categories: techno-
managerial, reformist, and radical. Hirway (1995) classified NGOs in
Gujarat into welfare-oriented, development organisations, and
empowering NGOs. Iyengar (1998) classified NGOs in Gujarat into four
categories: Gandhian, service delivery organisations, professional
organisations, and mobilisational organisations.

There are studies which explains the link between NGO, CBO, Civil
Society and DWCRA is cordial and making a good success all over India
and most importantly in Andhra Pradesh. Andhra Pradesh role in the
country is highest in the SHG’s and NGO’s and they are acting as good
agents of the development. Namerta (1995) as rightly said that the NGOs
could only facilitates the undertaking of subsistence activities, and income
from such activities was either equal to or less than the existing wage
income. These activities made a difference to the people in so far as they
180 Chapter Nine

could be undertaken during the lean season and that the problem of
seasonal unemployment could be, to some extent, solved (Radhakrishna
and Ray, 2005).

In Andhra Pradesh, we have different districts where different NGO’s and

CBO’s are working actively among the people of the marginalized
sections. In Ananthapur, we have some NGO’s working for the
development of the weaker sections. Here the reference can be made
about Rural development Trust, which has its activity all over the district
except in two Mandals, i.e., Penukonda and Hindupur. In the above two
mandals there are two different NGO’s are working in the respective
mandals vigorously. Like wise we have Social Education and
Development Society (SEDS) in Penukonda, Ananthapur District of
Andhra Pradesh.

V. Methodology
This paper is based on the data collected from Ananthapur district in
Andhra Pradesh during the year 2003-2004. The present study is basically
a qualitative study aimed at understanding the livelihood systems of the
marginal communities and shocks, stresses and trends involved in their
livelihood processes. In order to fulfil the objective of the study,
qualitative anthropological tools and techniques are employed. These are
mainly Observation (participant and non-participant type), Interviews
(formal and informal) using detailed checklist, Key-Informant interviews,
Case Studies, Focus Group Discussions, etc. Understanding the natives
concepts and people’s views regarding the livelihood systems of the
people, existing systems of utilization, local knowledge of the different
capitals involved and also, most importantly, role of vulnerability context
in their daily life systems.

Data from secondary sources are gathered from books, articles, published
reports, census reports, and government documents from the respective
departments. Quantitative data with regard to demographic and economic
aspects, and accessibility and availability of different assets, services, and
also other information regarding the study was collected from primary
sources through detailed census schedules.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 181

VI. Watershed Development Programmes in Andhra

Pradesh (A.P)
With a total geographical area of 274,400 km, Andhra Pradesh is the fifth
largest state of India. The state consists of 23 districts comprising 1,104
revenue mandals. The economy of Andhra Pradesh is predominantly
agriculture oriented. According to the population census of 2001, the
population of the sate is 75.7 million. The population density being 275
persons per km. almost 75% of the population live in rural areas with 70%
depending on agriculture as the main source of living. The importance of
agriculture sector is further underlined by the fact that almost 70% of the
states work force is engaged in agriculture and allied activities. Due to the
high population growth, the share of agricultural labourers shows an
increasing trend, indicating that increasing man-land ration lead to severe
problems of productivity absorbing the growing rural population in the
agriculture sector. Andhra Pradesh has one of the highest shares of
agricultural labourers in the total work force of all Indian states. Landless
families constitute upto 60% of total households in certain districts of the

Though productivity has increased in the lat 25 years, the standard of

living has not improved. About 54.2 percent of the land holdings are
classified as marginal. Recent demographic interpolation estimate that
18% and 4% of Andhra Pradesh population belong to Scheduled Castes
and Scheduled Tribes. According to the latest estimates, almost one
quarter of the total population of Andhra Pradesh lives the below poverty

VI (a). Drought Prone Area Programme (DPAP)

This is centrally sponsored programme funded by Central and State
governments on 50:50 basis aiming at developing the drought prone areas
with an objective of drought proofing by taking up soil and land moisture
conservation, water harvesting structures, afforestation and horticulture
programmes on a comprehensive micro watershed basis. During 1994-95,
the programme was implemented in 69 blocks of 8 Districts. From 1995-
96 this programme was extended further in 11 Districts with 94 blocks
under the scheme and in Ananthapur District 16 blocks under Desert
Development Programme (DDP).

While DPAP is targeted towards the semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas,
182 Chapter Nine

DDP designed specifically for improved natural resource management and

environmental protection measures in the arid areas of AP State. Besides
this delineation of geographical target areas, there are virtually no
difference between DPAP and DDP as regard to operational guidelines,
eligibility of erosion control and SWC measures etc., except that under
DDP the cost norms are higher (Rs. 4500 to 5000 per ha.) than for DPAP
projects (Rs. 4000 per ha.). The main criterion for inclusion into DPAP is
the share of irrigated land at the block level, the current ceiling being 20%.
The total number of blocks covered under DPAP is 94, while 16 blocks
have been identified for DDP. These 110 blocks represent one third of the
total number of 330 blocks in AP State.

VI (b). Watershed Development in Ananthapur District

Ananthapur District is a hot arid district and falls in rain shadow zone with
a very low estimated annual rain fall of 520 mm, which is second lowest in
the country after Jaisalmar in Rajasthan. In the district, area is fully
undulating with ridges and valleys with black cotton soils in certain areas.
Out of the total rainfall received only 10-15 percent is utilizable for
agriculture the rest is going waste through streams into sea and
evaporation. Due to large number of water conservation and water
harvesting structures taken up in the district during 1993-94 and 1994-95,
1000 M.cub of additional ground water recharge was made possible.

The entire district is declared as hot arid due to severity of soil erosion,
high temperatures, and low and erratic ad uneven distribution of rainfall
resulting in ‘soil and moisture stress’, excessive evaporational losses and
crop losses as the ultimate effect of drought and high aridity index. Trends
of desertification are also seen in parts of district. The district is
unfortunately had skipped from drought prone to hot arid district. Ground
water levels are alarmingly receding. Further degeneration of existing
marginal and degraded forests had happened in the last 4 decades and
acute scarcity of drinking water, fodder and fuel is taking place in every
alternative year which is a serious drought year. All these factors are
creating tremendous concern and awareness regarding the danger that is
looming large among the masses of the district.

Ananthapur district mainly depends on South- West and North-East

monsoons. Normally South –West monsoon rains useful for rainfed dry
crops. But failure of two monsoon hits the district drastically leading to
drought. The following physical symptoms are indicative for beginning of
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 183

desertification trends.

• Hardly 10 percent of land mass available in the district is covered

with forest
• Most of the hillocks and hill ranges are barren without any sort of
vegetation. The top soils having been washed away due to very
strong erosion factor.
• About 30% of hills are declared to be dead hills where nothing
can grow because of the fact that there is not top soil on the hills
except granites boulders and weathered rocks.
• Levels of ground water are going down year after year owning to
low rainfall and over exploitation and not proper use and wastage
of water.
• A remarkable and unique feature of the district is the high
intensity of winds after experiencing the maximum temperature
during summer and at the time of onset of monsoons.

To combat the recurring drought and to bring comprehensive

development, the DPAP programme was introduces in the year 1975
covering all the blocks in the district. This programme is implemented on
area approach basis with watershed development concept. Accordingly,
several developmental strategies were implemented with a view to
conserve soil, harvest and conserve rain water bringing out change in
cropping pattern, organizing people in Self-Help Groups (SHG’s),
development of Dryland horticulture, sericulture and promotion of social
forestry and integrated rural development.

However, with all the developmental strategies carried out under DPAP
upto 1994-95 nearly 2.62lakh hectares out of 19.5 lakh hectares of
geographical area could be covered and about 2.07 lakh individual
beneficiaries could be assisted. At this stage trends of desertification were
noticed in various parts of the district. It is declared as hot arid district and
programme of DDP is introduced in the year 1995 onwards. In this
programme a concerted integrated micro watershed development approach
was envisaged under Dr. Hanumantha Rao new guidelines of Government
of India. According to this, area of watershed would be approximately
500 ha, and programmed to spend Rs.22.50 lakhs in each watershed. Out
of which Rs.18.00 lakhs will go for works component and Rs. 4.50 lakhs
for community organisation and administrative cost. It is contemplated to
execute the works and to implement the programme through NGO’s and
Government, officials as Project Implementation Agency (PIA).
184 Chapter Nine

An integrated action plan for a project period is prepared for the

watersheds programmes for the district as detailed below. In micro
watersheds the developmental works is being taken up by the watershed
committees with the help of SHG’s and user groups under the supervision
of watershed development team, PIA’s and Multi Disciplinary Teams.

Table 1: Integrated Action Plan for Watershed Programme in Ananthapur


Batch Number of Funding Total

Watersheds Agency Watersheds
1st Batch 141 EAS
1st Batch 96 DDP 237
3rd Batch 10 DDP
3rd Batch 20 World Bank 30
4th Batch 100 DDP 100
5th Batch 96 DDP 96
6th Batch 60 DDP
6th Batch 89 RIDF 149
Total 612
Source: Commissioner of Rural Development, Government of Andhra Pradesh,

VI (c). Prioritization of Watersheds

Taking into priority ranking given by Andhra Pradesh State Remote
Sensing Application Centre (APSRAC), SC, ST, population percentage of
literacy, percentage of agricultural labour, scarcity of drinking water,
quality of drinking water, availability of DWCRA, status of ground water,
contiguity with existing watershed, livestock population and community
mobilization etc. 3600 watersheds were prioritized very high, high,
medium, low and very low categories. The above mentioned programme is
being implemented in the Mallapuram village, which is described below
along with the related development programmes such as DWCRA and role
of watershed programme in the empowerment of women in the area.

VII. SEDS Activities in the area:

VII (a) A Brief History of SEDS in the Area
In 1980, with six years of nonprofit work in the Indian state of Andhra
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 185

Pradesh already under his belt, Rajen Joshua set out to register his own
NGO and the Social Education and Development Society (SEDS) was
born. With the help of his wife and eight friends he established a central
campus on a farm in the village of Anandapuram and began working with
the local population towards improved community organization. Twenty-
one years later it has blossomed to employ 35 full-time staff, organize 60
village health workers (soon to be more than 100) and often day labor for
up to 500 people. Its programs have expanded from simple community
organization to include large-scale watershed, child sponsorship, village
health, and community and women’s empowerment programs serving 120
villages with more than 100,000 people.

Though SEDS’s initial work focused on community organization, this

soon evolved into efforts to deal with issues that were perceived to lie at
the heart of the area’s problems. The Anantapur District of Andhra
Pradesh is still the second most drought-prone Indian region. When SEDS
arrived, Massive deforestation and intense population pressure on the land
and its natural resources had significantly contributed to the widespread
hunger and general poverty experienced by the local population
(Eswarappa and Siva Prasad, 2005).

In response, SEDS began an environmental campaign in 1984 that would

soon be transformed into its principle program. The degradation of soil
and depletion of surface water in the open wells used by villages made it
clear that something had to be done. SEDS’s initial efforts therefore
included homestead plantations, revival of Tamarind orchards and
community wood lots. By increasing the overall number of trees, SEDS
was able to check erosion and begin recharging a water table that had
fallen dramatically. In conjunction with kitchen gardens and individual
plantations that provided means for subsistence and income generation,
community awareness slowly began to increase and the first signs of
acceptance by the local population emerged.

Through its efforts SEDS has made a significant impact, which is

generally all that can be truly desired in development work. The problems
of poverty and drought that plague the region will never be solved entirely,
but through its work, and the work of other like-minded NGO’s, both the
local environment and population have seen improvements that make the
situation for today’s community far better than that in which SEDS found
it when it arrived more than 20 year ago. In that respect, SEDS has been,
and will hopefully continue to be, a huge success.
186 Chapter Nine

Table 2: NGO undertaken works in the Village during 2001-2005*

Name of the Activity Total Area

Horticulture 100 Acres
Wasteland Plantation 250 Acres
Water Ponds 68
Fire Tracing 32988.80sqm
Check Dams Desilting 4
Gully Checks 25
Soil Bunding 50 Acres
Seed Dibbling 50Kgs
Avenue Plantation 4kms
* Source: SEDS Office, Mekalapalle

VII (b). Watershed Program of SEDS

SEDS's watershed program provides the backbone of the organization.
Working in the second most drought-prone region in India, SEDS has
created a system of rainwater harvesting ponds, irrigation tanks and check
dams and gullies contributing to a dramatic rise in the water table. It has
also implemented programs of education and awareness for the local
population and introduced or aided in the regeneration of a wide array of
vegetation with over 10 million trees planted in the process. Through
SEDS's work, the water table in this semi-arid region has risen from a
depth of 42 feet to 4 feet, the landscape is noticeably greener and healthier
and the area's ecology and economy are moving towards a more balanced

VIII (c). Afforestation and Soil Conservation

In over 20 years, SEDS has planted nearly 10 million trees as part of a vast
effort (in conjunction with its water conservation and collection program)
to bring life to the dry earth of the Anantapur District. When the group
first arrived, the surrounding landscape was practically barren as
deforestation continued to exact a heavy toll due in large part to a
population pressure on natural resources that is still growing (62
people/sq. km in 1991 - the most recent available statistic). Used as
construction material and fuel, the trees had all but disappeared from the
hillsides leaving them unprotected and diminishing both their water
retention capacity and natural beauty.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 187

Tree and grass introduction, initiated on the hills using local species such
as Neem, Tamarind and Pogamia Glabva, has since expanded to roadsides,
homesteads, schools, bunds and other SEDS landscaping projects. The 17-
km road leading from Penukonda to Anandapuram and the SEDS farm has
blossomed amazingly. Large green canopies now hang over previously
brown expanses, providing shade and shelter to passing workers and
travelers. Possibly most impressive however, is the farm itself, which has
grown into a virtual oasis with its towering palm trees, nurseries, gardens
and paddy fields.

Natural forest regeneration has also begun to emerge, spurred by the

increasing success of SEDS's efforts. Those trees now present act as bio
fertilizers (providing essential nutrients to the soil) and wind buffers
(arranged in "shelter belts" to further the prevention of soil erosion) while
still providing traditional sources of fuel and housing materials (though on
a much smaller and sustainable scale). Other benefits of vegetation
introduction include examples like that of the thousands of Agave cacti
planted by the organization. These act as natural (and consequently much
cheaper) fencing for cattle and land demarcation but can also be utilized
for their fiber by local rope makers.

In the same manner as hillside trees, grass planted along contour bunds,
dams and gully checks has proven essential to their maintenance and
durability. The root structures of the vegetation give strength and cohesion
to the soil by trapping water, and allow low-cost production that utilizes
natural elements instead of relying on artificial materials such as concrete.

Homestead and individual plantations (consisting of the introduction of

trees around individual houses and farmlands) along with kitchen gardens
form another large aspect of SEDS's afforestation/soil management
program. The former has introduced fruit trees (mango, sapota, guava,
pomegranate, etc.) to provide food and an additional source of income to
farmers and their families while the latter, which generally produce
vegetables, serve the same purpose. Individual plantations have placed
trees around land borders to facilitate land demarcation in addition to
providing for fuel needs and income generation (in bad crop years, the
farmers can sell the wood). Schools have benefited from this all as well,
when in conjunction with the awareness/education program, trees have
been planted on their grounds by students.

Wood lots have been established for basic fuel needs in order to ease the
188 Chapter Nine

pressure on deforestation. Three or four acres of common property are set

aside by each village for community-managed growth and distribution of
firewood, with focus placed on trees with rapid regeneration periods
(generally five years), such as Eucalyptus and Acacia Nilotica. In addition
to these, community orchards of Tamarind trees now exist and the
production of the spice, traditionally used in Indian cooking, is a further
source of income generation.

Compost heaps of collected leaves are used as fertilizer (thereby

promoting organic materials) and also provide an example of fire
prevention techniques. To combat what is obviously a significant concern
in such a dry area, routine fire-tracing clears the land of some of the more
dangerous elements by burning grass and the miscellaneous natural fuel
sources that lay around hills and farmlands.

The SEDS afforestation/soil conservation program is essential to its

environmental mission. These extensive projects, which work in
conjunction with its water management and conservation efforts under the
general heading of "watershed", have begun the correction of years of
environmental damage. However there still remains a massive amount of
work to be done and with the future maintenance and expansion planned,
SEDS will continue to direct and improve the region's endangered

VIII (d). Water conservation and Management

Fundamental to life on our planet, water is a valuable resource
everywhere. However it is especially precious in the drought-prone
Anantapur District of Andhra Pradesh. When SEDS arrived in 1980, the
water table (or underground level required to reach before arriving at
water) lay at 42 feet. With a lack of trees and other natural elements to trap
monsoon rains and allow for greater soil saturation, the region was quickly
depleting its already low reserves. Erosion had destroyed nature's own
checks and balances and even areas utilizing man-made irrigation tanks
had seen their production decrease.

Combined with reforestation efforts, SEDS has created a system of gully

checks, check dams, rainwater harvesting ponds, contour bunding, and
percolation and irrigation tanks to rejuvenate the soil and maximize the
benefits provided by the rains that fall only in the months of June, July and
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 189

Thirty rainwater harvesting ponds have been constructed ranging from

10'x10'x10' to 10'x25'x10'. Full by the end of the season, the water that
they collect is used for purposes ranging from human and animal
consumption to irrigation and percolation. Made available to over 1,500
separate farmers, they have helped increase crop production providing
both subsistence and increased commerce to local villagers. At the same
time, fish introduced by SEDS in such reserves provide many of the same

Gully checks and check dams are the primary methods by which the flow
of water over natural terrain is controlled. The water's course is slowed
and directed by dirt and concrete barriers constructed by SEDS with the
assistance of the benefiting farmers and villagers. The barriers are placed
in ravines and natural waterways where erosion and deforestation have
greatly diminished the ability of the terrain to retain moisture and the
crucial topsoil is continually washed away. When the heavy rains do fall,
they run off almost immediately, providing nothing to the vegetation in the
higher regions. With this system of checks, both water and the eroding
topsoil are trapped, preventing loss and benefiting previously desperate

Contour bunding, the building of embankments along ridges and the

natural contours of the land, performs much the same purpose. Directing
and decreasing the flow of water, it slows the erosion of topsoil and helps
provide irrigation to farmed fields and previously barren hillsides, leading
to increased crop production and natural or introduced vegetation.

Irrigation tanks existing prior to the construction of SEDS's collection

ponds have since been de-silted by the group. Prior to SEDS's
involvement, the build-up of soil and other materials behind irrigation
dams had prevented the effective management of the flow of water. Areas
that had previously produced two or three crops a year were down to one,
and the danger of flash floods had increased. [In 1977, the town of
Mekalapalli was wiped out by one such flood. It was later reconstructed on
higher ground and is now known as Anandapuram, the town where the
SEDS farm is today.] Currently, due to SEDS's efforts, crop production
has recuperated and flood dangers are minimal.

Additionally, at least ten percolation tanks have been constructed to help

recharge the area's water table. The rainwater collected in these tanks
seeps into the ground, providing much-needed moisture to the soil while
190 Chapter Nine

refilling open and bore wells of surrounding villages.

Through all of these efforts, SEDS has managed to drastically improve the
situation in which the area finds itself with respect to its water supply.
With the extensive construction realized under its water management
program the water table has risen 38 feet and crop production has doubled.
Furthermore, the health and growth benefits to the economy, the residents
and the region itself have been immense.

VIII (e). Land Development Programme (LDP)

Under this programme, Eswarappa and Siva Prasad (2005) observed that,
wastelands have been converted into agricultural fields through soil
conservation. Soil conservation works include Stone Bunding, Gully
checks, Spill ways, Woodlots, fire tracing, ploughing, and trenching
activities. All these works are being undertaken in the summer season,
which provides some wage works to the people of the village. Collecting
some contribution from the beneficiaries carries some of the works like
stone bunding, ploughing, fire tracing, and trenching. The share is like
this: NGO’s share is 75% and the beneficiary has to bear 25% of the total
costs incurred for the works. The land development programme has
benefited to the Sugalis in the Thanda, to a certain extent only. The
implementation of the programme was initiated in the year 2001 and some
benefits were derived in the following year. Subsequently, due to failure of
monsoons, the programme did not take off. Moreover, as mentioned
before majority of the Sugalis are landless this programme has not been of
much relevance to them. (The table no.2 shows the details of the
implementation of the scheme).

IX. Positive impact through watersheds programme

People felt that before watershed programme their lands were not in good
condition. Everywhere they could found stones, rocks etc. Farmers felt
that their yielding also reduced drastically. Labourers were unable to get
the wage works, so they used to migrate to other areas for works. Irrigated
area acreage was less before watershed programme in the Mallapuram.
Dairying people have felt that their milk yield also very less before the
watersheds in Mallapuram. Farmers used to go to distant places for
grazing purposes. People felt that after watershed programme, bunding
works have done in the lands. By which both farmers and labourers were
benefited by means of getting more number of wage works to labourers
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 191

and soil rejuvenation has increased which resulted in the crop yielding to
the farmers.

Horticultural crops have been given to the farmers through which changes
have come in the cropping pattern. Due to the watershed programme,
ground water table has increased to 110 feets from 80 feets according to
the sarpanch. According to Venkatesu, who is practicing Dairying, milk
yield has improved drastically from 60 litres to 300 litres over a period of
three years. People have also felt that forestland has increased. According
to the farmer by name Ramanjaneyulu, crop yield has gone up from 5 to 6
bags per acre to 8 to 10 bags after watershed programme.

Non –form activity has also increased after watershed programme in the
village. There are 3 hotels, 3 petty business shops in the village which
were not there before watershed programme. Some of the people have
maintaining autos and running between Mallapuram to Kalyanadurg. They
said that due to watershed programme, self employment has been
improved according to Chandrasekhar.

Wage rates have increased compared to other areas as said by the

Sakranna Goud Ex. Watershed chairman. Due to the equal wage rates
system followed in the watershed programme, women labourers felt happy
and agricultural labour rates have also increased according to Hanumappa.

Due to watershed programme, women’s position has improved and

savings has increased drastically. Lingamma, who is the chairman of the
watershed committee, has said that watershed programme has brought
changes in their livelihoods systems. Thus, it is seen from the study that
watershed development programme has immensely changed the lives of
the marginal communities in the drought regions of the Andhra Pradesh.

An earlier version of the paper was presented in the International Conference on
Natural Hazards and Disasters: Local to Global Perspective, November, 25-27,
2006, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh, India.

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I. Introduction
Aggregate studies of the urban social geography of Pune city have shown,
in common with most other countries having a multi – ethnic or linguistic
population, a degree of ethnic residential segregation that is independent
of social class or other influences of residential choice (Johnston, 1973a,b;
Timms, 1971). These were confirmed by detailed mapping of the
distribution of particular groups, which showed their members
concentrating in particular sections of the chosen cities (Thomson and
Trlin, 1970). Are these types of enclave found in all urban areas, small and

In a series of recent papers, Peach (1996,1997,1998) has refocused studies

of urban residential patterns on absolute rather than relative measures of
segregation. According to Carmen Voigt-Graf, Karnataka migrants have
formed an enclave in Australia. They live in one particular part of Sydney.
Philippe courtine (1995) discuss the Sikh community mostly live in
Bangkok Chinatown, having particular concentration in pahurat, Sampeng,
Soi Paowpamit and Soi Leunrit. Michael Poulsen, Johnston and James
Forrest (2000) discuss level of segregation across New Zealand’s urban
system are closely linked to the ethnic group’s share of each urban area’s
population. Gujrati business community segregated in Kenya from East
Africa (Makrand Mehta). According to Aijazuddin Ahmad (1995) Tibetan
migrants also segregated in India. Usualy they found in Jammu and
Kashmir, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, and Karnataka.

Migration is primarily a selective process (Revenstain, E.G. 1889),

selectivity in terms of sex; age, education and job reflect socio-economic
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 195

aspects of the nature of migration, which, in turn, affect the demographic

characteristics of the receiving or sending areas. Generally, the economic
factors are most significant in promoting or limiting the process of
migration Migrants leave their native places mainly because of their
inability to support themselves and their families. They migrate due to the
'push' factors like unemployment and underemployment in the agricultural
sector, unequal land distribution and lack of sufficient modern technology
for increasing the agricultural productivity, high population growth, etc.
On the other hand, urban 'pull' factors like wide employment opportunities,
higher incomes, good amenities for education and health care and better
standard of living or better economic opportunities attract migrants to
urban areas. The shift of people to the cities mainly reflects the impact of
industrialization on the demand for labour. Once industry came up in one
place and people also migrate to that place for the jobs. To support and
fulfill the day-to-day demands of migrants and due to the multiplier effect
of pioneer industry some other industries; occupations and institutions
come up in that area. Thus, migration also increases in that area. In the
study of migration it is also important to note that why some people
migrate whereas others do not. In other words, it is necessary to study the
motivational factors associated with the migratory movements. Another
important aspect of the study of migration is the adjustment of the
migrants to their new places of residence and their assimilation in the
general stream of life.

In India after Independence, particularly after 1961, efforts were made

towards socio-economic reconstruction of the country. Since in India
labour was ample and cheap while capital was scarce, planners decided to
invest capital at a few selected places so that capital is used more
efficiently. This created job opportunities at such places. To take
advantage of the infra - structural facilities thus created, and to get
advantage of the agglomeration as well as on account of horizontal and
vertical linkages, some more industries also came up at such places. This
led to increase in the job opportunities at these few selected places, which
encouraged large-scale rural - urban migration. People came to urban areas
from the rural areas in search of employment. This migration is mainly
because the rural economy cannot absorb them. Because of this enormous
volume of migration, these few selected places grew into large
metropolitan or mega cities.

Pune at present is one of the ten large cities of India. The population of
Pune city in 1941 was only 275, 000. After Independence, initially due to
196 Chapter Ten

influx of refugees and later due to rapid industrialization population of

Pune agglomeration became 2.5 million in 1991. This growth is mainly
due to the contribution made by migration, during this period migrants
came to Pune not only from various districts of Maharashtra but also from
almost all other states of the country. This enormous increase in
population was mainly due to rapid industrialization, which Pune region
experienced after 1961. During the last 30 years, a large number of
industrial establishments came up in and around Pune creating enormous
job opportunities. This led to migration of people from all over the
country. This enormous growth of population during this period was
mainly due to migration. Due to the flow of population towards Pune,
population of the metropolitan region increased to 3.7 million in 2001
(Census of India, Provisional Population Tables 2001: 17).

In Indian culture because of tradition, generally, in the case of

consideration of marriage the clan, caste, community, language and
availability of information about families and individuals are more
important. Migrants are new in the receiving regions and because of these
constraints they marry a girl from their home or native regions (hypothesis
to be tested). An attempt has been made to analyze the segregation of
migrants to the city of Pune. The published census data on migration were
carefully studied at the first level. To analyze the enclave formation by
migrants to the city of Pune, the following hypotheses have been tested.

II. Hypotheses
1) Migrants generally marry the girls from their native places.
2) Assimilation of migrants in the main stream takes place when
they mix with the culture and tradition of the area and become
familiar with the language.

III. Sample Design

For the collecting the first hand data and for selecting the samples the
following method has been used.

It has been observed that in Pune city the migrants from different parts of
the country and abroad are concentrated in different parts of the city. For
example, migrants coming from Gujarat and Rajasthan have a high
concentration in Guruwar and Raviwar Peths (Core area) of Pune city
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 197

while the South Indian population is concentrated in Rasta Peth, Bhavani

Peth and Nana Peth (Core area) of the city.

For the analysis of the formation of enclaves of migrants within the city a
separate sample of 500 households was taken. While selecting this sample
some of the known enclaves of agglomeration of migrants from specific
sending areas were chosen.

Among the states of the Indian Union, the first six (excluding
Maharashtra) contributors to the flow of migrants were Karnataka (200),
Andhra Pradesh (85), Uttar Pradesh (65), Gujarat (60), Kerala (50), and
Rajasthan (40). Separate information has been taken from early migrants
from Pakistan are Sindh. The each enclave sample has taken 5 percent of
the total migrants from the particular states and the total sample size is
500. The information for enclave formation has been collected with the
help of detailed questionnaire. Each group has formed enclave within Pune
city. To demarcate the enclave, city survey map was used.

IV. Methodology
It was observed that the migrant communities are the minority
communities and they feel more secure when they live in their own
community. Considering this, the survey was undertaken of such localities
where the migrants coming from different parts of the country were
concentrated. Subsequently, first six states from where more migrants
have settled in Pune i.e. Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh,
Rajasthan, Kerala and Gujarat and the early migrants from Sindh, were
selected for study.

An inquiry was made (using snow balling technique) with several people
from different states about their places of residence and finally concluded
that they are living in different areas in the city but only a few, which are
dominating by one regional (other than Marathi) language people, have
been selected, such as Karnataka (Kannada) in Jay Bhavani Nagar (south -
eastern part), Andhra Pradesh (Telugu) in Bhavani Peth (Western part of
core area), Uttar Pradesh (Hindi) in Bhayyawadi (north part), Kerala
(Malayalam) in Aundh-Khadki Road (north - eastern part), Gujarat and
Rajasthan in Guruwar Peth and Raviwar Peth (Core area) as well as new
areas like Adinath Society and Suparshwanath Society (south - eastern
part). The Sindhis are concentrated more in the Sindh Society (north -
198 Chapter Ten

western part), cantonment area (south - eastern part) and Meera Society
(central part) of the city.

Most of the foreign populations, particularly student population, coming

from abroad has a concentration in the Pune University campus and
hostels of Symbiosis (western part of the city) Institute. In these localities
a total of 500 samples was taken and the study is based on these samples
for the linguistic enclaves in Pune city.

V. Linguistic Enclave of Migrants in Pune

Migrants came to the cities for the different purposes, and from different
regions and classes. In their own region they have their own family,
society and identity. When they come to the metro cities, they lose their
identity and they feel insecure in the cities crowed. To regain this identity
they prefer to live together with the people their region, language and
class. Many times migrants prefer to marry from their native region.
These girls are generally less educated and in many cases are able to
communicate in the regional language only.

In cases of many migrants the deity they worship is the same, and the
festivals they celebrate also are the same. Migrants need certain articles for
day-to-day consumption, which are generally not used by the local
community. Though majority of the migrants see Hindi movies, some of
them prefer to see movies in their regional language. Many times the
migrants prefer to go to a doctor with whom they can communicate in
their regional language. Many times migrants have an organization in the
form of an association or a club joined by the people coming from the
same region and speaking same language. To meet these demands of the
community, a place of worship devoted to a particular deity commonly
worshiped by the people coming from the same region comes up. A school
giving instructions in the regional language comes up. Medical
practitioners who can communicate in the regional language start their
dispensaries. A movie house in the locality starts showing movies in their
regional language, if not for regular show, at least for the morning shows.
Commercial establishments come up which cater to the special needs of
the community. A community hall comes up in the particular enclave.

Usually the migrants would try to get residential accommodation in and

around the areas where the people of their home region have settled.
(Khandewale and Chorghade 1994: 70). This can be considered as an
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 199

advantage of agglomeration, that is the development of an enclave leads to

further growth of the enclave on account of the agglomeration advantages.

VI. Reason for the Migration Related

to the Enclave Formation
The causes for human migration are diverse. At a time several reasons
operate. Sometimes the cost of living, presence of relatives or friends,
special employment opportunities and hearsay information play an
important role in the movement of people.

Table 1: Reason for the migration

Reasons for migration Proportion of migrants

Search of employment 71.10
Natural calamities 14.04
Social injustice 3.01
Poverty 10.05
Political insecurity 1.80

The analysis of the migrants according to their reasons for migration to

Pune indicates that, near about 71 percents (Table No. 1) migrants come to
Pune in the search of employment. The second important reason, which is
the natural hazard, accounts for 14.04 percents (Table No. 1). The third
reason is poverty, which includes 10 percent migrants (Table No. 1). The
prime cause of migration is absolute poverty, from which man flees,
driven by the simple urge to survive. (Garnier, 1966: 212) In all 1.80
percents migrants came to Pune due to the political insecurity in the
sending regions.

VII. Reason for Living in Groups (Forming Enclaves)

Urban life certainly brings about some social changes in the migrants. The
rural culture may gradually give way to urban culture. The very nature of
the urban social life affects the inmigrants. In spite of this after this slow
change the migrant preserve some of the old customs and lifestyles. Thus,
many immigrants remain semi-urbanized maintaining strong ties with their
native culture. The immigrants of the same culture and background have a
strong tendency to agglomerate together for various social reasons. This
enables them to preserve and protect their social values.
200 Chapter Ten

Table 2: Reason for living together (forming enclaves)

Reasons Total % Out of total 100 %

Security 100 92.01
Relatives and friends from own regions 100 86.14
Similar Language 100 94.23
Less educated wives 100 82.68

Generally, migrants are of two extreme types, one type, qualitatively the
cream of the society but numerically the less significant, consists of bright
youths, who migrate in search of education or wider opportunities. These
groups can adapt to urban culture and way of life easily. The second type
is poor and less educated migrants who come for livelihood they in slums
in the city and in groups with people of same language, and form enclaves
in the cities (Table No.2).

When migrants’ number increases and it suffocates economically, socially

and culturally the host society. It may threaten its cultural identity. “For
instance, the Shiv Sena thrived on the argument that the Maharashtrians
who are a superior community with an exemplary history and culture are
the underdogs in Bombay, as they are exploited by migrants form other
states”. (Dipankar Gupta, 1982: 164). Because of the fear of host society
poor migrants stay together and this is the main reason for enclave

The presence of relatives’ friends and acquaintances in the city helps the
newly arrived migrants in securing initial shelter. This also favours their
entry in the enclaves. It has been observed that, the arrival of the migrant
in the city has not been due to a random search for employment but has
depended largely on the presence of friends, caste men, relatives, fellow
villagers or migrants from neighbouring areas (Mujumdar and Mujumdar,
1987: 42).

Whenever immigrants arrive in groups, they also bring with them their
language and religion. (Chandana 1986: 113). Language is the basic
medium for exchange of ideas and emotions. Migrants, who are new in the
urban culture, prefer to stays together with people who speak the same
language, generally, which is their language. Similar language is the
important reason for enclave formation. “For many migrants, the
abandonment of the mother tongue does not happen until the second
generation, especially amongst the women, who remain at home whilst
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 201

their husbands are forced to adopt the new language at work”. (Garnier
1967: 231).

Generally, poor migrants are accompanied by their families. Migrants’

wives are generally either uneducated or less educated, and they can
communicate only in the regional language, other than Marathi or
language of their state of origin. Their wives feel comfortable if the group
around them also knows the same language. This is another important
factor that favours enclave formation in the metro cities.

VIII. Impact of Migrants on Socio- Economic Life

of the City
Migrants have made their impact on the socio- economic life of the urban
community. Large numbers of them have contributed economically by
participating in one or other type of economic activity and have
contributed socially by successfully running educational institutions or
hospitals within the city. This point is made clear by the following few
examples from Pune city.
Majority of the migrants from Karnataka contributed in construction
work. Generally, they are engaged in construction work and they are
segregated in Jay Bhavani Nagar, Shastri Nagar and Kiskindha Nagar,
Kothrud. In all 86.8 percents of the Kannada migrants came after 1961,
after the process of industrialization was accelerated. Seventy percents of
them had come from the border districts namely, Dharwad, Belgaum,
Bijapur, Gulburga and Raichur, which are nearer and have better access by
railway and road to Pune. Almost 40 percents of the heads of the migrant
families belonged to the working age group, that is 20-40 years. Migrants
from Karnataka to Pune city, by and large, belonged to either the very rich
or the very poor categories. So some of them are engaged in construction
work and majority of the run restaurants in the city. Just to name a few,
Poona Coffee House on the Deccan Gymkhana and Rupali and Vaishali on
the Fergusson College road. They also run a well-known high school
called Karnataka High School, which has two branches in Pune.

Large numbers of migrants from Andhra Pradesh are engaged in Bidi

making and in weaving of sarees. Generally, they are congregated in
Bhavani Peth and Nana Peth. Telugu migrants are early migrants to Pune
city, 72 percents of the Telugu migrants had come before 1940. Generally,
Padmashali (Telugu), people are coming to Pune; they are less educated
202 Chapter Ten

people. Seventy-nine percents migrants are educated till 10th standard.

Ninety-four percents had come from Warangal, Hyderabad, Nijamabad,
and Karimnagar districts of Andhra Pradesh. Eighty seven percent
migrants from this group had come for economic reasons. Sixty-seven
percents people are engaged in Bidi making work, 19 percents in saree
weaving work and 3 percents in hotel business. Migrants from Andhra
Pradesh, by and large, belonged to either very rich or very poor categories,
so some of them are engaged in Bidi making work and run saree shops in
the city. Just to name a few, Kunden Saree shop and Vikas saree shop on
Laxmi road.

Migrants from Uttar Pradesh have contributed substantially towards the

development of dairy industry within the city. Generally, they are
segregated in Bhayya Wadi and Khadaki. Majority of the migrants had
come from Raibareli, Ilahabad, Sultanpur and Pratapgarh districts of Uttar
Pradesh. Ninety three percent of the Hindi-speaking migrants are literate
and are educated up to higher secondary. Almost 98 percents of the heads
of migrant families belonged to the working age group, which is 15-40

Kerala people are mainly engaged in administrative jobs. Generally, they

are segregated in Aundh - Khadaki Road. They are from highly educated
strata. They prefer to do clerical, office jobs or manufacturing work.
Ninety-eight percents had come after 1961, 75 percents of them had come
from Allepy, Kuottayam, Palghat and Trichur districts. Seventy-six
percents of the heads of migrant families are educated above 10th standard
and 31 percents above graduation. Twelve percents migrants had come to
Pune after retirement. At the end of their active working life, many people
seek, for their declining years, a more peaceful environment, better
economic conditions and a less rigorous climate than those of the localities
in which they were obliged to live whilst earning their living. (Garnier,
1966: 210). As compared to others the percentage of educated migrants
higher in case of Kerala, which reflects the higher level of literacy and
educational development in the sending region.

Marwaris are generally engaged in commercial activity. They are engaged

in buying and selling of gold, making gold and silver ornaments, grocery
shops and sweet marts. “Marwaris are really aliens of Poona and
Maharashtra because they have their homes in Marwar, Rajpootana and
Central India, and take or remit their savings to those homes. They are
traders, some of them on a large scale, in cloth and gain, in gold and silver,
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 203

but the majority of them are usurers pure and simple. (Crawford 1987:
195) They are segregated in Kalyan society, Suparshwnath society and
Marketyard. Most of them had come from the districts of Kota, Sirohi,
Ajmer and Jodhpur, which are nearer and have better access by railway
and road to Pune. They are early migrants, out of total samples 72 percents
had come before 1960. Almost 92 percents of the heads of migrant
families at the time of migration belonged to the working age group, that is
20-40 years. Fifty percents migrants are literate up to 10th standard, 44
percents are graduates and 6 percents are postgraduates. They are rich
migrants, 78 percents of them earn above 10,000 Rs. per month and 6
percents earn above 50,000 Rs. per month. This shows that they are
economically in good condition.

Sindhis’ are early migrants and they came at the time of partition from
Pakistan to the city. Most of the Sindhis had come empty handed and
entered in different business activities. Seventy-five percents of the Sindhi
migrants are engaged in business of selling electronic goods, utensils,
grocery and sport goods in the city.

This shows that, the important reasons for enclave formation are similar
language speaking people, relatives and friends from their own region and
security. Because of all these reasons migrants prefer to stay together in
the metro cities.

The above description of the migrants from different regions forming

enclaves in the place of destination indicates that, migrants are staying
together because a) of social and cultural security, b) each group is
engaged in a set of occupations which have some linkage with the
economic characteristics and cultural trends in the source regions.

IX. Discussion
Scholars have come to a conclusion about the formation and reasons of
segregation. There are racial, ethnic, linguistic, economic and religious
segregations all over the world. The pattern may be different but the
reasons are similar everywhere such as, to regain the identity, for security,
economic purpose and due to socio-cultural affinity. According to
Dipankar Gupta in Mumbai linguistic and religious groups are found for
the sake of security and cultural affinity. Muzumdar’s study on Delhi
shows that, migrants came to city due to friends, caste men, relatives,
fellow villagers or migrants from neighbouring areas and formed enclaves.
204 Chapter Ten

As per Khandwale and Chorgade, in the city of Nagpur poor working class
migrants stay together. One may ask a question; are such levels of
segregation still present in the cities. As far as Pune city is concerned
migrants in their initial stage search acquaintances for accommodation.
After getting familiar with the socio-cultural tempo and after achieving
certain economic level some of them shift either to other places or towards
new areas. The rich migrants like Rajasthani and Gujarati and their
children shifted to satellite enclaves in the periphery such as Adinath
society and Kalyan society.

X. Conclusion
The study reveals that, the observation shows that, the construction
activity of Pune city has attracted more migrants from Karnataka, whereas
most of the migrants from Rajasthan and Gujarat are engaged in Trade and
Commerce activity. When the Migrants enter urban way of life, they are
new to the entire urban environment. In such situation various aspects like
security, common language of sending State, other than Marathi, common
social ties and regional affinity influence their activity and the migrants
have a tendency to live in the groups (segregation). They feel more secure
when they live in the group.

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I. Introduction
The present paper is based on the field work carried out in selected
districts of the state of West Bengal (the lateritic part which is in the
eastern part of the state) between November 2006 till February 2007. It is
an effort to portray the importance of folk festivals and customs acting as
important means to perpetuate cultural anxieties as expressed through time
and under changing circumstances. It attempts to understand the changes
within folk culture through festivals, and their relation with economy and
environment of the region. Though the various festivities emerge from the
body of the folk tradition, yet certain characteristics of these festivals often
change over a period of time under various socio-cultural conditions.
However, inspite of changes, a significant aspect of the ethnic mosaic of
the folk tradition continues through its very expression, which is handed
down from generation to generation. The paper attempts to portray the
same through two important folk festivals of the lateritic region in West
Bengal, with the help of a brief historical understanding of their
development in the region and their place in modern times. They are-
1. The revered significance associated with the worship of goddess
2. The celebration of Tushu festival
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 207

The paper mainly focuses on a part of the region of lateritic Bengal,

mainly comprising of Bankura, West Mednipur and Purulia. The region is
also locally referred to as the Rarh (r-a-a-r) region.

The two festivals under study are intrinsically different in their mode of
expression as well as worship, yet they were selected as they portray quite
aptly, the aspect of a parallel analysis of continuity and change of folk
culture through time and both are folk in origin. Both the festivals have
their special and separate place in the socio-cultural and religious life of
the region. Both Tushu and Manasā are local deities, but the varied
perspective of worship bring to light an interesting aspect of folk culture-
their importance as well as changes within the folk culture. Tushu is
worshipped as a harvest goddess and Manasā as a goddess that cures as
well as brings the wrath of snakebites. The worship of Manasā is rather
induced with a sense of fear and veneration, while Tushu festivals and
brata rites today, form a part of natural expression of livelihood during the
winter harvesting season. However, since both emerge from the same folk
platform of the region, it is interesting to note their varying nature of
expression through time under different socio-cultural circumstances. And
finally, both have survived due to the continuity of the tradition through

In order to understand the significance of these two folk elements, acting

as a means to perpetuate cultural anxieties in modern times, it is important
to know the historical setting of the region that acted directly and
indirectly to synthesise the material to take its present form and character.

Lateritic West Bengal maintains a distinct geo-climatic character. The

region is more similar to south Bihar than rest of Bengal. In terms of the
populations inhabiting this region as well, there are more tribal groups
concentrated around these districts (Bhattacharya, D. K Chattopadhyay
R.K., 1997:48). It is quite interesting to note the economic development of
the region going back slightly in time since the region was originally
inhabited by mostly non-agricultural ethnic communities. In due course of
time, as the flourishing areas developed, the agriculturists gradually spread
towards the lateritic region.1 The hunter-gatherers and fishermen
continued to survive in the marginal areas through different chrono-
cultural phase- Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and early village farming Black
and Red Ware culture. It would also not be wrong to mention that the
waves of farmers who settled in this region developed contacts with the
original inhabitants and sucked them in within their economic activity as
208 Chapter Eleven

hired labourers.

Historically speaking, the lateritic region underwent remarkable changes.

Under the Buddhist Pala rule, the region had seen an influence of both
popular and rigid forms of Buddhism, which was replaced, by the Hindu
influences and a predominance to achieve Tantric form of religious
practice during the subsequent Sena rule, which inspired the worship of
Śiva. (In this context, we may highlight that Mahakaal Bhairav and the
aggressive form of Shaiva cult amalgamated towards a direction of Shakta
cult.) They also patronised the belief of the powers of Śiva and Śakti
through aniconic symbols in several temples, the access to which were
however limited only to the Brahmans. The Indo-Turkish rulers withdrew
the state patronage of the cult later on. However, both before and after the
Muslim conquests, there survived the folk tradition and several rites and
rituals associated with it including the cult of the goddess amongst all
groups of worshippers, least touched by Puranic culture and least
integrated into the hierarchic scheme of social organisation as promoted by
the Brahmans- which is true for the entire Bengal and not only just the
lateritic region.
In the earliest form, goddess cults in the region seemed to have sprung
from ancient female domestic rites not presided over by Brahman priest-
like the cult of the snake goddess Manasā. The development of tribal state
in the Chotanagpur and adjoining fringe areas helped to pursue the order
of the “Little Tradition” in different forms. The culmination of religious
order and the social acceptance of Manasā gradually merged in the day to
day religious system of the region from being mere domestic rites where
the core story was only recited by women through domestic ceremonies.

The lateritic region under study has a tremendous amount of surviving

local deities that are observed with great felicitation, alongside the popular
Puranic deities. Most significant is the fact that often the rites and rituals
of several of the folk deities have Puranic influences that has accumulated
over a period of time. Though the origin of the time of rites and rituals of
any of the folk deities cannot be ascertained exactly, but a look at few
specific deities can help to get some idea about the importance behind
their specific origins. (Maitra, p-8).

II. Strain of change: The worship of goddess Manasā

Considered to be the snake goddess, the worship of Manasā is spread all
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 209

over Bengal (east and west), particularly in Birbhum, Bankura and

Burdwan districts of West Bengal and Pabna, Faridpur and 24 Pargana
district of East and West Bengal. She is also a very popular deity in North
India. Mostly revered and worshipped by the people of the region who are
considered to be of lower caste community, the primary importance and
significance of the goddess is also intertwined with the daily life of the
local people. Snakes and snake bites are a matter of regular concern for
these people who often work as hired labourers in others fields or as
fishermen. The region of lateritic Bengal, especially Bankura and
Mednipur, often witnesses the appearance of several varieties of snakes,
especially during the monsoon months and some months prior to the
monsoon season when the unbearable heat of the dry season warms up the
surrounding and the snakes are driven out of their niches into the fields.

Though, Manasā is revered and worshipped throughout the year, the main
worship or puja of Manasā however, takes place in the month of Shravan
(officially the second monsoon month according to the Indian agricultural
calendar, consisting of the months of July-August).

From the Mangalkavyas3, one gets to know much about the goddess
Manasā, as an integral part of the daily life of local people. The
theriomorphic representation of Manasā is older than the anthropomorphic
representation, but much is known about the anthropomorphic form and
mythologies of Manasā, since her depiction in the Manasa Mangalkavya4-
the latest Purana, composed towards the end of 15th century A.D- when
the deity is considered to be formally absorbed within the Brahmanic set-
up and thereby got accepted within the fold of the ‘Greater Tradition.’
Thus, the deity is also an example of the admixture of the 'Greater' and the
'Little Traditions' and the acceptance of the latter within the framework of
the former. She is also similar to the snake goddess Manchamman in
South India, but Manasā, related to the ecology of the region, is more
powerful in both protecting people from snakebites as well as causing
them. She is considered to be a very belligerent goddess who propagates
her own following amongst humans in competition to the following of the
so-called ‘Greater Tradition’ of Śiva and Vishnu quite aggressively.

The iconography of the goddess comes to light in about 9th century A.D.
Initially she was worshipped through a pot full of water and a twig of the
Sij tree (earthen pot is a symbol of the womb and the Sij tree signifies
natural fertility of the region). Later, her anthropomorphic form shows her
standing on a lotus (again a sign of fertility, related especially to goddess
210 Chapter Eleven

Lakshmi) with two as well as four arms, issuing out of an ornamental pot.
Her head is covered with the hood of seven snakes. She holds in her hands,
a snake, a pot, a rosary and a manuscript (another evidence of
sanskritisation). In one instance, dated to 11th century A.D., she is shown
in connection to Śiva Linga. In another instance of the same period, she is
seen holding a child and also a fruit (also symbolising a womb). She is
also shown sometimes with her vahana (mount) as a dog or an elephant
(11th century), where the former might be the remnant of some ancient folk
tradition, while the later might be the result of an attempt of sanskritisation
by connecting her with Gaja-lakshmi. In some still later sculptures, she is
also depicted with a third eye, akin to Śiva (10th, 11th and 13th century).

Various forms of Dhyanas (can be roughly translated as eulogies uttered

during the process of worshipping, akin to aarti), in reference of Manasā
(dated to about 13th century A.D.) is seen as a third step towards
syncretising her within the Puranic fold. Though the Dhyanas does not
have much connection with the iconographic evidence, nor follow a
similar time span, yet they help to understand the strong matrix that
developed to include the deity within the Brahmanical Pantheon. In the
Dhyanas, she is variously referred to as the mother of snakes, one who
rides on a swan, one who wears a red garment, one who is accompanied by
eight snakes and has prominent breasts, kind and generous, a yogini who
can take any shape she desires, one who shines like a golden lotus, the
mother of Astika, One who has prominent breasts, identified with Janguli,
the daughter of Śiva, fair complexioned, possessing three eyes, having a
crown made of snakes, one who wears a sacred thread, one whose head is
lighted with moon beams, one who has matted hair, and finally, one who
has a lion mount.

In all the description, her attributes seem similar like known Puranic gods
and goddess and also she retains her folk tradition as a Mother goddess,
through the reference of fertility symbols and secondary sexual organs
which is an important aspect of the recognition of Mother goddesses.

Manasā seems to be an original folk deity. She might have been just a
deity of the snakes or a deity of fertility, portrayed by the pot of water and
the twig of the Sij tree. She was later absorbed within the Brahmanic fold
by upper caste Hindus to gain the confidence of the lower caste and thus
the inclusion of the deity in the Mangalkavyas. Interesting is to note
Manasā’s identification with various other religious philosophies and
concepts. She is identified as being identical to Saraswati (Bhattasali,
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 211

1929). She is also identified with Janguli- a Buddhist Mahayana (Tantric)

female deity of the same period, who also protects people from snakebites.
This connection might have taken place during the decline of the Pala
period and during the Hindu revivalism of Sena period- when Janguli got
assimilated within the cult of Manasā (B. Bhattacharya, 1924). She is also
connected with the Jain goddess Padmavati, due to the relationship with
lotus flower. Also, her association with Lakshmi is portrayed through lotus
flower, since Lakshmi herself is referred to as Padmavati. The lotus is also
a fertility symbol (with its connection to the think fertile clay). Also, the
collection of poems related to Manasā is called, ‘Padma Puran’. She is
also linked with Mahakali on accord of the lion mount. She is variously
referred to being the daughter as well as the wife of Śiva. She is also
associated with Dharma Thakur (who also has Hindu as well as Buddhist
leanings), when the worship of Dharma was popular in Bengal.

The Mangalkavyas were written at the backdrop of a time that faced

considerable threat from the onslaughts of the invasion of Islam in Bengal
and there was an attempt to save the original religion of the region from
the alien culture and religion. Manasā, being widely accepted and
worshipped, reflects the true historical transformation that took place as a
result of being challenged by an alien faith- finally finding her way into
the Mangalkavyas.

Though being an integral part of the folk culture, Manasā worship, today
occupies a central and important part of worship as a popular deity
throughout the year, especially in Bankura. Her worship not only portrays
an important and significant aspect of change, but also the process of
admixture of the folk with mainstream and more popular Puranic religious
deities, as compared to Durga or any of her several popular incarnations.
Today, the deity is worshipped in both theriomorphic as well as
anthropomorphic forms. Existing as an independent divinity, without a
male consort, quite unlike most of the more popular Puranic or
mainstream goddesses, Manasā worship forms an important part of folk
religious life.

At several places in Bankura district, Manasā worship witnesses much

festivities from the day of Shukla Dashami (Dashohara) in the month of
Jaishthya (comprising of the months of May-June) till the time of Daak
Sankranti or Ashwin Sankranti ( or the last day of the month of Ashwin,
comprising the months of October-November) amidst melas’s, gajan
festival as well as songs being recited from the Manasā Mangalkavya and
212 Chapter Eleven

also Jhapan (festivals demonstrating antics with snakes). Jhapan, a very

intrinsically important festival of Bankura, mostly takes place during the
month of Shravan. Under the influence of the Malla kings, it used to
flourish in the area, especially in the palace at Bishnupur where the
festivities used to take place on Shravan Sankranti or the last day of
Shravan. The tradition continues till date, though in a less pompous

A field work in the region also revealed the prevalence of Manasā temples
in all the para’s or settlements, especially of the Bauri community in the
region, being parallel in popularity to any prevalent important deity of the
respective villages. Mention may be made of the field work in the village
of Chhatna (Bankura), which revealed the prevalence of Manasā
worshipping temples in all of the four Bauri para or settlements (namely,
Bansberia, Saturgaria, Tantipukur, and Metiapara), though the presiding
deity of the village is Basuli. The fieldwork for the present paper was
conducted in the Bauri para of Bansberia, under No. 1 Gram Panchayat
(village authority). The temples, consisting of clay anthropomorphic
images of the deity, is not only visited during the auspicious month of
Shravan, but also on a regular basis for wish fulfillment and worship by
both married and unmarried women, as well as men. The Bauri’s of the
village mostly work as hired labourers in the field of others all year round,
to which modern professions like, driving a rickshaw-van, working as
hired labourers in the nearby city of Kolkata, etc.- has added an element of
difference. Interestingly, though it is a folk goddess, the importance of the
deity is witnessed through a temple on the main road of Chhatna, in the
Jamadar para, connecting to the main town of Bankura. The worship
officiated by a Bauri priest, (Sudarshan Kaviraj was the temple priest
during the fieldwork in November 2006, who insisted that the worship
mainly consists of Tantra Sakti rites) the anthropomorphic deity made of
terracotta is worshipped on a regular basis. The temple is often visited all
year round by people from other higher castes as well. The offering to the
goddess or the priest consists on a daily basis of the morsels available at
home, including milk, fruits and sometimes with donations for an
elaborate puja by a devotee that consists of luchis (wheat flour pancakes
deep fried in oil) and kheer (dessert made of milk and sugar), though these
are rare being costly offerings. The priest also takes part in the customary
Jhapan festivities on the 15th of every month of Bhadra. The popularity of
the deity, is however, not only limited to the Bauri para’s alone, but also
the main city of Bankura, which has several temples of the goddess which
are regularly visited and worshipped by devotees all year round, often
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 213

being officiated by Brahmin priests. Apart from the main city, other
villages also has similar trend, where a Brahmin priest is seen officiating
the rituals, e.g. the village of Indas (especially of the two para’s- Dibakor
Bati and Haripur) has stones, located under shrubs and trees, worshipped
as the deity Manasā and the puja is officiated by a Brahmin priest.

The importance of the deity has widespread significance, intertwined with

the everyday life of the region. It is also important to witness that tales
from Manasā Mangalkavya occupies an important mode of expression in
the art of the region, where mention may be made of the patua painters of
Midnapur. In both scroll and shara (shallow clay saucer) paintings of the
traditional painters, Manasā occupies an important position. The deity and
tales centered around her presents an important feature of folk culture
through its very basic character of acceptance and worship as is witnessed
through history till date. Having a folk origin, it is the witness to
sublimation of thoughts and ideas between the folk and the mainstream
Puranic religion of the region. Another familiar aspect of the folk goddess
manifests itself in the form of a placating symbol, like other mainstream
Puranic religion goddess- where she is worshipped through fear on one
hand and also is a source of hope, expectation and anticipation for a better
tomorrow. This is an important element of understanding of the need
which made the worship of the deity an integral part of modern times.

III. Strain of continuity: Tushu brata and festival

Mostly seen to be worshipped in the regions of North-west Midnapur,
Bankura, Singhbhum, 24 Parganas, Howrah and Nadia. Tushu is
considered to be an agrarian deity who presides over harvest, especially
the winter harvest. The month-long worship ceremony starts from the day
of Sankranti of the month of Agrahayana (the last day of the month of
Agrahayana of the Indian agricultural calendar, consisting the month of
December) and ends on the day Paush Sankranti (the last day of the month
of Paush of the Indian agricultural calendar and consisting of the month of
January). The worship, originally, was done by mostly women and
especially unmarried women and is dominated by singing and dancing,
though in modern times, even men participate in the festivities.
In an open space within the village or inside different houses, several
women of the village accumulate with their respective Tushu idols. The
songs for Tushu worship reflect no specific pattern and also often involve
daily family incidents. She is also considered to resemble the young,
unmarried girl of a house.
214 Chapter Eleven

In specific areas of 24 Parganas, Nadia, Howrah, etc. the same worship is

referred to as, ‘Tush-tushli brata’ when the brata observers accumulate the
husk of alo chal (the rice obtained from the paddy that is not par boiled
but remains raw), cow dung, tush (rice husk), cowrie shells mustard
flower, durba (Cynodon dactylon Pers. (Poaceae). A hardy perennial
grass, it is one of the most commonly occurring weeds in India, also
known as dhub, doob, or harialil (Hindi), durba (Bengali), garikoihallu
(Kanarese), durva (Marathi), durva or haritali (Sanskrit), arugampullu
(Tamil), garikagoddi (Telugu) and dhubkhabbal (Punjabi) {Sastry and
Kavathekar, 1990}), grass, 144 cow dung balls, raddish, marigold flowers,
etc. and worship for a month with them. Basu (p-126) mentions the puja to
be an agrarian rite, since the ceremonies take place during the reaping of
the winter harvest. Also the term tush in Bengali means rice husk. It can
also be ascertained that the relationship between agriculture and fertility is
portrayed through the worship of the same deity by married and unmarried
women and girls. Bhattacharya (p-96) explains the festival as an agrarian
one, where the event marks the worship of goddess Tushu. Tushu is also
compared with goddess Lakshmi5, which takes a significant character
since it reflects the basis of the local life and agriculture (Singh p-53-55).
Singh explains Tushu to have found a place in the mainstream religion
through the following Sanskrit shloka, which makes her closer to the
goddess Lakshmi-

“Gourabarnang surupancho nanalonkar shobhitang

Sarva lakkhansamppanang pinonnata poyodhorang
Dibabastro poridhanang sankhapaddadharang shubhang
Prassanabadonang Debing dhayet tusholang sarva shiddhidang”

[The fair complexioned good-natured one decked with various jewellery

The one with all the good qualities and having full round and pointed breasts
The one wearing auspicious clothes and holding a conch shell and lotus
The one with a sublime expression, the goddess who bestows good fortune]

Tushu centers around the aman harvest (winter harvest), mainly

comprising of rice harvest which is reaped at the time of Aghrahayan and
Paush of the Indian agricultural calendar. After harvesting, the thrashing
and cleaning of the rice continues throughout the month of Paush. The
work is mostly attended by women- both unmarried as well as married.
The rice is also sometimes dehusked manually under a dhenki (a wooden
pestle and mortar functioning through a fulcrum- used to dehusk rice
which is run with the help of two women where one runs the heavy pestle
with a foot and the other pushes the required amount of rice into the
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 215

mortar) even in modern times.

A part of the folk culture that remains true to its tradition, there are no
historical recording of the genesis of Tushu ceremony or brata songs.
However, it is interesting to note a mention of a similar winter harvest
festival, corresponding to the similar time of the year and having similar
characters of a harvest festival in king Ashoka’s (B.C.-269- 232) Dhauli
and Jaugada Shilanushashan’s (Rock Edicts) (Sen, p-65). In these two
Rock Edicts, Ashoka speaks about two specific folk festivals concerning
harvesting during the month of Paush. The Dhauli Rock Edict (located in
Puri district, Orissa, India, near Bhubanaeswar and referred to as Number
1 Separate Kalinga Rock Edict) records- “This Edict should be heard at the
time of Tishya Nakshatra (Tishya constellation). Outside the period of
Tishya, it can be heard individually as well from time to time (Sen, p- 93).
Sen explains it as- “Every Tishya period, probably, a gathering was held
for listening to this edict.” The Jaugada Rock Edict (located in Ganjam
district, Orissa, India and referred to as Number 2 Separate Kalinga Rock
Edict) records, “This Rock Edict, will be heard for a period of four months
during the time of Tishya Nakshatra (Tishya constellation). Outside the
period of Tishya, at other times as well, this edict can be heard. If need be,
it can be heard individually as well.”(Sen, p- 96). Sen explains this also, as
being an edict that was listened to during the time of Tishya Nakshatra.
Though no specific date of these inscriptions on the edicts can be
ascertained, however, it can be postulated that these date back to more
than two thousand years on the basis of the formation period of the Rock
Edicts. Sen elucidates, “Numbers 5 to 14 Rock Edicts were put up during
the 13th and 14 years of his reign, including the 1 and 2 Separate Rock
Edicts.” With an approximately postulated date, these rock edicts help to
portray the importance of a winter harvest festival more than two thousand
years ago.

Certain folk festivals have witnessed, over a period of time, a

transformation and regeneration through new names and also have found
their specific identities in various regions. Mention may be made of Indra
puja that got juxtaposed within the folds of the harvest festival of the
month of Aghrahayan (the month of the harvesting of the summer crop
according to the Indian agricultural calendar). This festival, over a period
of time, took the form of Itu puja of West Bengal. Another such example
of transformation of an old folk festival with a new name is, Basantotsav,
which is more popularly known in modern times as Doljatra in West
Bengal. This was formerly known as Phalgu Utsav (the festival of playing
216 Chapter Eleven

with coloured dirt).

The mention of Tishya Nakshatra (Tishya constellation) in the inscription

specifies that a major household festival used to take place at that time and
within that specific period. The other name for Tishya Nakshatra (Tishya
constellation) is Pushya. As mentioned above, the month of Paush
witnesses a reaping of the winter or the aman harvest. Thus, a
corresponding important relation with the modern Tushu festival can help
to trace the significance of winter harvest festivals over a period of two
thousand years.

However, there has been no special mention of the songs pertaining to the
festival in the inscription. The prominence of the songs and its
preservation on paper seems to have been an added benefit of the
invention of the printing press. Through time, Tushu festival has also been
variously termed as Poshla, Sanjo, Sodo Bhasano, amidst others. (Sen, p-

It should be noted that the mere mention of the winter harvest festival in
the Ashokan inscription does not specify a royal patronage of the same.
There is also no specific available evidences to suggest the same. Certain
folk festivals got escalated to the rank of a higher order and gradually got
absorbed within the folds of the ‘Greater Tradition,’ as is witnessed in the
case of Manasā puja. The festival of Tushu, till date, is specifically
observed by the Bauri’s and other lower communities of lateritic West
Bengal. Till date, the festival remains outside the purview of the
mainstream religion. Though it never faces opposition from other higher
castes, but this does not denote that the festival finds a patronage amidst
the other higher castes or the local royalty. No record is also available to
suggest that the festival in the region used to be patronised by the local
royalty previously.

The festival of Tushu remains a distinct part of the ‘Little Tradition’ in

modern times, that has survived to maintain its own distinct identity
inspite of close proximity with other popular festivals of the ‘Greater
Tradition.’ It is also interesting to note, that though the popularity of
Manasā puja was influenced by the changing circumstance under the Islam
rule, Shahajiya Vaishnavism and Tantric Buddhism practices in the region,
no such influence is witnessed in the case of Tushu festival as till date.
The Tushu festival is not observed by the lower class Muslims of the area
and the main festivities does not adhere to any specific religious rites, but
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 217

comprises mainly of recitations pertaining to everyday life. All these are

also prominent in the village of study.

IV. The songs of the festival

The Tushu festival centers around the songs, often mentioned as brata
songs, which very significantly occupy the singlemost important part of
the festival. The songs seem to have originated through the process of de-
husking the rice and in due course of time got acceptance as songs, those
accompany any labour during the entire month of Paush, including any
household chores, as is suggested by local beliefs. The songs are also sung
as the men-folk work in the fields as hired labourers or as rickshaw drivers
in modern times. It is an inspirational song that gives voice to the folk life.

The brata rites and songs6 of West Bengal are often associated with folk
festivals. They not only convey a cultural message to the next generation,
but also help to build up a belief structure for oneself within which one
operates and thereby helping to shape a mode of communication with the
next generation. Through changing times, the brata rites have helped to
perpetuate cultural anxieties and they represent a binding force of ethnic
mosaic. This paper tries to look into the aspect through the Tushu brata
rites and songs of the village Chhatna in Bankura district in West Bengal

The Tushu songs are quite unique in their character as they are
spontaneous and not repetitive. They are not written down or the lyrics are
never memorised from books. Rather, the lyrics are formed at the very
moment of singing and are unprompted. However, this unaided and
unprompted character never deters the womenfolk to join in the songs. As
one starts the song, the rest in the same group immediately picks up from
the very second word of the song. The song maintains the same pitch
throughout and continues unabated without any disturbance or flaw of
repertoire. It is important to note the pattern of the melody of Tushu songs.
It follows a beat of 2 + 4, famous as the Sashti Taal in Indian music.7
However, since there has been no exact records to stipulate the date of
genesis of music let alone folk music, it becomes very difficult to ascertain
for how long these songs in their specific beat has been a part of the lives
of this folk tradition. (Bankura Jela Sankhya, p-190). The language of the
Tushu brata songs remain to be a mixture of Bengali and Santhali dialects,
though modernisation has made them more Bengali in recent times.
218 Chapter Eleven

Gathering every evening after the completion of household chores, the

women- both married and unmarried and consisting of various age groups,
accumulate in different houses and in various numbers across the village
to sing the songs and celebrate the festival. The rituals take place in front
of a Tushu idol, or even a simple clay saucer, representing Tushu. The
ceremony begins with offering food to the idols and often consists of
simple food from within the household- mainly, rice, mustard flower and
others. The songs take a unique form of worship. This celebration
continues for an entire month. The subject matter of the songs vary widely
from the daily chores of women, the various elements in their lives,
aspects of pride or harassment in their everyday lives as well as
agricultural activities.

The image or the idol is immersed on the day of Paush Sankranti at a

nearby pond or river. The event is observed as a sad occasion marking the
departure of a ‘very near and dear one’. The procession consists of women
as well as men of all age groups and the ceremony is marked with a lot of
singing accompanied by musical instruments. The bank of the pond or the
river is also seen reverberating with the cumulative rhythm of the songs.
On the way to immersion, the idol or the clay saucer is sometimes placed
within a palanquin and decorated with lighted clay lamps and flowers-
signifying the revered character of the festival and a final fare well of ‘a
very close kin’. Finally the idol or the saucer is floated or immersed in a
nearby river or pond as a symbol of completion. The day of immersion
also marks a grand celebration with a mela (fair) near the pond or the
river. The mela is attended by not only Bauri’s but people from other
communities as well from the neighbouring areas in modern times. The
mela marks a lot of economic activities through the buying and selling of
various goods and articles of everyday household use.

The wide popularity of the songs is possible with their expressions,

covering a plethora of subjects, constituting several aspects of the village
life- starting from the daily chores of women surrounding the households,
the various elements in their lives including aspects of pride or harassment
in their everyday lives as well as agricultural activities (Singh p-55-57).
Quite evidently, the songs occupy a centre position in Tushu festival and
far trespasses the ritualistsic Puranic shlokas of better known and more
widely celebrated, accepted and Brahmanised festivals across the region.
Being a part of the life of the village folk, the importance of the Tushu
festival and the songs is best reflected through the following examples.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 219

The song (mentioned below) show the revered nature of the festival in the
hearts of the folk tradition that speaks about the pain of a daughter who is
away from her father’s home at the time of the Tushu festival and pines to
return home. She complains within herself to her mother.

“Mago mago biya diley baro nodir shey parey,

Eto baro Paush parobey rakhli ma parer ghorey,
Mago amar mon kemon korey
Jemon tata koraey khoi photey…”

[Mother dear you married me off to such a distant place across the big river,
You kept me away on the occasion of such a big festival of Paush,
Mother, I feel sad and my mind is in turmoil
Quite like the corn kernels popping in a heated frying pan…]

Sometimes, there is also the reflection of the everyday quarrelling between

the daughter-in-law and the mother-in-law-

“E chaley pui, u chaley pui

Puier khabo michuri
Aar jabo na shahurbari
Dhorey marey shashuri”

[E chaley pui, u chaley pui

Puier khabo michuri
Aar jabo na shahurbari
Dhorey marey shashuri]

The Tushu songs also sometimes reflect the mental anxiety of the father
who is finding it hard to find a suitable groom for his daughter since the
dowry demand is too high-

“Biti bika hollo bishom dai

Bor je cycle ghori chai
Biti bika hollo bishom dai”

[It has become difficult to ‘sell’ (here a metaphor) my daughter

Since the groom is asking for cycle and wrist watches
It has become difficult to ‘sell’ (here a metaphor) my daughter]

Still at other times, the Tushu songs also reflect the anxieties arising out of
the payment of heavy taxation-
220 Chapter Eleven

“Pet choley na taskor harbori

Bol go tora ki kori”

[I am finding it difficult to fill my stomach due to the burden of the taxes

Tell me my friends what should I do?]

At times, it also reflects the tumultuous political environment, dominated

by power hungry politicians-

“Deshta dube gelo roshatoley

Ami dosh dibo bhai karey bol?
Buddhimaney korey churi boka pheley ashrujol
Dagabaji, juachuri, ghoshkhuri choley kebol
Raajnitir nai nitir balai choley shudhu rang badal”

[The country has gone to the dogs

Whom do I blame brother?
The wise robs and the idiot only weeps
Cheating, gambling and bribery is the regular norm
There is no respect in politics, people keep changing colours]

And, not forgetting the young mind, love also finds an expression through
Tushu brata songs-

“Aaina chai na, chirun chai na

Chaicchi bodhi tomarey
Tumi jakhon chakri jabey
Money rekho amarey”

[I am not asking for mirrors or a comb

I only want you
When you will start working
Do remember me]

Though, the above examples are by no mean exhaustive, since changing

times and environment keeps adding to the subject matter that is
spontaneous, but reflects a part of feelings expressed through music. Songs
of everyday life, the context also elucidates the simplicity of lifestyle,
often prompted by severe poverty. Bhattacharya (p- 95) explains four
types of folk songs, namely-
1. Songs for specific use
2. Songs sung during performing work
3. Songs for specific festivals or occasions
4. Regional songs
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 221

He classifies the Tushu songs as especially a part of the Regional Song

category. Bhattacharya explains the characteristics of regional song being
limited to a specific region because of its distinct usage of language, lyrics
and melody and Tushu according to Bhattacharya, finds a place in the
category because of its own distinctive and individual character.
However, Jana explains the Tushu songs quite differently as he mentions
them to be brata rite that is observed mainly by the womenfolk of the
region where the worship of goddess Tushu occurs through the regular
singing of the songs for an entire month. The Tushu ceremony, which
predominantly only centers around the songs does not need a Brahman
priest to officiate over the ceremony. The songs are sung by the
womenfolk themselves in their houses and in front of the Tushu idol or the
representative clay saucer.

The festival of Tushu has mainly four main parts with each having specific

1. Agomoni (welcoming the goddess)

“Olo aye Sarola
Dujoney miley phul tuli bhori dala
Ashbey grihey tushumoni lo
Adorini raajbala…”

[Come my dear friend Sarala

Together we will pluck flowers and fill up our flower bowl
Tushu dear will come to the house
My dear tushu…]

“Tushu Tushu kore amra
Tushu amar ghorey go…”

[We always speak about Tushu

Now Tushu has come to my house…]

2. Stuti (worship)
“Tushli eyorani tumi boro bhagyamoni
Puji tomar charon dukhani…”

[Tushli you bring goodluck and good fortune

We worship at your feet…]

3. Jagoron (invoking the goddess)

“Utho utho tushu, uth koratey eshechchi,
222 Chapter Eleven

Tomar joto sakhigulo tomai pujtey eshechchi…”

[Wake up tushu, we have come to wake you up,
All you girl friends have come to worship]

4. Bijoya or Bisarjan (immersion)

“Tirish din rakhilam makey

Tirish sholta diye go
Ar rakhitey larlam makey

[I kept my mother for 30 days

Worshipped her with 30 clay lamps
I could not keep my mother any longer
Makor has come to take her away…]

Makor aichchen litey go…”

“Amar Tushu Tomar Tushu
Tushu nai ma ghorey go…”

[Yours and mine dear Tushu

Tushu is not at home anymore…]

V. Chhatna village, Bankura (West Bengal, India)

and the prominent Tushu brata songs
‘A big village of considerable antiquity’ (West Bengal District Gazetteers,
1968), is situated 12.9 km (8 miles) north-west of Bankura town. It has the
headquarters of a police station by the same name. It consists of the cross-
country Bankura-Purulia Road and also the Kharagpur- Ādrā section of the
South Eastern Railway. 8

The present paper focuses on the Tushu ceremony of Bansberia para (the
other three para’s are Saturgaria, Tantipukur, and Metiapara), under No. 1
Gram Panchayat (village authority). Tushu brata rites form an integral
part of the festivities in wintertime at the Bauri para of Bansberia.
According to the local people, the festival is an integral part of the lives of
the Bauri’s that is marked by a pompous gathering on the final day of the
festival- on the day of Paush Sankranti.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 223

VI. The Tushu festival at the Bauri para (locality) of

Bansberia- under No. 1 Gram Panchayat, Chhatna village,
The Tushu festival at Bansberia follows the familiar picture as mentioned
above. The month-long festival is marked with the regular gathering of
womenfolk at various houses to sing the songs and mark the celebrations
of worshipping. The village uses idols of Tushu at every gathering of
worshipping. The gathering takes place in number of eight to ten in
various households, where womenfolk assemble after finishing their daily
chores and serving dinner to their respective families. They gather in front
of the Tushu deity and start worshipping her by first offering her food, e.g.
luchi,( soft dough pancakes) bonde (a type of sweet dish), durba grass,
flowers and others. Finally the immersion takes place at the nearby
Bolpukur (a pond named Bolpukur) on the day of Paush Sankranti. The
banks of Bolpukur witness a big mela (fair) with a considerable amount of
economic activities for few consecutive days. Immersion ceremony starts
early in the morning on the day of Paush Sankranti. Both males and
females join in the immersion ceremony. Females constitute of both
married and unmarried women, however, very young girls, mostly below
the age of puberty does not join in the ceremony. Singing marks the
ceremony. According to the womenfolk, the males join in the singing
more than the women.
Some of the songs from the village are quoted below for a simple
understanding of the subject matter of the Tushu brata songs in the village
of Chhatna. Maya Bauri, Umi Bauri, Kusum Bauri, Mou Bauri, Seema
Bauri and others from the village have jointly sung the songs.

1. “Utho utho utho Tushu

Uthibe na keno go
Gotiguli pujite boshichhe go (2)”

[Wake up Mother Tushu

Why are you not waking up
Your devotees have sat down to worship you (repeated twice)]

2. “Kochi kadam paro na

Pakle sabai khabe
Sabai khabe keu to mana korbe na”

[Do not break the young fruits

224 Chapter Eleven

When they are ripe, everybody can eat them

Everybody will eat them and nobody will forbid you to do]
3. “…Police korchche jalaton
Amra police-ke ki bhoy kori…”

[…the police is disturbing us

but we do not fear the police…]

All the three examples portray three different types of subject matters
within three different contexts. They also reflect the varied situations and
circumstances that prompt the songs to be framed and thereby echo a
medium of expression of social and cultural anxieties. Being associated
through generations, the songs and their repertoire is an oft-repeated
phenomenon for the younger generations, especially the women. By the
time, the girl reaches a marriageable age, the songs have already become
an integral part of their lives. Finally, after marriage, they join in to
celebrate the festival through singing the brata songs.

VII. Conclusion
Both Manasā and Tushu brata rites and festival are integral parts of the
lives of many in lateritic West Bengal, especially in the regions under
study and both have the same folk origin. Both have been handed down
through generations, however, the method of preservation of cultural
symbols differs between the two festivals. As Manasā worship got a
gradual acceptance within the fold of the ‘Greater Tradition’ and found its
place in the written literature in the form of the famous Manasā
Mangalkavya, Tushu worship and the festival remains an integral part of
the ‘Little Tradition’ and the folk culture. The reason for this may be
found in the nature of acceptance of these festivals from a very early time.
As Manasā, being a part of a widely observed festival, got a gradual
acceptance through the patronage of the local higher castes, prompted by
changing political and social circumstances, Tushu seems to have
remained within the parameters of the folk, finding a natural space parallel
to other prominent festivals of the region. Being a popular winter harvest
festival, it might have survived side-by-side the more popular Brahmanical
festivals, but it never became a part of the mainstream Brahmanic rituals
and today, forms an integral part of the lives of the Bauri’s, especially in
the areas under study, who work as mostly hired labourers in others fields
or even engaged in other modern activities in modern times in the village
and cities outside the villages.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 225

Tushu also remained outside the periphery of the touches of changing

socio-cultural and religious circumstances as is witnessed throughout the
history of Bengal under the influence of Tantric Buddhism, and Shahajiya
Vaishnavism. The festival that was the expression of the representation of
local folk life from the very old times, mainly surrounding the reaping of
the winter harvest remained true to its original essence. However, the
songs help to brilliantly portray the changing image of society and thereby
the varying degrees and areas of concern. New methods of taxation, young
men looking for an office job, dowry demands and other such subject
matters seem to have added a myriad flavour to this otherwise agrarian

It is important to note the connection of environment with economic

activities. Manasā puja takes place in the times when the harvest is at it
meager best and boiled vegetables, including potatoes are the main items
to eat for many. The heated landscape incites the snakes to crawl out from
their hiding places, especially during the time of the month of Ashad
(Indian agricultural months of June-July). Monsoon rains follow soon.
These snakes pose the maximum dangers for the farmers as well as the
fishermen who frequent the rivers and the agricultural fields. On the other
hand, Tushu brata festival, occupies an important part of the time when
the winter harvest is celebrated with renewed vigour imparted into life
with the fresh cut paddy and rice from the fields.

Agriculture being the main subsistence pattern of the people, especially for
the Bauri’s, where most of them work as hired labourers in the fields of
others- the festival of Tushu occupies a significant position in their daily
lives. Tushu festival is often connected to fertility rites, since it is
associated with agriculture and was mainly observed by unmarried girls
and later by mostly women. Today, it not only celebrates the winter
harvest, but also acts as a tool of expression for certain socio-cultural
anxieties and agonies with both men and women of the communities
concerned. The worship of Manasā on the other hand, has helped to built
up an important conduit of expression where the historical development is
a proof enough of the need for its acceptance within certain folds of the
society and thereby acting as a reaction towards certain socio-cultural
changes. It is also significant to note that both the festivals have survived
the test of time as being handed down through generations and thus
bearing witness to the survival of oral and certain folk symbols acting as
means of perpetuation of certain socio-cultural and religious anxieties and
agonies. Though both are the worship of local folk deities, their historical
226 Chapter Eleven

development helps to portray a conglomeration of an interesting

phenomenon- two different ideologies of folk as channels of continuity
and of change.

Asok Datta had attempted to speak of three economic divisions of the different
regions of West Bengal. Though, the following citation is entirely according to the
author’s deductions, but it is a pointer in the direction of the economically active
regions of West Bengal in ancient times. Datta spoke about Chalcolithic
settlements at different regions of West Bengal with different regional characters
and identity immediately after the Harappan civilization around 1750 B.C, where
certain areas, especially including modern districts like South Western Midnapur
remain sparsely populated while adjoining areas because of its rich soil and being
near port cities, developed much faster with an increasing number of population.
William L. Smith describes the survival of the ‘Little Tradition’ as the “oldest,
the most valuable and the most authentically Bengali traditions in the delta.”
This class of literature flourished during the post-Chaitanya period and formed to
what is considered the most important branch of literature next to Vaishnava
literature. Manasā, Chaņdi and Dharma Ţhākur were the principal non- Purāņic
deities whose glory was sung in books possesing high literary merit. This section
of literature was meant to be sung and was also known as Pāñchālī. Its subject
matter was the glorification of deities of later times and its main object was to
preach their cults and make them popular. It is very likely that these cults were
introduced into Hindu society by primitive people and the Mangal Kavyas were the
principal means of spreading it among the higher classes in Hindu society. The title
of the long narrative poem of this class was formed by the addition of the word
‘mangala’ or ‘vijaya’ to that of the deity concerned. These two suffixes were
indiscriminately used whether the deity concerned is Purāņic or merely one of a
local cult evolved in comparately later periods. Thus, we have both Kŗishņa-
mangala and Kŗishņa -vijaya as well as Manasā-mangal and Manasā -vijaya
(Majumdar p-287)
The oldest books amongst the Mangalkavyas are the songs based on the legends
of Manasā, a cult deity, the popular accounts of whose origin, connection with Śiva
and his wife Chaņdi and quarrel with the latter constitute the main essence. In
short, the theme of Manasā-mangalkavya is- goddess Manasā tried to induce the
trader Chānd Sadāgar (a merchant named Chānd) to worship her, but the latter,
who was a devotee of Śiva refused to do so. Enraged at this Manasā killed six of
his seven sons. The 7th son- Lakhinder was bitten by a snake sent by Manasā on his
wedding night. The newly married wife Behulā put her husbands body on a raft
and floated away. She reached heaven and pleased the gods by her dance and
music. She even propitiated Manasā and succeeded in having her husband and six
brothers back to life. She returned home and succeeded in persuading Chānd
Sadāgar to finally worship Manasā. The first book of Manasā-mangal is not found
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 227

which Kāņā Hari Datta composed and which is only referred to in the text of some
later poets. There are other poets who became famous as writers of various
versions of Manasā-mangalkavya. They made the kavya famous at various parts of
Bengal- including the west and east. Mention may be made of Bijaya Gupta and
Bipradās Piplāi of 15th century, Nārāyandeva of 16th century, Vamśīdas of 17th
century, Ketakādās Kshemānanda of mid-17th century and also others like-
Sītārāmdās, Dvija Rasik, Dvija Bāņeśvara, Kavichandra, Kālidāsa and Vishņupāl
all of whom flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries. Many poets of North Bengal
also composed versions of Manasā-mangalkavya like, Durgābari Bibhūti of 16th
century, Jagajjīvan Ghosāl, Jīban Kŗishņa Maitra of 18th century.
The Puranic goddess of wealth and property who is widely worshipped in West
Bengal. She is also considered to bestow a good harvest.
India’s folk culture is an appropriate symbolical revelation of the invisible realm
of the subconscious, which often is recognised as the prime reality behind the
visible world. The brata art of Bengal is typical to this. The brata rites and songs
are specified by the fact that they mainly constitute of aniconic worship and reflect
spontaneous expression of changing times. These are ‘magico-religious’ rites
performed by womenfolk in Bengal, for invoking the blessings of various deities to
secure domestic happiness and welfare of the dear and near ones. They reflect the
social and religious beliefs of an area, which is among the richest in ancient
traditions. These brata rites, which are oral symbols handed down from generation
to generation, is also a representative of changing times and also acts as a mode of
perpetuation of cultural anxiety through time.
This beat is more famous as the Sashti Taal as created by Rabindranath Tagore,
but quite uniquely the beat was already prevalent amidst the folk Tushu songs of
Bankura and has been a part of their lives for a long time.
According to the West Bengal District Gazetteers (1968) a family of zamindars
(local ruling chiefs) once enjoyed the title of Rajas (kings), established themselves
here in 1403 A.D. The family was devoted to the local goddess, Bāsuli, whose
patronage, it was believed, was the source of their fortune. According to a local
legend, a Saont, by the name Sańkha Roy was the first king of Sāmantabhum,
having his capital at Chhatna. The Sāmanta line was disrupted after the death of
Sańkha Roy, when Bhabāni Jharāt, a Brahman, ascended the throne of
Sāmantabhum. He was later murdered and a protracted period of turmoil ensued in
the region. In due course of time, however, Sāmantabhum emerged from this state
of chaos with the establishment of a Kshatriya dynasty later on- all of which has
found a place of description in the local oral tradition and legends. The temple of
Bāsuli and the idol occupies a significant position in the legend as well as the
history, and to date maintains its importance in the village of Chhatna. Tradition
also has it that the medieval Bengali poet, Chandidas, who was a worshipper of
Bāsuli used to reside in Chhatna. The exploits of goddess Bāsuli have been
described in the Sanskrit text, Bāsuli Māhātmya by Padmalochan Sarmā. Though a
controversy ensued regarding the exact identity of Chandidas and his residing area,
however till date, a small quarter, marked as the residing place of Chandidas is
found in the village. At present, the village is well connected with the main town
of Bankura and other adjoining villages through a main roadway where buses and
228 Chapter Eleven

MUV’s (Multi Utility Vehicles) fly frequently. The village is also well adjusted
with certain modern amenities as an effect of globalisation, like an air-conditioned
village branch of the Bankura District Co-operative Bank and courier service
facilities providing connection via railway lines to the nearest metropolitan city of

Fig. 1 Map of West Bengal. The areas of fieldwork are underlined

Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 229

Fig. 2. A Manasā temple, Chhatna village, Bankura district, West Bengal, India.
Sudarshan Kaviraj, the priest stands outside the temple

Fig. 3. A patua (West Medinipur district, West Bengal, India) singing and
demonstrating through a scroll painting a story from Manasā-mangalkavya
230 Chapter Eleven

Fig. 4. Active participants of Tushu brata festival: women of Bauri para (locality)
of Bansberia- under No. 1 Gram Panchayat, Chhatna village, Bankura, West
Bengal, India

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Delhi, India



I. Introduction
Plantation workers in Sri Lanka represent the poorest group in the country.
Contrary to the modest reduction in national poverty in Sri Lanka poverty
in the plantation sector has increased considerably. Compared with the
other two sectors, poverty in the plantation sector is much higher than that
of the urban sector and higher than that of the rural sector were poverty is
considerably high. Though the plantation population consists of 5% of the
total population, 8% of the country’s poor live in this sector.

It is not only by the measures of consumption poverty that the plantation

sector lags behind the other sectors but the other key indicators of health
and education also show that they are far behind the other two sectors of
the country.

The persistence of high poverty levels and lower social and economic
indicators in the plantation sector is a result of long history of social and
economic isolation of plantation residents. This has led to a lack of
education and employment opportunities which contributed to a persistent
cycle of low capability, low earning potential which would result poverty
among plantation residents (World Bank, 2007).

This paper aims at analyzing causes of persisting high levels of poverty in

the plantation sector in Sri Lanka with a view to provide implications for
poverty reduction policies.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 235

II. Plantation Workers in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic society with four distinct ethnic groups, the
Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils, Indian Tamils and Muslims forming the
major ethnic groups. In 2001, Sinhalese accounted for 81.9 percent of the
population, while Sri Lankan Tamils, Indian Tamils and Muslims
accounted for 4.3 percent, 5.1 percent and 8 percent respectively. .

Indian Tamils are the descendants of the 19th and early 20th century
migrants from Tamil Nadu, India brought to Sri Lanka to work in the
plantations by British entrepreneurs. ‘Indian Tamil’ (IT) is the official
term of identity given to them in ethnic classification in population

According to the census of population and housing of 2001, the estimated

total plantation (also called estate) population in Sri Lanka in that year was
900,713 of which 88.4% were Indian Tamils. Out of this Tamil population
that lives in the plantation, 95.9% belong to estate worker families.

Estate workers, in general, are a landless group of people primarily

dependent for livelihood on their earnings from working on the estates.
They are dependent on estate not only for work but also for housing,
water, education and health services. They are among the country’s most
disadvantaged and disempowered groups. Their wages are low in absolute
as well as relative terms while their monthly earnings fluctuate according
to the number of workdays offered by the estate and the number of days
they actually turn out for work when work is offered. The resident workers
in estates abandoned as non – viable after implementation of the
privatization programme are much worse off. They feel powerless against
social and political discrimination and

The major factors responsible for this relative backwardness are many:
These include the denial of citizenship rights and their poor educational
attainments (Amali, 2000). Plantation workers of Indian origin continue to
experience social exclusion and political marginalization too with
inadequate links with the public sector organizations, including health,
education and administrative services (Tudor Silva, 2007). Although Sri
Lankan law now grant plantation workers citizenship rights, low levels of
education, language barriers often prevent them from understanding anf
exercising these rights.
236 Chapter Twelve

The plantation community in its history of nearly two hundred years in

this country has suffered from all these forms of exclusion, deprivation
and discrimination which finally leading to their marginalisation
(Sinnathamby, M. 2003). The present socio-economic of this community
and its state of poverty could, therefore, be attributed to social exclusion
and deprivation as described above.

III. Poverty in the Plantation Sector

In 2002, the estate sector, which comprises the plantations in the central
highlands and surrounding areas, recorded the highest rate of poverty
incidence Sri Lanka. About 30% of the population in estate sector is poor.
This is followed by the rural sector, where about 25% of the population
lives in the poverty. In the prosperous urban sector, poverty levels are
considerably low as just 8%. Contrary to the decline in national poverty
incidence from 26% in 1990-91 to 23% in 2002, poverty incidence in the
estate sector increased by about 50% from 20% in 1990-91 to 30% in
2002. During this period, poverty in the urban sector decreased from 16%
to 8% and that in the urban sector declined from 30% to 25%.

Table 1: Incidence of Poverty in Sri Lanka by Sectors

1990-91 2002
National 26.1 22.7
Urban 16.3 7.9
Rural 29.4 24.7
Estate 20.5 30.0
Source: WB 2007

Though the consumption poverty of the households in the estate sector has
worsened, the other aspects of the human development such as education,
health and housing have improved over the years. However, in spite of
these improvements, estate sector still lag well behind the other sectors of
the country.
Poverty among the estate workers is mainly caused by low incomes as
well as lack of opportunities for enhancing their capabilities. Majority of
the residents in the estates rely solely on estate wages for earned income.
When compared to the other sectors, the average monthly income of the
estate workers are lower than the worker in others sectors and industries
that perform comparable tasks. Recent statistics of the DSC (2004) reveal
that the average monthly income of estate households is lowest in the
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 237

country. It is 47.6 % of the incomes of rural and 27.6 % of urban

household. These incomes can also fluctuate depending on the number of
days worked.


Almost all the estate workers live within the plantations in houses
provided by the estate management. Generally these houses consist of
single houses, line rooms and row houses. However, a large percentage of
these houses are line rooms which can not be considered as a desirable
arrangement of living. Most of these houses are old and have only one
room without proper kitchen and sanitary facilities. These are shared by an
average of six household members. Estate workers are still living in most
deprived shelter conditions compared to their counterparts in the urban and
ruaral sector. According to CFSES in 2003-04, 64%of the houses in this
sector are line rooms. Over the years, due to the efforts of the government
and estate management in providing better housing for the estate residents,
the percentage of line rooms has declined from 84% in 1996-97 to 64% in
2003-04. However, this percentage is still much higher than the national
level of 3.9%. The improvements are also reflected in the increase of
percentage of single houses from 10%in 1996-97 to 28% in 2003-04.

The poor in Sri Lanka are predominantly from uneducated and less
educated social groups. The incidence of poverty is as high as 45% among
individuals with no schooling (HIES, 2002). According to HIES (2002),
19% of estate household heads have no schooling compared to 8% for Sri
Lanka as a whole (Table 2). It has been recognized that one of the biggest
constraints to the upward social mobility of the residents of the plantation
sector is the deficiencies in education. Despite of the high rates of
education indicators such as school enrolments, literacy achieved by Sri
Lanka still there are wide sectoral disparities. Though these indicators
have improved over the years, estate sector lag behind the other two

The level of provisions of general education in Sri Lanka is high.

However, these provisions are not equally distributed among all the
sectors. The standards of schools and facilities provided by them are very
low in rural and estate sectors when compared with urban schools.
Furthermore, the standards of the schools in the plantations and the quality
238 Chapter Twelve

of education provide by them to the children of plantation workers who

been working and living mainly in the plantation sector of Sri Lanka is
poor. Schools in the estate sector are often under staffed and role models
for the children for alternative occupations are rare. The poor status of
education on the plantations is reflected in low levels of achievement and
high drop out rates as compared with other sectors of the country.

Table 2: Attainment of Education by Sector & Gender 2004 / 05

Level of Sector
Education Sex Urban Rural Estate All sectors
No 5.5 7.5 19.9 7.9
Schooling Both
Male 4.3 5.6 13.0 5.8
Female 6.6 9.2 26.3 9.7
Primary 24.3 29.9 43.7 29.9
Male 24.4 31.8 46.0 31.6
Female 24.1 28.2 41.6 28.3
Secondary 41.1 41.8 28.9 41.0
Male 41.9 43.6 34.6 42.9
Female 40.5 40.1 25.6 39.4
Post 29.1 20.9 6.5 21.2
Secondary Both
Male 29.4 19.1 6.5 19.7
Female 28.9 22.5 6.4 22.5
Source: CFS

Due to historical developments, the schools on the plantations have

remained without the basic infrastructure facilities to provide meaningful
education till relatively recently. Though almost all the estate schools were
managed by estate authorities and assisted by government grants until the
mid – seventies. In 1977, around 350 estate schools out of a total of 721
were taken over by government; and the balance were taken over in 1981,
but insufficient attention was paid to upgrading the facilities and the
quality of the education provided (Mookiah, S. 1998).

In 1886, the development of 420 plantation schools was initiated under a

12-year project funded by the government of Sweden; these schools are
currently being rehabilitated under another project funded by the same
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 239

country. Another 141 schools have been developed under other projects.
However 270 schools remain in their original neglected state.

Literacy rates, dropout rates, and the educational attainment of the estate
population are still lagging behind that of the rest of the population,
although the gap has been narrowing over the last two decade.

Table 3 :Literacy Rate by Sector and Gender (%)

Period Sex Urban Rural Estate

1986/87 Male 94.7 92.8 80.0
Female 91.3 86.5 58.1
1996/97 Male 96.1 94.4 87.2
Female 93.0 90.4 97.3
2003/04 Male 95.9 94.7 88.3
Female 93.8 91.1 74.7
Source : CFS, 2003/04

The increase in literacy rate was disaggregated by sector. Literacy rates

had improved in all three sectors, with a significant improvement in the
estate sector. Literacy rates by gender indicated that female literacy rates
had remained lower than the male literacy rates in all three sectors,
although the gap had narrowed. Over time in all three sectors and while
the gap between males and females remained highest in the estate sector,
the estate sector showed the greatest reduction in the gap (Table 3).

According to the consumer finance survey data in relation to the

attainment of education by sector revealed that education levels, as with
literacy rates, were lowest in the estate sectors. The share of females with
no schooling was twice that for males in the estate sector (Table 2). The
number of students attending secondary and senior secondary schools in
Sri Lanka has increased at a higher rate. This improvement has been
brought about by governmental changes in policy over the last 50 years.

Achievement of secondary and post secondary education starting from

year 07 to 13 among the plantation residents is low and they are far behind
in comparison with the urban and rural sector population. This is 70
percent in the urban areas and 63 percent in the rural areas whereas it is
only 35 percent in the plantations where there are a majority of upcountry
Tamils (CFS, 2003/04).
240 Chapter Twelve

Compulsory education regulations were enacted in 1997. According to this

regulation the age group 05–14 was defined as the schooling age, since
schooling is compulsory for all children in this age group. However, this is
not functioning properly. The average school avoidance had declined from
3.3 percent in 1996/97 to 2.1 percent in 2003/04. Though the school
avoidance rate in the estate sector recorded the sharpest decline from 7.3
percent in 1996/97 to 4.6 percent in 2003/04, it still remains well above
the national average. The main reason given by estate household for
school avoidance is poverty (Rajendran, 2004).

Table 3: School Avoidance by Sector

(As a percentage of eligible children aged 05 – 14 years)

Urban Rural Estate
All sectors
1996/97 3.3 3.0 7.3 3.3
2003/04 2.9 1.8 4.6 2.1
Source : CFS

The plantation residents who enjoy very limited education facilities within
plantations face many obstacles when using the facilities available outside
the plantations. Major constraints faced by them in sending their children
outside schools are the cost involved and lack of transport. Most of the
estates are isolated from the other sectors and the lack of road connectivity
act as a major constraint to the social mobility of residents through
education and employment opportunities outside the estates.

Parents who want to continue their children’s education beyond the level
available in their estates, must send them to the schools outside the estates.
This is a serious problem for girls. Parents are hesitant to send their
daughters far away on their own. Because of lack of transport facilities
children are forced to walk more than 6 kilometers along footpaths and
other roads, surrounded by jungles. Despite parents’ desire to send their
girl children to secondary schools, most girls stop going to school when
they reach puberty (Amali, 2000).

The plantation sector is still the largest organized sector in Sri Lanka. In
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 241

the import–export economy in Sri Lanka, the plantations still rate as one of
the highest in terms of foreign exchange earnings. Cheap labour is one of
the essential ingredients of its success. Hence the plantation workers were
bonded and under paid. In 1921 workers were empowered to break this
bond of indebtedness tying them to the estates. The minimum wages
ordinance was extended to plantation labour in 1927 marginally raising the
wages that not changed since the 19th century. This daily wages was 41 cts
in 1933. Owing to trade union activities it was raised to Rs 17.83 in 1983.
Rs 72.24 in 1993 and become Rs 101.00 in 1998. The wages of female
workers was lesser then males but has been equalized since 1984. Even
though there was an increase in wages, the living wages are not sufficient
to meet their day to day needs and lower than the wages of the comparable
workers in other sectors.

Unemployment in Sri Lanka has been a major national problem over the
past three decades and it has caused difficulties and uncertainties for
successive governments since the 1960s. However, unemployment was not
high among plantation youth belonging to the 19–25 age groups in the
mid–nineties: 42% in the plantations compared to 51% in the urban and
37% in the rural areas (CFS 1996/97). But the situation appears to have
changed considerably in more recent times. In 2003/04, in the estate
sector, 44.8% belong to 15–18 age group is unemployed compared to
29.6% and 35.8% in the urban and rural sectors respectively (Central Bank
2004). Unemployment among youth in the estate sector has now been
identified as an issue of grave concern. Young youth prefer to work
outside the estate. Employment opportunities within the estate sector are
not attractive to the youth. The social stigma attached to manual work,
traditional work patterns of the estates, the difficult and strict working
conditions and the top–down management style are factors that encourage
them to seek off–estate employment. But finding such alternative
employment has not been easy for these youths for several reasons.

The education achievements and the technical skills of the plantation

youth are very poor. It is a constraint to the plantation youth in seeking
employment outside the estates (Sinnathamby, 2003). Lack of proper
national identity cards (NICs) and other civic documents too come in their
way in obtaining outside employment. The recent survey in the plantation
sector revealed that 35 percent of estate youth between 16 and 19 years
age did not possess NICs (Island 17/05/2007). Due to the security situation
in the country, the NIC has become a crucial factor in the economic
success of a plantation worker as it is crucial for them to access tertiary
242 Chapter Twelve

and vocational education and opportunity for jobs outside the estate
including overseas employment.

Technical and vocational education sector in the country has rapidly

expanded and become an alternative channel for the youth and school
leavers. Today a conglomeration of Public Sector Institutions, Private
Sector Organization and NGOs provide technical education and vocational
training. In 1996, there were nearly 450 vocational training institutes /
centers with 222,094 training following programmes in 426 trades (ADB,
2001). The number of plantation youth enrolled in these institutes / centers
is extremely low due to number of reasons: I) the estate sector is
characterized by under – developed education facilities, as already
explained, and low priority for skills development; ii) most of the
programmes in the technical and vocational training institutes / centers in
the estate areas are conducted in Sinhala while the estate youth is
conversant only in Tamil; iii) these youth also fail to satisfy the minimum
entry requirements to these institutes; and iv) even if all these
requirements are satisfied, majority of them still face problems or
difficulties in pursuing undergoing vocational training. These include
economic factors, transport difficulties, language barrier etc (Rajendran, S.
2005). As a result estate youth are left with very little technical training in
addition to their low attainments in general education.

Sri Lanka is an exception among the developing countries which has
achieved impressive improvements in health status since Independence
despite its low income per head. However, the improvement has been
uneven, with plantations consistently lagging behind. As reflected by the
health indicators, health status of estate workers and their families are
much lower than that of the other sectors. However, since nationalization
in 1975, there has been considerable investment on estates and, with the
introduction of a uniform health policy designed to meet the needs of
estate workers, the health status of workers and their families has
dramatically improved. Interventions have included components on
housing, water supply and sanitation as well as health and child care and
have been planned with the involvement of the workers. The components
which have brought about the improvements were specifically designed to
meet the needs of plantation workers and developed within a structure
quite different from that which applies in rural peasant areas
Provision and utilization of health care services in the estate sector
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 243

continue to remain far behind the rest of the country. These are reflected
by a number of health indicators such as low birth weight, child
malnutrition which are lower compared to that of other sectors. Low birth
weight is more prevalent among poor estate households. According to
World Bank (2007), 30% of babies born to mothers in the estate sector
were low in birth weight (Table 4). Almost 40% of the pre school estate
children are stunted (do not have the height for age) which imply severe
and prolonged malnutrition among them. Among the pre school children
in the estate sector 12.5% have low weight for age which is a result of
short term and acute food shortfall. It is not only among estate children
under age of 5 years that malnutrition is prevalent. Nutiritional status of
women in this sector is also poor. In this sector, 48% of women have low
body mass which can result intrauterine growth, retardation and low birth
weight. Malnutrition among mothers and children can have a number of
consequences for their education, adult health and earnings.

Table 3: Child Nutrition and Health Status 2000

Sector % children with % children % children % children

low birth stunted wasted underweight
Urban 13.7 8.3 8.9 17.8
Rural 17.3 14.1 16.8 31.0
Estate 30.0 37 12.5 45.7
World Bank (2007)

In 1992, the estates were privatized and the responsibility for estate health
and welfare activities was taken over by the Plantation Housing and Social
Welfare Trust (PHSWT) currently known as the Plantation Human
Development Trust (PHDT).

The major concern is the lack of proper health services to meet the
demand. These health services are often not designed to look into the
problems of women. malnutrition, which is one of the major problems in
the plantation sector, affects the lives of children who do not get basic
nutrition they require and malnutrition is found to be high among women.
The lack of food due to poverty, resulting in unequal distribution of food
at homes where its allocation favors the males is seen to be the main cause
(Amali, 2000).
244 Chapter Twelve

IV. Conclusions
Plantation workers in Sri Lanka are the poorest group in the country as
30% of the households live in poverty. Contrary to the modest reduction in
national poverty in Sri Lanka poverty in the plantation sector has increased
considerably. This paper attempts to identify how and why the plantation
community lags behind other communities in the country in almost every
aspect of life.

Estate workers, in general, are a landless group of people primarily

dependent for livelihood on their earnings from working on the estates.
They are dependent on estate not only for work but also for housing,
water, education and health services. They are among the country’s most
disadvantaged and disempowered groups. The major obstacle to their
upward social mobility include the denial of citizenship rights, poor
educational attainments, social exclusion and political marginalization
with inadequate links with the public sector organizations, including
health, education and administrative services.

Plantation workers have been neglected and marginalized by development

programmes as discussed. Though many NGOs and trade unions have
been supporting the plantation community, not enough is being done to
support the uplift the living standards of estate workers. Despite the fact
that some improvements have taken place in their living conditions during
the last decade or so, there still exists a wider gap that cannot bridge in the
short term unless special priority of some sort is given to them at least for
a minimum period of time. Affirmative action is known to the best way to
correct a history of social exclusion and marginalization of minority

In this context, the plight of plantation workers should be viewed as a

national issue and government should be intervened directly by identifying
them as a special target group for a poverty alleviating program. NGOs,
trade unions of the plantations and plantation companies as port of civil
society, should also play an important role for the social change of the
plantation community and for their equitable, and sustainable development.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 245

ADB, (1999), Skill Development Project Report, Asian Development
Bank, Sri Lanka.
Amali, P. (2000), “Gender Ideologies and Gender Relation in the Tea
Plantation”. PALM Foundation, Nuwara-Eliya. Sri Lanka.
(Unpublished Survey Report).
Central Bank of Sri Lanka, (1996 / 97, 2003 / 04), “Report on Consumer
Finances and Socio Economic Survey”, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
—. (2005), “Economic and Social Statistics of Sri Lanka”, Colombo, Sri
Department of Census and Statistics (2001), “Census of Population and
Housing 2001”. Department of Census and Statistics, Colombo, Sri
—. (2005), “Statistical Abstract 2005”. Department of Census and
Statistics, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Ministry of Estate Infrastructure and Livestock Development (2007),
“National Plan of Acton (NPA) for Social Development of the
Plantation Community 2006 – 2015, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Ministry of Education, (2005), “School Census” Report Statistics Branch.
Ministry of Education, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Mookiah, M. S. (1997), “Education of the Plantation Tamil Community:
Historical Background and Current Status”. Workshop on Education of
the Plantation Tamil Community: Past, Present, Future 26th – 27th
September, 1977. ISD, Kandy.
Rajendran, S. (2001), “Relationship Between Female Labour Force
Participation and Fertility: in the Tea Plantation Sector, Sri Lanka. M.
Phil Thesis, University of Peradeniya.
—. (2004), “A Study of Preventing Child Labour in the plantation Sector –
Badulla District”. International Labour Office, Colombo. (Unpublished
Survey Report).
—. (2005), “Economic Opportunities Survey & Training Needs
Assessment (2005). International Labour Office, Colombo.
(Unpublished Survey Report).
Sinnathamby, M. (2003), “Socio – Economic Conditions of the Up –
Country Tamils”. Seminar on Rights and power Sharing Mechanisms
for Non – Territorial Minority Communities. 24th May 3003, Trans
Asia Hotel. Colombo.
Tudor Silva, K. and B. Sasikumar, (2007), “Transition from Tea Worker to
out grower”. ISD, Kandy.
World Bank, (2007), “Sri Lanka Poverty assessment”. Engendering
246 Chapter Twelve

Growth with Equity: Opportunities and Challenges, World Bank,

Colombo office, Sri Lanka.



Every science depends upon observed phenomena for its analytical and
interpretative statements. Anthropology, in common with other social
sciences, depends for its data upon observations of human behavior,
including verbal behavior. The process of making such observations has
been called ‘Ethnography’. It is production of highly detailed accounts of
how people in a social setting lead their lives, based on systemic and long-
term observation of, and conservations with, informants.

I. Defining Ethnography
1. “When used as a method, ethnography typically refers to fieldwork
(alternatively, participant-observation) conducted by a single
investigator who ‘lives with and lives like’ those who are studied,
usually for a year or more.”(John Van Maanen, 1996).

2. “Ethnography literally means ‘a portrait of a people.’ Ethnography is

a written description of a particular culture - the customs, beliefs, and
behavior - based on information collected through fieldwork.”(Marvin
Harris and Orna Johnson, 2000).

3. “Ethnography is the art and science of describing a group or culture.

The description may be of a small tribal group in an exotic land or a
classroom in middle-class suburbia.”(David M. Fetterman, 1998).
248 Chapter Thirteen

II. What it is?

Ethnography (ethnos = people and graphein = writing) is the genre of
writing that presents varying degrees of qualitative and quantitative
descriptions of human social phenomena, based on fieldwork.
Ethnography is a social science research method. It relies heavily on up-
close, personal experience and possible participation, not just observation,
by researchers trained in the art of ethnography. These ethnographers often
work in multidisciplinary teams. The ethnographic focal point may include
intensive language and culture learning, intensive study of a single field or
domain, and a blend of historical, observational, and interview methods.
Typical ethnographic research employs three kinds of data collection:
interviews, observation, and documents. This in turn produces three kinds
of data: quotations, descriptions, and excerpts of documents, are resulting
in one product: narrative description. This narrative often includes charts,
diagrams and additional artifacts that help to tell “the story” (Hammersley,

Ethnography is a form of research focusing through close field observation

of socio-cultural phenomena. Typically, the ethnographer focuses on a
community (not necessarily geographic, considering also work, leisure,
and other communities), selecting informants who are known to have an
overview of the activities of the community. Such informants are asked to
identify other informants representative of the community, using chain
sampling to obtain a saturation of informants in all empirical areas of
investigation. Informants are interviewed multiple times, using
information from previous informants to elicit clarification and deeper
responses upon re-interview. This process is intended to reveal common
cultural understandings related to the phenomena.

Actually ethnography is a written report summarizing the behaviors, and

the beliefs, understandings, attitudes, and values they imply, of a group of
interacting people. Thus, ethnography is the description of the way of life,
or culture, of a society. An ethnography is generally expected to give
overall view of the culture of the people about whom it is written and its
attempts to cover all aspects of culture of a given society. Typically, the
ethnographic accounts include an introductory section on the geographical
and historical setting of the people to be studied, their racial, linguistic,
and cultural affinities. It should be noted that ethnography may be
approached from the point of view of cultural preservation, and as a
descriptive rather than analytic endeavor.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 249

III. Techniques Used

1. Direct, first-hand observation of daily behaviour: This can include
participant observation.
2. Conversation with different levels of formality: This can involve
small talk to long interviews.
3. The genealogical method: This is a set of procedures by which
ethnographers discover and record connections of kinship, descent
and marriage using diagrams and symbols.
4. Detailed work with key consultants about particular areas of
community life.

5. In-depth interviewing.

6. Discovery of local beliefs and perceptions.

7. Case Studies

8. Problem-oriented research.

9. Longitudinal research. This is continuous long-term study of an area

or site.

10. Team Research

Not all of these techniques are used by ethnographers, but interviews and
participant observation are the most widely used.

IV. Major Steps, Key Concepts and Terminology

The ethnographic method starts with selection of a culture, review of the
literature pertaining to the culture, and identification of variables of
interest—typically variables perceived as significant by members of the
culture. The ethnographer then goes about gaining entrance, which in turn
sets the stage for cultural immersion of the ethnographer in the culture. It
is not unusual for ethnographers to live in the culture for months or even
years. The middle stages of the ethnographic method involve gaining
informants, using them to gain yet more informants in a chaining process,
and gathering of data in the form of observational transcripts and interview
recordings. Data analysis and theory development come at the end, though
250 Chapter Thirteen

theories may emerge from cultural immersion and theory-articulation by

members of the culture. However, the ethnographic researcher strives to
avoid theoretical preconceptions and instead to induce theory from the
perspectives of the members of the culture and from observation. The
researcher may seek validation of induced theories by going back to
members of the culture for their reaction.

Ethnographic methodologies vary and some ethnographers advocate use of

structured observation schedules by which one may code observed
behaviors or cultural artifacts for purposes of later statistical analysis.
Coding and subsequent statistical analysis is treated in Hodson (1999). See
also Denzin and Lincoln (1994).

Macro-ethnography is the study of broadly-defined cultural groupings,

such as “the English” or “New Yorkers.”
Micro-ethnography is the study of narrowly-defined cultural groupings,
such as “local government GIS specialists” or “members of Congress.”
Emic perspective is the ethnographic research approach to the way the
members of the given culture perceive their world. The emic perspective is
usually the main focus of ethnography.
Etic perspective is the ethnographic research approach to the way non-
members (outsiders) perceive and interpret behaviors and phenomena
associated with a given culture.
Symbols, always a focus of ethnographic research, are any material
artifact of a culture, such as art, clothing, or even technology. The
ethnographer strives to understand the cultural connotations associated
with symbols. Technology, for instance, may be interpreted in terms of
how it relates to an implied plan to bring about a different desired state for
the culture.
Cultural patterning is the observation of cultural patterns forming
relationships involving two or more symbols. Ethnographic research is
holistic, believing that symbols cannot be understood in isolation but
instead are elements of a whole. One method of patterning is conceptual
mapping, using the terms of members of the culture themselves to relate
symbols across varied forms of behavior and in varied contexts. Another
method is to focus on learning processes, in order to understand how a
culture transmits what it perceives to be important across generations. A
third method is to focus on sanctioning processes, in order to understand
which cultural elements are formally (ex., legally) prescribed or proscribed
and which are informally prescribed or proscribed, and of these which are
enforced through sanction and which are unenforced.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 251

Tacit knowledge is deeply-embedded cultural beliefs which are assumed

in a culture’s way of perceiving the world, so much so that such
knowledge is rarely or never discussed explicitly by members of the
culture, but rather must be inferred by the ethnographer.

V. Ethics in Ethnographic Research

Since ethnographic research takes place among real human beings, there
are a number of special ethical concerns to be aware of before beginning.
In a nutshell, researchers must make their research goals clear to the
members of the community where they undertake their research and gain
the informed consent of their consultants to the research beforehand. It is
also important to learn whether the group would prefer to be named in the
written report of the research or given a pseudonym and to offer the results
of the research if informants would like to read it. Most of all, researchers
must be sure that the research does not harm or exploit those among whom
the research is done.

VI. Ethnography in Social and Cultural Anthropology

Ethnography is a branch of cultural anthropology. Cultural anthropology
and social anthropology were developed around ethnographic research and
their canonical texts are mostly ethnographies: e.g. Argonauts of the
Western Pacific (1922) by Bronisław Malinowski, Coming of Age in
Samoa (1928) by Margaret Mead, The Nuer (1940) by E. E. Evans-
Pritchard, or Naven (1958) by Gregory Bateson.

Cultural & social anthropologists today place such a high value on actually
doing ethnographic research that ethnology—the comparative synthesis of
ethnographic information is very fruitful now a days.

Within cultural anthropology, there are several sub-genres of ethnography.

Beginning in the late 1950s and early 1960s, anthropologists began writing
“confessional” ethnographies that intentionally exposed the nature of
ethnographic research. Famous examples include Tristes Tropiques by
Claude Lévi-Strauss, The High Valley by Kenneth Read, and The Savage
and the Innocent by David Maybury-Lewis, as well as the mildly
fictionalized Return to Laughter by Elenore Smith Bowen (Laura
252 Chapter Thirteen

Later “reflexive” ethnographies refined the technique to translate cultural

differences by representing their effects on the ethnographer. Famous
examples include “Deep Play: Notes on a Balinese Cockfight” by Clifford
Geertz, Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco by Paul Rabinow, The
Headman and I by Jean-Paul Dumont, and Tuhami by Vincent Crapanzano.

In the 1980s, the rhetoric of ethnography was subjected to intense scrutiny

within the discipline, under the general influence of literary theory and
post-colonial/post-structuralist thought.

“Experimental” ethnographies that reveal the ferment of the discipline

include Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man by Michael Taussig,
Debating Muslims by Michael F. J. Fischer and Mehdi Abedi, A Space on
the Side of the Road by Kathleen Stewart, and Advocacy after Bhopal by
Kim Fortun.

VII. Application Areas

Ethnography has it roots planted in the fields of anthropology and
sociology. Present-day practitioners conduct ethnographies in
organizations and communities of all kinds. Ethnographers study
schooling, public health, rural and urban development, consumers and
consumer goods, any human arena. While particularly suited to
exploratory research, ethnography draws on a wide range of both
qualitative and quantitative methodologies, moving from “learning” to
“testing” (Agar, 1996) while research problems, perspectives, and theories
emerge and shift.

Anthropologists like Daniel Miller and Mary Douglas have used

ethnographic data to answer academic questions about consumers and
consumption. Businesses, too, have found ethnographers helpful for
understanding how people use products and services, as indicated in the
increasing use of ethnographic methods to understand consumers and
consumption, or for new product development (sometimes called ‘design
ethnography’). The recent Ethnographic Praxis in Industry (EPIC)
conference is evidence of this. Ethnographers’ systematic and holistic
approach to real-life experience is valued by product developers, who use
the method to understand unstated desires or cultural practices that
surround products. Where focus groups fail to inform marketers about
what people really do, ethnography links what people say to what they
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 253

actually do—avoiding the pitfalls that come from relying only on self-
reported, focus-group data.

Agar, M (1996). The Professional Stranger: An Informal Introduction to
Ethnography, Academic Press.
Barry, H. III and Schlegel, A eds. (1980). Cross-cultural samples and
codes, Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Denzin, N K and Lincoln Y S (1994). Handbook of qualitative research,
Thousand Oaks, Sage Publications.
Fetterman, (1998). Ethnography, 2nd ed., Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Hammersley, M (1990). Reading Ethnographic Research: A Critical
Guide. London: Longman.
Harris, M and Johnson, O (2000). Cultural Anthropology, (5th ed.),
Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Hodson, R (1999). Analyzing documentary accounts, Thousand Oaks,
Sage Publications, and Quantitative Applications in the Social
Sciences Series No. 128, Describes random sampling of ethnographic
field studies as a basis for applying a meta-analytic schedule, Hodson
covers both coding issues and subsequent use of statistical techniques.
Moll, LC & Greenberg, JM (1990). Creating Zones of Possibilities:
Combining Social Constructs for Instruction. In: L.C. Moll (ed.)
Vygotsky and Education: Instructional Implications and Applications
of Sociohistorical Psychology, New York, NY: Cambridge University
Patton, MQ (1987). How to Use Qualitative Methods in Evaluation,
Newberry Park, CA: Sage Publications.
Van Maanen, J (1996). Ethnography. In: A. Kuper and J. Kuper (eds.) The
Social Science Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., pages 263-265. London:




Most Indian's especially the Hindus are brahmana by behaviour and
intellectuality when they utter the mantras, slokas and analyse sastras. The
process of intellectuality functions within their utterance in an excellent
and wonderful way of speech delivery, dialogic orientation, access to word
knowledge, mnemonic technique, analysing skills, etc. Likewise they are
tribal by belief, when they worship a god like Jagannatha, their ancestor
deity in the form of a wooden log. They believe in a genealogical legacy,
kinship-‘kutumba’ (family) relationship with a supernatural power belong
to the Munda racial root. In the same way, they worship Ka:li, the black
force and mother goddess of the Dravidians who believe that she can
articulate her power among them for victory and well being. The holistic
character of Krishna in the Indian heritage in different times and spaces
developed with the combination of both the significances .

Maha:bha:rata, written in regional languages demonstrates the above two

features, i.e. the literary intellect and tribal ritualistic consciousness. Both
have been utilised as the ‘forces’ – the force of brahmanic classical
knowledge within the field of discourse analysis, and the force of non-
Aryan tribal ancestral inheritance through the elementary religious forms
of ritualistic behaviour. Both could be the external textual quality and the
internal ritualistic concept. The power of brahmanas' classical knowledge
and identity (specifically brahmanised Dravidians of Andhra) of the 11th
century India and the power of belief of tribals in constructing a ritual
(specifically Mundas and Dravidas ) in 15th century Orissa can be taken as
the two halves of the Indian holistic heritage.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 255

Krishna’s character in the two Maha:bha:ratas

The character of Krishna in both Sanskrit and regional Maha:bha:ratas can
be taken as the filament of above two halves, i.e. the identity with
classical/literary knowledge and tribal/ritualistic belief as a whole. Krishna
himself has become a model of this kind of long social literary
transformations and defines the development of his character as a
kshatriya scholar in the Sanskritic literary model after he had underwent in
the process of khsatriyisation and as an ancestor of Dravidas in a
tribal/ritualistic model. This paper aims at analysing Krishna’s dialogue,
language orientation, and discourse analysis for the establishment of ‘self’
a Sanskritic model. Also he has utilised these Sanskritic skill and
intellectuality, similar to the themes of Puram poems of Sangam literature
and Gatha of Magadhians to narrate the prowess of non-Aryan warrior
heroes parallel to A:rya:varta kshatriyas and brahmanas. It has succeeded
in exploring the ‘other’, i.e. the other heroism and materials belonging
apparently to pre-Aryan times found over central, northern, western, and
southern India. and then the long ritualistic Dravidian tribal process of
Krishna’s becoming a ‘Blue-Stone’ and its transformation in to a wooden
log in the ritualistic Munda tribal process.

The world of Nannaya’s Maha:bha:rata has been imagined and analysed in

Telugu language and modelled on the classical literary tradition of 11th
century Andhra. There is a fine example from the poet Ramaraja
Bhusana’s (16th century) text ‘Vasucharitramu’ (Madras, no year: Vavilla
Ramaswamy Shastrulu and sons) where one verse has been explained in
Rao and Shulman (2002: 1-3) as ‘each poet is Vaganusasanudu, the maker
of speech Brahma in the classical Hindu pantheon, who has both, created
and married the goddess Vak, meaning language or speech within the
Telugu tradition. This is also the title given to Nannaya (11th century) who
established the contour of poetry and poetic style….and it is to this
language imagined as a goddess, that the poet pays tribute.’

Nannaya has named his Maha:bha:rata as ‘Panchama Veda’ and ‘Ka:vya’

which signify the Vedic and brahmanic identity in a classical poetic style.
The rich texture of Nannaya's literary tradition was massively influenced
by the significant power of Va:k, that are structured in Nannaya’s
‘vachana’ (sentences, sayings), ‘samla:pa’ (dialogue), ‘sabda’ (words),
‘ukti’ (discourse). Nannaya's main aim was to regulate the poetic theory
by his scholarship on the above qualities. The example of such an
achievement is found in his own verse where he has prescribed his own
256 Chapter Fourteen

poetic technology.His prescribed verse deals with ‘prasanna katha:-

kalita:rtha ukti’, which the poets of high order can analyse, understand and
appreciate. Others can only appreciate ‘akshararamyata:’, where people in
general are more concerned about ‘na:na:ruchira:rthasukti’ which gives
them happiness and goodness. In other words, Nannaya has prescribed
these three important qualities to be followed in a great literary work.

This ukti / discourse analysis, which is one of the three poetic qualities has
been used in this paper to find his stylistic and thematic uniqueness.
Nannaya has proposed ‘ukti’ as ‘arthaukti’ which can be translated as the
technique of semantic structure (associated with a pleasing narrative
structure) and has named it as ‘prasannakatha:’. It has been considered as
the main feature of literary art. Sisir Kumar Das (1995) opines in this
context that, the main component derived form the Sanskritic epics which
have created a deep structure of perception on which one constructed new
images and allegories (p.125-126). Nannaya’s discourse also symbolises
the deep structure of perception that succeeded in bringing the ‘other’
tradition of non-Aryans into limelight.

Re-orientation of ukti/discourse analysis

Discourse analysis of the Maha:bha:rata is marked by the transformation
of Vedic mnemonic techniques, recitation, utterance of the Vedic Samhita:
in the break-up of its skillful analysis, dialogue delivery of brahmanas,
sages, Aryan kings with the use of appropriate words and sentences to
define brahmanism in a literary heritage. But it is also needed to state that
within these classical and brahmanic components, Nannaya’s prescribed
ukti also points to an ‘other’ semantic structure of the text. Krishna’s
discourse and dialogues were of great values and were treated equal to
rishis, munis, Aryan kings intellectual discourse. But his skillful analysis
has succeeded in exploring the cultural encounters – representing
otherness in the main Maha:bha:rata theme.

The subjects of cultural encounters in different models of ukti can be seen

within the classical models with three categories of analysts:
1. Vedic and brahmanic model: analysis by the sages and Aryan
kshatriyas on the basis of Vedic and brahmanic utility.
2. Aryan and non-Aryan model: for brahmanic identity and
legitimacy:The discourse analysis of the Aryan and non-Aryan
kshatriyas is based on their acquired Vedic knowledge,
brahmanic identity and following of dharma (prescribed by sages
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 257

and brahmanas) as a code of conduct.

3. Non-Aryan model: its analysis for Aryans and non-Aryans, for
the establishment of ‘self’ and then for the establishment of the
non-Aryan cultural significances.

Model Three : A Cultural Encounter

It signifies the discourse analysis, powerful dialogues of non-Aryan
scholarship, cultural knowledge parallel to the scholarship and identities of
Kauravas and Pandavas of A:rya:varta. This discourse is an oratory on the
‘other’ tradition, i.e. the tradition of heroism of Yadavas and Haihayas as
well as the tribal local chieftains/kings of then India, who had taken up the
challenge of acquiring Sanskritic knowledge for their social upliftment.
For example, King Nala of Nishada origin who ruled over Koshala;
Kumaraswamy of Dravida origin of Dravida desha; Kartavirya,
Bruhadratha, Jarashandha of Haihaya race who ruled over north and
central and south India, specifically Jarasandha over Magadha;
Bhagadatta over Pragjyotishapura; Kamsa (Yadava-Kukura) over
Mathura; Sisupala over Chedi, and above all Krishna as the head of seven
clans of Yadu race over Mathura and Brindavan in north India. These
warriors with enormous physical powers went through a brahmanisation
process and became the authority of brahmanic dharma and systems. The
ideals are Yaraka king’s son Ekalavya Nisha:da a tribal vya:dha/hunter
who became the ideal model of a guru for teaching dharma to brahmanas
and became popular as dharmavya:dha, and sudra Vidura has
strengthened this model. Krishna has put his endeavour to explore this
substratum with an aim to make his own identity, prestige, intellectuality
and tradition the central one.

Krishna’s mastery over, intellectual discourse/dialogism are the main

source for studying the other cultural half, referred to in the text.

Nityasatyavachananipuna ( skillful speaker of truth)

Krishna’s vachananipuna virtue has established his right for an elite
kshatriya identity and brahmanic scholarship. ‘salla:pa’ (samlapa/dialogue),
‘vachanambu’ (words/sentences/sayings) and ‘va:kyamulapaddhati’ (way
of speaking) of Krishna are fostered with a self emanating description. It is
an instructive example of how a Sanskritic media of speaking and
analysing capability can be used to innovate the self which will be later
258 Chapter Fourteen

accepted, believed and adored by the whole of India.

Krishna speaks with ‘atulavikramasampada’ (Sabha : 1st aswas. vachana

189), i.e. speaking power which is equal to precious wealth. Its intellectual
display varies according to different situations and its exchange with
persons of equal status. He has used the ‘vachana’ (word) as a warning ( ‘I
warn! You listen to my words’) for killing Jarasandha and getting victory
over him (Sabha: 1st aswas:padya 192). He demanded that Dharmaraja
should believe his words that he would kill his enemies and have faith in
him. Again Krishna’s words signify his and Arjuna’s unitary power and
identity (Sabha:1st Aswas: padya 162). As a Ra:yaba:ri (du:ta/messenger)
he has used his words as needful for peace-making and bringing solution
and victory for the Pandavas (Aranya:1st Aswas:padya 129-30). In his
adult life, his words/sentences blossomed into divine philosophical
knowledge, became a model for the intellectuals to hear and were adored
as a source of well being (Udyoga:3rd Aswas: vachana 40). The finest
example is the discourse on ‘Visvarupa’. It could be a quest for the
cultural spread of Hinduism where Krishna’s enunciation about his
‘Visvarupa’ with his language of transcendental spiritualism blows the
panchajanya, the inaugural sign of the bhakti-cult.

The word power of Krishna became a prime marker for intellectuals and
was glorified by the elite khsatriyas as a supreme model of
‘va:kyamulapaddhati’. Krishna has been adored by many elites and with
many adjectives of his vachananipuna virtues. A few dialogues of
Bhishma, Dharmaraja, Arjuna and their interpretation of Krishna’s
excellence in speaking are good examples. Dharmaraja glorifies his
character as a ra:yaba:ri (duta) for his fitness of va:kyamulapaddhati
(Udyoga: 3rd aswas, padya 34). Bhishma as a great learned person praises
his richness of Va:k. He says, ‘You are expert in Va:k, you are
‘Va:kvibhuda’. There is everything in your richness of talking, richness of
words.’ (Shanti: 2nd asvas, padya 119). Krishna’s exchange of dialogue
with a knowledgeable person like Bhishma is considered appropriate by
Dharmaraja when he says, ‘Except you there is no other person to
exchange samla:pa with Bhishma.’ (Shanti 2nd aswas, padya128). In
Arjuna’s perception Krishna is the only person whose ‘vimalava:kya’
(pure sentence) can inspire and instigate a kshatriya like him to get victory
over the enemy and can make his life successful (Bhishma: 1st aswas).
Bhishma has defined his sentences as ‘suva:kyamulu’, which are equal to
the Veda (Shanti: 2nd Aswas padya 146-50), and as ‘madhurava:kya’
(sweet sentences) where he has added literary sublimity (rasa) to it and
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 259

opines that, this has the capability to make him satisfied and happy. He
says, ‘Your madhurava:kya is like amrutarasa for my ears and fills me
with happiness’ (Shanti: 2nd aswas, padya 118)

Krishna’s oration explores different stages of his ‘self’ which can be

studied through a developmental process of his character:

Man of pure knowledge (Nirmalabuddhi)

Krishna’s knowledge and discourse differentiate his identity and vision
from a brahmanic discourse. It remained as a substratum to the main
brahmanic theme and has never been treated equally in importance (Adi
Parva:7th Aswas). Krishna’s epistemological network in Nannaya’s
Maha:bha:rata highlighted the diversity of ways in which otherness has
been visualized, communicated, advocated and constituted as equal and
significant. The process of becoming ‘I’ is a process of establishing
Krishna as a king maker, maker of a non Aryan heroic tradition, and also a
cult maker. The discourse of Krishna has assigned itself the task of
systematising a non-Aryan heroic tradition and it’s other significant
structural traits in the Indian heritage. Its orientation can be seen in his
self-reflexive awareness in the epistemological domain of the great

The Process of becoming ‘I’

Two distinct virtues of Krishna in Nannaya explore the process of
becoming ‘I’. His utterance of ‘I’ embodies a dialogic enunciation of his
own opinion and interpretation for defining the genealogical, heroic
uniqueness of Yadavas and their offshoots. His discourse foregrounds the
consciousness, subjectivity, communication of Aryans and non-Aryans.
His capability of narration, memory power, and analyzing skill elucidate
the establishment of the heroic tradition and physical prowess of the
Yadu/Yadavas (Vrishni, Andhaka, Bhoja, Kukura, Haihaya, etc.) of
western India; Haihayas, Chedis of northern and central India parallel to
the Puru/Pandavas and Kuru/Kauravas of northern India, their conflicts
and convergence.

His cultural encounter starts with his enunciation of ‘I’ and its three
significant representation of self development can be:
1. “Yenu (ne:nu) Krishnudu” (I am Krishna). (Sabha. 1st aswas: padya
260 Chapter Fourteen

2. “Yenu (ne:nu) Narayanundu nannunashakti” (I am Narayana, the

powerful). (Aranya. 1st aswas: padya 128)
3. “Yenu (ne:nu) Purusottama” (I am Purusottama) (Bhishma 1st aswas:
padya 199).
The first enunciation explores his social recognition from ‘dasharhundu’ (a
Yadava caste man) (Sabha. 2nd aswas: padya 8) to Krishna as an eminent
persona. Then Krishna has been replaced by the identity of Narayana. He
defines this name to show his equality with Arjuna in image and identity.
He says, ‘You are Nara….I am Narayana. We both are powerful and have
taken birth in human genital’ (Aranya. 1st aswas: padya 128-130). As a
kshatriyasna:taka, he became powerful for his knowledge and excellence
in speaking. Then he has established himself as a ‘Yagnapurusha’. His
purushottama identity with divine power symbolises the final stage of his

The enunciation of ‘I’ is in fact a powerful summation of every definitive

description of self. It also demonstrate a different developmental stage
and can be analysed as follows:

A Yadava warrior hero with kshatriya identity

The first stage of Krishna’s self development can be seen within the
sources of his past tradition, origin, racial identification of Dravidians of
the lunar race with their great cultural legitimacy over western, northern,
and central India. In this context Cavalli-Sforza (2000:157) throws light
on the origin of Dravidian languages by saying that the origin of Dravidian
languages is likely to be somewhere in the western half and also found in
northern India in some places. Like the language tradition Yadava
Vrishni’s ‘Panchavira’ (five heroes) tradition was also the most
prominent cultural component of these areas and most significant for such
a connection, The term Panchavira is reminiscent of the Tamil term
‘aimperumvelier’, also meaning the five great heroes who were also said
to be of the Yadava clan’ (Subrahmanian 1966, in Thapar 2000: 695).
Krishna’s early life is also stated in the cult of Panchavira where he spent
his life among cattle-keepers of Mathura (ibid.), but after under going the
process of kshatriyisation he was linked to the Yadava Vasudeva with
the great powerful kshatriya Yayati from whom the genealogy of Yadus
spread (Aranya. 3rd aswas:143). Arjuna has accepted his high-born identity
with Indra by linking Krishna’s birth to Aditi and Kashyapa (Aranya. 1st
aswas: 127).
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 261

Krishna explores his own heroism and places this before his A:rya:barta
allies. As a kshatriya he is described with adjectives of great physical
gesture which can be verified with the words like maha:bhuja,
pruthulavaksha, simhapara:krama, jita:ditya, nikhilalokajaitrundu (Sabha.
1st aswas: vachana 182, Sabha 2nd aswas: padya 37). Krishna’s victorious
character became the model of an ideal hero and has been taken up as an
example of intellectuallity, bravery, and dharma of kshatriyas by many
heroes of that space and time.

Kshatriyaja:tisna:taka : his new identity

After becoming a mighty kshatriya he includes himself among the learned
scholars of uttamakula kshatriya (belonging to high born group). This is
his new invented separate identity of a kshatriya that he himself has
defined as – “We are sna:takas. Sna:takas are of two types. One is
brahmana sna:taka and the other is kshatriyaja:tisna:taka. We are
kshatriyaja:tisna:takas. (Sabha, 1st aswas: vachana 183). This prescribed
model of a kshatriya is seen followed by all warriors beyond A:rya:varta in
their proud introduction. Haihaya Jarasandha of Magadha is a fine
example where he himself says that – ‘I am sadguṇa:nvita. I am a devotee
of sura, muni, brahmana. I belong to uttama kshatriyakula’. Jarasandha
has been introduced by Krishna to Pandavas as a worshipper of sna:takas
(Sabha, 1st aswas: padya 179-80).

His discourse with Yudhisthira is of classical brahmanic identity resulted

in getting the highest place among all the great persons, like Dhaumya,
and Ritwiks (Sabha, 1st aswas: vachana 270, padya 107). His talent made
him `Yagnapurusha’ and as the source of all Yagnaphala (Sabha, 2nd
aswas: padya 4-8). It could be a possible reason that the discourse analysis
between Bhishma and Yudhisthira in front of all great scholars and mighty
heroes in the royal court aims at making Krishna the source of all
knowledge and divinity by imposing his subjectivity over brahmanas.

The motive of becoming the most learned in the world and to expand his
intellect as an enlightenment within a straightforward description of his
own language – “For the Shreyashu (well being) and Yasha (fame) I am
the main source. You please listen to my word… I am already a famous
person. So I don’t want new fame. I want to give you the fame and make
you famous in this world. That’s why I have introduced my mind in you”
(Shanti, 2nd aswas: padya 128). Krishna’s access on vividhatattva (various
kinds of knwledge) Bhishma, 1st aswas: padya 126), atmatatva (knowledge
262 Chapter Fourteen

of self) Bhishma, 1st aswas: vacana 229) embedded with anupama guna
(unique qualities) (Aranya, 1st aswas: padya 128) and heavenly form (Ibid:
padya 220) made him a ‘pravartanaka:ra’, i.e. the founder a new
substratum in the Indo-Aryan heritage.

Cultural representation : visualizing otherness

The cultural advancement the significance of the then Dravidian
languages over the Indo-Aryans, their conflict and convergence are also
corroborated by the fact stated by Krishnamurti (2003:41) as, ‘Middle
Indo-Aryan and New Indo-Aryan have been built on a Dravidian
substratum seems to be the only answer’. This could also be a phase for
the development of the regional cultures as the counter cultures and
languages of north India, different from Sanskrit. This phase was also
marked by the spoken varieties like Pali and Prakrit which were then
becoming popular (Despandey.1979 in Krishnamurti.2003:37).This phase
was also marked by the merging of speakers of non-Aryan/Dravidian
languages with the Aryan speech community, which paved the way for
the development of regional Prakrit (Krishnamurti. 2003:37).Caldwell
(1956:53) quotes Hodgson and states that, ’the North Indian vernaculars
had been deprived of Sanskrit’. But it is also a fact that the Aryans could
never succeed in banishing the then natives of north India. Gatha,
originally meant 'a speech', 'a verse', 'a song', also 'a speech in praise' is the
finest example of such (Singh and Baruah(eds).2003:203). Gathasaptasati,
written in Maharastri Prakrit based on the popular dialects owed their
origin to tribal groups occupies a unique place in the history of ancient
India covering a period between 1st to 3rd century A.D
(Sharma(ed).2002:710). The other Dravidian substratum rooted in the
history of Tamil literature dated back to pre-Christian era with
Cankam/Sangam anthology covering a period from B.C500-
700A.D.,originated from folk songs and poetry of Tamil country
(Varadaraju.1988:18-26). It could also be treated as the multiplicity of
literary trends growing at the same time along with the main Sanskrit
trend. The structure and trend of heroic Puram poems and many heroic
narratives/Gathas of Suta Magadhas which flourished along with the
flourishment of Prakrit can be taken as an other earlier structural
substratum with the Dravidian traditional values contained in them . It
might be possible that Krishna had set a trend of narrative discourse to
velorise the then heroic tradition which was so popular among folks,
became the ideal to be followed . Krishna’s borrowing of discourse
pattern from Sanskrit had been applied here to show the test of his own
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 263

vision for demonstrating the lexicons of Dravidian primitive traditional

valuables. The textual continuum of the Maha:bha:rata is marked by the
signifier/words and signified/concepts of cultural encounter of great and
little traditions. The textual continuum of the great kingly tradition of
Kauravas and Pandavas is also marked by the co-existence of the kingship
pattern of Yadavas headed by Krishna; Haihayas headed by Bṛhadratha,
Jarasandha, Chedis headed by Sisupala and other Panchalas, Koshalas,
Dravidas, etc. They were the rulers of western, northern, eastern, southern
parts of India parallel to the kshatriyas of A:rya:varta. In this context,
Proto-Dravidian culture with its political organizational lexicons can be
cited to show the connection between these rulers and their cultural
significances. The available lexicons/words like chiefs, ko/king which is
also a mountain, king-god, the king’s palaces, forts, fortresses, deep moats
filled with water, their fights, wars of armies in the battle fields, their
knowing about victory of winning etc,(lexicons are taken from
Krishnamurti.2003:7-8) provide a similar kind of structure of a heroic
Dravidian tradition found in the Puram poems of the Sangam period
and the Gathas/narratives of Magadha.

Introducing Aryans to non-Aryan India

Krishna has introduced non-Aryans to Pandavas and Kauravas. This
changed concept can be defined on a newly invented dialogue/word
orientation for showing otherness in the domain of the Sanskritic heritage.
While describing about Jarasandha , Krishna’s aims was to describe the
heroism and the glorious past of the Magadhiyas the then competitors of
Kauravas and Pandavas. A mythical king Pruthu Vainya who sprang from
Vena and associated with Magadhiyas in this theme can also be connected
with the references found in Cilappatikaram. For example: in OTa.
Vaniyan [ANN (Akana:uru ) 66:9 ]; V:anikan [Cilappatikaram. 2:76 ];
Vanikar [Cilappatikaram.5: 41 ]; Sanskrit Vanik means a merchant. These
are foreign words in Sanskrit ( in Vaidyanathan 1971 :16).

The otherness can be related to the subject matters of the oldest Sangam
literature, specifically ‘Puram’ poems which contain the bardic/oral
tradition of ancient Tamilians and the songs popularly known as
Gathasaptasati attributed to Satavahana Hala (2nd -3rd century) containing
lot of information about the folk life, praise of village headman, his wife,
description about pulinda tribe,description in memory of the departed dear,
etc (Dutta(eds) 2001:1374-75).‘Puram’ poems are the poems of ancient
Tamil culture, celebrating the ferocity and glory of the powerful kings,
264 Chapter Fourteen

lamenting the death of heroes, the poverty of poets. The subject matters of
popular and famous war, heroism, glory of the kings are also current in all
the Southern Dravidian languages and in Telugu and Tulu (Ramanujan
1985: 235). Some patterned thematic properties, like the birth of a hero,
his wars, his city of strong hills, strong walls, chariots, drums, horses,
flags of ancient Cera and Cola chieftains,village headmen, or folks
were found from the descriptions of bards and poets of Puram poems,
Gathas, as well as from Krishna’s narration of Jarasandha which could be
the patterned Dravidian literary trends developed in different times and

Puram poems describe the virtue of a hero as : ‘great king, you shield
your men from ruin, so your victories, your greatness are by words’
(Puran:anuru: in Ramanujan 1985:115). Gathasaptasati describes a man's
quality this way: 'Two things lighten a man even if he is as big as a
mountain;when he brags before accomplishing some thing, and brags after
accomplishing it'( translation of Canto 4 in Sharma(eds)2002:715).Krishna
describes about Jarasandha’s power : ‘I can not describe his power. He
defeated everybody . He is famous in wrestling and nobody in this world
can defeat him’ (Sabha parva, 1st Aswas109-10 ,161). Puram poem
describes about king’s war: ‘this Porai, so fierce in war? How big are his
armies really?’, (Patirruppattu :77 in Ramanujan 1985: 116-7); it also
describes about the king’s city covered with hills and strong walls
‘…Uraaiyur, city of tall towers’, ‘stand here, you can see the hill, go far
away, you still see it …the hill of our great chieftain; hill of Ay ,with war
anklets on his feet, hill inaccessible to great kings’, (Purana:nuru:
69,114,128 in Ramanujan. 1985:127,147,152). Krishna describes about
Jarasandha’s city this way: ‘five mountains surround this city like mighty
warriors, that’s why the city named as Girivajrapura/city like thunderbolt
of hills‘. In Puram poems, poets describe king’s chariots, drums, flags as :
‘the tall gold- covered chariots given by Malalaiyan of ever lasting fame ;
Pari’s Parampu hill…great drums of war; ..you are such…lofty one with
bright umbrellas of fame (Purana:nuru: 123, 102,109 in Ramanujan
1985:141,142,153). Krishna descries: ‘there were three big Bheris of
magical power in the city’ (Sabha, 1st aswas:175 ). He also glorifies the
city of Saumbhaka, chariot/divya ratha, flag/Garuda ketana of powerful
king Salva (Aranya ,1st aswas and 3rd aswas ).

Krishna’s art of discourse consists in incorporating these Puram bardic

components in a classical structure which could be connected with the
form of the Ga:tha: theme popularly developed as an unique narrative
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 265

trend over Magadha .

Non-Aryan Jarasandha and the cultural past

of Magadhiyas
Krishna’s dialogue is intended as a clear introduction to the study of words
constituted with the concepts of non-Aryan culture. He introduced the
technical study of words and its meaning by differentiating between the
discourse of a brahma-kshatriya and a Yadava-kshatriya.

A different model of discourse by Krishna on Jarasandha is also of great

importance.The words like `Māgadhiyas’,’Magadhaswara’ (Sabha, 1st
aswas: padhya114) are not of brahmanic but of Haihaya identity and
explores Jarasandha’s (Ibid) power establishment over Magadha, his
conflict with Yadava Krishna and Pandavas. Krishna has tried to give an
elaborate history of the then regional rulers, their non-Aryan origin,
genealogical expansion, and inheritance of past traditional valuables. It
highlights the vamsas that had spread from Yayati’s sons, i.e. the eldest
Yadu and the youngest Puru. Puru had inherited the core of the territory,
i.e. the Gangadoāb and Yadu had migrated to the south west (Thapar
2000:726). The geography of migration of the Yadus includes western and
central India, the Narmada and Vindhyas and large parts of the edge of the
Ganga plain (Ibid:728). It is also seen that the middle Ganga region which
comes into prominence with the settlement of Black-and-red ware
cultures, with possible connections to proximate places in central India
and western India (Thapar 1978, pp.240-67). It is in the mid-first
millennium BC that the network of the Ganga plain is drawn closer
together and Magadha in the south Bihar gradually emerged as the
dominant region (Thapar 2000:729). The region of Magadha on the fringes
of A:rya:varta is said to be inhabited by the Mlecchas and the Vratyas,
associated with Magadhas (Ibid:719). There is a reference to a mythical
king Pruthu Vainya who sprang from Vena, a slave of wrath and malice,
described as the ancestor of Magadhas and the country of Magadha was
established by him. (Sorensen 1978:452, 564, 725) He is again identified
with his six sons; Suta and Magadha, etc. (Vettam Mani 1998
(reprint):608). The mythical as well as historical data points towards the
geography of ancient India with the origin and mythical ancestral root of
Yadus and their sub-clans who emerged as regional kingly powers.
Jarasandha’s father Bṛhadratha’s Haihaya identity as a subclan of Yadu
and his ancestry in connection to Pṛuthu Vainya became an important
device of Maha:bha:rata signifying non-brahmanic heroism and
266 Chapter Fourteen


Jarasandha’s victory over every king and country also throws light on
Yadava–Haihaya conflict which is a historical fact and resulted in shifting
of Yadavas from Mathura region to Raivata mountain (where they built a
fort) (Sabha, 1st asvas: 111-113).

The political network of Magadha and its adjacent regions are drawn
closer to show Jarasandha’s regional expansion as well as their
connection, relationship with the local tribal groups. This stronghold is
distinct in Jarasandha's connection with his friends, allies, relatives,
servants, subordinates. They were a:yattabhuja Hamsa Dimbaka (Kausika
Chitrasena) who were described as the right and left hands (Sabha:1st
Aswas:padya114) of Jarasandha; Sisupala,the king of Chedi who has been
described as his ally/senapati (chhamupati). The discourse of Krishna
provides further references to make the united networking more powerful.
Kamsa the son of Ugrasena, described in the Maha:bha:rata as the
incarnation of asura Kalanemi (Sorensen, 1978:379). and the son-in-law of
Jarasandha (got married to Jarasandha’s two daughters),was the enemy of
Krishna. Then the Yavana Kurusha, the king of the east and south, the
Kirata king Paundrika Vasudeva of Anga, Vanga, Kalinga, were described
as the subordinates and were always at Jarasandha’s service. Bhagadatta,
the ruler of west of Magadha is said to have put his service to Jarasandha.

All important aspects of Yadava-Haihaya origin and genealogy have been

placed before Dharmaraja/Pandava. Another discourse of Krishna used as
a form of remembering past with the matrilineal value of tribals which
could be of Dravidian racial identity. Krishna’s answer to Dharmaraja’s
question “how Jarasandha’s name became “bhujavikrama:dhikya” ( excess
power of arms) explores an assimilation process of Haihaya Magadhas
with the sage Chandakaushika/Gautama and also with a rakshashi named
Jara. The narrative about Jara rakshashi is of great cultural value. A detail
description points about the king Bruhadratha who was blessed with a son
by the sage Chanda Kaushika but was born as a “half born baby.” Because
the body has been united (sandhitah) by a rakshashi, the baby was named
after her as Jarasandha (Sabha, 1st aswas: padya 142, vachana 149).
Bruhadratha after naming the baby started celebrating a festival every year
on Jara’s name for her power of lineage protection . The story symbolizes
a Dravidian root in connection with the worship of female power and is
seen in the form of Mother goddess worship, where the female power is
established as “Gruhadevi” in many tribal kingly traditions connected with
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 267

the ritualistic behaviour of primitive religions. There is also a reference of

Jara’s identity as Gruhadevi in Sanskrit Maha:bha:rata (Sorensen
1978:354) which is corroborated in Bruhadratha’s primitive ritualistic

Jarasandha's identity as an Asura is described in the context of Draupadi

svayamvara, and in his connection with Vena, Kakshibas as Mlecchas,
Vratyas,Suta- Magadhas. (Sorensen 1978:725 and Vettam Mani
1998:608). This description is a symbol of acquired high status and
identity of brahmanas and Aryans through the interrelational characters
like Chandakaushika and Dirghatama.

The other traditional properties of non-Aryans

Krishna draws attention of Dharmaraja towards another traditional heroic
property of Yadavas,Haihayas, Chedis etc. Girivajrapura of Jarasandha
remained as an ancient political centre called Girivraja, a hilly pasture,
ideally situated for the founding of a state in Magadha (Thapar2002:113-
114).‘Saumbhaka’ a word symbolizes the cultural significance of a city
under the rule of Salva. Salva was a brother and an ally friend of Sisupala
who fought a great battle with Vrishnis after hearing that Sisupala is killed
by Krishna (Arany: 1st aswas). Saumbhaka is again described as a celestial
magical chariot/divya ratha, related to the ancestral heritage of Vasu (who
with his celestial chariot coursing through the sky and was called a
Uparichara), Bruhadratha and Salva (Sorensen, 1978:167), which they
inherited as a symbolic material of their glorious heroic past.
Bruhadratha=Bruhat (great) + Rath(chariot) is a symbolic name of such
precious traditional property and great power. Vasu passed over this
traditional chariot to Bruhadratha and Bruhadratha passed it to Jarasandha
(Sorensen, 1978:717).

Within the same tradition of Haihayas, Chedis(Aranya:3rd Aswas), and

Panchalas( Aranya: 3rd Aswas) Krishna-Vrishnis were also connected
with Vasu and Indra. Indra was also born to Aditi and Kasyapa and was
Vasu’s ancestral family member. His inheritance of Chaitra ratha and
fighting battles (Aranya, 1st Aswas) are the examples of this traditional

Another word `Bheri’ provides an indirect propaganda of non-Aryan

primitive religious values to Bhima and Arjuna (Sabha, 1st aswas: vachana
175). Krishna narrates here about big Bheris of Jarasandha kept in the
268 Chapter Fourteen

middle of the city as a symbol of his progress. It is of magical significance

and made of a Rishabha’s/bull’s skin who was killed by Magadhas (Sabha,
1st asvas: padya 175). `Bheri’ like Drum is a valuable primitive object of
local tribal warriors. It is stated that the use of Bheri is historically and
religiously extensive. It may constitute hierarchies. It may play functional
roles with society, ranging from invoking the deities to function as
telecommunication. The royal drums of Africa and ancient South India
were part of property, symbol, tool of divine kingship. It is considered as
powerful, important and appropriate to speak to the kind. (Eliade (Vol.4)
1987:494-95) Jarasandha’s Bheri is a symbol of his physical, political
power and his royal rule, which is combined with Gautama’s devine
magical boon to show brahmanic identity in the hierarchy of Magadha’s
kingly tradition.

Thus the rich cultural heritage with primitive religious materials, glorious
ruling history, political legitimacy had occupied a distinctive position in
the textual continuum which can be treated as the other half of the total
Maha:bha:rata heritage.

The cultural gap between the 11th century Andhra and 15th century Orissa
bridges the literary competence with brahmanic supremacy and a
ritualistic cult with tribal legitimacy.

Sa:rala: Da:sa is the first major poet designated as `A:dikavi’ of Oriya

literature. Maha:bha:rata written by him in 15th century is considered as
the encyclopaedia of Oriya culture and language. It is neither a faithful
translation of Vyasa nor is based on the brahmanic significance of
Nannaya. It can be considered as a new transcription of the tribal culture
of 15th century Orissa under the primitive religious ancestry of Krishna
and Jaganna:tha. A subaltern heroic tradition of Dravidians which had its
root in Panchavira tradition with the hero-stone worship ritual spread over
the central, western, northern, eastern, southern tribal regions became a
part and parcel of Mundas of Orissa.

The term “Pancha-vira” is a concept of five heroes of the Vrishnis, a sub-

clan of Yadavas. It is also analysed as the remnant of the Tamil term
aimperuvelier, meaning the five great heroes of the Yadava clan. The five
great heroes were worshipped as a group and became famous by the early
centuries A.D. (Thapar 2000:695). The earliest description of hero stones
in literary sources came from Tamil Sangam literature (period between
300 BC-200 AD). “Viral-kal” is literary a stone and referred to as
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 269

`Nadukal’, i.e. the planted stone (Subrahmanian 1966 in Thapar

2000:683). The stone commemorates a hero who has been killed while
fighting a battle, who claims a kshatriya status, protects his clan. This
clearly suggests about the Yadava’s Dravidian link where the heroism of a
hero becomes their traditional ritualistic property. After death the hero is
deified and believed to be reside in a stone and worshipped for victory and
well-being. Thus the belief becomes a ritual of a heroic tradition and
observed in a ceremonial way.

The base of a non-Aryan heroic/literary tradition might have flourished

from the tradition described in Sangam literature and became a model for
the tradition of Suta-Magadhas under the patronage of Jarasandha. The
tradition of glorifying a king’s heroism and kingly significance popularly
known as the Ga:tha: tradition might have remained a powerful medium
for its expansion. It is corroborated in the history of the migration of
Yadava Haihayas of Magadha from north India to other parts with new
dynastic names like Nanda, Mayura, Sunga, Andhra, etc. (Thapar
2000:714) among whom Andhras as Yadavas and Haihayas became two
famous kingly powers over Andhra during the course of migration and
power expansion.

Literary tradition bears the testimony of glorifying a local hero’s life and
heroic activities in the `Veera-Nayaka’ tradition of the South. Telugu
`Katha’, Kannada `Kathe’ meaning story are based on these stories of
heroes. Haihayas of Palnad (Sekharam 1973:21), are glorified in “Palnati
Veerula Katha” (Yasoda Devi 1995:29-30), glorification of Velanati
general’s and Choda supremacy in Keyurabahu Charitramu (Sekharam
1973:218-219), glorification of Chodas’ and Yadavas’ heroism in the
ballad “Katamaraju Katha” are the finest examples of such. It is also seen
embedded with ritualistic celebrations like “veerapuja”, “a:yudhapujua”,
which are even now popular in every Telugu house.

The literary themes of 11th through 15th centuries vernacular languages and
the medieval history of India show a patterned echo of the life and heroism
of the local rulers/chiefs with patterned Dravidian and Munda religious
behaviour and experiences. Under such legitimacy Arjuna becomes the
hero in Pampa as well as in Sa:rala: signifying a single hero approach in
the local tradition. Arikeshari of western Chalukyan dynasty of Karnataka
(Mugali 1975:21) and Gajapati Kapilendradeva, the builder of Suryavamsi
dynasty of Orissa became Arjunas of their respective areas. The Kamta
king Durlabhanarayana has been described as Babrubahana by the court
270 Chapter Fourteen

poet Harihara Vipra under the patronage of Kachari king Mahamanikya of

14th century Assam. Madhava Kandali’s Ramayana portrayed Rama with
the qualities of the Bodo tribals of Assam (Barua 1978:10, 12). Thus, all
over India we find local Arjunas, Ramas, and Babrubahanas with all local
socio-religious significances and a heroic tradition of their respective

Krishna as a paradigmatic cultural carter of primitive

faith and wisdom
Discourse analysis on the `other’ tradition, i.e. the heroic tradition of
Yadavas in Nannaya and tribal religious beliefs based on the Dravidian
'Hero-stone' worship in Sarala Maha:bha:rata signifies the two halves of
Krishna's one national character.'Hero-stone' transformed into a cult ritual,
still existing among the tribals of Orissa in the form of ancestor cult. It
symbolizes a changing cultural phase of becoming a “kshatriyaja:tisna:taka”
with literary knowledge and potentials to a tribal warrior in the form of an
ancestor/hero-stone with the knowledge of psychological and socio-
religious depth.

Oriya Maha:bha:rata demonstrates three forms of religious expressions of

primitive life, which are the sacred speech, i.e. a myth; the sacred place
or object or symbols; and the sacred act or a cult ritual which Roland
Barthes (1987:88) defines as “a level of function, a level of action and a
level of discourse.” According to Durkheim (1995:99) these three forms
“are combined through intellectual or artistic conception and ritual
practices.” The systematization of these three forms are seen in the
conscious effort of Krishna bound up within particular symbolic forms.
The myth of Sa:rala: Maha:bha:rata follows Roland Barthes’s application
of semiological theory to the analysis of a tribal culture where symbols
carry the meaning and a particular image (or signifier) is fused with a
value system (which is at mythological level is a signified) (Edgar and
Sedwick 2002:17-18).

Krishna’s connection within a myth, symbols and establishment of a cult

ritual ‘Hero-stone worship’ explores Dravidian tribal, especially Kondh
socio-religious dimensions of Krishna’s life and life after death. The myth
of Mausala Parva is the finest example of the deification process of a
warrior hero where he dies and after death worshipped by his tribesmen in
the form of a stone. Krishna’s image is fused with symbols of primitive
tribal religious forms, images and value systems.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 271

The most significant myth of Mausala Parva embedded in Krishna’s

appearance in the dream and discourse of a heavenly voice/oracle;
Krishna’s action with symbolic words; Krishna’s assimilation in the
unique ritual `Navakalevara’ (the new body) has been chosen here to
examine the socio-religious transformation of Dravida religion, their
ritualistic relation and integration within Munda religion under the
headship of Jaganna:tha.

Krishna in the beginning appears in the form of a ‘Kandha Malha:ra’

(Kond-Maler) and identifies himself with a ‘vanachara’ (tribal) (Madhy:I:
152, 164). Then an elaborate description about the death of Krishna is
followed by an `oracle’ giving instruction that “the half burnt dead body of
Krishna should be immersed in the sea waster. It will reach
Nilakandara/Nilagiri or Puri and worshipped in the form of ‘Pinda’ (body)
by the Savara chieftain Jara. (Musali:57).

The myth becomes the base for the total deification process of Krishna,
and his ancestral connection with hero-stone worship. Again according to
the order of another heavenly voice Savara starts worshipping the `Pinda’
with all ritualistic systems by placing the Pinda in the form of a stone
under a sandal wood tree which is symbolically sacred and secret (Musali
58-88). The next phase of the stone worship becomes the worship of a
‘Blue stone’/Nila Ma:dhava by the order /as an oracle of Krishna himself.

The whole myth is embedded in sacred places, objects or symbols and are
fused with the religious value systems of Mundas and Dravidas.‘Swapna’
(dream), ‘A:kasha v:ani’ (voice from the heaven) are all unifying symbols
activated, regulated, analysed in a dream and in an oracle by Krishna to
signify the tribal features of religious beliefs, experiences, practices, and
behaviours. He appears in front of his clan members in dreams,
sometimes orders through a divine and unseen voice as a shamanic
initiator of primitive imaginary fantasy. His orders, instructions, advices in
the form of sacred speech are utilized as the legitimate devices for the
establishment of little communities over the regional kings of then

The dream process and oracles of Krishna are given below to study the
above facts:
(1) Krishna orders Jara to worship his ‘Pinda’ (body) and says – “I will
stay here secretly in the from of a stone. You worship me with water
and leaves without the knowledge of your ‘kutumba’ (family) and
272 Chapter Fourteen

outsiders.” (Musali: 51) Here Savara remains the worshipper of

Krishna , ‘Mruta Pinda’ (dead body) (Ibid: 75).
(2) This blue stone image (Nila Pratima:) has been named as
Nilama:dhava/’The Blue Stone.’ (Musali: 53, 73-74)
(3) Krishna took the form of a stone clinging to a sandal wood tree.
(Musali: 51)
(4) Krishna appears in front of Jara Savara in the dream and instructs
him to go to Nilagiri, i.e. Puri, take the king Indradyumna (who was
from Ikshvaku lineage and came to Orissa with a desire of
worshipping the deity) with him and wait in front of Rohini Kunda/a
small pond where the Vigraha will appear. He says – “My ‘ka:ya:’
(body) will appear in the form of a ‘rakta chandana da:ru’/red sandal
wood.” (Musali: 108-112)

The function of dream and oracle in the myth explores Krishna’s status of
a tribal Kondh character, his development, transformation and assimilation
in a tribal Savara domain under some cultural transformation processes
like the following:

Establishment of a composite religion

The dream orientation signifies the collaboration of Munda’s and
Dravida’s patterned religious practices and mutual experiences based on
primitive belief on nature-power and ancestor cult. For example, the ‘guar’
eremony of Savaras of Orissa connected with the practice of planting a
stone in memory of their ancestor and ancestor’s death ritual. (Elwin
1955:358) Munda, Santal, Ho, Oraon, Bhill, Gond, Kondh, Maler also
worship wood as their ancestral deity. The stone or the tree at the central
place of the village and even the kitchen of a house is considered as the
residing place of the ancestor deity. (Vidyarthi 1976:254-55) The place of
the deity or the dead ancestor is always a unified symbol of tree and stone.
The Musali Parva myth of Krishna-Jaganna:tha signifies a stone and a
sandal wood tree.

The myth signifies a direct relationship between a common God, his

reincarnation and relationship with his clan. This bond flourished as a
unitary socio-political and socio-religious force which is defined by Tylor
as “double narrative” in which “experience is mutual.” (Hastings 1974
(vol-4):32) The group dynamics of Savara and Kondh-Maler resulted in
establishing their solidarity and prowess as a unitary tribal power. It is a
unique socio-religious feature of Orissan tradition and is a fine example to
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 273

show the relationship between the imaginary world of the poet and the
new cultural conventions which explores man’s two belongings stated by
Tylor, a life for feeling, thinking, functioning and a phantom (in dream) as
being its image or second self. (Tylor 1958 (part II):XII) It is also termed
as “Magical realism” by Garcia Marquez (Garcia Marquez in Bassnett

The sacred act of ancestor’s transformation into a stone or a wood

becomes a ritual ceremony which is ironically similar to that of the notion
of evolution (Lewis 1987:130) through nature to culture. This symbolizes
the enactment of reincarnation of the ancestor or group head in every age
and propitiated by the clan/group members with a ritualistic ceremonial

Assimilation of two ‘ritualistic ways’

The primitive form of reincarnation based on the mutual belief and
experience of Mundas and Dravidas flourished as a cult-ritual. The ritual is
connected with the death of Krishna, the divine warrior-hero of a clan and
the death of Jagannatha, the divine ‘Sodara’ (kin-head) of Savara kutumba
(family). The transformation of the hero-stone into ‘sodara-wood’ (own
clan wood) symbolizes the assimilation of two ‘ritualistic ways’ i.e. the
war ceremonial (which is planted in memory of a warrior’s death while
fighting a battle) and family ceremonial (which is observed secretly in a
secret grove or kitchen of the house by the family head).

Wooden deity Jaganna:tha and Munda legitimacy

The transformation of stone/Krishna into wood/Jaganna:tha symbolizes
the legitimacy of Mundas over Dravidas where Dravidas were attached to
the patriarchal kinship system headed by Jaganna:tha. In this
transformational process dream and oracle more explicitly makes the
religious systems of Savaras a genealogical and ancestral right. It is
corroborated in the genealogical ritualistic observance of the Savaras in
every age. The upward mobility of tribals is corroborated in the history of
medieval Orissa with the facts like invasion of a legendary king
Galamadhava from Haiyaya lineage, Ikshvaku king Indradyumna in 11th
century, and the Orissan empire-builder Kapilendra Gajapati of 15th
century. These kings accepted the clan right of Savaras and surrendered
under the wooden deity as Deputies. Even today the system exists in the
venerable combined ritualistic relation between the sevayats of
274 Chapter Fourteen

Jaganna:tha who are interestingly tribal Kondhs, Savaras and brahmanas

symbolizing a ritualistic reality beyond caste and creed.

The ritual ‘Navakalevara’ primarily projects the cultural authority of

Mundas and their flexible, liberal, humanitarian attitude resulted in the
amalgamation of three racial streams with their existing sense of identity
and cohesion.

Sa:rala:’s liberal vision defines an Indian approach towards the Munda

heritage. In this context Panikar’s (1992:26) opinion is worth stating when
he says – “Indian approach to Comparative Literature to two sources from
India’s past: one the all pervasive Sanskrit Literary tradition…the other
predominantly South Indian tradition, often referred to as Dravidian”, he
highlights two streams of Indian heritage, i.e. Sanskrit and Dravidian. But
it needs to be stated that like Sanskrit and Dravidian, Eastern Indian
ritualistic tradition of Munda Jaganna:tha is also a unique and predominant
tradition in a pan-Indian context for its popularity and universality. So the
Indian tradition can be referred to as a composite tradition of
Sanskrit/brahmanic , Munda and Dravidian and serves as an Indian
approach to Comparative Literature with reference to the three sources
from India’s past.

Krishna in Nannaya and Sa:rala: within the multicultural conditions of

heteroglossia established himself through the representation of symbols,
signifying a classical /brahmanic and popular/tribal India.

I am thankful to Dr. Bhujanga Reddy of University of Hyderabad for his
help in translating the Andhra Maha:bha:ratamu for me.

A:ndhra Maha:bha:ratamu (Telugu). (Adi, Sabha, Aranya, Birata,
Udyoga, Bhisma, Santi). 2000. Hyderabad: P.S. Telugu
Barua, B.K. 1978. History of Assamese Literature. New Delhi: Sahitya
Bassnett, Susan. 1993. Comparative Literature: A Critical Introduction.
Oxford UK & Cambridge. USA: Blackwell.
Berthes, Roland. 1977. Image, Music, Text. London: Fontana Press.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 275

Caldwell, Robert. 1956 (reprint) . A Comparative Grammar of the

Dravidian or South-Indian Family of Languages. Madras: University
of Madras.
Cavalli-Sforza, L.L 2000. Genes,Peoples and Languages (translated by
Mark Seielstad). New York: North Point Press.
Das, Sisir Kumar. 1995. A History of Indian Literature (1911-1956). New
Delhi: Sahitya Akademi.
Devi, Yashoda. 1995. The History of Andhra Country. (part II) New
Delhi: Gian Publishing House.
Durkheim, Emile. 1995. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life.
(Translated by Koren & Fields) New York: The Free Press.
Edgar, Andrew and Peter Sedwick. 2002. Cultural Theory: The Key
Thinkers. London and New York: Routledge.
Eliade, Mircea. 1987. The Encyclopaedia of Religion (Vol-4). New York:
Elwin, Verrier. 1955. The Religion of an Indian Tribe. Geoffrey,
Cumberlege: Oxford University Press.
Hastings, James (ed.) 1974. Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics (Vol-5).
Edinburgh: T & T Clark.
Krishnamurti,B. 2003. The Dravidian Languages. Cambridge:Cambridge
University Press.
Lewis, I. M. 1987. Social Anthropology in Perspective. London:
Cambridge University Press.
Mugali, R.S. 1975. History of Kannada Literature. New Delhi: Sahitya
Nisbet, A. 1975. Sociology of Emile Durkheim. London: Neinmann.
Panikar, K. Ayyappa. 1992. Spotlight on Comparative Literature.
Calcutta: Papyrus.
Ramanujan,A.K. 1985. Poems of Love and War (Selected and translated)
Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Rao, Velcheru Narayana and David Shulman (edited and translated). 2000.
Classical Telugu Poetry An Anthology. New Delhi: Oxford University
Sarala Mahabharata (Oriya). 1965-72. Edited by A.B. Mohanty.
Bhubaneswar: Department of Cultural Affairs, Govt. of Orissa.
Sekharam, K. Balendu. 1973. The Andhras Through the Ages. Hyderabad:
Sri Saraswati Book Depot.
Sorensen, S. 1978. An Index to the Names in the Mahabharata. Delhi:
Motilal Banarsidass.
Srimadandhramahabharatamu (Telugu) (Santiparva). 1972. K. Laksmi
Rajanam and others (eds.). Hyderabad: Osmania University.
276 Chapter Fourteen

Thapar, Romila. 1978. “Puranic Lineages and Archeological Cultures” in

Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations. New Delhi:
Oxford University Press.
—. 2000a. Cultural Past. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
—. 2000b. ‘The Rgveda: encapsulating social change’ in K. N. Panikkar,
T. J. Byres, and Utsa Patnaik (eds) The Making of Hitory .Delhi:
Tylor, Edward Burnett. 1958. Religion in Primitive Culture (Vol. II). New
York: Harper & Row.
Vaidyanathan, S. 1971. Indo-Aryan Loanwords in Old Tamil. Madras:
Rajan Publishers.
Vettam Mani. 1984. Puranic Encyclopaedia. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Vidyarthi, L.P. and B.K. Rai. 1976. The Tribal Culture of India. New
Delhi: Concept Publishing Company.




Scholarship on Islam in the modern context is conceptually grappling to
adequately understand and characterize ‘contemporary’ political Islamic
movements, such as post-revolution Islamic republic of Iran, the Hamas in
Palestine, Hizbullah in Lebanon, Muslim brotherhoods in Egypt, and
Taliban in Afghanistan etc. A vast amount of contemporary literature
focus on the rise of political Islam that characterizes Islamic thought as—
failing to enact a separation between religion and politics (Gellner:1981);
or as tending to make a distinction between Islam as a faith and political
Islam (Piscatori: 1996).

Contemporary theorisations on global Islamic movements (Bowen:

2004, Ahmad: 2006, Hefner: 2005, Mandaville: 2005), rightly identify
the rapid circulation of modern and rational Islamic discourses through
the mass media as an important factor in the pan-national
homogenization/harmonization processes of Islamic religious institutions
and practices. In this context, it would be important to analyze local
contexts and histories with respect to the reception and currency of these
discourses to adequately understand ‘political Islam’. Conversely,
however, there is an urgent need to re-visit and re-think the
epistemological category of Islam within its local and particular contexts
of development, as well as its interaction with the organization of modern
political structures, so as to better understand such processes.
278 Chapter Fifteen

The need to understand and theorize ‘political Islam’ is even more relevant
in contemporary South Asian context, where the direct violent effects of
the supposed ‘rise of Islamism’ are a living reality for not only the rest of
India but for the Indian Muslims as well. An intriguing illustration for the
supposed transnational connect of the local and global through ‘Islamist
ideology’ is evident, for instance, in the ‘Hyderabad bombings’. On 25
August 2007, two bombs almost simultaneously exploded in Hyderabad,
the capital of Andhra Pradesh in the Deccan, at two chosen local public
spaces: 1) the Lumbini Amusement Park and 2) a local eatery, the Gokul
Chat Bhandar. The inexplicable and perhaps the most intriguing aspect of
the incident was the fact that a militant Bangladeshi group, the Harkat-ul-
Jihad-al-Islami, was suspected for carrying out the serial blasts; though the
connection between the site chosen for the blasts and the supposed site of
operation of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami appear unrelated.

In this context to adequately understand the connection between the

supposed ‘rise of political Islam’ and Islam, it would be necessary to
understand this process in relation to local histories of development of
Islam in various parts of India, which in turn, necessitates an unpacking of
the received epistemological category of Islam. While such efforts have
been already been done elsewhere (Asad: 1993, 2003); this paper aims to
examine the various bases upon which the meanings of Indian Islam are
derived, and seeks to highlight the ensuing methodological problems
within the existing sociological and anthropological discourses on Indian

An important theoretical dilemma in characterizing Indian Islam is

whether Islam in India ought to be understood as a set of doctrines, (i.e. as
an ideology of a pan-national phenomenon), or whether the meaning of
Indian Islam should be derived from its diverse practices and experiences
of Indian Muslims. In other words whether Islam ought to be viewed as
the unfolding pattern of a Semitic religion or whether it should seen as an
evolving and proliferating response to local contexts, which continues to
be a central problem in understanding Islam in India. Answers to these
questions varies significantly according to the difference in emphasis laid
on different textual traditions1, the prescribing norms, different
authoritative discourses of religious authorities and ulemas followed by
Muslims2, or according to the negotiations, perceptions and living
experiences of Muslims with respect to Islam.

These questions also arise during attempts to explain the diversity of

Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 279

Islamic practices in India as well as endeavor to understand the

involvement of non-Muslim communities in “Muslim practices”. Such
instances are in contrast to the representations of violence between
polarized communities’ viz., the Hindu and the Muslim, the Shiite and the
Sunni and so on. At one level, the diversity of Islamic practices varies
according to linguistic, regional and ethnic lines. However, there also exist
convergences through common historical sources traceable through to
particular locations of pre-colonial state power.3 Therefore, broadly three
main conceptual problems appear in the study and characterization of the
nature of Indian Islam as a subject of sociological and anthropological
investigation. Firstly, there exists many commonalities between practices
of Hindu and Muslim communities offering possible convergence between
categories of ‘Islamic’ and ‘Indian’ practices —such as the seeming
presence of caste among Muslims, worship by non-Muslim communities
of Muslim saints as well as in dargahs (conventionally associated with
Sufi Islamic places of worship), the involvement of both Sunni and non-
Muslim communities in Muharram and so on. Secondly there seems to be
a paradox between the practice of Indian Islam and normative Islam due to
the nexus between the nature of Islamic practices of particular Indian
Muslims with Indian practices and finally what Indian Muslims define as
Islam appears to vary endlessly with individual locations and community

This appears to make characterizations of Indian Islam theoretically

elusive and is dependent on the disciplinary locations and methodological
preference. In an endeavor to effectively trace debates relevant to the
above conceptual problems, I discuss the sociological literature of Indian
Islam that tends to characterize it through its underlying ideology,
(Ahmad: 1976, 1978, 1981, 2004; Madan: 1981; Robinson: 1986,
Dumont: 1972; Werbner: 1989, Mines: 1975, Lindholm: 1986) in the next
section. This section also seeks to identify the theoretical problems within
the various positions on Indian Islam taken by the above writers.

Section three discusses literature that highlights the aspects of the

experiential and the behavioural manifestations and practices of Islam in
India. In particular this literature focuses on the 'ambiguous' / liminal
spaces or contexts where Hindus and Muslims follow similar religious
practices known as 'syncretic' practices (Basu: 1999, Khan: 2004,
Mayaram: 1997, 2004; Assayag: 2003, 2004; Roy: 1983; Das: 1984;
Gardner: 1993). The focus on the debates between these writers in this
section is aimed toward the identification of problems of defining Islam
280 Chapter Fifteen

through ethnographic discourses. In the fourth and the final section I seek
to provide a possible direction for an anthropology of Indian Islam
drawing from debates and theoretical positions of scholars from the field
of Islam, given the diversity of Islamic practices in India as well as the
common historical locations of power from which it emerges.

II. Islam as an ideology

The regional, linguistic and ethnic diversity of Islamic beliefs and
practices in India, and attempts to explain this diversity by scholarship on
Indian Islam has had a peculiar effect on representation of Indian Islam
itself. For instance, the publication of three volumes on sociological
aspects of Indian Islam edited by Imtiaz Ahmad (1976, 1978, 1981)
initiated an early debate. Through these books Ahmad makes a general
claim that Islamic beliefs and practices in India have accommodated
themselves to fit within practices of the larger Hindu community,
producing two kinds of Islam, 'one ultimate and formal, derives from the
Islamic texts; the other proximate and local, validated by custom’.
(Ahmad: 1981, pg. 15) He seems to suggest that Indian Islam developed
diverse practices because of the 'constraints of Islam's own struggle for
survival in an alien environment.' (ibid- in his introduction to the third

Francis Robinson questions his own understanding of Ahmed’s position

viz., 'the idea of an unchanging co-existence' of Hinduism and Islam, and
assert that an assumption of 'dynamic relationship between the high
Islamic and the custom-centred tradition' would be a more appropriate one.
Robinson takes this position further by arguing that there is 'nothing
especially Indian in the Islamising pattern…The uniqueness of Indian
Islam is more likely to be found in specific inputs from and particular
accommodations with, the Hindu world in which it moves.' (Robinson:
1986, Pg. 99) However, in furthering a historical teleological position, he
argues that these accommodating processes are part of the inexorable trend
towards Islamisation or towards a pattern of perfection espoused by
eternally valid dictates of Islam that will override custom-centred
traditions through the rise of literary forms and technologies of print.

This debate led to stimulating responses from different vantage points on

the nature of Indian Islam. T.N. Madan for instance, in support of Ahmad's
argument reiterates that local practice among Muslims is an adaptive
response to the constraints of the Indian environment. However, he
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 281

stresses on the dualistic belief systems of Muslims and Hindus by

asserting that they have 'two sets of representations, one stemming from
ideological considerations and the other from the compulsions of living.'
(Madan: 1981, pg. 58)

The functional adaptive reasons that both Ahmad and Madan provide
through the explanation of the Indianisation of Islam presupposes a pre-
existing unified coherent worldview upon which a new coherent
worldview is integrated. These explanations gives rise to two sets of
problems: firstly the normative position from which the process of
integration is viewed. Following from this, non-Indian forms of Islam, can
appear un-integrated. The second manifesting problem is the general
implication of Islam being ideological and Hinduism being practice
oriented4. Such a division would fail to explain instances of ideologies
based on Hindu theistic models at one level, and the instances of Islamic
practices that do not correlate to a normative Islamic model, at another.

A similar arena of theoretical conundrums is opened up through the

apparent persistence of caste among Muslims (and other minorities) in
India. This earlier controversy arose from the publication of Fredrik
Barth's essay (1960) on the social structural features of caste in Swat
social organisation and the subsequent response of Louis Dumont's in his
controversial monograph Homo Hierarchicus (1972). Dumont’s
explanation of caste in India, as one sanctioned by the religious ideology
of Hinduism, is problematised due to the persistence of caste-like
structures among Muslims in India. This problem is compounded by the
fact that fundamental inequalities fostered by the differentiation of society
into caste structures seems to prevail within Muslims in some parts of
India despite an evident conflict with the egalitarian values of Islam.
Responses to this debate focus on the controversies in the choice of the
method of interpreting and understanding caste: either through a
sociological analysis of structures (Barth: 1960) or cultural history of
ultimate values (Dumont: 1970) or external inter-relationships between
caste groupings that confer special privileges to every caste (Leach: 1960).

Barth cogently makes his argument through the illustration of existence of

a particular type of caste system among the Swat Pathans, Sunni Muslims
people living in the mountains of northern Pakistan. This system though
maybe historically connected with Indian traditions prior to conversions to
Islam, is defined by the organizational framework, i.e. through occupation,
division of labour, and on the differentiated status in the political domain
282 Chapter Fifteen

between the masters of the land and the rest; and not in terms of ritual.
After demonstrating the congruence between different systems of social
stratification: such as endogamy to kinship system, professional
specialization to the economic ‘system’, dominance to the ‘political
system’ he concludes that the principle of status summation seems to be
the structural feature which characterizes caste. For Barth then, the
definition of caste must be based on structural criteria, and not on the
‘particular features of the Hindu philosophical scheme’ (Barth: 1960, pg.
145). Thereby the definition of caste need not be confined to the ‘classical
caste system of Pan-Indian civilization’ (ibid) but can also be extended to
explain the internal segmentations in ‘plural’ societies in the Middle East.

Edmund Leach in the introduction to the volume5 containing Barth’s essay

agrees with Barth that the similarities in the ideal pattern of Hindu caste
organisation is structural rather than cultural or ritualistic, but disagrees
with him in the world-wide application of these structural organisation,
since there is no syndrome of cultural traits which is common to all
societies concerned. Therefore, for Leach, marginal variations described in
the different essays in the book, from which the inconsistency between
action and idea are apparent, makes the system present itself to the
individual as an unstable set of conflicting obligations.

Subsequently Dumont re-examined, the inconsistency posed by the

persistence of caste patterns in the behaviour of Muslims in South Asia to
his own description of caste, which is based on the paramount value of
hierarchy sanctioned through Hinduism. He explains this lacuna as a
‘reunion of men divided into two groups, who devalorize each other’s
values and who are nevertheless associated.’ (Dumont: 1998, pg. 211)
This association of Muslims and Hindus in India, Dumont argues, has
created a Muslim society of a ‘quite special type, a hybrid type which we
are scarcely in a position to characterise, except by saying that, lying
beneath the ultimate of Islamic values are other values presupposed by
actual behaviour'. (ibid)

Dumont revised his earlier view of understanding caste through the

principle of hierarchy as opposed to the principle of equality, so as to
explain the paradox between values of religion and the practice of it. He
does this by proposing the idea of the ‘encompassing and the
encompassed’, understood through tracing the complex process of
transformations of values embodied in religion. He argued that in early
Christianity, the disjunction between the sacred and the secular orders
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 283

persisted as an expression of the tension between the factum of

inequalities of power and rank in the secular/worldly social order and the
presumption of universal equality in the sacred/outwardly order.
(Dumont: 1983, pg. 7) Therefore in such contexts, the designated spaces of
ritual purity (such as the church) mediate between the two orders (doctrine
and reality, where reality consists of both state structure and social
structures) and are therefore placed at the extreme top of the hierarchy.
These moral philosophical premises that informed early Christianity are
applicable, according to Dumont, with modifications to explain popular
practice in South Asia.6

Dumont’s description of society in terms of unified ideology and beliefs

has been severely critiqued by sociological writings of caste in India.7 For
instance F.G. Bailey (1991) critiques Dumont (1977) and Madan (1987,
1989) for their use of methodological holism in privileging moral
constructs while representing religion through its ideology, due to which
the darker side of the subject is ignored. According to Bailey promoting
single orthodoxy that elevates the organisation or the structure above the
individuals who belong to it is arrogating all loyalty to the organisation
and thereby accounting for the presence of conflict as dissidents of
misinformed people.

Bailey’s criticism arises from the perception that Dumont privileges

ideological coherence in defining cultures, and thereby behaviour
deviating from this ideology can only be explained as deviance from a
legitimate consensus that is based on co-operation. In the above
explanation that Dumont provides to explain caste-like hierarchies among
Muslims and Christians, however, it would appear that behavioural
patterns are not explained away as deviant to ideology, but on the other
hand are incorporated into the workings of this ideology; contrary to
Bailey’s criticism.

Ahmad’s exposition on caste among Muslims in India differs from both

Dumont and Barth, by walking the supposed thin line between ideology
and behaviourism. Although he argues that caste is a fundamentally Indian
institution which has profoundly influenced local Muslims, his general
conclusion is that ‘all contributors to this volume agreed that the Hindu
ideological justification of the caste system does not exist in the case of
Muslims.’ (Ahmad: 1978, pg. 11) Ahmad concedes strong characteristics
features among the behaviour of Muslims to the persistence of caste-like
hierarchies among Muslims by explaining that ‘caste among Muslims in
284 Chapter Fifteen

India owes directly to Hindu influences, but it has been reinforced by

justification offered for the idea of birth and descent as criteria of status in
Islamic law.’ (Ahmad: 1978, pg. 15) However, he concludes that ‘Muslim
social stratification does not approximate even remotely to the Indian
model’ and that therefore, ‘it is clear that caste exists as a basis of social
relations among (Indian Muslims), but its form has been greatly weakened
and modified and it differs from the Hindu caste model in certain details.’
(ibid) Like Dumont, in the final analysis Ahmad seems to consider caste to
be unique to a pan-Indian identity and a distinct social system but unlike
Dumont sees the behavioral manifestations as exceptions to the unity of
ideological premises of caste.

In critiquing the various premises that lie beneath the theories of caste
among Muslims, Charles Lindholm shows the internal difficulties of
assuming either a symbolist interpretive/normative stance or a comparative
structural/diffusionist view by tentatively proposing a conflict model8. The
fundamental difficulty, according to Lindholm is that, these theoretical
stances, according to their respective approaches, reify social order or
beliefs into objects with properties that are either divisible or unitary. He
argues for an approach ‘that focuses on the relationships first, especially
relationships of antagonism and contradiction, and which sees order and
belief growing from these oppositional relations. This mode of analysis
assumes that cultures and values are chosen and defined in relation to what
is ignored, denied or negated. Consequently, the analysis of opposition,
exclusion, and the struggle for identity within the framework of often
opposing interests is a necessity for social theory, particularly theory of
change.’ (Lindholm: 1986, pg. 72; Emphasis in the original)

For Lindholm, if structural/ diffusionist theory breaks societies down into

components displaying an ‘endless array of types’, symbolic theory erects
barriers and ‘proclaims the inviolability of each specimen’; but conflict
revolves around ‘interpretation of internalised values that characterize
society at large, while comparison becomes impossible, since each system
has its own irreducible originality.’ (ibid. pg. 70) His argument though
extremely compelling, could lead to substantial variations with respect to
the locations and mapping of these conflicting values, making his position
less credible.

This dilemma of mapping identities in a perceived amorphous category

where religious and ethnic identities are assumed to exist in dialectic is
most evident in Mattison Mines (1975) analysis of Muslim Tamils in
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 285

contrast with Tamil Muslims. Mines makes a conceptual distinction

between Muslim Tamils and Tamil Muslims, where Muslim Tamils
represent a tendency to Islamise by emphasizing orthodoxy in practicing
Islam and thereby privileging their Muslim identity above their Tamil
identity, while Tamil Muslims have not yet fully Islamised their customs.
The tendency of this group of Muslim Tamils to Islamise, is seen by
Mines, as a tendency to distinguish themselves from other Muslims. This
self-differentiation is sought on the basis of orthodoxy and distinctive
‘Islamic’ speech and dress, while at the same time being integrated in the
larger Tamil society through language. Mines’ article purports to explain
the differences between the behaviour of the same group of Muslim
Tamils who emphasize orthoprax (the correct form of practicing) Islamic
behaviour in the city-dwelling of Pallavaram or Madras city, at the same
time also participating with/like Hindus in an annual urs celebration of the
anniversary of a Baghdad saint in their native village Edaikottai.

In order to explain the apparent ‘paradox’ of this behaviour, Mines rules

out the following factors: either Hindu hostility, or acquiring status
through economic or political advantages. Mines illustrates the exclusion
of both economic and political factors by explaining: (1) the upwardly
mobile status Muslim Tamils who according to him are egalitarian,
hardworking, independent in contrast with their Hindu neighbours (Mines:
1978, pg. 160) (2) their lack of affiliation to the Muslim League party but
who are instead strong supporters of the D.M.K (Dravida Munnertra
Kazagham) which espoused a strong separatist ideology for Tamil Nadu.
Therefore, Mines instead explains this paradoxical behaviour as different
value systems utilized by opposing interest groups in combining identity,
status and personal prestige. Therefore the Muslim Tamils whose identity,
status and personal prestige depends internally on being good Muslims in
the urban setting of Pallavaram become Tamil Muslims in the rural setting
of Edaikottai, in order to achieve a feeling of communitas by sponsoring
and participating in the urs with the Hindus. Mines, though never really
makes apparent if this paradox was also perceived by his subjects and
whether they felt any tension between the values embodied in being
Muslim or Tamil, nor does it become apparent why different ‘ideological’
differences of being Hindu or Muslim becomes a hindrance to integrating
within the larger Tamil society.9

From the discrepancy in Mines’ narrative, one might be able to recover the
nodes through which he maps being Muslim and being Tamil. It would
seem for Mines, the category Muslim emerges from an attachment to
286 Chapter Fifteen

beliefs or orthodoxy that necessarily conflicts with other (naturalized)

identities, such as being Tamil. This understanding of Muslim conflated
with the category Islam could be extended to Dumont’s understanding of
all religions and to Ahmad’s understanding of Hinduism (though his
understanding of Islam is more complex, with the overstated focus on the
behavioural exceptions of Muslims to the ideology of Islam).

If Islam is not understood as a set of unified ideologies or beliefs but as

merely being the practice of Muslims, how would that help in
understanding Indian Islam? Would it provide a better vantage point in
order to understand the overlaps, conflicts and boundaries between ethnic
and religious identity as well as the interaction between two worldviews of
Hindu and Muslim?

III. Islam as practice

Anthropology of Islam has contested a textual understanding of Islam by
beginning with the assumption that there is no single form of religious
experience with a unity of meaning. It goes on to define Islam through the
diversity of lived experiences of Muslims. Islam in different contexts has
then been explained in terms of discourses of religious authority, as a
cultural system (Geertz: 1973), psychological needs of people and society
(Mandelbaum: 1964), compulsions of the unconscious, or exigencies of
the socio-political structure (Gellner: 1981), as regarded by people in their
life and in the development of their society (Gilsenan: 1982).

Veena Das’s treats the differences between Ahmad and Robinson

similarly, by arguing that both ''believe that normative or orthodox Islam
constitutes a single pattern of perfection…in the nature of an unchanging
essence. '' (Das: 1984, pg. 294)10 She calls for a need for further
investigation as to the manner in which the sacred text is integrated into a
variety of religious beliefs and rituals. She hopes that this shall ‘move
from the atomistic approach of labeling items of beliefs and rituals in
terms of received dichotomies—Islamic vs un-Islamic, elite vs folk Islam,
great vs little traditional, orthodox vs heterodox.’ (ibid. pg. 297) as well as
the dichotomy of theology and anthropology. She asserts that such studies
ought to move away from the above dichotomies and must apply
themselves seriously to the investigation of folk-theology. Such a folk
theology is sought to be found in two directions. Firstly through the
mutual dialogue between the principles of reality revealed through Islamic
principles— articulated in the experience of mystics in poetry, music,
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 287

stories; in the direct reflections of theology of ulemas and in the acceptable

traditions of exegesis of the Quran. The second direction of folk theology
is in the elaboration of narrative traditions through which Islamic
principles have been preserved and communicated, especially the genres
of oral and written literature.

Das’s approach appears to focus toward the usage, particularly on the

manner in which scripture is understood, narrativized, and enacted at the
village or the experiential level. For Das, then, the important problem is to
understand the dialectic between norms and action in achieving consensus
of what Islam is. Her focus is upon 'the active role of community of
believers in sustaining the ideals of Islam'(ibid. pg. 297).

Subsequently, Ahmad in an implicit response to Das argues against

anthropological premises of the multiplicity of possible meanings at the
level of everyday existence. He highlights the problems of this premise,
for rather than accepting Islamic traditions as given truths, anthropological
premises might be treated as
anthropologists themselves treat the tenets of Islam: as diverse, culturally
relative expressions of a tradition—in this case, a ‘scientific one’. If
versions of Islam must be called ideology, then perhaps these various
perceptions of the anthropologists demand the same understanding. In
terms of this supposedly scientific distinction between elite and folk Islam,
anthropology studies the former yet its principles of analysis resembles the
former. (Ahmad: 2004, pg. xiv)

For Ahmad, hence, the difference between theology and anthropological

understanding of Islam is merely one of emphasis and focus, where the
terminological package continues to be the same. Though the
anthropologist rejects the theological picture as axiomatic, the dynamics
between the theological descriptions with the realities at the ground level
continues to be a central concern for the anthropologist. Thus, for Ahmad,
this anthropological premise in the study of Islam disregards Islam as
Muslims understand it, by either using the notions of ‘Great’ and ‘Little’
traditions, which asserts that there are different levels within Islam. The
anthropological exercise captures the range of forms in which the
phenomenon occurs in real life, and since each of these traditions
addresses different needs of the believer, it is constituted by entirely
different sets of beliefs and practices, but it does not clarify which of the
traditions or levels constitutes the real Islam. (ibid. pg. xvii) Ahmad’s
questioning of the anthropological premises of studying Islam, which is in
variance from the theological, and in a manner which does not purport to
288 Chapter Fifteen

seek the “true” Islam, makes it a challenging and legitimate gauntlet that
can help further appropriate anthropologies of Islam in India.

This becomes increasingly important, since non-theological and non-

historical studies on Islam in India focus on the experiential or behavioural
exceptions of Muslims to the orthodoxy of Islam. Concept like hybrid
identity is formulated by focusing on the behavioural manifestations of
this co-mingling of cultures. Its formulation presumes the founding of
hybridity on a pure identity.

For instance, both Shail Mayaram and Jackie Assayag dwell on the theme
of the hybrid faith, communities that straddle boundaries that separate
being either Hindu or Muslim. Mayaram (1997, 2004) locates her analysis
within Turner’s concept of liminality in the study of rituals. Within this
framework she examines her own fieldwork among two communities, the
Mers and the Meos, in the state of Rajasthan and shows how categorizing
them in exclusive categories can be problematic. The Mers are a bi-
religious community having both Hindu and Muslim sections with the
possibility of passage from one to the other. The Meos are Muslims and
perceive themselves as such but share many rituals, rites and folklore with
their Hindu neighbours. This, according to her problematizes identity in
exclusive terms because these communities are able to live in a liminal
space of religious existence.

Jackie Assayag’s (2003, 2004) work on Hindu Muslim relationships in the

village of Shahabandar near Belgaum city in North Karnataka, sees the
interaction between communities as one constituted through plural
histories and multiple identities. The shared and overlapping stories about
Muslim saints and Hindu goddesses (from her fieldwork in pilgrimage
sites from 1990-1994), as well as ensuing violence between the
communities; is explained through notions of ‘competitive sharing’,
‘dynamic acculturation’ and ‘antagonistic tolerance’. These are explained
as concepts applicable to hybrid identities that exist in tolerance or in
compatibility only to be destroyed by members of one of the community to
establish dominance over the other.11 This state of tense equilibrium in
which she maintains Hindu-Muslims practices manifests in a network of
identities, is used to explain the undercurrents of India’s apparent
‘composite culture’12, by emphasizing the difference in performing the
same act. However, the latent tension or even the eruptions of order is
understood by Assayag as stemming from xenophobia and ethnic
nationalism. The question, why should the differences between Hindu-
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 289

Muslim be understood as xenophobia or rather how does xenophobia help

to explain the paradox between ‘syncreticism’ or ‘antagonism’ between
the two groups is not addressed by Assayag.

The term ‘syncreticism’ though used to explain the commonality between

Hindu and Muslim religiosity (Roy: 1983, 2005 Basu: 1999), has been
treated with suspicion. Katy Gardener for instance regards it as ‘Creole
religiosity born from the mixture of pure or ‘orthodox’ Islam with the
indigenous culture. Since everywhere Islam is expressed and interpreted in
different ways and nowhere exists in a ‘pure’ form, the term must be
treated with suspicion.’ (Gardner: 1993, pg. 213)

The reason for this is, as Harjod Oberoi (1994) claims, that it was used
indiscriminately by colonial and postcolonial authors to describe all kinds
of religious movements that appeared to them as ‘hybrid’ or ‘ambiguous’
and which did not conform to their understanding of either Islam or
Hinduism. For this reason, both Yoginder Sikand (2004) and Dominique-
Zila Khan (2004) prefer to use the term ‘liminal’, following Mayaram’s
analysis of ‘fuzzy’ communities, in order to understand common religious
traditions and shifting identities. Though acknowledging that the
conceptualization of a ‘fuzzy’ community is premised upon a binary
formulation, it nonetheless is useful to explain their fieldwork, because it
implies the existence of ‘a line of thought that emphasizes ‘fuzzy’ thinking
as an alternative to bivalent, either/or logic’ and may suggest a potentially
anti-structural questioning of categorical identities, in this case, ‘Hindu’
and ‘Muslim’.’ (Mayaram: 1997, pg. 37, 39)

But as Ute Falasch (2004) reiterates the term ‘liminality’ does not remove
the dichotomy which is implicit in all the former categories, and in the
category of the ‘syncretic’. The difficulty of seeing religious traditions that
are not purely Hindu or Muslim, as a third different tradition detached
from the ‘centre’ or ‘mainstream’, reaffirms the existence of centre to
which it is attached .

‘Liminal’ as a concept also becomes problematic because the devotees

themselves do not see their identity or tradition as fuzzy. It also gets
compounded by the fact that ‘Reformist movements’, whose objective it is
to seek a ‘purified’ religion, based on reason derived from scriptural Islam,
separate pure Islam from its acquired customs; viewing liminal practices
as un-Islamic or anti-Islamic.
290 Chapter Fifteen

From the problems raised and acknowledged by the above studies that
attempt to explain Islamic practices through experience, it becomes
apparent that the emphasis on ritual practice or ritual behaviour constructs
discourses within the lived or the experiential realm, which are similar to
the manner in which discourses are constructed from either texts or
ideology. This is compounded by the fact that behavioural interpretations
clearly deviate from the subject’s own understanding of practice that are
either contradictory, or at odds with each other, or may replicate
theological or authoritative discourses. Therefore it would appear that the
premise on which Islam as an anthropological subject is constructed
continues to remain theoretically elusive as problems of how to understand
Islam in India are raised.

IV. Towards an appropriate anthropology

of Islam in India
Anthropology of Islam has grappled with the problem of what constitutes
an appropriate anthropology of Islam, given that Islam is both a unified
faith as well as a regional practice. In order to further such an
anthropology, studies in the field of anthropology of Islam have re-iterated
the necessity to foreground the problem of representation of Islam and
have emphasized the continued relevance of Edward Said’s theory of
Orientalism (1978) in the study of Islam.

For instance, Lila Abu-Lughod traces three distinctive zones of

representation of Islam and the Arabs of the Middle East. According to
her, anthropology of the Middle East can be divided into distinct zones of
theorization, such as emergence of the: harem theory, segmentation theory
and Islam as the ''theoretical metonym'' for the Arab world. These zones of
theorization of an anthropology of the Middle East, she argues, is located
in the ''politics of place in anthropological theorization''. (Lughod: 1989,
Pg. 278-279)

Similarly, Talal Asad has outlined the themes produced by the

anthropology of Islam. According to Asad, these themes include: equating
Islam with the Middle East; writing Muslim history as mirroring Christian
history, though reversing the connection between religion and politics;
viewing different instances of Islam as essentially unique and sui generis;
and focusing either on the scriptural/puritanical faith of towns or on the
ritualistic traditions of saint-worship of the country. (Asad: 1986).
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 291

For Asad, in order to understand Islam, it must necessarily be placed in its

social contexts and that context includes histories of structures of power
that have constituted particular discursive traditions of Islam and includes
analyzing both ''religious'' as well as ''nonreligious'' contexts:
If one wants to write an anthropology of Islam one should begin, as
Muslims do, from the concept of a discursive tradition that includes and
relates itself to the founding texts of the Quran and Hadith. Islam is neither
a distinctive social structure nor a heterogeneous collection of beliefs,
[nor] artifacts, customs, and morals. It is a tradition. (Asad: 1986, pg. 14)

It would appear that for Asad, Islam as a tradition is both taught and learnt
through instituted structures of authority. Therefore any analysis of Islam
necessarily includes an analysis of both political and religious power
structures, whose histories of relation and differentiation may vary, in the
constitution of Islamic traditions.

Following from this, there is a need to understand the relationship between

the domains of religion and politics not just in Islamic theory but in the
particular context in which it lives— say of Islam in India. For instance, in
Hyderabad, the existence of Islam is as much related to the formation of
two Islamic states (of different kinds) viz., the pre-colonial Shi’ite Qutb-
Shahi state (1518-1692), alleging their affiliations to the Iranian Safavid
state (1501-1722) and the Asaf Jahi dynasty (1724-1948) which ruled in
nexus with the British colonial administration; as it is to the effect, of the
unification of the princely state of Hyderabad into the ‘modern’ secular
Indian state, in the lives of Muslims. Only then would it be possible to
understand the changes in Islamic discourse due to the influence of
transnational Islamic discourses; as opposed to the existing understanding
of the ‘rise of Islamism’ in Muslim societies.

Textual traditions vary on questions such as what constitutes the Shariya or
Islamic law as well as on the principles or traditions of interpreting: the Quran, the
hadith or the codified traditions consisting of pronouncements and precedents of
the prophet. Sunni Muslims are divided into four broad schools: the Hanafi, the
Maliki, the Shafi and the Hambali, based on the four schools of Islamic
jurisprudence differing on the constitution of codified laws and on the principles of
interpreting them.
For instance Shiism is divided into sects based on different genealogies of
Imams. The Twelver Shiites or the Ithna-Ashari who follow twelve Imams tracing
their genealogy to Prophet and Ali, are the majority Shiites. The other groups
292 Chapter Fifteen

divert in tracing genealogical lineages, such as the Zaidia, are the followers of
Zaid, second son of Imam Zainul Abidin, the fourth Imam of the Shiites. They are
mostly found in Yemen. The Ismaili sect, are the followers of Ismail, son of Imam
Jafar Sadiq, the sixth Imam of the Shiites. The son of Ismail, Mohammad
Abdullah, was founder of Fatimide dynasty that ruled North Africa for three
centuries. The Ismailis are further divided into: Aga Khani Khojas, Bohras (known
as Dawoodi Bohras) etcetera . See Husnain: 1988 for more.
For more see for instance Satish Chandra. 2002. Parties and politics at the
Mughal Court, 1707-1740 4th Ed. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Ashish Nandy (1990), for instance differentiates between religion as faith (read
custom) and religion as ideology to distinguish between Semitic and non-Semitic
roots of religion.
The volume of essays mostly focuses on the variations in caste patterns as they
occur in Ceylon and North-west Pakistan, from typified sociological
understandings of caste as peculiar to Hindu India.
See Werbner (1989) for more on this discussion. Werbner uses Dumont’s
dialectic approach to explain the persistence of caste as a system among Pakistani
labour migrants in Manchester.
Critiques of Dumont’s book Homo Hierarchicus are varied, but can be divided
into the following areas, as Dumont does in the preface to the complete edition
published by the University of Chicago press. He has been criticized: for analyzing
ancient text or empirical evidence in terms of [personal?] values such as hierarchy,
for making the distinction between status (hierarchy) and power and between the
role of the Brahmin in opposition to the king, for defining caste system in India as
an ideology and not directly in relation to the reality as it is lived (Marriott: 1990), and
finally for explaining caste from the superior castes’ or the Brahminical conception
of the social system as opposed to the conception of caste from the view of the
Untouchables (Gupta: 1991, 2004; Béteille:1965).
One maybe reminded, from Lindholm’s proposition of a theory of conflict, of
Max Gluckman’s understanding of ritualized ceremonies (as opposed to ritualism,
which according to him must be reserved for ceremonial actions in wider religions,
such as Catholicism, with stylized actions referring to mystical notions) as
emerging from the texture of social relations and dealing with conflicts between
groups and relationships. For Gluckman, rituals and ceremonies are related to
segregation of roles, necessary to "redress the equilibrium at any alteration of
social dispositions, or to establish a new equilibrium in changed relations—in Van
Gennep’s terms, to achieve re-aggregation or aggregation." (Gluckman: 1962, pg.
38) Role segregation in tribal societies is responsible for the highly ritualized
nature of its social life, according to Gluckman, and is conversely responsible for
absence of ritualization on Modern societies, where different spheres of relations
exist between political, kin, and religious. For Gluckman, then conflict pertains to
the "many values, customs, loyalties, and allegiances, on which groups are based,
are independent of one another and sometimes even discrepant with one another.”
ibid. These fundamental conflicts, Gluckman goes on to explain, arises out of the
common interest which society has in the fertility of fields and flocks and women,
while it is precisely over fields and flocks and women that individuals come into
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 293

competition and dispute. "The political system represents the peace and the moral
order within which it is possible for individuals to strive for good things that are
also valued by society as a whole; and hence the political system is vested with a
mystical value which places it beyond discussion and criticism.” (ibid, pg. 39)
Though it seems that if for Gluckman conflict is related to materiality and to
interest groups, it would appear that for Lindholm conflict arises out of
internalized values and probably makes his analysis seem closer to Dumont’s
method of analysis.
In fact, Lindholm appreciates Mines analysis of value conflict divergence
between Muslims and Hindus. See Lindholm: 1986, pg. 71 for more.
Referred in the earlier section 2.
This idea of ‘competitive sharing she derives from Robert M. Hayden.
According to Assayag, the term ‘composite culture’ is used to describe popular
religion in India, the shared religious traditions of Hindus and Muslims in large
parts. This term, she explains, gained currency in the 1940’s as a reaction to the
creation of Pakistan by nationalistic studies in India. See Assayag: 2004.

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York: Routledge.




India exemplifies the politics of refugee asylum and care in South Asia.
South Asia has the fourth largest concentration of refugees in the world. A
majority of displaced persons who have crossed international borders in
this region are not regarded as "refugees" by the host governments. They
are usually treated as "undesirable aliens" or "illegal immigrants". There
are no national laws which define or distinguish "refugees" from others
who cross the borders. The governments in this region have also not
signed or ratified the 1951 UN Convention Concerning the Status of
Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, though most of the countries, like India,
Pakistan, and Nepal have the UNHCR’s presence in select areas. India
became a full member of the High Commissioners Programme in 1995.
However India still remains a non-state party to both the 1951 Refugee
convention and the 1967 Protocol.1

India’ preference for addressing refugee issues unilaterally and bilaterally

have proven to be effective in the cases of mass influx, where
governmental policy has established broad guidelines for administrative
authorities in dealing with such movements. However, individual asylum
seekers have no special status in Indian law, and are subject to the same
set of rules and regulations as all foreigners.2

Scholars from the region point out the limiting factor in the definition of
“refugee” as incorporated by the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and its
1967 Protocol. Only those who are persecuted in their home countries for
their political belief, opinion, race and religion are regarded as refugees by
the UNHCR. Many relief agencies and non-governmental organizations in
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 297

the region have gone beyond this mandate. Another important reason is
that the states of the region are extremely defensive about the criticism of
their human rights record. As violations of human rights is often the main
cause of forced population movements in South Asia, the governments
have been reluctant to involve the UNHCR and other international
agencies in the process.3 Another reason put forth by a former Foreign
Secretary of India, articulates these issues as, ‘perceived threats to national
security resulting from cross-border movements and domestic tensions. He
pointed out the difficulties in pushing back persons in the Indian
subcontinent, since they could not be clearly identified as refugees, given
the precedent for economic migrants. The argument of, ‘the necessity of
identifying and distinguishing between foreigners, immigrants and
refugees,4 pushes one into a territory of ethnic conflict. Roots of the ‘anti-
foreigner’ movements and state violence against minorities, by way of
evictions, are few of the scenarios that also await such an exercise by any
state. It becomes all the more evident, if the state is controlled by a
particular ethnic group and has its own agenda for the classification.

India faced a refugee crisis in the western and eastern borders during
1946-1958.5 During the 1970’s India’s eastern states faced a major
refugee crisis from East Bengal, which ultimately led to the formation of
Bangladesh.6 India’s northeast, and especially the state of West Bengal,
still face a constant flux of people from across the borders. The Muslim
migrants from the erstwhile East Pakistan and present day Bangladesh
have become the target of an "expulsion campaign" launched by the
radical Hindu nationalist parties of India.7

In the south, India also had to deal with Tamil refugees, after the ethnic
crisis in Srilanka in the 1980’s and the continuing civil war between the
militant Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the state. India is
host to a large population of Tibetan refugees who fled the country after
Chinese government followed various policies to weaken both the
temporal and the religious authority of the Dalai Lama, and change the
socio-economic structure of the region. The 1955-56 Tibetan uprising
brought Tibetans to various transit camps in Assam and West Bengal and
moved to more permanent settlements in different parts of India. In the
1980’s, there was a second exodus of people from Tibet, who have been
accommodated by the Indian authorities. Apart from this, India is also host
to Afghan refugees, and the Chin-Burmese refugees from Burma (present
day Myanmar) fleeing from the repressive policies of the State Law and
Order Restoration Council (SLORC) have taken shelter in the north-
298 Chapter Sixteen

eastern states, with greater number of undocumented migrants in India.8

Samaddar and others focus on the continuing tradition of hospitality

towards refugees in Indian culture illustrating with oral traditions and
mythologies, the treatment of a refugee in traditional Indian society. A
refugee is a fleeing stranger in need of sanctuary, someone who was
received and treated as a guest. Some refugees were integrated in the
receiving society while others may have chosen to return to their homes
after a period of time, while some were also offered patronage and
opportunities to contribute to the betterment of the host communities.

The partition refugees, the influx of Tibetan refugees, refugees from the
former East Pakistan in 1971, the continuous movement of people across
the porous border in the east, all highlight the Indian states’ pragmatic
response to the refugee crisis. The Chakma refugees, the Afghan refugees,
refugees from Myanmar and the Sri-Lankan refugees have elicited an
altogether different response over the period they have been associated
with India. The responses of the Indian state are important to understand
the scenario of refugees in South Asia, since such policies usually impinge
on those of the others.

Samaddar takes the issues of power and care, to understand the refugee
flows and practices of Indian state. The politicisation of refugee
populations, which is highlighted by the two differing attitudes of the state
– one towards the Sri-lankan refugees, and the other towards the East
Pakistan refugees, is relevant here. The former was disliked for its active
political stance, and the other though legally barred, was allowed to
indulge in politics. It is important in understanding the Indian states
response in these cases, while addressing the refugees from Bhutan.
Another case is that of the Tibetan, the Burmese/ Myanmarese refugees
which also highlights the ambiguity inherent in these issues.

Paula Banerjee reinforces the hospitality in the Indian tradition, towards

strangers through the population flows and the subsequent acculturation of
groups who were markedly different from the native population, during
the pre-colonial times.9 The pattern changed after the advent of the British,
where the notion of aliens and foreigners were reinforced by the British
policies. The treatment of asylum seekers and the application of the
Foreigners Act of the Indian state stem from this legacy. By controlling
the access of the foreigners the British Empire encouraged the growth of
the sense of insiders/outsiders on which both displacement and asylum of
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 299

people is presently based on.

The post-independence period refugee flows in India, are important in

understanding the concepts of ‘asylum’ and ‘refugee’. An interesting case
point concerns the issue of Indian Tamils, descendants of Tamil labourers
who were taken from India in the 19th and early 20th century to the tea
plantations. Though they do not subscribe to the concept of Tamil Eelam,
they became innocent victims in the ethnic strife between the Tamil and
Sinhalese communities. A parallel can be drawn between the case of the
larger Nepali-speaking communities and the charge of ‘Greater Nepal’
designs assigned to them by ruling elites of different regions they inhabit.

Sarbani Sen addresses among other issues, the lack of a specific refugee-
protection law, pronounced court judgments, massive and mixed flows of
forced migration.10 The political convenience for India, in utilising an ad
hoc approach to refugee issues, works out in its bilateral relations with the
neighbouring countries. Bhutan’s case is a glaring example of this
expedient policy.

Bhutan’s Invisible refugees

The refugees from Bhutan are unique in South Asia. They fled southern
Bhutan, through India, into Eastern Nepal from systematic state policies
that targeted their ethnic status. Since 1993, they have been housed in well
structured UNHCR administered camps, in Eastern Nepal, have mingled
with the larger Nepali-speaking population in the sub-continent and have
also remained largely invisible among the refugee discourse.

Bhutan’s, geophysical factors coupled with the processes of migration and

religio-cultural patterns have been considerably conditioned by the relative
insularity of its regions because of its rugged mountain terrain, river
valleys and dense forests. Contrary to the official estimates, and attempts
to portray a homogenous society; Bhutan is a mosaic of ethnicities that
migrated to the country at different stages of its history. The crux of the
refugee crisis lies within the official attempts to build a homogenous
national culture, one that privileges the ruling elite culture over other
existing cultures. A brief history of the southern population, the
Lhotshampas,11 necessitates the understanding of the ethnic crisis that
generated the refugees.

Bhutan’s three ethnic groups can be located region-wise.12 TheNgalongs,

300 Chapter Sixteen

in the west, the Sharchopsin the east who seem to be subsumed under the
dominant Drukpa Kagyupa culture of the ruling Ngalong elites. In contrast
to these two groups, are the Nepalis given the term ‘Lhotshampas’ by the
Bhutanese in mid 1980’s are predominantly Hindu and more distinctively
they have familial and extended relations in Nepal and India.13

Bhutan’s attempts to preserve its unique culture and the monarchical

system while instituting reforms in the country, has proved problematic for
its multiethnic polity.14 However for the people in the south of Bhutan, the
Nepali Bhutanese/ Lhotshampas, majority of who are Hindus, the attempts
of the State were seen as severe and imposing upon their very existence.

The Nepali-Bhutanese entered into the country and were allowed to settle
only in the South of the country, in area considered inhabitable by the
northern Drukpa population15. The policy of settling the Nepali’s in the
eastern Himalayas was first followed by the British who wanted an
effective bulwark against the Tibetans and the Chinese16. The British
policy of the settling the Nepalese as a “buffer” against the Tibetan and the
Chinese is manifest in their calculations that, “as in India, Hinduism will
assuredly cast out Buddhism, and the praying wheel of the lama will give
place to the sacrificial implements of the Brahman”.17

In about 1898, the Bhutanese government began settling Nepali’s in the

south, in order to open up hitherto unexploited lands for cultivation. The
Nepalis were also seen as capable of clearing the malaria infested forest
and turning them into profitable agricultural areas, hardy workers in the
tea gardens and valued for their martial qualities. The Bhutanese
authorities also encouraged the Nepalese settlement in an area considered
uninhabitable to the northerners.18

India’s role in building the ‘other’

The modernisation process undertaken by the Bhutan Government in the
1960’s, in collaboration with the Indian government ushered in several
changes accompanied by an influx of migrant labour. The development
projects especially the road building activities needed labour which was
not met by the indigenous population, and hence offered ample
opportunities to economic migrants from the neighbouring region, mostly
from Nepal. However both the Nepal and Bhutan Government maintained
that there were many Nepali’s who had also migrated from the
neighbouring Indian states of Bengal and Assam.19
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 301

Bhutanese government’s perception of the Nepali-Bhutanese population in

its south was to undergo a major change with several important events in
Bhutan’s vicinity. The merger of Sikkim with the Indian union in 1975,
was a crucial turning point in Bhutan’s perception of the Nepali-speaking
population, particularly its own southern subjects. For Bhutan’s ruling
family which has kinship ties with Sikkim, the fall of Sikkim’s monarchy
under the forces of democracy articulated by a predominant Nepali
speaking population had a deep impact on their psyche. The Bhutanese
elite feared the possibility of a situation where they would be marginalised
by the Nepali-speaking population in their own country. The perception
hardened and took root more firmly with the violent Gorkhaland agitation
by the Nepali population in the neighbouring Darjeeling district. The
government’s policies on citizenship and the subsequent census exercises
were administrative measures that reflected the Bhutanese perception.
Culture was also articulated and formally decimated through the
administration and by the concerted personal effort of the monarch and the
ruling elites.

The wave of anti-foreigner agitations in the Indian North-east, which

targeted among others, Nepali-speaking populations, also provided the
strategies for the Bhutanese elite. The All Assam Students Union AASU
and the Assam Gana Parishad’s programme against the ‘illegal
immigrants’ proved to be useful for the Drukpa elite to formulate its

The 1977 Citizenship Act, the decentralisation policy which was

formulated in the Five Year Plans, The Marriage Act of 1980, the
Citizenship Act of 1985, the Green Belt Proposal, eviction of foreign
workers and illegal immigrants during 1986-87, the 1988 census based on
the Bhutan Citizenship act of 1985 to identify illegal immigrants, and the
promulgation of the Driglam Namzha under the FYP were systematic
policies which targeted the Nepali-Bhutanese.

The Bhutan Citizenship Act of 1977 attached citizenship to marriage and

ownership of property in Bhutan. The provisions for citizenship were
made more stringent with the 1985 Citizenship Act, which defined people,
who were not residents of Bhutan, on or before 31 December 1958, as
illegal immigrants. Knowledge of Dzongkha and the history of Bhutan
became compulsory for conferment of citizenship.20 The Marriage Act,
1980, designed to control marriage of Bhutanese citizens with foreigners,
was another Act that affected the Nepali-Bhutanese disproportionately.
302 Chapter Sixteen

The southerners sought spouses from their brethren/ ethnic kin across the
borders, and this act imposed severe penalties on their full participation in
Bhutan’s polity.21

Bhutan's Sixth Five Year Plan (1987-1992) included a policy of ‘one

nation, one people' and introduced a code of traditional Drukpa dress and
etiquette called `Driglam Namzha’.22 This required all citizens to wear
the gho (a one-piece tunic for men) and the kira (an ankle- length dress for
women) in ceremonial and official contexts. The rule was applied over-
zealously at first; so much so that many Lhotshampas could not venture
out of their homes in their everyday attire without facing the prospect of a
fine or imprisonment. Soon afterwards, in 1989, the teaching of Nepali
was stopped in Bhutanese schools, with the introduction of a new primary
curriculum-NAPE (new approach to primary education).This new
approach, considered that the children were unduly burdened with several
languages, and Nepali being the language of another country was
discontinued.23 However it added to the Lhotshampas' feeling that their
culture was being sidelined. Dissident activity culminated in government
crackdown and the relocation of activism outside in Nepal and India by the
late 1980s.24 Many of these members went to form The Bhutan Peoples

The Bhutan People's Party was formed by Nepali- Bhutanese in India in

June 1990. Support was provided by sympathisers on the Indian border.
BPP was instrumental in organizing the mass public demonstrations in
southern Bhutan in September and October 1990 that were unprecedented
in the kingdom's history. The demonstrators demanded radical changes in
the political system as well as basic civil rights.

It was alleged that both demonstrators and security forces committed acts
of violence. After the demonstrations, the Bhutanese army and police
began the task of identifying participants and supporters, who were classed
as Ngolops (anti-nationals), and the flow of refugees out of Bhutan began.
It reached a peak in May 1992, with 11,000 arrivals recorded for that
month in the camps in Nepal. The refugees brought with them detailed
allegations of torture, brutality, rape, and forced evictions.

Bhutan unique geopolitical position and its Buddhist culture have helped
contribute in no small measure to the international community’s apathy to
find a just solution for the refugees. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, has
emphasized in all the interviews, the fact that Bhutan was a small nation
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 303

between giant neighbours, and all it had to define it was its cultural
identity, and that it was too small to enjoy the luxury of cultural pluralism.

These very fears have been faithfully reflected by fascinated western

journalists and scholars whose search for `a culture unsullied by contact
with the large world’ has been realised in the Himalayan Kingdom of
Bhutan. They are quick to stress the fears of Bhutan as a small state
between two giants. These fawning reports and fiercely selective
scholarship on which Bhutan showers its favours and attentions, have
benefited it immensely. This policy has not only gained western approval
for its cultural policies, but also immense financial aid, and a conveniently
blind eye towards its disenfranchising policies. The stress on its Drukpa
Buddhist culture by Bhutan, one that being indigenous, native, and more
authentic than the relatively recent Nepali culture of the south is used to
emphasize its claims on territory and polity. According to A Smith, the
culture and history of small nations have become, ‘both means and ends of
their existence’; the more they feel threatened by the technological
superiority and economic dominance of the larger nation-states, the more
salient and vital is their distinctive culture. For it defines their very raison
d’etre as a separate unit.25

On the other hand, Bhutan’s southern neighbour, India is less blinded by

the claims of an ‘untouched kingdom in the Himalayas’ and more
concerned with the security of a geopolitical nature, which has been
buttressed by heavy investments in hydro-electric power plants near the

Exile and Identity

The movement in exile has helped to internationalise the problem, firstly
by the very act of being refugees. Among the several factors that have
aided the internationalisation of the ethnic conflict, the role of the ethnic
kin across the international boundaries has been important for the Nepali
Bhutanese refugees.26 Though Nepal does not have a common border with
Bhutan, its role and support as that of a neighbouring state, whose
governing class belongs to the same ethnic community. This was
instrumental in Nepal’s newly elected democratic government, giving
support to the refugees and hosting them for nearly 16 years in Nepal.

As the `concerned neighbour’ in this refugee issue, which has borders with
both Bhutan and Nepal; however, it has formally avoided dealing with the
304 Chapter Sixteen

issue of refugees. Presently, the concern for India is not the plight of the
refugees, but the question of a stable regime in Bhutan, that will not upset
its status quo in its relation with Bhutan.27

Geopolitics plays an important role in India’s handling of the refugee

issue. A state that is in conflict with the country associated with one of its
minority groups, members of that group are often in an unenviable
position.28 In the case of the Nepali community, even in the absence of
direct confrontation between Nepal and its neighbouring states of India
and Bhutan, the ethnic Nepali-speaking populace, resident in the two states
have been involved in several conflict situations. The Nepali-speaking
community has been in conflict situation in the Indian states of Assam,
Meghalaya and the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. Some members of
the community have also been involved in the demand for a separate
homeland. This perceived "trait" of the ethnic Nepalis often leads them
being viewed as a potential source of conflict in their country of residence.
This also prompts the host state, like Bhutan, or the various states in India
to enforce harsh or discriminatory measures against that particular group-
the ethnic Nepali population in their country.

As a concerned neighbour, India had to contend with an exodus of

refugees due to the crisis in East Pakistan. It has given support to Tibetans
fleeing from the Chinese takeover, refugees from Afghanistan, Tamil
refugees from Srilanka, and refugees from Burma/ Myanmar. In this
background, India silence on the Bhutanese refugee is deafening! The first
act of the Indian government, when the Nepali-Bhutanese were evicted,
was to force them from the border in Assam and West Bengal, across its
territory to its border with Nepal. India’s consistent stand then has been
that the issue of the refugees was a bilateral one between Bhutan and
Nepal. The reasons are India reluctance to upset the status quo it has with

The ‘other’ in academic discourse

Scholarship from South Asia, especially India, on Bhutan has generally
resulted in a mirror of the Indian government’s views on Bhutan. Most of
the books written by Indian officials posted in Bhutan, present a glowing
image of the kingdom- focusing on technicalities, the architecture or the
sheer physical beauty of the kingdom. However one important group of
writings on Bhutan, in the years that it decided to align closely with India
is that of the late Nari Rustomji’s accounts of his years as a ‘political
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 305

officer’ in Bhutan and his close personal friendship with the ruling family
in Bhutan. His writings and his experience as a political officer in the
north eastern region of India throw interesting light on the way Bhutan’s
polity operated. While Rustomji does not hide his affection for Bhutan,
and his caution against the dilution of the Drukpa culture, in his writings, a
careful reading of his account on the elite crisis of the late 1960’s reveals a
great deal about the workings of the Bhutanese royalty and thus the polity.
Startlingly similar sentiments can be seen in the National Assembly
proceedings, following the crisis of the 1990’s.

Indian scholarship, especially by those authors who have access to the

Bhutanese ruling elites and the polity is important to understand both the
bilateral aspects of Indo-Bhutanese relations, and India’s official position
on the ethnic crisis. Most importantly by what is not said, says a great
deal about the questions of the much touted constitutional democracy,
human rights and basic freedom in what is still a polity under a
monarchical system.

Within this group, the scholarship has been focused either from the point
of view of strategic concerns of India in South Asia, bilateral relation
between India and Bhutan. Most of the relational studies, end with
stressing how vital, a friendly, stable (read= monarchy) Bhutan is for
India. Books written by former officials posted in Bhutan, include, Nari
Rustomji, and B S Das. Others like G N Mehra, Nagendra Singh, B J
Hasrat, Ram Rahul, P P Karan, Laxman Singh Rathore and Paramanand
have focused on Bhutan over the years, and whose works were also
published prior to the ethnic crisis in the Kingdom. A C Sinha’s work
offers a more critical look on the polity and the interaction of the British
and the Bhutanese.29

B S Das’ book in the wake of the crisis of the 1990’s, Bhutan: A Nation
in Transition with his background as the first resident Indian
representative in Bhutan from the years January 1968 to March 1972. The
fact of the ‘demographic threat’ is again stressed in his book, pointing out
that the Bhutanese rulers ignored the complexities of a mixed population
in the south and believes that "placing restrictions on citizenship rights and
movement of Nepalese settlers" limited the problem. The author believes
that "basic issues were lost sight of" because the ethnic problem really
has its roots in perceived inequities. Das, was also the Chief Executive in
Sikkim during the crucial period when the kingdom merged with India,
says "it was the discrimination economic disparity created by a feudal
306 Chapter Sixteen

system for self-preservation that led to the agitation," and points out the
fact which has immense relevance for Bhutan, that "it was not the 75 per
cent Nepalese population of Sikkim that led to the ruling pattern." He is
sympathetic to Bhutanese fears of demographic changes but advises
Bhutan to take lessons from Sikkim’s history. Scholarship on Bhutan,
from India, follows the above trend and there are few exceptions to it.30

Absence of special legal regime on the refugees in India has meant that the
refugees are dependent on the benevolence of the State rather than regime
of rights. Even the limited mandate given to the UNHCR is concerned to
refugees from outside the South Asian region, mainly Afghan refugees.
The Bhutanese refugees know that unless India puts pressure on Bhutan,
they would remain in exile. Bhutan has maintained its relationship with
India playing on the aspects that allows it to maintain the status quo. The
energy starved Indian states bordering Bhutan depend on the Hydro-
electric plants built in southern Bhutan, plus a sure vote in the UN, and a
proactive Bhutanese diplomacy allows the refugee issue to remain

Aung Phyro & Tapan Bose , “Refugees in South Asia: An Overview”, Refugee
Watch No.1, January 1998;
Augustine Mahiga, ‘Foreword’, in R Samaddar ed., Refugees and the State:
Practices of Asylum and Care in India: 1947-2000 (New Delhi: Sage Publications,
2003), p.16.
SAARCLAW, UNHCR, Round table Workshop Report: Refugees in the SAARC
Region: National Legislation on Refugees (India Habitat Centre, New Delhi:
SAARCLAW, UNHCR, 30 April, 1999) , p.1.
Tapan K Bose, Protection of Refugees in South Asia: Need for Legal Framework
(Kathmandu: South Asia forum for Human Rights, January 2000), p.8.
Muchkund Dubey, quoted in SAARCLAW, UNHCR, Round table Workshop
Report: Refugees in the SAARC Region: National Legislation on Refugees (India
Habitat Centre, New Delhi: SAARCLAW, UNHCR, 30 April, 1999) , p.4.
Aung Phyro & Tapan Bose, n.133, Samir KumarDas, ‘State Response to the
Refugee Crisis: Relief and Rehabilitation in the East’, in R Samaddar ed.,
Refugees and the State: Practices of Asylum and Care in India: 1947-2000 (New
Delhi: Sage Publications, 2003).
Samir Kumar Das, ‘State Response to the Refugee Crisis: Relief and
Rehabilitation in the East’, in R Samaddar ed., Refugees and the State: Practices
of Asylum and Care in India: 1947-2000 (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2003).
They claim that about 20 million Bangladeshis have illegally entered India after
1971. The Indian Home Ministry has however chosen to remain silent on the
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 307

figures of Bangladeshi migrants in India (Annual Report of Indian Home Ministry,

1995-96). Aung Phyro & Tapan Bose, n.133.
Rita Manchanda, ‘Nowhere Peoples: Burmese Refugees in India’, in Tapan K
Bose and Rita Manchanda, eds., States, Citizens and Outsiders: The Uprooted
Peoples of South Asia (Kathmandu: South Asian forum for Human Rights), p.204
Paula Banerjee, Aliens in a Colonial World, in R Samaddar ed., Refugees and
the State: Practices of Asylum and Care in India: 1947-2000 (New Delhi: Sage
Publications, 2003).
Sarbani Sen, Paradoxes of the international Regime of Care: The Role of the
UNHCR in India, in R Samaddar ed., Refugees and the State: Practices of
Asylum and Care in India: 1947-2000 (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2003.
Lhotshampas U Phadnis, n.3, p.39; A C Sinha, Bhutan: Ethnic Identity and
National Dilemma. (New Delhi: Reliance Publishing House, 1991), N K Rustomji,
Sikkim, Bhutan and India’s North-Eastern borderlands: Problems of Changes’, in J
S Lall, ed., The Himalaya: Aspects of Change (New Delhi: OUP, 1981), pp.236-
The Sharchops are mainly based in the hitherto least developed eastern region of
Bhutan. Though they are distinct in many ways, both Ngalongs and Sharchops are
Buddhists. According to U Phadnis, one of the main constraints in identifying the
different ethnic groups in South Asia, is the necessity for, ‘a certain arbitrariness in
determining the ‘major’ culture criteria for group identification and elucidation.
Hence depending upon the nature of the reference group and a particular situation,
an emphasis is put on the distinctiveness (as a group) which makes the attribute
(and it use) significant. U Phadnis, Ibid, n.3, pp.30-31.
The protests were muted in many parts of the east, mainly due to the ruthless
suppression by the authorities.
The exact dates are still disputed; however, it is generally considered that the
Nepali’s were encouraged to settle in the southern part after the Sinchula Treaty
signed between the British and Bhutan in 1865. The lack of proper demarcation of
the borders between Bhutan and India had also facilitated a lot of movement and
contact between the bordering areas in Bengal and Assam.
L A Waddell, Among the Himalayas ( Delhi: Mittal Publications, 1979), p.243.
H H Risley, Introduction, in The Gazetteer of Sikhim (New Delhi: BR
Publishing Corp., 1985), p. xx.
The Treaty of Sinchula, 1865, in Nagendra Singh, Bhutan: A Kingdom in the
Himalayas (Bombay: Orient Longman, 1974).
Leo E Rose, the Politics of Bhutan (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978)
Initially the Bhutanese authorities in their interview with the press, had mentioned
that the Nepali’s had migrated from the bordering Indian areas in Bengal and
Assam; in the later interviews, they just maintained that these were illegal
migrants, “from wherever”. Interview with C P Bastola, the then Foreign Minister
of Nepal, on 18 April, 2001 at Kathmandu, Nepal; See also, Bhaumik Subir,
‘North-East India: The Evolution of a Post colonial Region’, in Partha S Ghosh,
ed., Wages of Freedom: fifty Years of the Nation-State (New Delhi: OUP, 1999),
Times of India ( New Delhi), 27 September, 1988.
308 Chapter Sixteen

For various Citizenship Acts, see Annexure, in Sreeja C T, Ethnicity in South
Asia: A Study of the Nepali-Bhutanese Refugees (Unpublished Thesis submitted to
University of Hyderabad, August 2006).
Interview with a cross-section of refugees. Annexure, in Sreeja C T, Ethnicity in
South Asia: A Study of the Nepali-Bhutanese Refugees (Unpublished Thesis
submitted to University of Hyderabad, August 2006).
In 1958, the 'Lhotshampa' population of the southern districts of Bhutan was
granted Bhutanese citizenship and tenure of its lands etc. Driglam Namzha:
Bhutan's sixth Five-Year Plan (1987-92) included a policy of 'one nation, one
people' and introduced a code of traditional Drukpa dress and etiquette called
Driglam Namzha. Language at the beginning of the school year in March 1990 the
teaching of Nepali was discontinued and all Nepali curricular materials
disappeared from Bhutanese schools.
Bhutan: A Traditional Order and Forces of Change: Three Views from Thimphu
(Thimphu: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Royal Government of Bhutan, 1993), p.21.
Christopher Strawn and DNS Dhakal, Bhutan: A Movement in Exile (New
Delhi: Nirala Publishers, 1995), p.285.
A Smith, 1986, p.217.
Rodolfo Stavenhagen,” Ethnic Conflicts and their impact on international
society”, International Social Science Journal (Oxford, Basil and Blackwell)
February 1991, p.321.
Ibid, p.321.
Stavenhagen Ibid, Partha Ghosh, pp.9-16.
A C Sinha, Ethnic Identity and National Dilemma (New Delhi: Reliance Pub.
Hs., 1991).
Mathew Joseph C, Ethnic Conflict in Bhutan (New Delhi: Nirala Pub., 1999)
being one of the few exceptions to the general trend in the scholarship about
Bhutan, emanating from India.
Hydropower is the major source of revenue, with India as the major market.
Major projects like Chukka, Basochhu, Kurichhu and Tala will substantially
increase energy generation in the future. It is estimated that Bhutan’s rivers have a
capacity to generate 30,000 megawatts of hydropower:




I. The Media and Minorities

The countries of Western Europe are facing the important socio-political

issue of dealing with the ethnic minorities who landed in these countries
after the Second World War and have significantly enhanced their size.
The presence of immigrants especially from Muslim countries is a cause
of concern for scholars and policy makers who contend that cultural
diversity is embodied in the uniqueness and plurality of the identities of
the groups and societies making up humankind. The cultural difference
debate remained popular in last decades because of the fact that in
increasingly diverse European societies, it is essential to ensure
harmonious interaction among ethnic minorities. A few scholars consider
that the defence of cultural diversity is an ethical imperative, inseparable
from respect for human dignity (Hall, 1988; Stolcke, 1995). It implies a
commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular the
rights of persons belonging to minorities and those of indigenous peoples
The objective of this article is to explore how ethnic minorities especially
the Muslims are represented in the media of West European countries? It
also aims at finding the stereotyping of Muslims in the media of these
countries by focusing on the case study of Danish cartoon crisis.

The cultural diversity problem has raised many questions in post-war

Europe. For example, the image of the blacks in Great Britain, according
to Hall (1988), remained negative in the minds of the white Englishmen as
310 Chapter Seventeen

blacks were stereotyped negatively in the mass media. According to him,

multiculturalism has many facets and it has affected the British society in
many ways. The distinct sense of “Englishness” among white population
keeps it segregated from other cultural groups. However, the cultural
difference debate is important in Europe as it seeks to answer important
questions like how the European societies inhabited by people belonging
to different cultural traditions be understood in a better way. The media-
minority issue is also important as it has changed overtime due to many
factors and has brought to light the important question of identity. There
are communities in the society resisting the dominance of alien cultures
and seeking refuge in a sense of imagined communities. Gupta and
Ferguson (1992) argue that multicultural issue has always been important
for displaced communities and changing cultures which makes identities
fluid because of the mobility of people.

II. The Political Challenges of Multiculturalism

The concept of cultural difference in heterogeneous societies is staring
political pundits in the face. The political theorists have been caught in a
dilemma of advocating liberal notion of public sphere put forward by
Habermas and the ground realities where groups like minorities, women,
Blacks, Asians, working classes and the poor are segregated and deprived
of their right to participate in public deliberations. The notion of universal
democracy and common good seems to be a utopian idea, which when
confronted with reality, does not hold ground (Young, 1989). Fraser
(1990) says that Habermas’ concept of public sphere that involves private
persons in public debates is based on naïve assumptions. She argues that in
complicated societies based on cultural differences, these assumptions are
not only simplistic but also result in opposing groups which become a
threat to the existence of the community. The creation of consent in public
sphere is close to the Gramscian model of hegemony and in bourgeois
public sphere, common good is achieved at the expense of a few groups of
the society which are excluded from the mainstream discourse and often
stereotyped. After post 9/11 period, Muslims in Europe feel excluded in
Europe and they are continuously stereotyped negatively in the media
(Christiansen, 2004).

Rosaldo (1994) has discussed the concept of cultural citizenship which is

also a universal ideal. Cultural citizenship is supposed to be an ideal form
of citizenship where one is a part of the public sphere while retaining
particular affiliation and different identity. Governments in the Western
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 311

multiethnic societies adopted stringent measures to ensure integration of

various groups, e.g., compulsory English for all in America, but realized
that integration was not possible through force and devised new strategies
like changes in the curriculum and institutions of higher education. This
remained contentious whether such means could achieve the goal of an
egalitarian and welfare-oriented society. The ideal of universal citizenship
was also a contested notion as full rights to all members of the society
were never granted in any society. Scholars like Rousseau and American
founding fathers had excluded women from taking part in political
activities because they thought that women were a part of the private
rather than public sphere. Young (1989) has argued that universal equality
is a normative ideal which has never been translated into full reality. She
says that full inclusion and participation of all in law and public life is also
sometimes impeded by formulating laws and rules in universal terms that
apply to all citizens in the same way as has happened in Europe in the past.
Hence, deliberative democracy has been facing a tough time at the hands
of political activists who believe in agitation rather than conforming to the
dominant norms introduced by bourgeois in the society.

III. The Role of a Journalist in Multicultural Societies

The journalists reflect social conditions in a society. But this process is
severely hampered by many factors in the Western multicultural societies.
The journalists are responsible for an objective account of the day’s news
and they have to adopt a pluralist approach in order to be fair to all
segments of the society. Their credibility is at stake if they distort the facts
and become a partisan in political processes functional in a multiethnic
society. The unfortunate reality is that journalists subjectively cover social
realities and remain captive of their social frames as has been elegantly
captured by the Kerner Report of 1968. The report explicitly mentioned
that journalists unfairly treated the black during riots that had erupted in
the US in 1968.

Van Dijk (2005) has highlighted the constraints journalists have to face in
Europe during the process of collection and dissemination of news. He
argues that journalists act as gatekeepers and deicide content for
publication that could please the advertisers and owners. They are hardly
objective as they are socialized in a dominant culture that shapes their
mode of thinking. The journalists are a part of the middle class and they
maintain frequent contact with the elite who are a main source of
information for them. Consequently, they are influenced by the ideology
312 Chapter Seventeen

of the elite and promote that ideology unknowingly through their news
stories and opinion pieces. Similarly, while selecting topics to be covered
about culturally different people in Europe, journalists are biased and
usually select violent themes which prove that immigrants and ethnic
minorities are a threat for a peaceful majority (van Dijk, 2005).

How can journalists work properly and cover other cultures adequately has
always been a difficult question. Furisch (2002) says that through travel
journalism, other cultures can be understood in a better way. She argues
that passive critique of the representation of other cultures is not a good
approach but the media critics should put forward a plan and engage
themselves actively in the media discourse. On the contrary, the era of
globalization has also remarkably changed the media scenario where
journalists have to deal with material coming from alien cultures. Media
globalization is fostering a new culture all around where cultural lines blur
and it is possible to have a representative account of the heterogeneous

IV. Review of the Relevant Literature

There is a plethora of literature available that deals with the portrayal of
minorities and underprivileged classes in Western societies, however, for
the purpose of this essay, works of various scholars have been grouped
together and it has been discovered that there are patterns of presentation
of minorities in general and Muslims in particular in the media which have
been chronicled by various researchers.

There is a sizable amount of research on the portrayal of Muslims in the

Western media and after 9/11, Islam has become a favourite area of the
Western intelligentsia. “That people are suddenly more interested in Islam
could be a positive development, but if the knowledge that is produced
only reinforces an Orientalist perspective then this will be an opportunity
lost” (Poole, 2002, p. 3). The ways in which Western cultures have come
to ‘know’ Muslims and Islam is largely through what is termed
Orientalism, the historically situated Western construction of non-Western
cultures as the Other; as alien, distant, antiquated, irrational, sensual and
passive (Said, 1978). Orientalism is “systems of representation framed by
the hegemonic political forces of colonialism, post-colonialism and neo-
colonialism, which act towards bringing ‘the Orient’ into ‘Western’
consciousness, Western dispensation and under Western dominion”
(Richardson, 2004, p. 5). Dunn (2001, p.292) claims, “social constructions
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 313

of identity are given life through their articulation.” This means that
recurring language used to describe Islam and Muslims (such as ‘Islamic
terrorism,’ ‘Muslim fanatics’) can come to be representative of all
Muslims and Islam as a religion.

There are a number of studies which indicate that media overrepresents the
elites in society as sources of news and it is obsessed with a celebrity
oriented culture. It has trivialized politics by engaging in portrayal of elites
in entertainment-oriented programs and citizens today are less informed
about other cultures and important issues facing their society (Postman,
1985). Media has a bias in favour of value system of the elite and even in
fictional media content, elite locations are shown and the minorities or
other underprivileged sections of the society are sidelined and negatively
stereotyped (DeFleur, 1964; Golding and Elliot, 1979; McQuail, 2005).

The ethnic minorities in Europe, especially the Muslims, are associated

with crime, violence and antisocial activities. A phenomenon of cultural
fundamentalism is on the rise in Europe and Muslims are facing racist
tendencies because of a nonstop negative coverage of the Muslim
minorities living in Europe for the last five decades. Resultantly, the
minorities are shunning the mainstream media in Europe because they find
it excessively hostile and full of cynicism. The Muslim immigrants are
harshly treated in the media content for having a rigid culture that
supposedly goes against liberal Western values. (Christiansen, 2004;
Graber, 1980; Hussain 2000; McQuail, 1994; Said, 1997; Stolcke, 1995;
ter Wal, 2002; Tuchman et al., 1978; van Dijk, 2005).

However, there are other intervening variables as well and it is not only
the media which is responsible for the negative imaging of Muslims in the
West. Barker and Galasinski (2001, p. 7) argue that “texts are unable to
police the meanings to be constructed from them.” It is clear that social
forces other than textual discourse also contribute to dominant images and
stereotypes of Muslims and Islam. As social actors, humans do possess the
ability to create different meanings and representations of Muslims.
Muslims in Europe have experienced alienation, racism and vilification
before the terrorist attacks in 2001. The racial stereotyping of all Muslims
as Arabs and all Arabs as Muslims during the Gulf War led to series of
physical attacks, racial insults and negative stereotyping of Muslims
(Asmar, 1992).

Therefore, both media and socio-political environment cultivates realities

314 Chapter Seventeen

about a group. Generally, the minorities remain at the outskirts of media

field due to their social distance from the mainstream culture.
Accordingly, the literature available on media’s representation of the
“other” in general and Muslims in particular can be synthesized in the
words of Denis McQuail (1983, p.136): “Mass media tend to support the
established order and consensual values. They positively evaluate and give
privileged access to elite or official elements in society and symbolically
punish or devalue deviants and outgroups, both in information and
fictional content.”

V. Muslims in the European Media

In a report on “Racism and Cultural Diversity in the Mass Media”, Jessika
ter Wal (2002) says that promotion of racist tendencies through mass
media is evident from media content in Europe. She says that media
avoids blatant racism and does not openly reproach ethnic minorities but is
engaged in a subtle racism by attaching stereotypes with people belonging
to another culture. Journalists are instrumental in the spread of hatred for
ethnic minorities whom they usually regard as criminals and violent
people belonging to a counter culture which cannot be integrated. Yet, ter
Wal (2002) also agrees that media content tries to promote cultural
diversity. Following is the description of portrayal of the Muslims in the
media of the Western European countries as ascertained by ter Wal (2002)
in her report:

The available studies of media discourses on ethnic minorities reveal that a
subtle form of racism persists in reporting on ethnic situations in Denmark.
Minorities are portrayed not only as an outgroup, but also as a threat to
Danish culture and society. However, the Danish media and academia
have realized the need to understand immigrants, which are largely
Muslims, in a better way especially after the cartoon crisis (Sorensen,
2006). The Muslim immigrants living in Denmark feel frustrated at the
continuous negative portrayal of their communities and they have
developed a tendency to avoid mainstream Danish media (Christiansen,
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 315

According to ter Wal Report (2002), negative stereotypes were frequently
associated with migrants and the media mainly addressed migrants in the
context of negative happenings and conflicts. News reporting was subject
to discursive changes, for instance from an emphasis on foreigners' issues
in the 1980s to a greater attention to asylum issues in the early 1990s.
However, whenever foreign employees were discussed, it was usually in
relation to crime or violence. Turkish community was overrepresented in
the mainstream media in a stereotypical manner.

During the 1980s, news and current affairs coverage of minorities was
most commonly featured under the broad heading of immigration, a media
framing device which worked to the disadvantage of those concerned.
According to the Report, media content analyses have shown that there are
significant imbalances in media representations of different migrants and
minorities. The minorities are underrepresented in certain media genres
and overrepresented in others while the Muslims largely received negative
coverage due to Hijab controversy and rioting in France.

The Netherlands
The ter Wal Report (2002) has analyzed the studies published between
1995 and 2000 and the findings indicate that the persistence of negative
and stereotypical portrayals of ethnic minorities coexists with more
diversified and positive approaches. Ethnic minorities themselves are
dissatisfied with their coverage and as study of D'Haenens et al. (2005)
indicated that the interviewees during a survey perceived the reporting as
one-sided and negative and found that positive new stories were neglected.

United Kingdom
Hall (1988) has commented that there is a politics of representation going
on in the UK among blacks, however, the ter Wal Report (2002) finds an
overall improvement in standards of journalism regarding the
representation of minorities. There is a broad range of coverage of issues
relating to immigration and ethnic relations across the full spectrum of
broadcasting and print media. Despite these measures, Muslims in UK feel
neglected and stereotyped in the mainstream media. Muslims and the
316 Chapter Seventeen

minority journalists find it hard to work in the newsrooms of the large

media companies due to exclusionary policies. The situation has worsened
after 9/11 and media associates Islam and Muslims with terrorism and

VI. European Media and Employment

of the Ethnic Minorities
Ouaj (1999) has analyzed situation in different countries of Europe and
says that newsrooms do not reflect egalitarian ethos and these are
dominated by the members of the majority groups in the society. Till 2007,
minorities have not been able to achieve a representation in media
organizations which poses many serious questions regarding the image of
minorities in the media. Their might be a little advancement toward this
cause, but a major shift has not taken place in the composition of the
newsrooms. It is difficult to find a study that exclusively describes the
employment opportunities available to the Muslims in Western Europe;
however, following is the presence of minorities in the media:

According to Ouaj (1999), only a small group of people having foreign
origin or with a multicultural background are employed in German TV.
The proportion of ethnic minorities employed in the television channels in
Germany is estimated to a value around 2%. This is not corresponding to
the proportion of ethnic groups and immigrants living in the country which
is estimated at 8.5% of the population.

United Kingdom
According to Ouaj (1999), the proportion of ethnic minorities in the audio-
visual sector varies from 2 to 6.7% in the United Kingdom. The presence
of ethnic minorities is relatively high in the BBC and Channel 4. But in the
other private television stations, the proportion of ethnic minorities
remains very low. However, BBC has set up professional structures for
providing equal access to disadvantaged groups, although, the minorities
still complain about the attitude of the seniors at BBC who treat them on
unequal footings.
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 317

In France, according to Ouaj (1999), there is no information available on
employment and access of ethnic minorities to the television industry. But
research has revealed that people belonging to certain social classes might
have more difficulties than other to enter into jobs and develop careers in

The Netherlands
In the Dutch audio-visual sector, the number of minorities is 2 to 3
percent, although, the minorities constitute 8.5 per cent of the total
population. According to Ouaj (1999), a research conducted on NCRV
(Nederland’s Christelijke Radio Vereining), which is the national
Protestant broadcasting organisation of the Netherlands, shows that it has
five employees with an ethnic minority background among a total staff of
about 270. A personnel manager confirms that “Christianity” is a selection
criterion for employment, and this is advertised with job announcements in
newspapers (Ouaj, 1999).

While media organizations in European nations are still in the process of

acknowledging the diversity and rich cultural heritages of Muslim
communities, Muslims are adjusting to living as minorities within societies
having different cultural ethos. The predominant we /they dichotomy
embedded in historical and political encounters has raised significant
issues affecting mutual integration and acceptance. Christiansen (2004)
argues that transnational media has become central in the consumption of
news by immigrant populations and this has received some attention as a
factor associated with the lack of integration into their new societies.
According to recent data, people with migrant experience tend to seek
news very broadly because they find the mainstream media hostile towards
them and watch the media from their countries of origin to get necessary

According to Hussain (2000), Muslim minorities have been the primary

victims of negative portrayal in European societies. In the absence of
social interaction between the majority population and minority groups,
the cognitive frame of reference through which members of the ethnic
majority premise their arguments is largely based on mental models of
ethnic events that are constituted by media-mediated themes and topics on
minority issues in the daily news flow of the national media. This situation
318 Chapter Seventeen

has led to the development of a kind of cultural racism that adversely

affects the dialogue between Muslim minorities and non-Muslim majority.
As a result of stereotyping and negative media coverage, Muslims in the
Western European countries feel excluded, segregated and underprivileged.

Case Study of Denmark1

The case study of the cartoon crisis in Denmark is pertinent to understand
the changing mode of relationship between Muslim immigrants and the
European media. Denmark, a country traditionally regarded as liberal and
tolerant, experienced a fundamental shift in attitude during the early 1980s
that has seen it emerge potentially as one of the most racist countries in
Europe. Paradoxically, liberal values are used as justification for negative
representations of others. The situation in Denmark was worsened after the
publication of the caricatures of Prophet Mohammad which turned out to
be a violent crisis in many parts of the world. The 12 satirical cartoons of
the Prophet Mohammad were published in Denmark’s largest national
daily, the Jyllands-Posten, on September 30, 2005. While the drawings
ruffled feathers with the domestic population, both among Danes and
Islamic immigrants, the real international reaction to the editorial cartoons
was much more pronounced outside Danish borders.

National reaction to the publication was varied. The strongest reaction

came from Denmark’s Muslim immigrants. Muslims were encouraged to
denounce the newspaper and the drawings and participate in protests.
Throughout the affair, as tension and violence escalated outside Denmark,
demonstrations against the cartoons inside the country remained peaceful,
the only violent reaction coming in the form of death threats to the
illustrators from persons both living in Denmark and other Scandinavian
countries. National news media carried several “focus on” sections,
examining the events from several standpoints with the help of experts in
several fields. One Danish newspaper, the Berlingske Tidende, continues
to run a section called “Angående Muhammed” or “Concerning
Muhammad” that zeros in on different perspectives and individual cases.
Internally, the events were largely linked to continued national issue
concerning integration of immigrants. Cultural misunderstanding resulted
in a major crisis and pictures of “us” and “them” were perpetuated.

The immigrants considered it a deliberate attempt to slander Islam and a

provocative act which had a tacit go-ahead signal from the government. A
domestic poll taken in late January showed that 79 per cent of those
Ethnographic Discourse of the Other 319

surveyed did not think Mr. Rasmussen, the Danish Prime Minister during
the crisis, should apologize for the drawings while 58 of those surveyed
also said they could sympathize with displeasure expressed Muslims in
Denmark. As a nation it became exhausting to discuss it further and Danes
hoped that they could put the events behind them.

VII. Conclusion
The unavoidable conclusion inherent in this essay points to the importance
of balanced and careful news coverage of events related to the minorities
in general and Muslims in particular. Various scholars have urged on the
need to promote multicultural tendencies which call for tolerance and
cooperation among various groups in the society (Fraser, 1990; Fursich,
2002; Glasser et al., 2006; Hussain, 2000; ter Wal, 2002). Given the
implicit influence of media on their readers and audience, it is imperative
that news on sensitive issues are investigated in depth and represented
with due care to their impact on inter-ethnic and inter-faith relations. This
will mean avoiding stereo-types and reflecting the social, political and
ideological diversity of the immigrant Muslims. Simplistic reports and
recycling cliché do not inform readers and create misunderstanding. They
reconfirm bias against a community that has become a subject of intense
public scrutiny (Hussain, 2000).

The Muslims immigrants are present in large numbers in various countries

of Western Europe. They are a diverse community having their peculiar
cultures. The complexity of the Muslim community, just as others,
requires careful news coverage which would give the readership a window
into the sort of issues that affect the subject matter. Objective and unbiased
reporting can contribute significantly to public education and inform the
current debate about Islam and the future of Muslims in various countries
of Western Europe. Unfortunately, the coverage Muslim immigrants
receive is biased, negative and they do not have a strong ethnic media of
their own while jobs for them in the mainstream media are scarce
(Christiansen, 2004; Husband, 2005; Ouaj, 1999; ter Wal, 2002).

The coverage given to Muslim immigrants is not uniform in different

countries of Europe. It is also important to note that these representations
are gendered. Dominant stereotypes portray men as foreign terrorists or
extremists, where as women are constructed as repressed hijab wearers
who need to be liberated from patriarchal oppression and violence. These
Western perceptions of Islam and Muslims further suggest that Muslims
320 Chapter Seventeen

are intolerant of other religions and Western cultures. In the aftermath of

9/11, it is important for the media to create an understanding and
coordination among various communities so that extremist tendencies
could be wiped put. The stereotypical coverage of the Muslims in Western
media and marginalization of minorities in the newsrooms may widen the
chasm that exists among diverse civilizations which will ultimately lead to
the exacerbation of clash among civilizations.

Revised version of the paper Presented at The Ninth International Conference on
Hunting and Gathering Societies, held at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, 9th to
13th September, 2002, Session-33: South Asian Hunter-Gatherers.
This case study has been an academic exercise which the students of Erasmus
Mundus Program in Journalism and Media – 2006-2008 – were supposed to submit
before the formal commencement of the program. The focus was the coverage of
unrest among Muslims in the respective countries of the students. The coverage of
the cartoon crisis in Danish media was compiled by Miriam Christensen, a student
in the program from Denmark, and the discussion in this case study is based on the
information provided by her.

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1. Ms. Lopamudra Maitra, PhD scholar (ICHR, JRF), Department of

Archaeology, University of Calcutta, West Bengal, India. E- mail:

2. B. Saraswati, Doctoral Fellow, Department of Economics, Karnatak

University, Dharwad-580003, Karnataka, India. E-mail:

3. Prof. Panchanan Mohanty, Professor & Head, Centre for Applied

Linguistics & Translation Studies (CALTS), University of Hyderabad,
Hyderabad 500 046, Andhra Pradesh, INDIA. E-mail:

4. Mr. Syed Pasha, Research Scholar, Department of Social Work,

Gulbarga University, Gulbarga, Karnataka, India.

5. Dr. Sreeja, C.T. PhD in Political Science, Department of Political

Science, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad- 500046, A.P., India.
Address: 3923 Biddeford Place, # 1, Richmond, VA-23233, Phone: 804-
747-6349, Email: sreejact@hotmail.com

6. Y. Reddi Sekhara, Research Scholar, Department of Anthropology,

Pondicherry Central University, Pondicherry, India. E-mail:
reddi.sekhara@gmail.com, reddi_sekhara@yahoo.co.in

7. Dr. Vijaya P. Khairkar, Reader, Department of Geography, University

of Pune, Pune, Maharashtra, India E-mail: vpkhairkar@unipune.ernet.in

8. Alvin S. Concha, MD, Research Consultant, Head of Human Resources

and Training Unit, Davao Regional Hospital, Apokon, Tagum City 8100,
The Philippines, Telefax +63844004597, E-mail:
324 Contributors

9. Bindu Ramachandran, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at London School

of Economics, London. Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, Kannur
University Thalasserry Campus. P.O Palayad, PIN 670 661, Kannur
District, Kerala. South India. E-mail:

10. Azmat Rasul, Erasmus Mundus Scholar, University of Amsterdam, the

Netherlands and also Assistant Professor in the Institute of
Communication Studies at the University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan.
E-mail: rasoolazmat@hotmail.com

11. Dr. Rita Afsar, Senior Research Fellow and Head, Human Resources
Research Division, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies(BIDS),
E-17 Agargaon, Sher-E-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka-1207, Bangladesh. Email:
rita@sdnbd.org; rita_afsar@yahoo.com.au

12. Shobana Rajendran, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics and

Statistics, University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya, SRI LANKA. E-mail:

13. Anoma Abhayaratne, Head, Department of Economics and Statistics,

University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya, SRI LANKA. E-mail:

14. Dr. Shyam Bahadur Katuwal, Faculty of Management, Tribhuvan

University, Post Graduate Campus, Biratnagar, Nepal. Shyam Katuwal,
C/O Suman Jha, Pattelnagar, Jogbani -854 328, Dist: Arariya, Bihar, India.
E-mail: skatuwal@bcn.com.np

15. Smita Das Mohanty, Associate Fellow, Dravidian University, P.O.

Kuppam (Andhra Pradesh), India.

16. Eswarappa Kasi, ICSSR Doctoral Fellow (2003-2005), Department of

Anthropology, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad- 500046, Andhra
Pradesh, India. E-mail: kasieswar@gmail.com

17. Ramesh C. Malik, UGC Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Applied
Linguistics & Translation Studies (CALTS), School of Humanities,
University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad- 500046, Andhra Pradesh, India.
E-mail: ramesmalik@gmail.com
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18. Shireen Mirza, PhD Candidate, Department of History, School of

Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, UK. E-mail:

19. Dr. Maguni Charan Behera, Reader, Arunachal Institute of Tribal

Studies, Rajiv Gandhi University, Rono Hills, Itanagar,Arunachal Pradesh,
INDIA - 791 112. E-mail: cranes123@rediffmail.com

20. Dr. G.R. Patil, Associate Professor, Department of Economics,

Karnatak University, Dharwad -580 003, Karnataka, India.

21. Dr. Devesh Kumar Sahoo, Research Associate, Ideosync Media

Combine, 177, Ashoka Enclave III, Sector 35, Faridabad – 121 003,
Haryana, INDIA. E-mail: skdevesh@gmail.com

22. Ms. Ankita Arya, Research Scholar, Department of Anthropology,

University of Delhi, Delhi – 110006, INDIA. E-mail: