Category: Commentary

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”

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.

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.

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 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 /

“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.”

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.