Reimagining Identities Language, Form and Resistance in Miyah Poetry from Assam

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Udita Banerjee


Miyah Poetry stands out as one of the most popular emancipatory poetic movements in Modern India. Providing a powerful response to the humanitarian and identity crises, fuelled by the majoritarian politics in Assam, the poetic movement attempts to understand and address the pressing issues, posed by the overwhelming ethno-linguistic conflict in the state and its various serious implications in the form of forced eviction, displacement, and 'doubtful' citizenship. Rooted in the age-old conflict between the East Bengal (now Bangladesh) immigrants and the Assamese indigenes, the poetic movement presents a nuanced and persuasive reevaluation of the migrant experiences through its experimental usage of forms, unique modes of expression, and unconventional linguistic structures. And, in doing so, it challenges the preconceived notions, disrupts the established narratives, and unveils the layers of complexities lying beneath the lived reality of the Miyahs, the peasant migrant community, who migrated from East Bengal (now Bangladesh) to the Indian state of Assam during the British Raj in India. Similar to many Modernist and Postmodernist writers who broke free from old forms and techniques and abandoned traditional rhyme schemes to write in free verse, the Miyah poets use language, form, and words to bring into light different modes of representation and resistance shown by the migrant community from time to time. Challenging the dominant grand narratives of Assam, the poets put forth the voices of the marginalised ‘other’ and create a sense of increased visibility and individualism for those who were hitherto unseen and unheard. Their poetry celebrates the fragmented, subaltern imaginings (for example, by experimenting with words like char-chapori, Miyah or the use of metonymy like lungi that were originally directed as slang to the Muslim peasant migrants in Assam).

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Author Biography

Udita Banerjee, IIT Gandhinagar

Udita Banerjee is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Gandhinagar.