Food as Commodity and Its Evolution in North-east India

By: Jagdish Dawar  

The Mizo area was historically a liminal and fluid space defined by the persistence of fluid notions of sovereignty and territoriality. It was annexed by the British in 1890. The sources for the production of food for the pre-colonial Mizos were: agricultural practices, Forest and, the fishing. However, in this paper we would be taking up taking up only agricultural practices and food production. The Mizos had been practising shifting cultivation, variously known as rotational bush-fallow agriculture, swidden cultivation, slash-and-burn cultivation, Jhumming for food production. However, this method of cultivation came under attack during the colonial times. In the writing of the British officials the Mizos have been represented as head-taking savages, uncivilized and their method of agriculture was perceived to be primitive. The colonial officials as well the missionaries aimed to ‘"mprove’"the moral and manners of the Mizos. Teaching modern methods of agriculture formed an important aspect of this discourse. Permanent Wet Rice Cultivativation (WRC) and "terrace" farming was promoted as an alternative to shifting cultivation. However, except some valley areas the Mizos continued to practice shifting cultivation. In the post-colonial Mizoram there was pressure to grow more food and therefore attempts to explore alternative system culminated into New Land Use Policy (NLUP). An attempt has also been made to study the impact of this policy. The Paper is based on archival as well as oral source.

Agriculture, Production, History
Food Production and Sustainability
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Prof. Jagdish Dawar

Professor, Mizoram University, India
Haryana/NCR, India

Jagdish Lal Dawar is Professor in the department of History and Ethnography at Mizoram University in India. He specializes in the intellectual history of modern India; tribal cultures of northeast India; and literature and history. He earned an MA in English Literature from Delhi University in 1975 and an MA in History from Rajasthan University in 1980. In 1984, he received his MPhil from Jawaharlal Nehru University, from where he also received his PhD in 1991. Lal Dawar has over 27 years of teaching experience. He was one of the founding members of the history department at Arunachal University, Itanagar(now rechristened as Rajiv Gandhi University, Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh) and the founder head of the Department of History and Ethnography Mizoram University. He has published a number of articles in regional, national, and international journals. In 2003, he published a book entitled Cultural Identity of Tribes of Northeast India: Movement for Cultural Identity among the Adis of Arunachal Pradesh. Currently, Lal Dawar is interested in the environmental history of northeast India. He was short term visiting fellow at Rachel Carson Center for Environment and society, LMU, Munich in 2011. Presently he has been awarded a major research project ‘ History of Food in North-east India: Mizoram since pre-colonial times’ from University Grants Commission, New Delhi.