ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dynamics of Being Rajbanshi

Tribe to Caste and and the Process of ‘Retribalisation’

The transition from tribe to caste has remained a contested phenomenon in India. Many tribal groups had left their religion, culture, language, and traditional practices to elevate their social status in the caste-based hierarchical society. This complex transition is addressed in the context of the Rajbanshi identity, highlighting the intricacies involved. Adopting the frame of “retribalisation” questions the simplistic tribe to caste narrative and reiterates their consistent effort to embrace “generic” roots left in the past to bargain with the wider society.

The author expresses gratitude to the anonymous referee for their suggestions and is indebted to Monirul Hussain of Gauhati University, Guwahati for his comments on the article.

the Process of ‘Retribalisation’

The trajectory of identity formation among the Rajbanshi community illustrates some important attributes of social change in North East India. The community inherits both tribal vis-à-vis caste characteristics that posit them different from many other social groups specifically denoted by tribe/caste category. One of the primary reasons behind the fluid and overlapping nature of the two categories has been their long but incomplete transition from tribal origin to caste hierarchy. Therefore, to specifically locate them in terms of tribe vis-à-vis caste identity, in the strict sense of the term, has not been free from contestations and their status has become a “political issue” over the years. Contextualising these arguments, this article seeks to understand the dyna­mics of Rajbanshi identity considering the tribe vis-à-vis caste dichotomy and their eventual process of “retribalisation”1 in the recent past. Furthermore, an endeavour has also been made to ­locate them within the two categories and to address the intricacies involved.

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Updated On : 20th Sep, 2022
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