A certain book titled, ‘Niti Shiksha-2’, taught to students of Dhemaji in Assam Jatiya Bidyalaya contains a certain paragraph, which not only maligns the image of tribe but also deeply insults them. The book written by a certain Purendra Prasad Saikia, has a chapter which describes a non-existent saying. It reads
(Misings are pigs, and Pigs are Misings. The author goes on to write, ‘that even though the slogan seems hurtful, it has some significance. The Misings rear pigs and during rituals, offer them as sacrifices. When the pig is about to die, the pig shout out ‘Don’t kill me, don’t kill me’. And then the pig open its eyes wide open and looks at the killer and curses the man ‘you are killing me, I shall gain rebirth as a Man and you shall be reborn as a pig. And then I shall be the one killing you’.)
This letter is a response to the author and the school for such blatant misrepresentation and insulting comments…!!!
Dear ‘Moral guardians’ of Assamese Culture,
Let me break this news to you. There was never a saying called “Misings are Pigs and Pigs are Misings’. Nor will there ever be. I know this might be disappointing to you, but this is the truth.
Thus, I find you dedicating an entirely demeaning paragraph on the phrase is not only demeaning but also utterly derogatory, forget the fact that it is entirely false. As you seem to not understand the history of Assam nor the tribes, let me explain a few things to you:-
1) Sacrifices have always been a part of Assam History:-
I am sure you would not know, but sacrifices have always been part of the Assam society. It’s not limited to tribes. The Ahom kings regularly offered sacrifices to the Gods. They believed that such offerings would enable them to win more kingdoms and also keep them safe.
The tribes, similarly, offer sacrifices to Gods and the departed souls with a belief that it will keep the community safe from all evils. Thus, rather than explaining the true meaning of sacrifice and limiting it to the killings of pigs and ridiculing a tradition, highlights nothing but the ignorance of the writer.
2) Ridiculing culture is not moral:-
The chapter which describes the phrase, ironically forms a part of the book Niti Shiksha (loosely translated into moral science). However, the writer ridiculing a culture himself ends up engaging in an otherwise ‘immoral act’. The writer seems to understand what the pig says which I find not only intriguing but strange. Such a description not only allows students to be taught filth but also fills the young minds of students with concepts like ‘curses’ ‘swear’ ‘rebirth’ etc. without any scientific explanation. How can we expect them to grow up as bright rational inviduals who would question such existing moralities in the society? Thus, it seems as an attempt to co-opt them to the already existing ‘moralistic structures’. Rather than using Sacrifices of pigs to pass a moralistic point, it would have been more fruitful if the writer would have tried to engage a discussion on the concept of sacrifice itself, after explaining the facts.
3) It’s against the ethics of Assam Jatiya Vidyalaya: –
The Assam Jatiya Vidyalaya, established in 1994, claims that education through the mother tongue is the best form of education one can get. It highlights that the Assamese culture diversity should be taught to kids in their vernacular medium so that a broader outlook is formed among the students. While we can debate on its motto, that is for sure that distorting cultural facts or for that matter inventing phrases to demean a certain community does not reflect right on the school. Nor will it lead to students with broader outlook.
4) Pigs have always been essential part of the Misings: –
It might surprise you, but Pigs have always been an essential part of Mising economy and livelihood. You might not know, but the Misings actually migrated to the plains of Assam from the Hills and were essentially poor. Thus, domesticating pets like Pigs, chicken, lambs, cows etc. were not only the source of income for them but also many times source of their food. As they were included in the Hindu religious fold, post sanskritization, they did not eat beef, but chicken and Pigs continued to form a part of Mising tribes food plate. I am sure it needs no highlighting here eating of pork and chicken is not limited to the Misings but is a part of Assamese food culture.
As highlighted above, such descriptions are not only unwelcome but might lead to further alienation of the tribes like the Misings. I therefore, request you to not to spread such lies. I am not interested in your morality project. I shall rather continue questioning such blatant distortion of facts and such forced moral ethics.
The writer is a Masters graduate from Tata Institute of Social Sciences of Mumbai and is currently pursuing his PhD in Sociology. He is available at firstname.lastname@example.org, if at all the folks at Assam Jatiya Vidyalaya or Purendra Prasad Saikia would like to know more about Mising history.