Department of History, Assam University, Silchar-788011, Assam, India Email: email@example.com
This paper examines the colonial representation of tribal raids in the Northeast frontier of India and argues that, rather than being the ‘lawless and predatory habits of the savage hill tribes’, it was an expression of hill politics. The Kukis raided British territory when they discovered that an extension of the colonial boundary threatened their very existence as an independent state-evading population. It traces how the Kukis re-ethnicized themselves in the hills by evolving a system that is state-repellent, protected by a vast strip of forested jungle around their settlements commonly known as the ‘hunting ground’. It locates the ‘raid’ in the context of the difference in the perception of space and territoriality between the colonial state and indigenous polities. Colonial spatial ideology and its hill-valley binary are seen to play a vital role in animating tension on the frontier. The raid is thus understood as the ultimate weapon of resistance against an established state by an independent ‘not-a-state-subject’ people in defence of their autonomy and essentially represents non-state practices against state appropriations. Instead of being ‘unruly’, the raid is seen as a form of organized and premeditated resistance based on the consciousness of the hillmen's lived world order.
* I am grateful to colleagues who shared their critical comments on earlier drafts of this paper, and to the anonymous referees.