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Resisting Early Marriage—Case Study from Tea Gardens of Assam

Abstract

In this paper, we try to construct the dynamics of the lives of unmarried adolescent girls of families living in the tea gardens of Assam through the narratives of Kamala (All persons are anonymized). It describes the sociocultural profile of the “tea tribe” and the multiplicity of their struggles for existence. It also discusses the lives of adolescent girls and their ongoing norms of relationship, marriage and kinship including early marriage, elopement and confinement within the tea community. Tea tribes work mainly in the tea gardens of Assam, and they are part of the larger informal economy and unorganized sector of India. Assam is the biggest producer of tea in India and thus contributions of these people are enormous in the State economy. However, this community has been oppressed for centuries despite their substantial contribution to the State’s tea-growing economy. Being a girl from an underprivileged and so-called lower caste family doubles her vulnerability in society. As a daughter, the girl is expected to follow certain norms such as entering into early marriage, developing expertise in household chores and in tea plucking. However, due to regular intervention of State agencies, and exposure to the outer world, a few people from this community have started opting for better education and aspiring for a respectable life. In this paper, we discuss the historical background of the community as a whole and the process of the development of identity of a girl within this community who faces resistance in all spheres of life.

Keywords

  • Tea tribes
  • Adolescent
  • Early marriage
  • Resistance
  • Affirmative action

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Panchayats are local governance bodies at the village level governed by five persons selected by the villagers themselves.

  2. 2.

    A pattern of marriage in which the couple settles in the husband’s home or community.

  3. 3.

    A type of post-marital residence when a newly married couple resides separately from both the husband’s and wife’s natal households.

  4. 4.

    A residence in the ward or village of the groom’s patrilineal kinsmen.

  5. 5.

    Descent by the male line.

  6. 6.

    When a man comes to stay in the house of his father-in-law.

  7. 7.

    The first author.

  8. 8.

    Storage facility.

  9. 9.

    The Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are official designations given to various groups of historically disadvantaged people in India. The terms are recognised in the Constitution of India. Interestingly, the tea tribes in Assam are STs in their respective original States but in Assam, they are categorised under the Scheduled Caste. There has been a demand from their community for a long time to recognise them as Scheduled Tribes of Assam as well.

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Correspondence to Dipjyoti Konwar .

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Konwar, D., Bhargava, V., Sharma, B. (2017). Resisting Early Marriage—Case Study from Tea Gardens of Assam. In: Chaudhary, N., Hviid, P., Marsico, G., Villadsen, J. (eds) Resistance in Everyday Life. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-3581-4_21

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