'Guha opposed atrocities and excesses'

Manorama Sharma, former head of history at North Eastern Hill University, was closely associated with historian Amalendu Guha. She is now head of the gender cell of the Institute of Social Change and Regional Development in Guwahati. In an interview with Daulat Rahman, Sharma spoke on the various facets of Guha's life.

  • Published 8.05.15
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Manorama Sharma

Interview

Manorama Sharma, former head of history at North Eastern Hill University, was closely associated with historian Amalendu Guha. She is now head of the gender cell of the Institute of Social Change and Regional Development in Guwahati. In an interview with Daulat Rahman, Sharma spoke on the various facets of Guha's life.

The Telegraph: What according to you is Amalendu Guha's significance in the present context in Assam?

Manorama Sharma: I view him as a leading social scientist and historian of Northeast India.

When social analysis is guided by narrow communal, ethnic or religious interests, it results in distortion of history and the trend Guha has set seeks to counter such tendencies.

TT: As a historian what do you think of Guha's contribution?

MS: Guha introduced a new trend in the existing historiographical traditions of the region. The nationalist historiographic ideologies and the Rankean type of empiricism have largely dominated history writing in Assam.

Guha introduced the method of historical analysis, which uses the tools of historical materialism (the fundamentals of Marxist historiography) to the understanding of historical processes in Assam. This has resulted in introducing young historians of the region to a kind of historical analysis, which brought in the importance of focusing on basic material conditions of the society. His two major works, Planter Raj to Swaraj and Medieval and Early Colonial Assam, have shown how one can proceed towards explaining the processes of historical change in the society and economy of Assam. He introduced a trend of historical analysis, which can lead to a far more objective understanding of society. This is a very important contribution to history writing particularly in today's situation where the threat of communal misuse of history is very imminent.

TT: Guha, however, opposed the historic Assam Agitation...

MS: There were many who supported the movement, many who gave it critical support and many who opposed it. Guha subscribed to the views of a political party (the CPI) which at that point of time vehemently protested against the agitation.

TT: What is your take on the Leftist movement in Assam and Guha's place in it?

MS: This question requires a broader understanding of the history of Assam against the backdrop of which the Leftist movement as a whole has to be seen. It requires a stating of the histories of the RCPI, CPI, CPM and CPI (M-L). I know that Guha was associated with the IPTA movement but beyond that I cannot say how actively he was a part of the movement except of course at the intellectual level. One major impact of the movement though has been on the intellectual front where it led to the trend of social research, which seeks to understand society in terms of changes that come about because of the changes in material conditions of the society. This attempt at Marxian analysis of history and society is helpful in a situation that exists in Assam today where the ethnic and other conflicting situations can very often lead to emotional and very subjective understanding of history.

TT: Axomar Bongali (a Bengali from Assam) and Axomiya Bongali (an Assamese Bengali)... Where is Guha's place in that context considering that he believed that the Assam Movement was primarily an anti-Bengali movement?

MS: I would not like to assess a historian only in terms of his linguistic affinities or identities. I think we should remember Guha has written very widely in Axomiya, not only prose but also poetry.

He was an Axomiya Bongali who definitely opposed all kinds of atrocities and excesses of the Assam Movement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People pay their last tribute to Amalendu Guha in Guwahati on Thursday

 

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