Assam Under X-Ray
Amalendu Cuba, Planter Raj to Swarajy People's Publishing House, 1977, republished 1988, Rs. 150.
The writing of this book goes back to the early 1970s when the Government of India was making preparations for the observance of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Indian freedom. The Ministry of Education requested the Indian Council of Historical Research to bring out a series of books on the role of central and state legislatures during the freedom struggle. The Council acceded to the request and assigned the job in relation to Assam to Prof. Guha.
Although thus beginning as a monograph on the role of the Assam state legislature in freedom struggle, the volume provided, says R.S. Sharma in his Foreword, 'valuable background for an understanding of the colonial socio-economic structure. He has discussed the politics of anti-imperialism both in the legislature and outside, and marked shifts within the national movement in economic objectives and political ideas in the context of peasant and labour problems.' (pp. v-vi)
The eleven years that intervened between the dates on which the first and second editions of the volume were brought out—1977-1988— saw Assam in a new light, symbolising the emergence of a movement which threatened the unity of Assam within itself and with the rest of India. That movement threatened to make Assam an area where Indian nationalism is irrelevant. Negating the highly optimistic note struck at the end of the book, i.e., 'little nationalism once more anchored itself on the firm base of great nationalism', the Assamiya ethnic group organising itself in the AASU and the AGP took up cudgels on the one hand against the all-India Centre and on the other against the non-Assamiya communities in Assam itself.
It is the great merit of this volume that, though it concludes with the attainment of Indian freedom and therefore does not describe the sequences that led to the emergence of this movement, the reader can get an idea of the socio-political forces that culminated in the emergence of the AASU-AGP group and its two-fold contradiction— with the Centre and with the non-Assamiya ethnic groups in Assam.