Literature from North East India

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Literature from North East India (Assamese: উত্তৰ-পূৱ ভাৰতৰ সাহিত্য) refers to literature of in the languages of North East India and the body of work by English-language writers from this region. North-East India is an under-represented region in many ways.[1] The troubled political climate, the beautiful landscape and the confluence of various ethnic groups perhaps have given rise to a body of writing that is completely different from Indian English Literature.[2] North-East India was a colonial construct and continues to be one by virtue of having a historically difficult relationship with the Indian nation state.[3]

Debates surrounding the term North East[edit]

However, there is no single definition of the phrase Literature from North East India as the diversity of this region defies easy definition. Broadly, this phrase refers mostly to English writing but may also include Assamese literature and writings in the Meitei language, that have long traditions of writing and stand on their own with a glorious legacy.

Many writers such as Harekrishna Deka[4] and Temsula Ao have expressed discomfit with the term North-East India and North Eastern writers, respectively.[5] A section also strongly argue that the term is colonial and hence, an artificial construct. There is nothing called a "north-easterner" and the concept is purely geographical; it tends to homogenise an extremely heterogeneous cluster of people as there exists no common history and heritage of the people in North-East India[6] though formerly the current states of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Meghalaya used to be constituent states of former British Assam.

Recent interest[edit]

Since 2008, national magazines and journals have taken unprecedented amount of interest in writings from this region. Several national news magazines have featured special issues on writers from North East.[7][8] The profusion of literature from North East has also generated immense interest within and outside the nation.

Mitra Phukan, Bhabananda Deka, Dhruba Hazarika, Temsula Ao, Mamang Dai, Arnab Jan Deka, Jahnavi Barua, Anjum Hasan, Siddhartha Deb, Robin S Ngangom, Kynpham Sing Nongkymrih, Desmond L Kharmawphlang, Nabina Das, Uddipana Goswami, Nitoo Das, Manash Pratim Borah and Ananya S Guha are some English-language writers from North East. Assamese writers and Indian top literary award Jnanpith winners Dr Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya, who was also President of India's top literary body Sahitya Academy, and Dr Indira Goswami alias Mamoni Raisom Goswami were the most famous literary figures to emerge from this region. 'NELive' selected Dr Mamoni Raisom Goswami together with Homen Borgohain, Nirupama Borgohain, Mitra Phukan and Arnab Jan Deka as the '5 Contemporary Writers from Assam who made it big outside the state' and also illustrated their individual literary credentials.[9]

Critical responses[edit]

The younger generation of English-language writers From North-East India include Jahnavi Barua,[10] Arnab Jan Deka,[9][11][12] Siddhartha Sarma,[13] Nitoo Das,[14] Janice Pariat, Nabanita Kanungo, Mona Zote, Ankush Saikia[15][circular reference], Bijoya Sawian and Uddipana Goswami.[16] These writers express strong political awareness by addressing issues such as identity and ethnicity; a few hailing from Assam interrogate the violence that has ravaged their home state Assam due to the tussle between the secessionist militant group ULFA and the Indian government in complex ways. Some of them like Arnab Jan Deka delved deep into the spiritual and intellectual heritage along the Brahmaputra valley, and also highlighted its environmental fragility.[12][17][18][19]

Discussing the work of the new generation of writers from North East, Preeti Gill says, "Many younger writers continue to grapple with these issues. Having grown up in the shadow of the gun, their desire to analyse the common people’s reaction to insurgency is as strong as ever."

Literary journal Pratilipi adumbrates the issues that concern writers from North East India in its special feature, "It is tragic that the long-running unrest, violence and terrorism in the North-East has remained a mere digression in the mainstream of the Indian nation-state – ironically, even in the mainstream arts that otherwise come across as very charged and political. The poems by Uddipana Goswami and six poets translated by Tarun Bhartiya, along with stories by Mitra Phukan and Srutimala Duara serve as a reminder that the "North-East" is not a geographical, political unit, but a place of many languages and cultures.".[20]

The internationally acclaimed iconic journal Art of Living Guide edited by Spain-based novelist, screenwriter and philanthropist Claire Elizabeth Terry, which carries regular columns by several Nobel laureates like Mikhail Gorbachev, Dalai Lama and Camilo Jose Sela, published a special essay of popular British poet and environmentalist Tess Joyce on the aesthetics of philosophical realms and lifestyle on the Banks of Brahmaputra in Assam by highlighting Arnab Jan Deka's book of poetry A Stanza of Sunlight on the Banks of Brahmaputra, which says, "Written during his high school years, Arnab’s poems plunged the reader into further depths – into the midst of the universe itself and the riverine landscapes only served to increase the levels of complexity the narrator saw; we are left to realise that no-one is big enough to hold the universe and so: "Yet with no empty space left on the boat/the Universe sat quietly beside the reeds." Imbibed with a sense of awe, the narrator’s desires for explanations disappeared – it was the poetry that satisfied him, hence: "On the bald head of the dusty earth/Ashwaklanta bestowed a stanza of sunlight."[12] A more extensive version of this literary masterpiece on literature from North East India also found a place of pride in the London-based research journal Luit to Thames.[21] In the prestigious Delhi-based journal The Book Review, critic and poet N Kalyani admires Arnab Jan Deka's poetry from the same book, "And in These Small Thoughts Deka reveals what Umananda is, 'A tiny river island amidst the mighty river Brahmaputra near the prehistoric city of Pragjyotishpur, known by its modern name Guwahati now,' in a way that brings the image so alive: The tiny rivulet reflect a myriad of colour/The distant Umananda--a majestic aloof lily pad/The blackish riverbank with flowing wind/The cities dreaming of fleeced nomad/Besides the tidal marina."[22]

List of writers from North-East India[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Strength and Public Presence of Women in Northeast India
  2. ^ ‘Political’ Literature of India’s North East Frontier, by Manjeet Barua
  3. ^ ‘Political’ Literature of India’s North East Frontier' by Manjeet Barua
  4. ^ "Blogger". Retrieved 22 March 2015.
  5. ^ Voices from North East, Sentinel
  6. ^ "Northeast" Identity: an Artificial Construct
  7. ^ Singing in the Dark Times, Tehelka, North East Writers special issue Archived 2012-09-12 at
  8. ^ Voices from North-East, Pratilipi
  9. ^ a b Ghosh, Arnab. "Top 5 Contemporary Writers from Assam". NE Live. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  10. ^ Author Profile, Penguin India
  11. ^ "Poetry by the Banks". The Assam Tribune (Volume 76 No. 352). 27 December 2014. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  12. ^ a b c "Poetry and the Brahmaputra: Flowing Back to Nature". The Art of Living Guide. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  13. ^ "14 - November - 2009 - Utpal Borpujari". Retrieved 22 March 2015.
  14. ^ Poetry International
  15. ^ Ankush Saikia
  16. ^ Muse India
  17. ^ Tribune, The Assam (18 April 2015). "The Connecting Link". Assam Tribune Private Limited. Archived from the original on 18 April 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  18. ^ Choudhury, Anwesha Roy. "New generation of storytellers". NE Live. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  19. ^ ‘Younger Writers Have A Pan-Indian Sensibility But Return To Their Roots’, Interview with Jahnavi Barua, Tehelka
  20. ^ "Pratilipi" फीचर्स / Features " उत्तर-पूर्व की आवाज़ / Voices From the North-East". Retrieved 22 March 2015.
  21. ^ Joyce, Tess (February 2014). "Poetry & the Brahmaputra : Flowing Back to Nature". Luit to Thames. 14 (February 2014).
  22. ^ Kalyani, N. (April 2014). "Poetry for Rhyme and Reason". The Book Review. XXXVIII (4). Archived from the original on 26 June 2015. Retrieved 29 December 2014.

External links[edit]