RAIOT Posts

December 14, 2019 /

Despite massive protests against the CAB, the BJP formed government in Assam in 2016 with a vast majority. Our apprehension that Hindu nationalism has devoured Assamese nationalism has been proved true over and over again. We may have raised certain demands at the level of parliamentary politics which are against Hindu nationalism, but culturally we are gradually stepping inside the deep and dark tunnel of Hindu nationalism. Hegemony of neoliberal and Hindutva ideology has been gradually established in our society. We have witnessed many people becoming euphoric at the news of the four rape-accused being shot dead in an encounter by the Hyderabad Police, including people who are nationalists, who are known as progressive-democratic. How could Assamese people support encounters? The blood-soaked history of Assamese nationalism makes it impossible. But now it has also become easy in Assam. This change is easily recognisable if one looks at the reactions to the various incidents happening in Jammu and Kashmir, including the abrogation of Article 370. This is just one example. Does it mean that although we vocally oppose Indian national aggression, we are gradually embracing the ideology of Hindu nationalism? We will have to find out a rational answer to it from the protest movements happening at this moment. As of now, these protests are characteristically different from the earlier protests—firstly, these are much more aggressive than the earlier protests and inclusive of people from all sections of society; and secondly, the people of Assam have firsthand had a good taste of the BJP’s rule and their ideology during the period since the earlier protests. That is why we hope that these protests shall not be like the earlier protests—unlike earlier protests, these protests should not go back to the point of their origin where the protests need to be restarted from again. These protests must take us a step forward, engender a qualitative transformation in us.

December 13, 2019 /

The tenor of the anti-CAB mobilization in Assam has been somewhat different from elsewhere in the country—here, the CAB debate is inseparable from the debate on the National Register of Citizens (NRC). With an eye on how the terrain of the CAB-NRC debate has shifted in the last few months, it would be the right time to turn our attention to the second half of this notorious CAB-NRC combine. In fact, the way in which CAB has been pushed through reveals much about how the NRC process may be expected to play out, and how Hindutva fascism actually intends to deal with the demands and aspirations of the many nationalities that fall within the borders of its imagined Hindu empire.
There were many in Assam who were cautiously optimistic about the NRC process—they had hoped this would end, once and for all, the discrimination against Bengali-speaking Hindus and Muslims as Bangladeshis. But not anymore.

December 13, 2019 /

In the morning of December 12, 2019 most people around the Uzan Bazar, Ambari area of Guwahati had come out to see who had assembled at the Latasil field and hear some of the speakers they were sure would come: Zubeen, Samujjal and others who had been vocal in their opposition to to the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). Before mobile internet services were shut down at 1900 hours on December 11, 2019, many citizens of Guwahati had updated their status to ask people to come to Latasil grounds at 1100 hours the following day. The messages had a ring of defiance to them. In an age that demands distraction via the world wide web, the status updates managed to help individuals focus on the event that they were coming out to participate in.

December 13, 2019 /

A big shot editor while explaining the CAB and situation in Assam and its neighboring states, puts the majority of Tribes of Assam under the Hindu religion. And when taking about the Tripura he accepts that tribes over there have been pushed to minority by immigrant Hindu Bengalis who rule the place now. And he calls it a democracy, the logic of numbers! And he also go on saying that how people from northeast are now working in main land India which is good sign and it should happen both ways.

December 12, 2019 /

Indian Liberals must understand that the CAB and the NRC are truly pernicious and evil, not simply because they are against Indian Muslims. By and large (outside Assam) they are not. So let’s stop pretending that this is the case. If you happen to be a non-Muslim Indian liberal, then you need to understand that stating that you will now ‘register’ yourself as a ‘Muslim’ because of the CAB and the NRC, is not something that will affect your citizenship status by even one jot. This is not and cannot be ‘civil disobedience’ because an Indian citizen registering as a Muslim ‘disobeys’ nothing and nobody insofar as citizenship is concerned. That is a matter under the ambit of the law pertaining to conversion, not citizenship. We need more than token gestures of this kind.

December 11, 2019 /

Why is it so hard for Indian Liberals to understand that CAB is both anti indigenous people, and anti secular? To label the protests in northeast as a call for “everyone kicked out” and xenophobic is simplistic and historically ignorant when there are ways to seek solutions without the need of inconveniencing, traumatising, and harassing people who do not belong to indigenous people.

December 10, 2019 /

There was a parking lot in Shillong
that took a year and crores to build.
Why, I asked, was it not used to ease congestion?
It awaited the Minister for Roads to inaugurate,
who awaited the fall of his government.
And the waiting goes on,
for here they change parties and governments
like Hindi film stars changing dresses in a song.

December 8, 2019 /

My familiarity with the Shillong hills is not new. Probably Shillong will remind you of Amit and Labanya of ‘Sesher Kobita’ (the last poem). But however great a poet Rabindranath may be, there is no fitting image of Shillong in ‘Sesher Kobita’. The reason for this is that he never developed a kinship with Shillong. However, Rabindranath being an intelligent person, by naming it ‘Sesher Kobita’ he meant it to be a poem rather than a novel. If someone wants to write a novel, one cannot do it by excluding the inhabitants of Shillong, especially hill tribes like the Khasis. In his description and in the treatment, there is absolutely no flavour of Shillong.

December 7, 2019 /

It is a night that Kamla Kaka will perhaps never forget. A mitanin (health care provider) trainer she had returned to her village in Bastar, Chhatisgarh, after a visit to Bijapur, some 52 km away where she had gone for a delivery case. “I had eaten my meal and was listening to songs when the loud burst of firing startled me. Many of us rushed out from our homes. We wondered why the forces had entered our village and were firing continually. It went on and on and later there were flare bombs that illuminated the area. A vehicle arrived later and picked up our dead but many of the armed personnel stayed on,” she told me when I met her earlier this year.
Among the dead were three relatives and her nephew Rahul Kaka, the 15-year-old-son of her father’s brother (chacha). “A class nine student he was so special to me,” she added.

December 6, 2019 /

Fear of Lions sets the bar for South Asian historical fiction. Aurangazeb is neither vilified nor celebrated, he and his reign are showcased with all its problematic and a rare honesty. The book sets up describing every aspect of socio political life during this period – caste, bureaucracy, political intrigues, army, revenue system, administration, aristocracy, commerce, migration, mobility etc. through an intertwined fictionalized narratives about individuals. If I were teaching a course on this period of history, I would prescribe this as an essential reading.

November 30, 2019 /

Kuki Rebellion has been has been usually portrayed as a heroic act of fighting the Colonial force but this particular ‘anti-colonial’ narrative ignores the sufferings meted out to Zeliangrong people (a conglomeration of Naga tribes (Zeme, Liangmai, Rongmei and Inpui). How a significant part of historical event has been obscured so far requires a retelling/rewriting experiences of Zeliangrong people from Kuki Rebellion, 1917-1919.

November 29, 2019 /

Life and Death. War and Peace. A book that would forever alter the way I look at History. I don’t remember the precise date on which I started reading the book, but I do remember the month, the year, the conditions of life, in which I made one of the most courageous attempts of life – to read War and Peace – and the exact number of days it took me to read the book, 18 days

November 2, 2019 /

Some things to remember amidst this WhatsApp hack sensation:

The government may not actually have in any records, data on who all have been targeted for illegal surveillance and accessing of their devices. Such unauthorised surveillance – conducted by private contractors – is never directly contracted by police/IB etc. Front organisations, like the one that issued the invitations to European MEPs to visit Kashmir, set up by individual officials via their proxies are the ones that contract the surveillance contractors.

October 28, 2019 /

“We are guyoor log” (Proud and honourable people).
“We do not beg. We are merely demanding our rights_ those that had been promised to us on the floors of Parliament. Where is this people’s mandate?” These were some of the questions posed to me by Hayat Ahmed Butt, the pro freedom leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim league, in a conversation I had just two days before he was picked up by police from Anchar, adjoining Soura in Srinagar on Wednesday, October 16.

October 27, 2019 /

The final list of NRC published on 31st August, 2019 is a culmination of a long drawn process that can be traced back to the state politics of Assam in the pre independence period. The state’s history is marked by incidents which continue to shape the politics of the state. Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty’s book Assam: The Accord, the Discord tries to do exactly this – revisit the roots of the problems and understand when the seeds of discord were sown. 

October 3, 2019 /

Despite Kashmir valley experiencing a crippling communication blackout for the last sixty days, with massive restrictions and curfew imposed, where it has impacted life beyond one’s imagination, one comes across the launch of a fashion campaign (Zooni) directed by Avani Rai for a label called Raw Mango. It is not just that the campaign is ill-timed and insensitive, but it does damage by further fetishing Kashmiri women.

September 26, 2019 /

This statement is in the context of an invitation to Kashmiri students studying at Aligarh Muslim University by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. It has been reported in the National media that forty Kashmiri students from AMU have been called to Lucknow for a meeting with the Chief Minister wherein the Chief Minister will discuss the abrogation of Article 370 with students and will explain the “advantages” of the decision.

September 25, 2019 /

It is worth asking whether the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A will ensure the safe return of the more than 100,000 Kashmiri Pandits to the idyllic homes they left behind in the 1990s, on their “own terms”. If those terms entail a return not merely to the territory of Kashmir but to any semblance of the cultural and social relations that had once made Kashmir home, then jubilating Kashmiri Pandits might want to ask whether their native home is being secured or only further eroded by the recent decision.

In a strange twist, the removal of Article 35 A, which was important to Kashmiri Pandits’ own early mobilisation to secure government jobs for themselves from Indians of the plains, may now well turn the erstwhile Kashmiri Pandit native into a settler. Pandits who have nursed dreams of return must know that they will arrive not as neighbours, but as a demographic stick with which to beat local Kashmiri Muslims and pave the way for a settler-colonial project designed to transform India’s only Muslim-majority state into a Hindu-majority one. 

September 23, 2019 /

The Eco-Hindutva movement values an intense internality guided by Vedic scriptures, one which equates indigeneity with an ancient, Brahminized Hindu identity. It advocates for a worldview that understands nature as pristine or “clean”, which is now polluted by humanity. It has seeded an approach where environmental science and knowledge could be re-shaped according to Hindu mythology and spirituality. Notably, it ignores forest dwellers and tribal knowledge, generational guardianship and sovereignty – while dismissing significant Adivasi environmental struggles and fights for justice in South Asia. Eco-hindutva shifts focus on what counts as environmental issues – it directs concern towards environmental cleanliness and a highly individualized focus on vegetarianism and cow protection. At the same time, it literalizes tropes of “invasion” on “Hindu land” and uses Vedic mythology as the basis for ecological preservation. These foundational ideologies find legitimacy in environmental platforms and is part of how the diaspora both amplifies and justifies Hindutva violence.

September 22, 2019 /

At this juncture, it is important to recollect that India is a union of states with varying legal histories. Article 370, which enshrines the specificities to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, is a recognition of this political diversity. Goa, like Kashmir, has a unique legal history. Unlike Kashmir, however, Goan specificities did not merit any constitutional recognition. Subsequent to the annexation of the territory, Goans were not asked, via a plebiscite, what they wished their political status to be, nor was a Constituent Assembly set up, as was the case in Kashmir and some of the other princely states in the process of accession to India. India simply asserted its power and extended its Constitution to Goa, and erased pre-existing citizenship.

September 20, 2019 /

More than a month has passed since India unilaterally broke the treaty of accession it had made with the last Dogra Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. Amidst a complete communication blockade, only the foggiest and vaguest details of the situation on the ground in the state in general, and the Muslim majority areas in particular, have been able to waft out. This uncertainty has afforded “concerned” Indians an opportunity to once more pack their woollens (only the light ones, since it is still quite balmy in Kashmir, thank you very much) and book their air tickets (cheap, courtesy the blockade, delightful!) and travel to the ground on “fact finding” missions.
That in itself is not the problem. All are welcome to Kashmir—tourists, well-wishers, tourists masquerading as well-wishers and well-wishers pretending to be tourists. We are nothing if not hospitable. In any case, India has hundreds of thousands of troops in Kashmir. It is not as if Kashmiris have the power to stop Indians from visiting their latest Union Territory.

September 19, 2019 /

In Part 2 of An Essential Guide to Dismantling Kashmir’s “Special Status”, Shrimoyee Nandini Ghosh looks at what the dismantling of Kashmir’s “special status” means in the realm of the international order: the laws of nations, wars and our shared humanity. The question of Kashmir’s international legal status has been an extremely contentious one, and one on which there has been very little serious academic engagement. In India, most legal experts and opinion makers have seemed content to echo, either by their words or their silences, the position of the Indian state that Kashmir is primarily a constitutional question, in other words an “internal matter”. But in the midst of the legal upheaval wrought by the neutering of Article 370, several previously verboten terms – ‘Occupation’, ‘Annexation’, ‘Colonialism’, ‘Right to Self Determination’, drawn from the realms of international law and politics, are now being used in the Indian public sphere to describe, debate, or decry the events of 5 August, 2019. In this essay, Shrimoyee unpack some of these terms and address the question of the implications of the constitutional changes for Kashmir’s disputed legal status in International Law.

September 19, 2019 /

“Curiously apart from Khasi Jaintia Hills and Karbi Anglong in North East India, Unitarianism world wide has not been a mass movement. This intellectual, liberal mode of understanding faith has made up for its numerical insignificance by having many famous individuals subscribing to its ideas, Charles Darwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Kurt Vonnegut, Tim Berners Lee, Sylvia Plath, Thomas Jefferson. How did this most liberal of Anglo American elite faith tradition find a deep root in these faraway hills with more than 45 churches? Khasi-Pnar people encountered various different faiths which arrived in these hills, not as thankful passive recipients of good word but as argumentative, sceptical, questioning people. Hajom Kissor Singh was one such Presbyterian convert, who not only rejected puritanical notions of Christianity but also on his own developed a liberal ecumenical version of faith which was sensitive both to traditional Khasi conceptions of divine as well as new theological innovations in the west. The puritanical Khasi Presbyterians abused him as “an Atheist”, and called him an “enemy of the Lord,” or the Bengali Brahmos wanted to patronise him and take over the task of interpreting Khasi Pnar ideas, Hajom Kissor Singh remained committed to his own culturally rooted journey of faith.

This account of the early days of Khasi-Pnar Unitarianism and the life and struggles of Hajom Kissor Singh was done by Rev M C Ratter of British and Foreign Unitarian Association in 1930, as part of his book To Nagroi. As a postscript  H. H. Mohrmen, pastor of the historic Jowai Unitarian church, and one of the intellectual stalwarts of contemporary Khasi-Pnar community, writes about the creative ways in which Hajom Kissor Singh and others interpreted the notion of God.”

September 16, 2019 /

The tortuous thicket of laws, constitutional provisions, presidential orders, political history and legal mystifications surrounding Article 370 and Article 35A make it difficult to navigate through recent debates about its abrogation in an informed way. This series of three essays by Shrimoyee Nandini Ghosh, lawyer and legal researcher, aims to be a somewhat eclectic guidebook— at times proffering a no frills step-by-step road map, at others traversing some rather more unfrequented and adventurous legal diversions. In this first essay, Shrimoyee provides a legal-historical guide to terms like 370, 35(a) and the tricks, which were played to make these history.”

September 13, 2019 /

The imposition of homogeneity by a dominant group results in implicit and explicit violence on any form of identity. But before proceeding further, as a backdrop to this piece, we would like to cite an anecdote that occurred around two and a half years back. This was at a conference which was focusing on the ‘Northeast’ of India. In one of the presentation, an Assamese upper-caste female anthropologist dressed in a Mekhela-Chador went on to accuse the presenter of not being informed about the ‘real’ ‘Assamese’ woman. According to her, this ‘real’ ‘Assamese’ woman is defined by her ‘real’ dress and that it is the only way in which her womanhood can be defined. Of course nowhere in the presentation, it was propagated that women should give up on wearing any particular attire, including the Mekhela-Chador. But as most of us would agree, neither womanhood nor any other identity can be described in a unilateral homogenous manner. Questions of class, caste, religion, community, language, location are all intertwined to it.

Every year the North-eastern state of Assam and its various districts have been affected by the flood. This year also, the heavy rains continued to wreak havoc in the state. But as usual, the North-eastern region doesn’t get much attention in the National media. One may wonder, quite innocuously, why is it that this region doesn’t get enough attention in comparison to other mainstream states? Is there something wrong in the manner in which the national media covers the news? Don’t they equally pay attention to every region of this country? Or, is there a bigger systematic fault which we are not yet aware of?

September 10, 2019 /

Naduh ba ki Nongdie jingdie ha madan bad rud lynti jong ka Nongbah Shillong ki la iawanlang bad iamir jingmut lang kawei hapoh ka Seng Meghalaya &Greater Shillong Progressive Hawkers and Street Vendors Association na ka bynta ban iakhun ia ka hok kamai jakpoh, ki la mih shibun ki jingkren bein, ki jingisih bad hateng hateng ki jingbyrngem-byrthen pyrshah ia ki nongdie madan na ki briew bapher bapher.

September 4, 2019 /

Since the time Hawkers and Street Vendors of Shillong finally decided to organise themselves under one umbrella called Meghalaya & Greater Shillong Progressive Hawkers and Street Vendors Association, there has been hate spewed against them.
This Hate can be divided into Two Category.
By the Everyday Racist Joe
By the Rich and Pretentious Elites

August 29, 2019 /

On 5th August Monday the Home Minister announced two critical measures on the floor of the Upper House, the revocation of Article 370 and 35A or the “special status” granted to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In the immediate aftermath of these events the Rajya Sabha MP from Sikkim, honorable Hishey Lachungpa, delivered a speech on the floor of the house where he first congratulated the Central government on its actions and then went on to plead saying, “but I hope the government won’t do the same to Article 371F in Sikkim for Sikkim joined India through a referendum”

In 1973 a Hindi film Yeh Gulistan Hamara came. Before the screening of the film we had read about the film in Filmfare. That magazine was very popular. After I read about the film, I realized it is politically motivated and I started campaigning against it. Dev Anand and Sharmila Tagore were the actors. Sharmila played a Naga girl and she was named Sekrenyi which is the name of a holy festival of the Angamis. The actor came with elephants to a Naga village. He brought sweets and biscuits to court the Naga girl and teach her writing and reading. And in the end the Indians conquered Naga country with the help of the forces. We said our country was never conquered by Hindustan. The Naga students protested and tried to get the Khasi students to join us because the film also depicted Khasis as backward. But Khasis did not understand. On top of that, the Meghalaya government relaxed the entertainment tax also.

August 27, 2019 /

As a Kashmiri psychiatrist who happens to be a member of Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) as well, I would like to know did IPS at any point try to contact their registered members in Kashmir or did they just splash their names on the letter used to criticise the Lancet. How does a national organisation representing almost all psychiatrists in the country makes videos, issues political statements and politicise about Pakistan, but at no point thinks of questioning the politicians about policies which are putting the physical and mental wellbeing of millions of people at risk. One does not have to be a scientist to understand that putting an entire population in siege, arresting their children, cutting off their all communication links will scar them psychologically forever, more so when the exposure to trauma is more than 70%. One out of ten people have lost a loved one directly to the current conflict and one out of three has lost someone in their extended families. There are hundreds of publications in peer reviewed journals from local Kashmiri psychiatrists, orthopaedics, surgeons, sociologists, and other specialities talking about the mental and physical morbidity as a direct result of on-going war like situation in Kashmir. This will only get worse and no matter what professional jingoism will say, the reality of mental scarring is real.

August 21, 2019 /

“Run for your lives, you cannot save your precious belongings, your houses from the raging floods! The ‘run of the river’ is faster and far more destructive than your own governments in New Delhi and Dispur, and the ‘hydro madmen’ keep offering false assurances about, all the time! Run, because public hearings are of no value and environmental impact assessments are mere token gestures!”

August 17, 2019 /

We wish to reiterate and assert the fact that Cachari/Sylheti is a distinct ethnic and linguistic group and not just a sub-group/ dialect within the larger Bengali language as widely perceived. It has its own alphabet written in its own script known as Syloti Nagari…we request you to consider the protection of Sylheti (Cachari) language as an indigenous and independent language to be protected under Section 6 of Assam Accord.
SOCIETY FOR PROTECTION OF SYLHETI (CACHARI) LANGUAGE

August 5, 2019 /

On Friday August 2, confusion and panic hit the people of Kashmir, in the wake of several orders claiming there is a serious situation in Kashmir, urging yatris and tourists to return and the deployment of thousands of additional troops. But, on my social media feed, there were voices of humour and resilience reminding Kashmiris of what they collectively as a people have suffered and endured through the years, of how the Indian state has persistently viewed Kashmiris as the “other” and sought ways of repression. Scrolling down one searing image went through my mind.  It is that of Mir Suhail’s illustration of a man in checked headgear and greying beard that accompanies the report, Torture: State’s Instrument of Control in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir. I recognise it as that of Qalandar Khatana of Kalaros, Kupwara.

August 2, 2019 /

The problem of flood in Assam is heading towards a change in character, making the problem much graver and insoluble. This is not sudden but we have been noticing flashes of this change for the last decade. The fact that many rivers in Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts have been shallowed by sand, that the paddy fields have been entombed in sand, that there is deposition of sand instead of alluvium during flood, that there is no fish and wood in the flood waters meaning that the graveness of the problem is heading towards a cataclysm. Flood in Assam is no longer a problem, it has become a catastrophe instead.

August 1, 2019 /

SOULMATE was formed in Shillong, in October 2003 when Rudy Wallang and Tipriti Kharbangar decided to start a band dedicated to playing the Blues and committed to spread awareness about the music to the rest of India, whether the country was ready or not. Rudy was already a legend in North East India, making his name with the region’s most respected and seminal bands like Great Society and Mojo, while Tipriti was the little girl with the big pipes whom everyone knew was going places.

July 9, 2019 /

Miya poetry is not a tool for division – it should be a bridge of unity between the mainstream Assamese society and the Miya people. But in order for that to happen, both the progressive sections of the mainstream Assamese society and the practitioners of Miya poetry should play their responsible roles.

Colonial politics of labelling communities have had disastrous consequences which continue to impact the lives of the colonized. Identities were created and circulated through this act which in turn had categorised, included and excluded the communities living in the colonial fringe. Karbis were labelled ‘heathen’, ‘worshippers of malignant demons’, ‘unwarlike’, ‘timid’, ‘coward’ ‘bloodthirsty’ and such other colonial vocabularies which continue to haunt them. Colonial authorities persisted with the misnomer, ‘Mikir’, over the ancient indigenous nomenclature Karbi and the label remained in force for centuries. Colonial categorisation of Karbis into Hills and Plains simply because of geographical locations continues to divide and distance the tribe psychologically, socially, culturally and politically. The colonizers however saw in the Karbis their ‘industriousness’ as it served the colonial enterprise.