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On the evils of opium eating: Reflections on Nineteenth Century Assamese Literary Reformist Discourse

Keywords: Opium , Assam , Literary , Social Reform

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Abstract:

The article attempts at an understanding of nineteenth century Assamese reformist discourse as upheld by the Assamese creative literature. Acknowledgement of the evils of opium eating also echoed in several literary outpourings of the nineteenth century, which sought to combine entertainment and reform. Facilitating an understanding of the nineteenth century reformist discourse are two Assamese satirical texts by Hemchandra Barua and Dutiram Hazarika. They enable an evaluation of the perception of the Assamese mind in the nineteenth century towards issues of social reform. Both texts reveal a strong sense of antagonism towards those traditions which nurture the perpetration of social practices as opium consumption which, as it was widely upheld by the Christian missionaries, the medical opinion and the social reformers had resulted in both physical and mental degeneration of the people. The idea that opium addiction was synonymous with backwardness and degeneration made the intelligentsia adopt as its agenda the amelioration of the “opium evil.” These texts, resorting to the use of satire, wit and humour, spearheaded an innovative reform agenda.

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