Social Scientist. v 2, no. 18-19 (Jan-Feb 1974) p. 59.


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COMMUNICATIONS

Origins of the Assamese Middle Class: A Comment

HIREN Gohain's illuminating article on the Assamese middle class {Social Scientist, Number 13, August 1973) is an attempt to understand the role of the "regional sections of the Indian bourgeoisie (using the word in a broad sense)."1 It is particularly important and useful because it has come in the wake of an upsurge of violent linguistic chauvinism in Assam. While Gohain's efforts are therefore greatly appreciated, we have some differences on a few aspects of his interpretation. These are presented below in the hope that our collective effort may lead to a better understanding of this important class or stratum in a strategic area like Assam at this revolutionary juncture.

Restatement of Gohain^s Stand

Having been unable to check the ruthless march of all-India big capital in its own area of domicile, the Assamese middle class (also called the regional bourgeoisie) has become frustrated and aggrieved.2 But, being of very recent origin and weak, it does not cherish the hope of resisting big capital any more. Rather, it is ready to play a completely subservient role and be content with continued opportunities of exploiting the countryside on the basis of unchanged agrarian production relations.8 Alarmed at the growing demand of the poor peasants for land, the middle class, interested in the maintenance of the agrarian status quo, has thrown itself into the arms of big capital.

At the same time, the 'regional bourgeoisie,' the Assamese middle class, has acquired a grip over the local bureaucratic state apparatus and its finances and has been fattening itself through sheer loot. Through this process of plunder, the middle class has expanded and become affluent in recent times as compared to pre-independence days. "There are some industries in the public sector with scores of Assamese technicians and executives where there was virtually none."4 The result is that this class, "in its intoxication with easy money and nervousness about losing its privileges," is neglecting vital social and economic reforms.

Hence, concludes the author, the key to regional development is no more in the pocket of the 'regional bourgeoisie'; it has been surrendered



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