Director: Mriganka Madhukaillya, Sonal Jain
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Summary: The aim of this paper is to analyse three competing narratives of the cause of the Nellie massacre of 1983: the views of the victims, the attackers and the movement leaders. The well-known Nellie incident took place during the anti-foreigners movement led by the AASU and the AAGSP from 1979 to 1985. The incident was directly triggered by the central governments decision to hold the state legislative assembly election, which invited a boycott by the movement leaders. As a result of the confrontations between the people who supported and opposed the implementation of the election, there were numerous violent incidents among communities during election period in the early part of 1983. The worst incident was the Nellie massacre, in which more than 1000 people were killed in one-day attack.
Until now, it has been said that the land deprivation by the Muslim
migrants from East Bengal region is the cause of the large-scale killing.
The plains tribe called the Tiwas traditionally inhabited in the Nellie area, but after the British occupation they were marginalised. The top leaders of the Assam movement denied their involvement in the massacre, and implicitly suggested that it was initiated by the Tiwas. However, interviews with Muslim migrants and Tiwas in this area reveal that both of them consider the movement and the election as a prime cause of the massacre, and, these groups denied that there are disputes over land between them.
It can be said that the interpretations of collective violence (such as a large-scale killing, riot or massacre) are open to various narratives by people who directly or indirectly experience them. And from these various narratives, people choose one interpretation that suits them most, or choose the one that is least harmful to them.
Makiko Kimura is a Japanese historian, her doctoral dissertation at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
In November 2004, the Assam government stopped the Japanese scholar Makiko Kimura from giving a talk titled "Memories of a Massacre: Competing narratives of the Nellie incident". The lecture had to be called off 30 minutes before it was scheduled to start after the State Home Commissioner and Secretary faxed a letter to the OKD Institute of Social Change in Guwahati, asking it not to hold the lecture "without consultation with the state government".