NEIHA (North East India History Association) and Me

H. Sudhir *

Manipur University MU logo

Following its rich tradition, historians and scholars from across the northeast region and beyond (rest and outside of India) once again come together at Imphal for the 34th Annual Session of the North East India History Association (popularly known as in short, NEIHA), from November 11 to 13, 2013.

Attended by over 300 delegates, the three-day Annual Session held under the aegis of the Manipur University re-opens the vistas of academic exercises for a galaxy of young and senior learned scholars committed to search into the northeast history. This is the fourth time that the annual NEIHA session is being hosted by the Manipur University.

From its inception in 1979, NEIHA, one of the well organized academic bodies of historians in the country, has not only been the largest but also widely popular academic body of professional historians and scholars in this region with a long popularity far and wide having a motto of promoting a scientific historical research of 'northeast India'. It holds annual session en-route changing its avenues in different universities and colleges in the region and publishes proceedings volumes.

I must confidently say that I have always been one among those who are always abreast with the 'academic' writings of the annual NEIHA proceedings, endowment lectures and other occasional papers.

To me, the beauty is not just about enrolling myself as a member of the fraternity, but knowing about the prolific scholars not physically but academically through their stimulating papers in the proceedings.

Kudos to the founding pioneers and the succeeding generation of the NEIHA for the stand they take not simply to promote but also to sustain a smooth historical tradition in the region.

Although NEIHA sounds like a group of historians, its elegance certainly lies in its broad based character where its door is wide opened for all transcending the stereotyped disciplinary demarcations. This has unquestionably made the NEIHA deliberations not only 'multi-disciplinary' but also helped us to know its history much more clearly in a creative way.

Recalling my JNU days as a research scholar, memory still runs fresh how the research papers in the annual NEIHA proceedings helped to shape the academic enquiry of young scholars like me who never had northeast history paper in the college and university days. Our time concurred coincidently with the 'academic flow' of that time when the professional historians began to think of sojourning into the terrains of contemporary Indian history with a thought that the Modern Indian history if not 'saturated' at all has reached to a level of 'satisfaction'.

There carries two indicative meanings for 'contemporary history'. While it is being conceived 'generally' as a post-colonial historical pursuit, it, on the other side, 'intrinsically' defines how the overall dominant mainstream historical understanding has not been just juxtaposed but comprehensively enriched by the 'peripheral research'.

This emergent shift of historical quest instigated us to dwell on the richness of regional northeast history. Nonetheless, this instilling was not totally free from 'practical research'. There encountered hurdles in this rugged journey of research. Our training on the heavily based archival research undoubtedly has its genuine limitation in the case of historical research of this region precisely because of the limited nature of archival sources herein.

For researching of this region, therefore, one begins to think of exploring meaningfully feasible alternative historical method. In this setting, modern researchers began adopting ethno-history, oral history, folklore, ethnology and so forth, etc. in their historical research.

However, we should in the meanwhile also think clearly beforehand the theoretical conceptions of all these methods and how they may be scientifically translated into practice of research. There lies the deep crux of an explicit historical research. This has almost been the challenge of young ones like me in those days.

In this situation, there has come a rescuer setting me free from such a spiral clutch and that was nothing but the valuable NEIHA volumes which not only paved the foundation of my research construction but also heightened a strong sense of courage. I continue to cherish the value so much till today.

At the backdrop of this current session, let me share some of my views. There has been an earnest and honest expectation from the young scholars to listen to the papers of more senior historians. It will be certainly a great learning for all to a substantially enhanced historical knowledge. There is a hope for analytical 'problem oriented papers' rather than simply conventionally 'descriptive'.

Another crucial anxiety that revolves around the young minds is API calculation and their papers in the 'ISSN/ISBN-minus' NEIHA proceedings volumes. Is this academically a crucial point to really ponder about? Should the coming volumes have ISSN/ISBN in the future?

To me, NEIHA papers, despite all, are not only exceptional but will remain 'shining' forever.

* H. Sudhir wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao
The author is with the Department of History, Manipur University
This article was webcasted on November 18, 2013.

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