RAIOT Posts

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.

June 21, 2019 /

It was that day I realized that unknowingly I was subscribing and preaching the very form of yoga I find so repelling; and that is yoga which is rigid and fixed. Comfortable in my usual routine, I had forgotten that one of the most essential trait to be a yoga teacher, is the ability to mould the ancient practice in a form that will benefit all, be free of judgment, religion and politics.

June 17, 2019 /

Bah Skendrowell Syiemlieh’s inability to sing in English made him a not-so-sought-after singer by the urban elite. However, he has remained “the singing story teller” for many in the villages and small Khasi towns that till date are considered ‘Nongkyndong’ (a derogatory term used by the urban elite to paint the village folks as village idiots).
Even the posthumous Padma Shri in 2008 did not help to raise his image among the Khasi urban elite. His songs have remained the subaltern art of a subaltern rural narrative. But despite this his courage to sing about himself as a son of the village bore him great success when without any inhibition he sang ‘Ah Moina’ in the Mawiang dialect.
The Mawiang dialect comes along with the rural, rustic life that he held dearly till his last days. Nobody ever imagined that a song sung in one of the West Khasi Hills dialects would ever be appreciated.

June 10, 2019 /

Finally the BJP have formed their government after coming to power for the second time under the leadership of Narendra Modi with a landslide victory. There is nothing to be surprised though, it was a certainty – it was inevitable. But a few were foolishly expecting that the BJP would not able to come to power this time. They have now realised that there are fundamental flaws in their political thinking. Forget about the recently concluded election, there is hardly any possibility that the BJP would lose in the next two or three elections.

June 10, 2019 /

In universities such as Ashoks, what would the culture of dissent and politics look like? How much can a capitalist funded university that wants to impart high quality liberal arts education succeed in ensuring critical education? Would such universities ever open up its gates for students from all sections of the society in a country wherein less than 10% have access to higher education? Would it allow for complete academic and intellectual freedom?

June 8, 2019 /

The demand for Hindi
is now a demand
for better treatment–
not rights-
put by the agents
to their slave-masters.
They use Hindi in place of English,
while the fact is
that their masters
use English in place of Hindi-
the two of them have struck a deal.

June 8, 2019 /

“Namaste, brother” says Chaitanya, a pudgy, rosy-cheeked man from Charlotte, North Carolina, smiling broadly at me and my friend Alison. He wears a sleeveless orange tank top and white cotton balloon pants. He tells us the moniker was bestowed on him after an elaborate naming ceremony conducted on the banks of the holy river Ganges, in the north Indian city of Rishikesh. He paid 10,000 rupees to a Hindu priest for the conversion from Keith to Chaitanya. “Only a $150 for a whole new life man! It’s a steal if you think about it.”

June 8, 2019 /

In the times to come lynching, political assassination, massacre at the borders will be how lessons on Indian Hindu Nationalism will be taught. Everyone who writes, speaks and exposes the fascistic design of the far-right Hindu Nationalist camp will be vilified as terrorist, and demonized as anti-national. Military strikes at the border will be increasingly conducted, upon which the orgy of patriotism will be enacted persistently. The fate of Kashmir and Manipur will be decided around the conference tables in Delhi. People’s movement will not be televised, it will be curfewed and militarized. Parliament will become a shelter of hate-speech. The language of killing and lynching will enter the everyday execution of Hindu democracy, and words like freedom will disappear from our vocabulary. In the meanwhile more Burhan Wani, more Gauri Lankesh will meet the tragic bullet’s end.

June 3, 2019 /

On the 4th of March, 2019, a 16-year-old girl was found hanging from a tree just outside the village of Rouni, nestled in the Sal-forested hills of Jashpur in Chhattisgarh, India. Manita had chosen not to accompany her parents to a meeting on caste certificates held in the village the day before, saying she’d rather stay home and study for her exams. After a few hours at home, she took the cattle out to graze, found a tree at the edge of the village, and hanged herself; the cattle returned alone.

May 19, 2019 /

Jelle J. P. Wouters traces the early beginnings of the Indo-Naga conflict, which erupts in the 1950s and continues into the present-day. Focussing on the period roughly between the Battle of Kohima in 1944, which ended Japanese expansionism in the east, and the enactment of Nagaland state in 1963 as an envisaged (but failed) political compromise to the demand by the Naga National Council (NNC) for complete Naga sovereignty. Using, hitherto scantily used tour and personal diaries, government reports, private correspondence, memoires, and recorded memories to interrogate the master-narrative of the Naga struggle that reconstructs a relatively straight and uncomplicated historical trajectory that sees the genuine awakening and NNC-led political mobilization of an upland community situated off the beaten track of both Indian civilization and colonial domination, and of Nagas’ collective resolve to take up arms to fight for a place on the table of nation-states. Alternatively, if the story is told from the vantage of the Indian state, the dominant narrative apportions blame to a ‘misguided’ Naga elite that seeks to undermine the territorial and national integrity of the Indian state. These prevailing views, attractive for their absence of complexity, however, ignore the anguished debates, interpersonal and intertribal differences, contingent histories and events, dissenting voices, political assassinations, and sharp divisions within the rank-and-file of the NNC, and whose inner dynamics and sentiments could as well have produced outcomes other than war.

May 13, 2019 /

#ArundhatiRoy
“I have never felt that my fiction and nonfiction were warring factions battling for suzerainty. They aren’t the same certainly, but trying to pin down the difference between them is actually harder than I imagined. Fact and fiction are not converse. One is not necessarily truer than the other, more factual than the other, or more real than the other. Or even, in my case, more widely read than the other. All I can say is that I feel the difference in my body when I’m writing.”