The Scheduled Castes and Schedule
Tribes Amendment Act, 1976 specifies 14 tribes in the two Autonomous Hill
Districts viz. Karbi-Anglong and the North Cachar Hills and nine in the plains
districts of Assam as Scheduled tribes.
Numerically, the Bodo-Kacharies are the
largest group among the plains tribes.
Besides the above mentioned tribes, the Nepalis, the ex-tea garden labourers, the Muslims - both
Assamese and Bengali, the Hindu Bengalis, the Hindu Assamese, the Buddhists have been living
in this region since the coming of the British. Therefore, this region may be
called the cauldron or the melting pot of different races having different
languages and customs.
Long before the arrival of the British,
the population of this region was scanty but after the British took over the
charge of this district, the tea-tribes and the Bengali people had migrated to
this region as labourers and clerks respectively.
Apart from this, owing to
inter-district migration also the population of the region rose up. The local
people particularly the Bodo-Kacharis began to feel that they had been exploited
politically, socially, economically, linguistically and culturally by the
Bodo-Kacharis are numerically the
largest plains tribe of this region. The word, 'Bodo-Kachari' is used to include
the splinter groups like Sarania, Mahalia, Sonowal-Kacharis, Thengals, Brahmas
and the Burmans.
Bodo-Kacharis of Assam belong to
the Tribeto-Burman group of the Indo-Chinese race. Similarly, the other tribes
of Assam belong to the Mongoloid stock expect the Khasis who speak a language of
Monkhomer group of Australia. The Rabhas, the Garos, the Koches, the Tiwas- all
belong to the Mongoloid stock. The Assamese call them Kacharis and they are
known as Meches in Bengal..
The word 'Bodo' has been
the word 'Bod' which means Tibet. Most probably, the people of this region
entered this region through Bhutan passes. They are called Kachari because they
lived in the 'Kassar' or below the Himalayan range.
Originally, the Bodos were a
linguistic group and the word 'Bodo' is used in ethnic sense also. The Bodos had
no script of their own. Therefore, their language remained as a dialect but
since 1930 their language has been developing fast. The Govenment of Assam
introduces Bodo M.I.L. in the Higher Secondary level in 1930. The Gauhati
University introduced a Diploma Course in the Bodo language. Recently, Bodo-MIL
was introduced in Cotton College also .
Bodo-Kacharis, the Rabhas,
the Garos, the Hajongs belong to the Mongoloid stock, their morphological
features are different from one another. The Kacharis are the tallest and have a
medium face while the Rabhas have broad face. Besides, the Rabhas and
are much more broad than those of the Kacharis.
The Bodo-Kacharis of Darrang district
are, to some extent different from those of other districts, according to the
famous scholar Rev. S. Endle. as stated by Rev. S. Endle, the Bodo-Kacharis of
Darrang district were not tall or handsome. They almost looked like the Nepalis
who are shorted and stouter. they were fit to work in the field or factory. They
were not capable of performing intellectual activities. They also lacked sharp
memories. But all these views were expressed by Endle nearly a century ago. At
present his views do not hold good as many changes have taken place in many
Secondly, the same author is
of the opinion that the Bodos of this region were very sincere and truthful. In
his book entitled The Kacharis the author records the case of a Bodo Peasant of
Mazikuchi Mouza who killed a co-worker out of rage. He appeared in the Court and
as there was no witness, he was asked by the magistrate to deny his guilt, but the accused refused to do so.
The Bodo society is
patriarchal with some features of matriarchal society. For example, if a man dies
without paying the bride-money, the daughter in absence of the wife or wives can
inherit the property of the deceased.
Unlike the general
caste people, a groom did not go to the bride's house. But now-a-days, this
system has become obsolete. 'Donkharnay Haba' and 'Raikhas Haba' are no more amongst the
Bodo-Kacharis. The non-tribals never agree to offer
a girl for marriage to a boy of different religion but the Bodo-Kacharis
recognise a marriage between Hindu and Christian Communities.
Moreover, as the
Bodo-Kacharis of this region have been living along with the non-tribals
generation after generation, they have been influenced by the non-tribals and
vice-versa. The non-tribals have accepted many ingredients of the Bodo culture.
Bodo marriage continued for seven days and seven nights and so soon as the
marriage ended the family had to face abject poverty. They overspent money for
eating and drinking. But now-a-days the Bodos do not overspend. The marriage
ceremony according to Braha Cult is very simple. The Bodo priest performs the
marriage ceremony reciting mantras written in the Bodo language. In the wedding
ceremony of the Brahmas only tea and sweets are served to the guests.Like the
caste-Hindu people they also arrange feast at night for the groom and his
years ago, there was not much difference between the tribal people and the low
caste Hindus so far as their habits of drinking and eating were concerned. The
tribal people of this region rear pigs, cocks, hens etc. but the Hindus do not.
Of course, piggery and poultry farms are run by the Hindus on commercial
present, both the tribals and non-tribals like fish, meat, roasted fish, dried
fish. The Bodo-Kacharis do not take beef. Even killing or injuring cows is
regarded as on offence in their society. However, some of the Christian Bodos
Both the tribals and the non-tribals accept 'Kharicha', 'Kahudi-Kharali', chewing of 'Tamol
Pan'(beetle nut) with
lime, varieties of creepers such as 'Vadailata', 'Lai', 'Babori', 'Khutora'
the offshots of pumkin and bottlegourd creepered as present the menu.
There is still an aversion to milk among some Bodo-Kacharis. This aversion is
due to the fact that milk has an opposite and harmful reaction if taken along
weakness for rice-beer which is not harmful. This is mainly served at the
time of marriage, at the Bihu festival and at the time of planting and
harvesting. They also take 'Phatika' or distilled rice -beer.
Fifty years ago , the Bodo-Kacharis of this region were very backward. There were no
roads, no schools, no colleges, no hospitals, no drinking water. The people took
water from ponds and rivers. Therefore mortality rate was higher. Malaria
and Kalazar (black fever) were the killer diseases of a area. There were only
two roads - one is Mangaldai- Bhutiasang road the other is Makenzi road. The
British constructed these roads only to approach the tea gardens. There
were no village roads to reach the main roads. The cultivators could not bring
their products of agriculture to market. The village 'Mahajans' (merchants/landlords), who
are mainly outsiders purchase their goods at a throw-away price.
The Bodo women are generally illiterate. But they are very good weavers. They still make
'Gamocha' (sort of Towel), 'Urnai' etc. in their handlooms. At present the literacy
percentage of Bodo women is increasing.
independence, the number of Lower primary Schools stand at 226. There are
4 colleges, 6 Higher Secondary Schools in the Sub-division of Udalguri. Though
the numbers of qualified Bodos has, no doubt, increased but for want of job
opportunities they have become frustrated and rebellious.
after the Fifth Five year Plan both the Central and State. Governments have laid
much emphasis on the development of the tribal people. An integrated development project was opened at Udalguri to accelerate thebdevelopment of the tribal
people. The Tribal Development Authority is there at the State level to extend
financial assistance to the tribal people. Apart from these, tribal sub-plans
have been envisaged for the development of the tribal people.
people of this region have been given security in connection with their land.
Previously, one could easily purchase tribal land and got the mutation of land.
But at present, the Government of Assam has made the original Act of Land
Revenue Regulation of 1886 (amended by Gopinath Bordoloi's Ministry) more
strict by another important. Now, non-tribals cannot purchase land from
tribal people without the permission of the Deputy Commissioner. Similarly,
tribal people also cannot sell land to non-tribal people without the permission
of the Deputy Commissioner. These strict rules were necessitated to protect the
tribals from the onslaught of the non-tribals. During last 30 years, one third
of the tribal land was transferred to non-tribals. The non-tribal both Assamese
and non-Assamese managed to acquire tribal land by different means.
the relentless demographic pressure created by large-scale and continuing
immigration has depressed the rural economy of the region. Therefore, it has
identified the twin problems of poverty and unemployment.
is no denying the fact that in spite of different schemes envisaged for the
development of the tribal people, the tribal people of this region have not yet
made satisfactory progress. In this entire area, there are six tribal doctors,
one engineer, two officers of ACS rank, a few lecturers and a few government
employees of third grade.
political consciousness of the tribal people of this region arose during the
British rule. It was Rabi Ram Kachari from Harisinga who become the first tribal
MLA of this region. He is well known for his courage. After him, seven persons became MLAs from this community.
Another important tribe of this
region is the Rabhas who also belong to the Mangoloid stock. they also had come
down from the Himalayan range. A batch of them entered the district of
and settled down there. another batch of them settled down in the undivided
According to Kalaguru Bishnu
Prasad Rabha, the original name of the Rabhas was Koss or Koch and they had
spoken the Koch language. On the other hand, Dr. Birichi Kr. Baruah is of the
opinion that the 'Rabhas constitute a section of the major ethnic group
known as the Bodo people who form a substantial portion of the Assamese
According to Major Playfair, the
resemblance between the Garos and the Rabhas is so great that the two communities
constitute the same group.
Bodos, the Rabhas of
Darrang are not bilingual. they do not know Rabha language. they speak Assamese.
According to the Census Report of 1971 the population of the Rabhas of Darrang
is 18,000 only.
According to Rev. S Endle, there
is a slight different between the Rabhas and Bodos of Darrang district. The
Rabhas consider themselves slightly superior to the Bodos. A hundred years ago,
if a Rabha boy married a Bodo girl, the groom had to arrange a feast to satisfy
the members of his 'Khel' (Clan). There are 11 kinds of Rabhas but only Pati
Totla Rabha are said to have been living in Darrang district.
The Madahis are also a branch of
the Rabhas. They constitute a micro-minority because some of them identify
themselves as Madahi Koches. Like the Rabhas, they also speak Assamese. But the
Madahis have been already recongnised as Scheduled Tribe.
The Saranias who constitute a
splinter group of the Bodo-Kacharis do not know Bodo language. All
tribal but all Saranias are not Bodo-Kacharis. Some
Rabhas also became Sarania in this region by taking 'Saran' from the Goswamis
and Mahantas. In Upper Assam, Tiwas and Chutias were converted to Hinduism by
this process. when a tribal takes Saran, he has to discard certain of his old
habits, adopts Hindu usage and becomes a Sarania.
The rapid progress of
proselytisation took place between 1650 and 1800. Many well-to-do
Kamrup and Darrang district were promoted to the Koch. In fact, the Saranias
were promoted to the Madahis and the Madahis were promoted to the 'Saru'
after some generations, the 'Saru' Koch could become a 'Bor'
The Koches who have
been living in this region along with the Bodos also belong to the Mongoloid
stock. The great Koch king Maharaj Naranarayan has been described by the great
scholar S.P. Chatterjee as a great Bodo king.
The Koches have
also similarities with the and the Koches of
Goalpara district resemble the Bodo-Kacharisso much so that it is difficult to separate them from each other.
Koches stand next to the 'Kewt' in the caste Hindu hierarchy, they are described
as semi-Hindu tribe by Rev. S. Endle.
Recently, the Government of India introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha to
recognise the Koch-Rajbongshi as Scheduled Tribe but the bill is hanging in balance.
There are seven kinds of Koches in Assam and the aristocratic Koches are
conspicuous by their appearance. According to a survey, population of the
Koch-Rajbongshi of Udalguri sub-division is 30,000 only.
Another group which deserves special mention is the tea garden community. During
the second half of the Nineteenth Century, when the British started tea
cultivation on a large scale in Assam, they were faced with the problem of
dearth of labour. Hence, they brought in people from other parts of the country
-from Orissa and Bihar and from as far as Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
These people ultimately settled down in the State, and successive generations
not only intermingled among themselves but also assimilated much of the Assamese
culture to develop a lifestyle of their own. Some of them left the tea estates
and found other occupations. Today, with their attractive dances (Jhumur) and
songs, and their close rapport with the tea plant, they have a distinct culture
of their own.