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Entre mobilité et sédentarité : les Mising, « peuple du fleuve », face à l'endiguement du Brahmapoutre (Assam, Inde du Nord-Est)

Abstract : Natural disasters in Northeast India and in the rest of the world regularly attract media’s attention. Besides an emergency response to these events, it is necessary to distance oneself from the disaster in order to acquire a better understanding of the cause of the events and the coping strategies adopted by the population. Following on an interdisciplinary approach combining disciplines such as hydro-geomorphology, eco-anthropology and political ecology, this thesis sheds new light on the dynamics of the Brahmaputra River, the socio-environmental interactions and risk management in an area where few studies have been conducted. In Assam, every year during the monsoon, the level of the Brahmaputra River rises and overflows into the floodplain, covering sandy land and carrying fertile silts. In this densely populated area, the Mising tribe - a group from the eastern Himalayas, a scheduled tribe of Assam - has for long time managed to adapt its way of life to this dynamic environment. The Misings practise several types of rice cultivation; use different fishing techniques and move their villages according to the flow of the braided river’s channels. However, in 1950, a major earthquake brought about important modifications in the river’s hydrosystem, seriously upsetting this fragile socio-ecological system. Embankments have been built and land has been administrated on the south bank of the Brahmaputra since the twelfth century to control the river and to establish territories. But since 1954, the State of Assam has extended the embankments on both sides of the river. These infrastructures have encouraged farming communities to settle on these new protected lands, forcing them to respect cadastral boundaries. However, since 1988, breaches in the embankment have frequently led to flash floods, while erosion has caused land belonging to several villages in Majuli, Bokakhat and Dhakuakhana subdivisions, which are discussed in this thesis, to be washed away. The main objective of this thesis is to demonstrate — using examples from these three territories — how river engineering and rigid administrative boundaries have led to a social and environmental crisis that leaves the Misings no option but to adjust their agricultural practices and to adopt various strategies to negotiate their space on Assamese land and within Assamese society. Thus, in Bokakhat, the Misings negotiate their right to access resources with the Kaziranga National Park authorities; in Majuli, they work as farmers for Vaishnavite religious institutions and Assamese landowners; in Dhakuakhana, some of them take shelter illegally on portions of the embankment in the hope that their land will be restored to them, while others choose to migrate. In these distinct socio-economical conditions, they are divided into those who are assimilated into Assamese society through Vaishnavite cults, those who have converted to Christianity, which is gaining a foothold in the globalized world, and those who defend their tribal identity and who are reviving ancient faith. Finally, Mising political organizations are claiming to the State of Assam and to Delhi for more territorial autonomy. This would be a difficult undertaking as their villages are scattered among the other communities of Assam. To what extent these strategies will help the Misings to maintain their adaptability in a changing environment?
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Submitted on : Thursday, April 9, 2015 - 12:04:01 PM
Last modification on : Sunday, June 26, 2022 - 12:08:44 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Friday, July 10, 2015 - 10:05:53 AM


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  • HAL Id : tel-01139754, version 1


Émilie Crémin. Entre mobilité et sédentarité : les Mising, « peuple du fleuve », face à l'endiguement du Brahmapoutre (Assam, Inde du Nord-Est). Milieux et Changements globaux. Université Paris 8 Vincennes Saint-Denis, 2014. Français. ⟨tel-01139754⟩



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