Category: Commentary

February 11, 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 9, 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 7, 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 11, 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 10, 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.

January 8, 2019 /

A Stand Up set by Abhineet Mishra from Golf Links, Shillong. There is no comedy here, no jokes. If you are looking for humour, read up on the rescue mission to save the 15 miners (or 17) trapped in an illegal coalmine in Ksan, East Jaintia Hills Meghalaya. 15 lives (or 17 trapped) for 23 days  We could do better!

December 29, 2018 /

I would have missed its existence had I not seen her crawling along, pulling a wooden box on wheels loaded with lumps of coal. She was harnessed to the cart by means of a patch of linen strapped across her forehead. She was fair in complexion, wearing a short skirt, and her knees were heavily padded. I slowed down my car and turned to look. She was not alone! They were coming out of a hole in the side of the hill to my right. I noticed a thin outcrop of a coal seam running parallel to the road.
I was an Inspector of Mines, with the Department of Mines, Dhanbad, returning from Cherrapunji on my way to Shillong after an inspection of a limestone mine. It was in the year 1956.

December 22, 2018 /

Mr. Bashan J Laloo, SP(Traffic) of Shillong needs a better press agent. Rather than defend his ‘subduing’ action which resulted in fractured hand of Manavon Massar, Mr. Laloo should go back to his textbooks. Even some of those who want to balance the story of a ‘Musician with Broken Fingers’, need to know that no traffic offence or for that matter any offence allows the Police to inflict violence on any person. We will repeat for you balanced heads – no traffic offence or for that matter any offence allows the Police to inflict violence on any person. Even Manavon Massar agrees that he had violated traffic laws by overtaking and he should have been punished accordingly. But Mr. B J Laloo reads some other rule book where sticks do the work rather than fines. So to help Mr. BJL (and you loyal readers), we provide you with short guide to punishments and fines for traffic violations.

December 5, 2018 /

Is it really unthinkable that this state’s indigenous people could earn their ja pliang from climate mitigation, adopting decentralised renewable energy, rather than through their copious contribution to climate change? Could there be a future for Meghalaya where Poipynhun, Agnes and Amita are not the going price for coal?

November 28, 2018 /

Land in Meghalaya, India, was traditionally agricultural/forest land, owned by the community. With increasing privatization and rising commercial value of land for non-agricultural use, many owners have sold the land for mining operations. So-called rat-hole coal mining has resulted in environmental degradation as well as in the loss of lives of miners, most of whom are from outside the state. The National Green Tribunal has banned coal mining until safer, more environmentally sound policies and practices are in place. Critics in Meghalaya claim that the ban encroaches on the tribal way of life and point to constitutional provisions exempting Meghalaya from the purview of national mining laws. However, the courts are clear: Meghalaya’s exemptions do not allow them to violate the constitutional right to life of all Indian citizens. The traditional institutions are not strong enough to mitigate the rising inequality among citizens following from mining and other commercial operations.

November 25, 2018 /

I was in Cherrapunji for three years. It was in my 2nd or 3rd year there that I was taken to a camp in Bamundi, Kamrup, Assam. It was winter and we had to get up at 4 in the morning and practice various exercises, with a bamboo pole (lathi), big knife (chaku) and other such weapons. We were trained to attack and also to defend. The camp must have been for about a week, I vaguely remember. But one thing I remember for sure was the salute with the right hand on the chest singing, “Namaste sada vatsale matribhumi…” So I definitely think it was a RSS camp, though I was not aware of it then. Was I scared? Did I enjoy it? Well… I don’t remember.

November 19, 2018 /

Death (or perhaps rituals post-death) has a unique way to bring out one’s ideology in the open. This happened recently, when I lost my father to cardiac arrest, a month before the assembly election in Tripura was announced. My father would want me to come for casting of vote and to be with the family for a few days and relish the winter in Agartala. Perhaps, winter is the only season that people, especially in Agartala really look forward to, since summer and monsoon bring drought and massive waterlogging across the city.

The Axom Nagarik Samaj’s (Citizen Community of Assam) recent pamphlet, “NRC and Why is it Important?,” seems to have gone with the tried and tested narrative template of Assamese nationalist discourse. A forum of prominent intellectuals including writer and former police officer Harekrishna Deka, journalists Ajit Bhuyan and Prasanta Rajguru, and academic Dr. Akhil Ranjan Dutta among others, Axom Nagarik Samaj claims to represent the legitimate demands of the “indigenous communities” of Assam for protection against the “heavy influx” of illegal migrants from Bangladesh that “threatens their political, economic and social space.” The document hardly stands out for its literary ingenuity, even less so for its political vision. They present a narrative that has been the staple of Assamese nationalist discourse, available for consumption at least since the late-1970s and extremely popular during the Assam Movement. Unfortunately, for the authors, they are not living in 1982. In reproducing this discourse today, they also reinforce the blind-spots that have afflicted this fantasy of a harmonious, multi-ethnic pastoral Assam, rudely intruded upon by colonialism and outsiders.

November 2, 2018 /

Initially, the media attributed this heinous act to the ULFA (I). However in a statement issued by the outfit it has claimed that it has no links to the said act of cold blooded killings.  As we are writing this statement fingers are shifting towards the peace-talk faction of the ULFA and the police has detained Jiten Dutta and Mrinal Hazarika on suspicion of instigating/enacting the killings, given the incendiary statements recently given by the said members threatening to target Bengali community if the Citizenship Amendment Bill (2016) was to be rammed in by the government. From the ground, the lone survivor of the killings in Tinsukia last evening, Sahadev Namasudra stated that the gunmen were in military fatigues and spoke in Hindi.

October 22, 2018 /

We’re still lacking a language in which to talk honestly about the forms of everyday sexism different women face in families, intimate relationships, and friend groups. As feminists we need to learn to take everyday struggles seriously, break out of the polite silence of the “private” sphere and be frank about the roles we ourselves play. This essay muses on just why it’s so hard to even talk about sexism and silence when it’s happening very close to home.

October 20, 2018 /

Ki Nongeh beijot ia ka doh bad longrynnieng jong nga: 
1.U (Br.) Francis Gale (uba la tip ruh kum u Frank Gale) uba dei jong ka Christian Brothers, St Edmunds Shillong.
2. (Br.) Muscat, Don Bosco, Laitumkhrah, Shillong (ka tnat shon kot)
Lai snem mynshuwa, ha ka rta kaba 37, nga shim ka rai kut ba nga dei ban wad jingiarap na ki nongiasyllok kiba la pyntbit ha ka kam bad nga shem ia ka nongiasyllok kaba paka bad ba phylla shisha. Lyngba bun tylli ki bnai jong ka jingiasyllok ka la don kawei ka khep kaba nga shem bad mad ba la weng noh shi syndon ia u mawbah mawsan uba la ban khia halor ka met bad mynsiem jong nga naduh ba nga dang dap 5 snem ka rta. Kaei ba kata ka nongiasyllok ka ong ia nga ha kata ka khyllipmat ba ma nga ka khynnah kaba wan na ka longiing longsem kaba kynrum kynram bad ba duk bad ba la shu ieh noh marwei ban iada ia la ka longrynnieng bad ka doh nga long iba suk ban shah bam klep bad shah leh bein ha kum kine ki riew sniew. Hoid kum kaba la san nga tip shai ba kam dei ka jingbakla jong nga, pynban ka long kaba eh ban ym kynnoh ia lade. Hynrei kaei kaba ka nongiasyllok ka ong ia nga ha kata ka sngi ha kata ka khep ka la jubab ia ka jingkylli kaba nga la kylli baroh shi katta “balei”? Balei ia nga? bad ka jingiasyllok ka la pyntngen ia nga namar ba nga la shem ia ka jubab. Ka la long ka jingiaid lynti kaba jlan bad kan nang jrong ka lynti bad nga dei ban skhem ka jingmut bad kum ka briew kaba la shah leh be ijot ha ki rta 5 haduh 12 snem nga dei ban bat ia la ka jong ka jingtip briew.

October 18, 2018 /

Manipur Research Forum (MRF) is organising a book event at the official residence of the Chief Minister of Manipur on the 18th of October 2018. This is to release an edited book; the editors of the book are members of the Forum and the articles are reprints from the Forum’s journal – Eastern Quarterly.
We, as contributors to the book and/or as Trustees of the Forum, would like to make this statement dissociating ourselves from the said event.

October 3, 2018 /

So many people instinctively cheered upon hearing that the Indian Supreme Court has ruled that women of all ages must be granted access to the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. Even I was thrilled that the court’s decision came down on the side recognizing women as equal to men even in religious spaces. However, on further thought, I’m afraid I’ve revised my opinion to a more unpopular or contentious view: I don’t believe that upholding a woman’s right to worship as she pleases in any one particular temple is more important than the principle that state law cannot and should not attempt to regulate religious belief systems. Doing so is entering very dangerous territory that is ultimately likely to backfire in some unexpected and deeply damaging way. Our constitution grants us freedom of religion for very good reasons.

October 2, 2018 /

What qualities should such an honoured servant of society exemplify in his person? In my opinion an ideal Bhangi should have a thorough knowledge of the principles of sanitation. He should know how a right kind of latrine is constructed and the correct way of cleaning it. He should know how to overcome and destroy the odour of excreta and the various disinfectants to render them innocuous. He should likewise know the process of converting night- soil and urine into manure.

October 2, 2018 /

Gandhism is a paradox. It stands for freedom from foreign domination, which means the destruction of the existing political structure of the country. At the same time it seeks to maintain intact a social structure which permits the domination of one class by another on a hereditary basis which means a perpetual domination of one class by another. What is the explanation of this paradox?

October 1, 2018 /

The tea plantation workers of Assam have historically, and continue to, contribute to the making of Assam, and yet continue to remain one the most super-exploited working class communities in the State. The current daily wage rate of tea workers in Assam is Rs.137, which is much lower than the min wage of other industrial workers in the State itself. Also, as the government calculation note itself notes, the wages of Tea workers of Kerala (290, in fact the revised wages in the Munnar plantations since 2016 is above Rs.300), Tamil Nadu (Rs.289.41), etc. are about 111% more than that of Assam. This needs to be seriously addressed by the government and people of Assam, as has been time and again demanded by the workers.

On May 3, 2017, EPW accepted a draft written by me and my friend for its publication under “note section”. We were aware that our draft has its limitations with certain gaps; with these in place, we were looking forward to work upon our draft after their review. As budding researchers, we were optimistic to work with them and learn a thing or two to enhance our research skills.

September 28, 2018 /

One of the reliefs sought by the petitioners in the Constitutional Challenge to the Aadhaar Scheme was an OPT-OUT option for both the new enrollments, as well as those who had enrolled and wanted to exit the scheme. Although the courts had always said that Aadhaar was voluntary but the way the government went about implementing the scheme, Aadhaar turned out to be a mandatory lifetime commitment because there is no opt out option in the Aadhaar Act, which made consent irrevocable and deprived individuals the ability to make decisions about their life.

September 26, 2018 /

RAIOT as a webzine loosely connected with a political organisation from Meghalaya, Thma U Rangli Juki (TUR) sometimes has to pay its obeisance to its mother body. TUR has been a part of anti Aadhaar/UID movement right from its inception and thus RAIOT has published all kinds of essays, reports and even investigations on Aadhaar in English & Khasi. Today (26/09/18) when the second longest running case in the Supreme Court will be decided, it is a good time to let you sample RAIOT’s Aadhaar obsession.

September 25, 2018 /

What worries concerned citizens of the state is not that the fact that the police arrested the agitating students and the teachers named in the FIR (FIR number: 223(9) 2018). But the manner and the modus operandi of the state in effecting those arrests. There are a number of laws and legislation at the state’s disposal to establish its actions as rational. One can get easily lost in the maze of the State’s bureaucratic jargon and proceduralism. Even if the state could argue that it was authorized to use necessary force to effect the arrest of the accused students and teachers according to section 46 of the Criminal procedure code; measures such as firing tear gas and rubber bullets at students will only add fuel to the fire. It is a standard counterinsurgency policing practice in an insurgency-torn state like Manipur to launch operations in the wee hours of the day to utilize the element of surprise. The midnight Blitzkrieg at Manipur University which uses this same logic points to more disturbing trends. The incident has become a lesson in how not to tackle student unrest.

September 24, 2018 /

In case of New Shillong Township, the state presents the case as a possible way out for congestion, which it says is a consequence of population rise, migration and the lack of space in the city. However, the plan of the state is not oriented towards meeting these required objectives. Rather, the plan of the state is to allot the land so acquired to a class of people who work for the state such as bureaucrats, government officials and the army. This is an open violation of the Sixth Schedule provisions that aim at protecting and safeguarding the interest and welfare of the tribal people. The people are not opposed to urban development but at the manner in which it is being executed. In the case of New Shillong, there has been a severe misuse of the law and power in favour of the state and private forces and players. There is a deep divide between the state’s manner of executing urban development and the people’s aspirations and their expectations from the state.

September 20, 2018 /

Maulana Bhashani remains a much demonised figure amongst a certain section of North East India for leading the movement for immigration of Bengali land hungry peasant into colonial Assam. So who was Maulana Bhashani? A rustic pir? A vulgar peasant leader? Scourge of Colonial India and Post colonial Pakistan & Bangladesh state? Communist? Islamist? Today, socialism and Islam are often viewed as incompatible. Does the career of Maulana Bhashani, “the Red Maulana” of Bangladesh, offer a corrective to this view?

September 16, 2018 /

In what are my twilight years, when I ought to be spending my sanyas listening to MJQ and tending the basil and strawberries on my terrace, I do not know whether to laugh or cry at this vicious right-wing surge – this attempted Hindutva putsch that has targeted Urban Naxalites I know, I respect and I love.

September 11, 2018 /

Yes, you heard it right. After a whole lot of brainstorming and deliberation we decided that all of you must refrain from using the category ‘Dalit’, for the official nomenclature is ‘Scheduled Caste’ and that must be used at all times, especially when communicating matters publicly. Not to say that we like you being Scheduled Caste either. Remember RohithVemula! Despite our best efforts in denying his Scheduled Caste identity, his being Dalit prevailed and eventually proved that he was a born scheduled caste. So we of course know that being a scheduled caste is a lot to deal with too, but being a Dalit is an entirely different story, which is increasingly becoming our everyday nightmare. Therefore, just don’t use this word anymore. Besides, scheduled castes – it’s quite a mouthful, so let’s say SC – an intrusion into our state of profound bliss and absolute peace, that continues to remind us that the state ought to make policies for your betterment, because you know the constitution! It’s difficult to make head or tail of this book, anyway.

September 5, 2018 /

Newspapers recently reported that acting on a West Bengal Notification from 2014, Presidency University is going to seek permission to begin the process of “dereserving” its seats. For many, this may be the first time they have heard such a term. Even a cursory reading of the stipulation sits at odds with the language of affirmative action. The term “unavoidable” seems to suggest as if reservations are a burden on academic institutions.

September 4, 2018 /

In a country where more than 91 per cent of news coverage on the Maoist conflict in Chhatisgarh is state-driven, particularly in the national English media, there were no accounts or voices of the Adivasi inhabitants of Nalkatong in whose village the encounter took place. Nor was there any follow-through or accounts of the women who ran behind the tractor that was carrying the dead bodies, unceremoniously stuffed into black plastic bags. The women went first to Konta and then to Sukma where the post mortems took place. Who were the dead and who were these grieving families who milled around the roads of Sukma?

September 2, 2018 /

Once the guests entered and we (the students of the North East) wanted to enter the Koyna Mess, were blocked right at the gate by ABVP representatives working alongside the security guards. Moreover, when we were about to enter, most of us heard the term “Naxalites” being thrown at us.
The ABVP screamed at us, that we were “security threats”. The representatives also pushed and pulled the students at the forefront of the gathering. We were manhandled. They did not allow us to enter, calling us “Naxalites”. It was in this moment when the students immediately and collectively decided to sit down outside the event and continued with our silent protest.
After a while, a few representatives of ABVP came outside to tell us that they will ‘allow’ us inside but without our posters which were our signs of resistance. It was then that we collectively demanded an apology from the ABVP for calling us “Naxalites” and “security threats”, which they outrightly denied.

August 31, 2018 /

This Hindu Fascist emergency will never be officially declared; it need not be. Emergency is the constituent aspect of fascist politics. Indira’s formal emergency was a limited response to an unfolding of a crisis, that actually threatened the survival of the Indian State. Modi’s informal emergency is an unlimited reaction to create a crisis against democratization of Indian society, that threatens the survival of the caste system.

August 30, 2018 /

Recent analyses of real voter data as well the Lokniti-CSDS-ABP Mood of the Nation survey have shown that the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are losing popularity at an alarming pace (for them). This means that we are entering dangerous times. There will be ruthless and continuous attempts to divert attention from the reasons for this loss of popularity, and to fracture the growing solidarity of the opposition. It will be a continuous circus from now to the elections—arrests, assassinations, lynchings, bomb attacks, false flag attacks, riots, pogroms. We have learned to connect the season of elections with the onset of all kinds of violence. Divide and Rule, yes. But add to that—Divert and Rule. From now until the elections, we will not know from when, and where and how the fireball will fall on us, and what the nature of that fireball will be.

August 29, 2018 /

Marriage is an important social institution, which has been closely linked to the mating patterns of primitive societies. Marriage is what determines the nature of familial relationships in a society. As such, it must be understood that it is not entirely a private affair, especially when viewed in the context of a country like India, where the family as an institution, has a say in the minutest of details, including the selection of a suitable partner. In fact, the question of marriage, has become such a sensitive topic, that even the state has taken it upon itself to be involved. A particular example, is taken from Meghalaya, India, where a government organization has proposed a bill that seeks to redefine the identity of a woman who chooses to marry outside the community that she belongs to. Given such an interweaving of external factors and the question of love, we clearly see how Game Theory can help provide an answer.

August 27, 2018 /

27/08/2018, it was really shocking for me to read the local dailies. According to Bah H. S. Shylla, esteemed CEM of KHADC, his proposed  amendment to Khasi Social Custom of Lineage Act 1997, preventing marriages between Khasi women and Non-Khasi Men by stripping Khasi women of their Khasi status was:
“aimed at protecting the community from the imminent threat of deadly diseases such as HIV-AIDS which are through marriage with bus and truck drivers from outside the state, migrant workers including drug addicts.”