Category: Commentary

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.”

May 3, 2019 /

The fear, definitely, has dampened the free-spirited debates that precede the electoral season. However, the adivasis of Khunti haven’t forgotten what they need the most. In Remta, the gram pradhan, Jai Singh Munda, a straight-forward, no-nonsense man steers clear of the smoke-screen of the governments. “We do not have electricity for half a month, there are no clean drinking water projects and there are no LPG connections for most, here, and this vote will be crucial for us to determine how we lead our lives,” he says, blowing holes in all the promises that the ruling-party boasts of.

April 26, 2019 /

What Kanhaiya has got in him other than being a good orator, which Indian college doesn’t have one? Electing someone for his oratory skills is as good as choosing a pet dog for its biting skills. In 2014, many were smitten by someone else’s oratory skills and the entire country has got bitten by mad dogs.It seems that the Indian Left is trying to project the 2019 elections as a Kanhaiya vs. Modi battle. It satisfies their need for symbolic victories, and enables them to evade the question of actually defeating the fascists. This is their battle of ego. The JNU episode that brought fame to Kanhaiya itself was a fascist ploy to dilute the raging spirit of the Rohit Vemula Movement which was being fast consolidated across India. Rather than focusing on the goals of the Rohith Vemula Movement, the Left fell flat for the fascist trap and opportunistically used the witch-hunt to further divert the attention from the Bahujan cause.

April 25, 2019 /

Breivik praised “the policy of right-wing Hindu nationalism (or Hindutva) which seeks to make the Indian state into a ‘Hindu nation’” and noted that this agenda is promoted by the RSS and its “political arm,” the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “They dominate the streets… and often riot and attack Muslims,” he explained.The RSS does, indeed, dominate the streets.

April 15, 2019 /

In the past, interactions between the land and the sea in the southern part had initiated continental and marine deposition, creating mineral resources. Among them, coal and limestone occur in an east-west direction in Meghalaya’s south, and the coal has a high sulphur content. This is because, unlike most of the coal in India, which is deposited in the large basins of the Permo-Carboniferous age (299 to 359 million years ago), Meghalayan coal was formed in lagoons much later (50 to 33 million years ago). As a result, the coal seams are lensoidal: thick in the middle but pinching out laterally, and with a scattered distribution. And because of these reasons, it is not possible to use the same mining plan that engineers use to mine coal in other parts of the country. In other words, and professionally speaking, Meghalayan coal is not a mineable asset.

April 14, 2019 /

At the National Seminar on “Dalit Literature: Texts and Contexts”, organised by Delhi University’s English Department over three days, like at any other seminar, a buffet lunch was served. As happens at most such events, the sole meat dish, or nonveg as it is called, was kept a part apart. At what was deemed a safe and agreeable distance from the other pure-veg stuff. Safe for and agreeable to whom? It was not clear if the Manu Smriti or Narada Smriti or DU’s rulebook designed by some long-dead registrar had been consulted as regards the decorous distance to be maintained. I asked an aproned cateter on whose orders this had been done. We do as some saheb tells us, he offered. Besides this is how it’s always done, another said. But how can this happen at a Dalit Literature conference?

April 3, 2019 /

I’ve been bewildered for over two years now about how people have been predicting a BJP win in 2019…A simple question is this – is Modi more popular now than he was in 2014? The same, or less? It’s something each one of us can answer empirically. I have not met a single person, not even a hardcore BJP supporter, who feels Modi’s popularity hasn’t waned relative to 2014. Have you?

April 3, 2019 /

The fascists captured state power in India by unifying the imperialist Upper Castes and consolidating their votes. To defeat them, we have to bring together Bahujans of all oppressed nationalities, from Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, from Punjab to Bengal, and from Nagaland to Kerala. The People’s Mahagathbandhan represents the majority as it is composed of Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs, Women, religious minorities, LGBTQ+ communities, people with disabilities and all oppressed nationalities of the subcontinent- the BAHUJAN MAJORITY and their political organisations. Unlike the imperialist parties, the so-called regional parties are the real, authentic Bahujan-national parties. The Bahujan majority is the only political force that is strong enough to defeat the dictatorship of the minority Upper Castes.

April 2, 2019 /

Dear Media of every hue, and dear Urban Middle Class / Civil Society , and dear Leftists and Liberals , please go ahead and lionise Kanhaiya all you like but do not presume to tell the people of Bihar and most specifically of Begusarai to see him through the prism of your opinion ; they can and will make their own choices according to their own felt needs and practical priorities , as well they should ; and stop making Kanhaiya’s candidature a stick to beat Tejaswi , Lalu Prasad Yadav , and the RJD with : the fact that they have different ground based priorities does not by any means give you the license to selectively vilify them , and not any other party or leader in the MGB , including INC and Rahul , RLSP and Kushwaha , HAM and Manjhi. In fact , the MGB as a whole is absolutely at liberty to decide its own priorities based on their cadre feedback from the ground . Just because your blue – eyed boy is not their top darling doesn’t of necessity make them evil or selfish or condemnable.

April 2, 2019 /

Education is the basis of the growth of any nation. Power, steel, and coal may be what we need for building things, but without educated minds the steel might just as well rust through disuse. The world is getting more and more complex, and our children and young adults need quality education in order to help India compete in the global marketplace. How well are we doing here?

March 27, 2019 /

“No one wants to be a hawker; no one is born a hawker”, says Basudev and yet all are caught in the machinic routine of railway life, time-tables at the tip of their tongue and every train remembered by its own sound. Unlike jobs in the corporate and government sectors, this routine assures no dignity and does little to take away from the legal and existential precarity of running hawkers.

March 26, 2019 /

Kulsuma Begum’s son was evicted even before he was born. On 2nd, 4th and 8th March Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council carried an eviction drive at Sarkebasti at the border of East Karbi Anglong and Hojai districts. Eviction was carried out at Sarkebasti’s Bahadur Bazaar, Islampur, Choudhury School Block, Ambari etc. Almost 580 families were evicted and 2700 people rendered homeless. And Kulsuma Begum was one of them.Heavily pregnant, Kulsuma was dragged out of her home and physically assaulted. She was left out in the open bleeding. Kulsuma Begum went into labour after being hit by police and gave birth to her son in an open field.

March 20, 2019 /

Politics in Assam had a turning point when a dismembered leg of an adult human was found on a dead stream in the village of Hudumpur at the outskirts of Guwahati by two journalists in June 1999. This discovery brought in the discourse of mystery and secrecy surrounding many killings and disappearances in Assam.

March 15, 2019 /

When I say that Jesus was a socialist, I am not referring to the communal ownership of the means of production. This aspect of socialism is certainly consistent with Jesus’ message, and one could argue that it is a logical outworking from it for an industrial society, but it is not something Jesus ever specifically addressed. However, the socialist principle that positively saturates Jesus’ gospel is the idea of fair distribution of wealth, “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” And that is what I will be defending in this article.I advocate this variety of socialism in no small part because I see it as being so well aligned with what Jesus taught. However, democratic socialism is an ideology particular to our time and culture, and I do not presume it to be exactly one and the same as Jesus’ teachings. Jesus was a socialist in principle, but he left all manner of room for us to figure out the specifics of applying that principle today.

March 13, 2019 /

My first personal introduction to the flurry of activities that would be associated with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam was in June 2015. My partner and I were in Australia for a conference, when my father left several text messages for us to call him. He wanted the exact spelling of my deceased father-in-law’s name, as well as the name of his village in Nagaland. “Where have you both kept your school and college certificates?” he asked when I called. Thus it began, a scramble for documents that would prove that I was indeed a citizen of India, who was from Assam and had a formidable array of evidence as proof. My father explained that my partner’s details would be sent to Nagaland and once the administration there verified the details sent to them, she too would be included in the NRC.

March 12, 2019 /

When the Tang family returned to Shillong, they found that their shoe shop had been confiscated by the Custodian of Enemy Property. The only compensation that the family received was about 500 rupees, which was only a fraction of the thousands that the building and merchandise were actually worth. Nothing else was given back to the family, not even the sewing machines.It goes without saying that life was hard after returning to Shillong. Mr. and Mrs. Tang had to work hard in order to regain what had been lost. But their story is unlike other internees’ stories in that Mr. and Mrs. Tang were offered help—and they accepted it. Though the couple had struggled to make ends meet, the local Khasi people in Shillong and the missionaries there were extremely kind and generous.

March 9, 2019 /

Paraphrasing a tweet that I read earlier today: if the judges of the Meghalaya High Court were any more fragile, they’ll have to be checked in with fragile items and a sticker on top at the airport to be able to fly. That, at any rate, seems to be the only conclusion one can draw from reading the bizarre order (and the equally disturbing record of proceedings) passed by a two-judge bench of that Court today, holding two editor and publisher of the Shillong Times guilty of contempt of court, fining them Rs. 2 lakh, and failing that, six months imprisonment and a ban (!) upon the newspaper.What calumny did The Shillong Times level at the Learned Justice S.R. Sen – who, incidentally, issued notice for contempt of himself, and then also wrote the judgment finding the journalist in contempt  (one might call that a classic case of being a judge in one’s own cause, but one wouldn’t, because that might be construed by the Learned Judge to be contempt)?

March 7, 2019 /

Within the last 10-15 years many thousands of women worldwide have begun to recognise and to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD). It is, however, unfortunate that that its origins are not more widely known given that its foundation almost 100 years ago and subsequent history is truly inspirational.

February 28, 2019 /

Kashmir has been an eyesore on India’s body politic for the last 72 years. The average life expectancy in India is only 68.5 years, so there is a danger the eyesore might become congenital. The latest attack on Indian armed forces at Lithpur in District Pulwoam, where a Kashmiri suicide bomber killed more than forty Indian soldiers, can become India’s “enough is enough” moment. While randomly beating and harassing Kashmiris working or studying in various parts of Bharat is a good beginning, it won’t be enough. After all, if killing more than 80,000 Kashmiris and making about 10,000 of them disappear has not taught them a lesson, what will a few beatings achieve? No, India needs to do more.This is my cue. Hear me out.

February 27, 2019 /

This is how it unfolded. The Uri film releases, with the media very transparently hyping it up. Just a month later, in the midst of the Rafael controversy, out of the blue, comes an opportunity to replicate that (disputed) strike in real life again, just two months before the elections.The North Korean Indian TV channels activate full-blown mass hysteria. (While South Korea gives Modi a peace prize.) Suddenly, the Pulwama attack is more about Pakistan than Kashmir, more about World Cup cricket than time-honoured rogue terrorism and most disconcertedly, more about war than dialogue.

February 26, 2019 /

Sometimes it is important to think about the unthinkable. Although South Asia has been called “the most dangerous place in the world” by many, the discourse in those countries, and elsewhere, about the potential aftermath of a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan has been remarkably muted. What would these two enduring rivals, home to more than a sixth of the world’s population, look like after a nuclear exchange?

February 26, 2019 /

Sometimes it is important to think about the unthinkable. Although South Asia has been called “the most dangerous place in the world” by many, the discourse in those countries, and elsewhere, about the potential aftermath of a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan has been remarkably muted. What would these two enduring rivals, home to more than a sixth of the world’s population, look like after a nuclear exchange?

February 16, 2019 /

Thokchom Veewon’s cause belongs to all of us coming from areas far away from the heartland, physically and psychologically. The assault on Kashmiri students in Dehradun and Kashmiri employees in Jammu in a display of Hindutva nationalism is our cause too. It’s the cause of every person living in this nation state with a conflicted and an imposed sense of identity. The state apparatus is against our very existence and that is clear from the way the local court in Delhi easily granted the police remand to take him back to Manipur- a homeland that has seen so much violence over the past 70 years. Let’s not forget that Thockchom knew what was at stake when he decided to speak against the government policies having grown up in a place where the traffic control is done by army men carrying loaded rifles and AK47. He knew what the consequences could be, yet till the very end he stood firm on ground. On 12th February, two days before being arrested, he had posted on social media that the police had visited his house in Manipur and threatened his parents.

February 14, 2019 /

Manoranjan Byapari, the Dalit Bengali novelist who has written searingly about the continuing travails of the Dalits in India, recently spoke along with Kancha Illaiah in Kolkata Book Fair. The conversation turned into a bit of a debate about Dalits learning English. Manoranjan Byapari shared his thoughts about the book fair encounter on his facebook page. His FB status was translated from Bangla by Arunava Sinha and then edited by Rahul Bannerjee. 

February 10, 2019 /

Section 124A on Indian Penal Code on Sedition was introduced by the British colonial government in 1870 when it felt the need for a specific section to deal with the offence. It was one of the many draconian laws enacted to stifle any voices of dissent at that time. Mahatma Gandhi was prescient in recognising the fundamental threat it provided to democracy when he called it the ‘prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen.’

February 9, 2019 /

On Sixth February 2019, Mr. Kiran Rijiju, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs of India, quietly introduced The Constitution (125th Amendment) Bill, 2019. This bill which seeks to amend Article 280 of  and the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution in order to increase the financial and executive powers of the ten autonomous councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of the Northeast…
Raiot brings you the text of the amendment as well as a short 10 point cheat sheet on it including the sad case of Meghalaya which will lose substantial amount of funds meant for Rural Development.”

February 8, 2019 /

Migration is a universal phenomenon and no part of the world can be completely immune from it. Meghalaya, one of the states in Northeast India, is not an exception and has been experiencing migration of the outsiders particularly the non-tribals over a fairly long period of time. However, it was in the 1970s that the process of its problematization started with the tribal educated elite undertaking the leadership role under the influence of several factors that worked collectively. Though the process eventually led to the occurrence of a series of violent ethnic conflict in the state, yet it was largely responsible for the prevention of the emergence of existential crisis situation for the indigenous tribals.

February 6, 2019 /

We are a group of concerned citizens. We have varied political opinions and affiliations, but are united in our trust in democratic institutions, in our adherence to the philosophy of the Constitution and belief in the idea of a plural, democratic Republic of India. Deeply concerned, of late, over the multiple challenges to the Republic, we have undertaken to examine these challenges in some depth, and to propose to our fellow citizens means to protect and strengthen the Constitutional safeguards for our democratic polity and composite society. We see the forthcoming Lok Sabha election as an opportunity to retrieve and, indeed, reclaim from manipulation and subversion, our legacy of the Republic.

February 6, 2019 /

On January 2, 2019 the union minister of the Human Research Development appraised the parliament about the exact number of reserved category faculty members in the Indian Institutes of Technology. Responding to a question asked by Mr. Udit Raj, a BJP MP, the union minister Prakash Javadekar said that out of 6043 faculty members in 23 institutes there are only 170 faculty members who are from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe categories. He also informed that the reservation in these premier educational institutes is kept open only for the entry-level positions, i.e., assistant professors and lectures.

February 2, 2019 /

Soft winter light bathes the fields in a glow. But the pastoral idyll of Pandu padda, Sameli, Dantewada district in Chhatisgarh is deceptive. Dark shadows lurk. I am shown the tree from which a 17-year-old Adivasi girl hung herself on the intervening night of 29/30 December, some four months after she had charged security forces of sexual violence.

January 29, 2019 /

Most discussions of Basic Income revolve around two clusters of issues: first, the normative implications of Basic Income for various conceptions of justice, and second, the pragmatic problems of the sustainability of basic income given a range of economic considerations including such things as effects on tax rates, incentives, labor markets, and so on. These are obviously important issues, but I want to explore a different sort of question: In what ways can a guaranteed basic income be considered part of a broad socialist challenge to capitalism?
This may seem to some people a somewhat irrelevant question, perhaps even a stupid question, since the very idea of socialism has lost so much of its intellectual and political appeal in recent years. The idea that there is a feasible systemic alternative to capitalism, either in the sense of a workable design for alternative economic institutions, or in the sense of a politically achievable goal, seems very far-fetched to many people who still share the traditional socialist criticisms of capitalism.

January 27, 2019 /

The idea that Indian Constitution would include various provisions like the Fifth and Sixth Schedule to protect the rights of the Tribal indigenous people was not palatable to many non tribal members of the Constituent Assembly. The debates on the question of Tribal rights and autonomy are therefore quite fascinating to read to understand the attitudes of racial and cultural superiority that the plains dwelling Indian harboured toward the tribal people. As Rohini Kumar Chaudhuri put it, “We want to assimilate the tribal people. We were not given that opportunity so far.” But these ‘racist’ comments were eloquently challenged and dismantled by Rev. J. J. M. Nichols Roy, a Khasi  and Mr. Jaipal Singh, a Munda. Their historic speeches to the Assembly need revisiting again because the attitudes they challenged and the questions they raised have not yet become history.

January 24, 2019 /

Justices Ramana and Shantanagounder of the Supreme Court have come under a lot of flak especially from the liberals for their judgment in a case that was to settle inheritance in a disputed inter-religious marriage. Most newspapers and social media commentators reported the judgment as having called marriages between Muslim men and non-Muslim women as “irregular” – thereby giving the impression that the judges were being deliberately misogynist and in the process adding substantially to all-pervasive Muslimophobia – spreading a false impression that legally Muslim men can “irregularly” marry non Muslim women – a completely false claim – and this was being spread because of shoddy and lazy reportage apart from of course Muslimophobia which is ever ready homogenize Muslims and ready to accept anything that paints Muslims as backward readily.

January 20, 2019 /

Assam is boiling. Boiling over an overtly communal bill brought in by a communal regime aiming to polarise society. The bill got the nod of Lok Sabha on 8th of December, a day after a hastily prepared report was submitted by the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). The report was prepared by a Committee, (the majority members belong to the ruling BJP) by brushing aside all alternative opinions and was based on surmises and conjectures.

January 10, 2019 /

Dear great liberals of the Indian mainstream,
You are the vocal proponents of Indian secularism. We often listen to your grandiloquent lectures on television screens – on secularism, on democracy, on the Constitution of the country. But, what the fuck did you do against this fatal Bill? Unlike you, we are jungli people living on the margins of the Indian state and society. That these jungli people had to save your secularism from death and save the face of the country in front of the world, what the fuck would you say now? That is why we say your secularism is damned – fuck your secularism.

January 9, 2019 /

A petition was submitted to the President of India on January 8, 2019 by 135 academics, lawyers and activists urging upon him to uphold human rights and ensure justice for around one million people (10 lakh) in Assam, who have been excluded through the NRC process. The petition also urges upon the President of India, as the custodian of the Indian Constitution, to advise the central government to withdraw the Citizenship Amendment Bill which explicitly discriminates on the ground of religion and violates the constitutional principle of equality.