Dharitri Narzary
  • Workshop

The story of Bodo stole and Kannagi protests

16 January 2020

The story of Bodo stole and Kannagi protest is written by Dharitary Narzary for the session on Day 2: Reading/Writing/Re-writing/Telling/Re-telling using prompts, 20 December 2019. She combined tools of narrativising a personal object, Bodo stole, and re-imagining a text in context of her work/research interest to write her piece. 

In the article, Void and Memory[1] MSSS Pandian, the ends the artilce thus, “[w]hat spirits from the past are resurrected, what memories are invoked, are  as important to the future of the city as the fact that memories contest singular vision for the city.”

The story of installing the statue of Kannagi along with few other writers and scholars who contributed to Tamil language and literature on 2 Dec 1968 by then ruling DMK government to commemorate the golden past of Tamil Nadu instantly made me revisit the small town of Kokrajhar. Until the 1980s, Kokrajhar was a small peaceful but culturally and politically very vibrant  place where a mixed population of  Assamese belonging to different ethnicities, Bengalis, Nepalis and immigrant Marwaries lived together.  It was not at all uncommon to hear Rabindra Sangeet and Bhupen Hazarika’s songs carrying revolutionary spirit every now and then. The place had very progressive but at the same time subversive political culture.

But all these were to change with the creation of the Bodo Territorial Council in 2003, which demarcated parts of western Assam as Bodoland, giving exclusive rights to the Bodo community. To commemorate this achievement, which came after more than a decade long militant struggle costing many lives and generations, the leaders installed statues of martyrs in an enclosed park very close to the main road linking the town with the highway. There are now statues of legendary warriors of the Bodo Kachari clan on strategic locations and entry points to the town. Though the Bodo community is spread across the state of Assam, Kokrajhar, the small peaceful town, became the centre of all activities to resurrect the past and invoke memories, to represent the singular vision of the community, and in the process glossing over the contestations.

The DMK organised protest marches in 1968 against the imposition of Hindi as the language of free India can be paralleled with the way Bodo people protested around the same time against the imposition of Assamese language on the residents of Assam, that was seen as denying cultural rights of the indigenous residents. Though this was happening at a very regional level, the context and fervor are very similar. The protection of language and culture became the objectives and various methods were used to highlight the demanded, including using material objects like this stole, which is so representative of Bodo weaving tradition and identity, just as in the DMK organised protests, the young girls dressed like Kannagi participated.


Peadogogical tools: Narrativising a personal object and re-imagining a text/article in context of work or way of thinking



[1] Pandian, M. S. S. 2005. “Void and memory: story of a statue on Chennai beachfront”. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Vol 6 No. 3, pp. 428-431, DOI: 10.1080/14649370500170118