Category: Commentary

March 31, 2020 /

Last week two news reports circulated in the media which made many roll their eyes in annoyance, while a few marveled at the absurdity of it all: one of the reports announced that a new category of porn, variously called as ‘Coronavirus Porn’ and ‘Quarantine Porn’, has made its appearance on Pornhub and Xvideos with nearly 250 search results. In some of these videos, people are seen having sex wearing face masks, while in a few others, they are going down on their partner wearing yellow and green protective gear, attired like a healthcare worker. Some of these videos flash brazen and saucy titles such as: “MILF Gets Hardfucked in Quarantine Room’, leaving those high on moral scruples cringed…

March 31, 2020 /

There is lock down and then there is locking down the economy and the two are not the same! This is my attempt to explain the connections between the two.
Lockdown is an extreme form of social distancing – everyone stays at home and therefore is automatically not proximal to the others. The corollary is that by successfully doing so you bring the whole country and therefore the economy to a halt! The goal of this exercise as epidemiologists and other medical professionals will explain is to “flatten the curve.” And this in some ways is the first thing to notice: the name is really about flattening the curve and not eliminating the curve.

March 30, 2020 /

One could ceaselessly criticise the atrocities committed by Modi’s regime; but what good is a critique, or a journalism of pathos, or high academic theorisations if they do not take the bull by its horns as it were. This has prompted me to drop the C-bomb — the caste question. How long will Indians pretend to live in a post-caste society and not address the evil that is at the root of a million injustices?

March 24, 2020 /

Ever since COVID-19, or more commonly Coronavirus, first appeared or came to be public knowledge we have witnessed a racialisation of the viral outbreak. Once the origin of the outbreak was determined to be in Wuhan province of China and speculations spread about the virus strain having jumped to humans from bats or pangolins a barrage of attacks ensued towards people of China and other South-Asian countries. The President of United States went on to term COVID-19 as the “Chinese disease”…
When it comes to racial prejudices we find similar notions operating in India as well towards certain tribal and ethnic minority groups. In fact we have recently witnessed a spike in cases of racial targeting and harassment in the country over Coronavirus fear. On the receiving end of this racism are the natives of Northeastern states, and also those from Darjeeling and Ladakh.

March 23, 2020 /

But is that really so? Is Bhagat Singh like Gandhi? Are the rituals that are conducted every year mere lip-service or do they mean something else? Not really is the argument of Chris Moffat’s new book India’s Revolutionary Inheritance: Politics and the Promise of Bhagat Singh. How is Bhagat Singh different and what prompts people to treat him differently from the others who were active in the anti-colonial movement like Nehru, Gandhi and Bose or those who were pre-eminent in interrogating the social order and demanding a new one in addition to independence like Ambedkar?

March 18, 2020 /

On December 15th 2019, the Sri Rama Vidyakendra High School in Dakshin Kannada, staged a play with its children, in which the demolition of the Babri Masjid was enacted. In a scene that has gone viral on the internet, the children are seen to be screaming “Jai Shri Ram” as the set collapses and a narrator on a loudspeaker eulogises this moment claiming that the devotees of Hanuman have brought this structure down with whatever they could find.Kalladaka Prabhakar Bhat, who is the owner of the school and a leader of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) has gone on record saying he was proud of the students and more such programs are planned in the future.
Contrast this with a play that Bidar’s Shaheen School staged opposing the controversial CAA bill. Although the text has not been made public (only an excerpt is what the author has had access to) at one place , allegedly a question is asked about what will happen if the Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes to ask for papers, in response to which someone says “Chappal se Maro“ ( hit him with slippers), which could be a literal dialogue or more commonly in Hindi / Urdu usage it refers to the act of shunning someone completely for the ridiculous nature of their proposition. The meaning rests in the proposition than in the literal image. In this case, the police issued a notice to the school.

March 13, 2020 /

This history – especially the unknown consequences of interactions with malnutrition and existing infections – should warn us that COVID-19 might take a different and more deadly path in the slums of Africa and South Asia. The danger to the global poor has been almost totally ignored by journalists and Western governments. The only published piece that I’ve seen claims that because the urban population of West Africa is the world’s youngest, the pandemic should have only a mild impact. In light of the 1918 experience, this is a foolish extrapolation. No one knows what will happen over the coming weeks in Lagos, Nairobi, Karachi, or Kolkata. The only certainty is that rich countries and rich classes will focus on saving themselves to the exclusion of international solidarity and medical aid. Walls not vaccines: could there be a more evil template for the future?

March 9, 2020 /

In a letter to the editor of The Shillong Times dated June 24, 2016, a member of the public addressed what he believed to be a nuisance caused by hawkers. He compared them to cow dung. In comparing the working-class community to cow dung, the author of the letter stripped them of their humanity and, in its place, assigned them bestiality or even worse ―what bestial nature itself rejected. After reading the letter, I thought, “These are not the women I know/knew.” As the great-granddaughter of a woman who sold moonshine/kyiad and the granddaughter of a tea seller (both of whom belonged to the unorganized sector of the Shillong working-class community) I knew differently. The working-class women I knew possessed ethics, morals and they also possessed that most human of attributes, dreams. If mainstream society refused to see them for who and what they are, then I had to do something about it. I had to write. Hence, apart from the obvious sociological implications this essay is also intended to unravel the human attributes of the women whose identities are, more often than not, concealed and made politically “savvy” by their being working-class.

the idea of Assamese nation is not homogenous—it is riven with contradictions, which make it a social form that is in process. In other words, the historical development of the Assamese nationality is an ongoing process of democratisation of social life, which is being obstructed by the Indian state under the class rule of the all-India Anglophone upper-caste elite. Now, while the metropolitan left-liberals, representatives of this latter class, devote their singular attention to the dominant upper-caste Assamese nationalism, they are oblivious to other voices that have engaged with the idea of an Assamese nation. In the process, they also miss the conjuncture in which this chauvinism (and its critiques) have emerged. Consequently, one must ask why this narrative of ‘the chauvinist Assamese’ has such currency amongst the liberals. We believe there are two reasons for it. First, it helps them in overlooking their own complicity as the upper-caste Indian elite in the emergence of this very chauvinist Assamese nationalism. And second, they can happily remain oblivious to the non-Brahminical articulations of Assamese nationality and thus deny political assertions of such articulations.

March 2, 2020 /

In a time when people from northeastern states of India are subjected to racism in the wake of Coronavirus fear, there is epistemic racism in academia against a Rongmei Naga scholar, Richard Kamei for writing an email to Prof. Noam Chomsky to update him about the discourse of citizenship unfolding in India and the discontents it has generated within indigenous tribal peoples of the northeastern region due to the precarity of their position. An open letter written by Suraj Gogoi and Angshuman Choudhury on 20th February 2020 to Prof. Chomsky in objection and as a counter to Kamei’s letter can only be considered as petty and callous as much as it is misleading.

March 2, 2020 /

A democracy that is not governed by a Constitution and one whose institutions have all been hollowed out can only ever become a majoritarian state. You can agree or disagree with a Constitution as a whole or in part—but to act as though it does not exist as this government is doing is to completely dismantle democracy. Perhaps this is the aim. This is our version of the Corona Virus. We are sick.
There’s no help on the horizon. No well-meaning foreign country. No UN…
What we need are people who are prepared to be unpopular. Who are prepared to put themselves in danger. Who are prepared to tell the truth. Brave journalists can do that, and they have. Brave lawyers can do that, and they have. And artists—beautiful, brilliant, brave writers, poets, musicians, painters and filmmakers can do that. That beauty is on our side. All of it.
We have work to do. And a world to win.

February 29, 2020 /

Sharjeel spoke not merely of being Muslim, but also about Islam as a critical Muslim- which is what has unsettled many. While we combat the state witch hunt and media trials of Sharjeel- it is also important to combat narratives that reduce his politics as irresponsible and uninformed with patronising jibes that make him a caricature. Sharjeel was not misguided or ignorant- he was very clear about his politics, a clarity that has rattled this nation. It is not that Sharjeel did not know enough, but rather that Sharjeel knew too much. After all, he said this in his ‘seditious’ speech.

February 28, 2020 /

Lad Rymbai, Meghalaya: A 27 year old labourer from Wapungskur village in Khliehriat, East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya says he is desperately seeking government compensation for injuries he suffered in an accident while working in an illegal coal mine in Lad Rymbai last May. He has not received any medical attention since then.

February 24, 2020 /

The state of Meghalaya has experienced many disturbances in relation to the issue of immigration. At the same time, there are historical demographic trends in Meghalaya which makes the case a little complicated. The spectre of the threat of illegal immigrants displacing the indigenous tribal population has been played out since the formation of the Statehood. Fear of being overwhelmed by non-indigenous population (non-tribal) is widespread throughout the State and any perceived threat to tribal sovereignty is vehemently opposed

February 23, 2020 /

The recent event of a school in Karnataka where sedition charges were slapped against the principal for organising an event against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has outlandishly caught the public imagination. Prior to that, we saw a brazen invocation of this colonial era law against many activists and scholars including Sharjeel Imam, Akhil Gogoi and against many people in Mumbai last week who dared to raise legitimate concerns against the govt. Since the recent past, the invocation of this extra-ordinary law has become more frequent in India, specifically targeted against the minority and marginalized groups.

February 19, 2020 /

THE NINETEENTH CENTURY SAW THE emergence of many ideas related to meaningfully transforming the Brahmaputra to serve the government and the country. Experts toyed with ideas on how to tame the river. If other rivers of the world could serve the cause of the governments of the countries through which they flowed, why should the Brahmaputra not be trained in similar ways? It was only a matter of the appropriate calculations and necessary engineering works. What was called for was a plan for the river’s regulation to achieve the desired goals. The river, despite its erratic temperament, was bound to behave according to the rules thus framed. After two centuries of political, economic, intellectual, and bureaucratic negotiation, the river has become part of India’s national imagination. India’s stake in the Brahmaputra is now firmly established. The genealogy of this belief in the expertise, knowledge, and governance of the river goes back to the mid-nineteenth century as the example of the Kalang, a distributary of the Brahmaputra, shows. The Kalang is the river on the banks of which I have partly grown up.

February 6, 2020 /

In India, we are witnessing the psychopathological connection between the prison and the nation state in its entirety at the moment, in the context of both the Kashmir Valley and the creation of our latest architectural wonder, the detention center in Assam.
As a nation, we are being bound on principles of these two, I would argue, architecturally similar ideas , of silencing a space and of containing a people (within a space).

The position that the left-liberals have adopted in regard to Sharjeel is this—we don’t agree with Sharjeel but he should not be charged with sedition. In place of sedition, these are the charges that the left-liberals level against him:

Sharjeel asks non-Muslims to stand with Muslims on their terms—communalism
Sharjeel’s speech helps the BJP because ‘the time is not right’—political stupidity

The left-liberals, who seem to have either not heard the speech or not understood it, miss the lip-smacking irony that these were the exact charges laid against the Barelvi Ulema by the Congress and their supporters, the Deobandi Ulema. Sharjeel reminds us in his speech that the unpardonable sin of the Barelvis was to oppose the Congress. Today, the unpardonable sin of Sharjeel Imam is the same, opposing the left-liberal combine. Only if he supports the left-liberal combine against the BJP will they recognize the validity of his position. Otherwise, he will be silenced and side-lined in favour of those Muslims who are more favourable to left-liberal Hindu nationalism.

February 5, 2020 /

Amin Bhat, a Kashmiri playwright, wrote a play – ‘Shinakhti Card’ – based on the the theft, and loss, of an ID card and its disastrous consequences. It is considered a landmark in contemporary Kashmiri literature for a reason, and that has to do with the fact that it responds to the predicament of being invalidated by being unable to show one’s papers. For all those saying ‘Kagaz Nahin Dikhayenge’ (‘We Won’t Show Papers’) in the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Indian cities and towns, the consequences of what happens when one cannot show papers in occupied Kashmir could act as a salutary warning about the violence of the paper-prison-state. Because what will happen in India, if the CAA-NRC-NPR goes through as planned, is what has already happened, in many ways, in India administered Kashmir.

The unrelenting movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019  (CAA) reveals that the wounds of the past remain unhealed. While the CAA is an attempt at settling, to quote Sanjib Baruah, the “unfinished business” of partition, it has flared up what the indigenous people of the Northeast dread the most- the fear of being reduced to a minority. That fear is often labelled as a mere myth by some and the persistence of that myth is often ascribed to the Assamese middle class’s political agenda. However, in the case of the CAA protests, the spontaneity and intensity and consistency of the current movement signal a contrary view. It is in this light that Assam’s politics can be explained in terms of a ‘politics of resentment’, a term given by the political scientist Francis Fukuyama, in his own analyses of identity politics.This resentment is against the Centre which continues to belittle the identity concerns of the indigenous people…

January 30, 2020 /

It was in the winter of 2016, I had gone back to my home in Southern Odisha after almost a year. I had come home with two of my friends from Northeast India and thought of showing them few nearby places. They wanted to know more about the local tribal culture, so we decided to visit the neighboring district called Malkangiri situated at the border of Chhatishgarh and Andhra Pradesh. There is one popular local market there where the Bondas come down once in a week to sell their famous rice beer and bamboo baskets. The Bondas fall under the particularly vulnerable tribal group of Odisha. Less than 5000 in numbers, they live in a hill with very less or no contact with the plains people including Govt officials driven with an idea of protectionism. This has been the case for last many decades and I have been passing through that village since my childhood but this time in 2016, I suddenly noticed few changes and it had to do with the Bonda women. Bonda women usually cover upper part of their body with long necklaces made out of colorful stones and beads but this time they were wearing ‘nighties’ and some of them had sindoor/vermilion on their foreheads. After further inquiry in the nearby shops, I came to realize that sartorial change had been the work of RSS in last few years. Moreover,  some of them had turned vegetarian.

January 26, 2020 /

Translation of Akhil Gogoi’s open letter he handed over to his comrades when he was presented before a special National Investigation Agency court in Guwahati on 24 January 2020. Akhil Gogoi, mass peasant leader and RTI activist from Assam, was arrested on 12 December 2019 by Assam Police and later handed over to the NIA. He has been booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and a case was registered against him under section 120(B), 124(A), 153(A), 153(B) of the IPC and section 18, 39 of the UAPA.

January 25, 2020 /

The students fraternity of the North Eastern Universities along with various other organisations gathered today at Bhupen Hazarika Kalabhumi, Tezpur to stage a massive protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019.
The main objective of the meet was to create a common platform among the universities across Northeast who are actively protesting against Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. The meeting highlighted the peculiarity of the north-eastern region in relation to the draconian Act. The narrative which has emerged in the region focuses on different ground of discrimination faced by the indigenous people in the eight states in the periphery. That the continuous influx of ‘illegal immigrants’ have rendered us hopeless had been addressed. Not only does the Act pose a threat to the indigenous cultures of the Northeast, it also seeks curb our right to actively dissent and express our fear. The student representatives came to an agreement that although they stand in solidarity with the protests going on in the mainland India they demand solidarity of the nation to understand the concern of the Northeast and the valid concerns of the many communities. They condemned the police atrocities on the students, both inside and outside the college and university campuses.

January 13, 2020 /

Over the last two days we’ve been hearing about the arrest of a senior police officer—Davinder Singh, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) who was working with the hijack unit of the Jammu and Kashmir Police (JKP), at the Humhama Airport, Srinagar. Last year he received the President’s medal for gallantry. More recently he was a part of the reception committee to welcome the fifteen members of the EU Parliament who visited Kashmir in the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370 (and probably wanted to experience at first hand the spectacle of its locked down population and jailed leaders). Davinder Singh was arrested in southern Kashmir on Saturday (Jan 11th) in an operation by his colleagues of the JKP, who intercepted the car he was riding in with two very senior militants and a cache of weapons. The police have said his is a “heinous crime” and that they are treating him as a militant.
Most people may not know who DSP Davinder Singh is. But for many long years he has loomed over those who have studied and written about the December 13, 2001 Parliament Attack – a malign presence whose impunity knew no bounds. RAIOT republishes Arundhati Roy’s introduction to 13 December, A Reader: The Strange Case of the Attack on the Indian Parliament. It was published six years before Afzal Guru was hanged. And Davinder Singh has a starring role in it. Today, thirteen years later, the thirteen questions she poses in this piece remain unanswered.

January 11, 2020 /

As of now there are no direct links, and the alliances between the Azadis, in India and in Kashmir. But remarkable and perplexing exchanges are not uncommon in history, and we should not close our eyes to such possibilities beforehand. Kashmiris have demonstrated the ability to patiently out-wait the state, not least of all in this present crisis of the post-370 abrogation. The rhizomatic subterranean diffusion and spread of Azadi into India’s social – slowly navigating across barriers and police pickets, surviving and seeking life – into all different directions, should also be patiently nurtured and allowed to grow for more mature solidarities and struggles to come later in the day. It’s not the responsibility of the oppressed to emancipate their oppressors but somehow Kashmiris might have just given India such a gift. How far India will go with this gift is an open question.

January 8, 2020 /

Since the past couple of months I have been thinking a lot about home and ways in which it archives the passage of time. In one such afternoon of sluggish enquiry, I learnt about my great-aunt for the first time some forty years after her death when I discovered an old trunk in my house. The trunk was brought by her when she migrated from Sylhet to India (Assam) because of the partition of 1947. Coincidentally, the day I discovered this relic of the inglorious history turned out to be the anniversary of the country’s independence. It was on the 15th August 2018.

January 6, 2020 /

Even if for a moment we keep aside the fresh universal humiliation of Kashmiri peoples demand of self-determination, we still have other, less heard about, mostly ignored state sponsored persecution of people and their right to self-determination by the Brahmanical Indian state.

One such marginalized story is from Assam and its demand for self-determination which again has been gaining fresh momentum in and through the ‘Brahmanical’ Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019.

January 3, 2020 /

The problem with JNU is that it’s a space for political correctness, not for understanding & questioning the real issues and reaching at clarity. If we see statistically too, the students who are able to make good careers and fly abroad are already a privileged batch with bundles of exposure with academia & globe. The underprivileged portion of students who get into this posturing ploy barely manage to get their M.Phils.’ and Ph.Ds. realised, and if they do, they lack proper skillset.

January 3, 2020 /

The problem with JNU is that it’s a space for political correctness, not for understanding & questioning the real issues and reaching at clarity. If we see statistically too, the students who are able to make good careers and fly abroad are already a privileged batch with bundles of exposure with academia & globe. The underprivileged portion of students who get into this posturing ploy barely manage to get their M.Phils.’ and Ph.Ds. realised, and if they do, they lack proper skillset.

January 2, 2020 /

We, Korean civil societies strongly urge the following:

The Modi government should instantly withdraw the Citizenship Amendment Act(CAA).
The Modi government should withdraw prohibition of demonstration and communication services cut off throughout India including Kashmir.
The Modi government should discontinue discrimination policies against Muslims, treat and protect all citizens and refugees equally.
The Korean government should state its stance toward anti-human rights policies of the Modi government and reconsider its cooperation with the Modi government.

January 2, 2020 /

While there are numerous instances of police violence in custody against certain sections of society (think poor, dalits, tribals, transgender people, “urban naxals,” Muslims amongst others), it is only at these moments, the blatant role of the police become more publicly visible to those who routinely ignore such violence elsewhere. The police asking the Jamia women students to go to Pakistan, stating that they are not Indians, even as their non Muslim friends watched in shock, are just some of the comments shared by these courageous women in a conversation with Ravish Kumar. The subsequent police targeting of Muslim journalists and lawyers/activists and subjecting them to illegal detention or in some cases torture then becomes the logical next step.

December 26, 2019 /

The extraordinary mass awakening erupted in Assam after the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 had been introduced in the Lok Sabha on 9 December 2019 is hitherto unseen in the history of the state. We are at a loss whether to term it a mass movement or a mass protest! It is certain that it is a phenomenon that would shake Assam’s social life. Everyone would agree that it is a historic eruption in the life of the Assamese nationality. But no matter how massive this mass protest is, this mass movement by the people would not be able to achieve its goal unless it is given a rational direction. Therefore we are trying to propose a blueprint to carry forward this movement, so that the biggest political phenomenon that we have ever seen in our lifetime does not become a nine day wonder.

December 23, 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.”

December 22, 2019 /

Ka Khristmas kam dei tang ka por ba ngin lehkmen, hynrei ka dei ruh ka por ba ngi peit shakhmat da ka jingkyrmen. Ka Khristmas ka iai pynkynmaw ia ngi ba ka don ka lad jong ka jingkyrmen bad ka pynkynmaw ruh ba U Jisu Khrist da la ka jong ka doh u la mad ia kaei kaba ki briew ki mad ne shem ha ka jingim hangne ha pyrthei. Ka kam kaba khia bad kyrkieh kaba don ha khmat jong ngi ka long kumno ban pynneh pynsah bad iada ia ka khyndew ka shyiap, ka ktien, ka kolshor ne ka dei riti jong ka Ri bad Jaidbynriew ba ritpaid bad ha kajuh ka por pat ban thew hok ia ka pyrla ka jingiarap ba shongnia kaba ngin ai sha ki phetwir ne nongwei katkum ki Ain bad ka hok longbriew manbriew, khlem da leh klet ruh ban buh pynap ia ki Ain bad kyndon ban iada ialade. Ngin ym lah ban leh ia kane lymne weng ia ki jingeh lada ngi don ia ka nongrim bad ka jingmut kaba khim.

December 20, 2019 /

The abrogation of Article 370 has been accompanied by many colossal whoppers about its politics and history, and deliberate disinformation about the consequences for legal and constitutional rights and status. Yet in Kashmir, from where I write this, none of it matters. It is all of a piece with India’s long history of lawlessness and lies in the name of law. In the face of overwhelming ontological insecurity and terrifying state brutality, no one, not even the lawyering community (such of them as are not busy filing habeas corpus and bail petitions or themselves hiding from arrest), can be bothered to pore over the niceties of how exactly the deed was accomplished. With no Internet access many Kashmiri lawyers I speak to have not so far been able to read the full text of the two Constitutional Orders that altered their fate. What, after all, is a legal sleight of hand or an elaborately constructed constitutional lie when you have not spoken to a beloved daughter in two months? Who cares if Tulsi Gabbard (“who?”) or the late Arun Jaitley (“he died?”) misrepresent the nature of property rights that daughters enjoyed under your one-time, so-called semi-autonomous legal system? Many had not heard that this was even a thing. When I informed them, seething with indignation, they shrugged. “Yes” they said. “They lie.”

December 18, 2019 /

Over the last few days, I’ve found myself repeatedly on the defensive—from accusations flying around about the xenophobic Northeast, that people there “just want to kick everybody out”.
Other “mainlanders” confess they are torn, wanting to understand and extend support but struggling to because they can’t align the protest there with their fight against anti-secularism.
For those of you who may still be confused, yes “mainland” India and Assam are protesting the CAA but not for the same reasons. The former are rightfully enraged over its dire implications for the Muslim community. The Assamese (not a monolithic ethnic block btw but an intricate, precarious web of over 200 tribes) are angered over how they feel it threatens their indigenous existences.

December 18, 2019 /

We must respond to the provocation of the fascists with sober strategic resistance, and build solidarity across different regions and communities. There is no reason to believe that the interests of the different vulnerable communities – be it small nationalities, religious minorities, tribals, dalits, refugees and migrants – cannot be addressed together. It is not necessary that they will have to be posited against each other. Through wider dialogue and conversations, such questions can be addressed adequately, as per the best democratic traditions of our country. Instead, what is being done by the RSS/BJP today is to play a cynical game of pitting one community against another, instrumentalising the grievances of one community to trample upon the rights of another, and naked State repression to control. Together, we will not let this game continue. What they fear most is the coming together of the oppressed and the subjugated. With empathy and solidarity with each other, we will defeat the evil designs of the Hindutva forces.

December 17, 2019 /

By relegating the cries of the North-East region to fringes, a strong and powerful ‘liberal’ discourse on ‘secularism’ has emerged in India’s ‘heartland’. One can clearly observe the immorality of this discourse; news reports, opinion pieces announce the new Citizen Act as “islamophobic” and “anti-secular” while using images from the protesting ‘North-East’. One will also find news reports where images are used from the current Assam protest and the news item never mentions the protest in Assam and its reason but talks of passing an “Anti Secular Bill”. Deaths of protesters in Assam is cited in making their ‘liberal’ ‘secularist’ arguments in news rooms and opinion pieces.

December 14, 2019 /

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