Even a cursory glance at the Brahmaputra Valley’s history would reveal the broad process of integration and disintegration that had occurred in the society of this region. In the remote past periodic migration had resulted in the formation of small communities which had remained insulated and developed individually from one another. It had been during six hundred years long reign of the Ahom dynasty that the pre-colonial Assamese nation was born, with synthesis of the disparate ethnic entities and the evolution of a distinct Assamese nationalist identity. Greater political and cultural intercourse, intermarriages and other social exchanges between tribes ultimately broke racial and cultural barriers and imbued a solidarity and nationalistic spirit to the people. The dissolution of this solidarity began happening during the colonial period. The British encouraged fissiparous tendencies through their divide and rule policy, and used the nascent middle-class to act as a buffer between themselves and the tribal masses. To great extent tribal communities, the biggest component of Assamese race, were not touched by social advancements. In the post-independence period, rather than try to reverse the fragmentation process of Assamese society, our political leadership continued the divide and rule policy. The result has been that the dream of creating one homogenized greater Assamese race has been lost and the fact that today each tribal and non-tribal community has its own literary body testifies to the fragmentation that has occurred.
It is obvious that, in order to confront the socio-cultural and demographic assault from bigger groups, the tribal and non-tribal literary organizations of Assam have to work together on a common platform if they are to survive. It is in such a context that the initiative taken by the Asam Sahitya Sabha to organize an interactive programme with tribal literary organizations of the State must be lauded. As reported in the media representatives of the Asam Sahitya Sabha got together with those of the Mising, Garo, Khilanjia-Janajatiya, Bodo and Dimasa Sahitya Sabhas to discuss issues faced by them in terms of language and culture. As stated by the Asam Sahitya Sabha president Kuladhar Saikia, his organization was interested in working towards the development of languages and cultures of different indigenous communities of the State, and representative of the attending Sabhas made valuable suggestions as to how such an objective might be attained. A charter of demands was adopted by the gathering, which included, among other measures, a call to the State Government to set up a central library with state-of-the-art facilities for preserving books published in different languages, improvement of infrastructure of mother-tongue medium schools of the State and preservation of traditional knowledge possessed by different indigenous communities of Assam. Given the reality that the need to work unitedly by the communities has become exigent, the Asam Sahitya Sabha must be congratulated for this initiative.