Guwahati: Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s attempt to blame Verrier Elwin for the problems in the Northeast is a ‘cynical and malevolent’ attempt to shift the conversation away from the BJP’s own failures, according to historian Dr Ramchandra Guha.
In an article published in The Telegraph on August 28, 2023, titled “Defaming the dead”, Guha points out that the Assam CM’s claims about Verrier Elwin are “false and misleading”.
Guha, who is the author of a biography of Elwin, titled “Savaging the Civilized,” said that the claims about Elwin are false and have been spread by the Hindu Right.
Chief Minister Sarma in a tweet wrote, “Pandit Nehru appointed European born, Mr Verrier Elwin to advise the Government on North Eastern affairs. Cong[ress]’s blunders began from there.”
The eminent historian further points out that Elwin was an adviser only to NEFA (now Arunachal Pradesh), and had no role to play in the administration of any other part of the Northeast.
He also notes that Elwin’s work and legacy remain of enduring importance, and that he was a respected scholar and public servant who dedicated his life to improving the lives of tribal people.
Guha said that the Hindu Right is spreading these false claims about Elwin in order to deflect attention from the current violence in Manipur. He said that the responsibility for the violence in Manipur lies with the BJP, which is currently in power in the state and at the Centre.
Guha concludes by saying that the Assam CM’s attempt to blame Verrier Elwin for the problems in the Northeast is a “dishonest ploy” to deflect attention from the BJP’s own failures.
The Assam CM’s remarks have been met with widespread criticism from the people of the Northeast.
Verrier Elwin was a British-born Indian anthropologist, ethnologist and tribal activist, who made a significant contribution to India.
His studies of tribal life in central India are both beautifully written and sensitively observed.
His book, A Philosophy for NEFA, remains a handy guide on how to improve the material life of tribals without dispossessing them of their land and forests or making them ashamed of their culture.
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