Category: Culture

In the last few days, the news and debate concerning the dog meat ban in Nagaland has been spreading like an oil-spill, contaminating conversations and diluting dispassionate and rational debate – stirring both those in favour and against it. While a good deal has now been said, much more remains to be elucidated… In this piece, Roderick Wijunamai & Menokhono highlight two points. First, how dogs feature in Naga cosmology, lifeworld, and livelihoods. Second, they foreground how the dog meat ban understate the existing constitutional provision in place for tribes in India, and the Nagas in particularly. They show how the recent dog meat ban has been an outright disregard to both.

July 13, 2020 /

The pandemic has opened up a whole new, yet familiar backdrop of self speculation through my lens. The images chronicle the mundane setting around my own domestic space, featuring my family of six members and the choices I make to freeze moments for eternity. They have been created alongside many thoughts running through my restless mind during the lockdown appending my state of mind, my political stance, my privileges, my body image, my space, my relationships, my priorities, my future and how we would turn out after all this is over. 

July 5, 2020 /

Axone was a much awaited film- simply because it promised ‘to speak for the Northeast ‘-the mainstream after all has taken so long to look east and whenever it has chosen to ‘speak’ for us – it has always been distorted and misrepresented, steeped in stereotypes. Axone’s promise to speak of ‘lived realities’ of the people of the Northeast-in choosing Axone as the title and the theme of the movie- to engage with questions of racism through food politics- there really could not have been any better time than now to bring forth the harsh truth of racism experienced by people of the Eastern region. But all it did- and very problematically- was to cater to these crucial questions from a very privileged and elite position, almost similar to the stance of the mainland- lacking depth, ignorant and oblivious of the ‘lived realities’ that it seeks to represent. Interesting debates have already been forth from the Northeastern community it seeks to represent; my purpose therefore is to introspect on the representation of the Nepali character of Upasna Rai as ‘part of’ and yet different from the Northeast.

July 5, 2020 /

“Adults are not reading books.”
“Children are not reading books.”
These 2 lines one comes across frequently. These are, on most occasions, followed with gyan encouraging one to read. To read more. Most of this gyan also lays the blame – for fall in reading – entirely or almost entirely on technology. In other words, televisions and mobile phones are the reason for people going away from books and reading. Roald Dahl too famously written, “So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install a lovely bookshelf on the wall”.

Torrential rains, this monsoon like every other has worsened the flood situation in Assam. This year already around 1.1 million people have been affected in 23 districts and the fatalities due to flood this year has gone up to 24 and counting. While the state administration is doing its best to tackle the situation, locals of villages near the rivers are being moved to safer places as their villages are being inundated by flood waters. Soon the public cry will be about the ineffectual bureaucracy and aid programs on the ground as lakhs of rupees will be once again spent and pocketed.
māti is a short documentary film (22 minutes) that attempts to understand this annual cycle. This film is in Assamese and English (with subtitles in English) and remains institutionally unfunded, made in partnership with the local communities by the river.

July 1, 2020 /

What does it take to build a nation? Hiren Gohain and Sanjib Baruah once had a prolonged debate on the stakes of nationalism during the Assam Movement in the 1980s. Professor Gohain, broadly skeptical of the Assam Movement, argued that it was a bourgeois reaction to the consolidation of communist organizing in the region. Professor Baruah, more sympathetic, suggested that it was a strategic mobilization responding to India’s continued treatment of Assam as a colony. Revisiting that debate, one is struck less by their disagreements— which were many and profound—but by the impossibility of that argument today. This is partly because of the intervening forty years, of course, especially the collapse of the organized Left, the rise (and betrayal) of ULFA, and the saffronization of nationalism, such that even imagining it could be an emancipatory vision seems ludicrous these days. It is also because, as both Professors Gohain and Baruah emphasize in their recent books, the rest of the country never grasped the sheer novelty of the Assam Movement. Most of us today remember the Assam Movement only insofar as it led to the Assam Accord, which we in turn blame for the NRC and the CAA. Read together, Professors Gohain and Baruah offer us an important corrective to that narrow and self-serving narrative, even as they highlight different aspects of the complex history and consequences of that moment in Indian history.

June 23, 2020 /

Axone, an extreme comfort food, rarely has an in-between. You either love it or hate it. It seems the film Axone by Nicholas Kharkongor, has gone the same direction as well. Much criticism has been poured on it in terms of accuracy and how it has dealt with many important issues, especially to North-easterners, on racism and discrimination. With everything else going on in the world, perhaps the film seems weak to many in its stance on these issues in light of present social and political conflicts. Thus, it has been chewed down, digested and excreted with all the stench to put off anyone going near it.
I enjoyed Axone thoroughly. Both the food and the film.

June 22, 2020 /

I Janice Pariat I dei iwei na ki nongthoh iba la sdang paw ha ka jylli ki nongthoh kot ka Ri India. Ki khanatang kiba I la thoh bad lum thup ha ka kot kaba I la ai kyrteng Boats on Land (Ki Lieng Kynda ha Ryngkew) ki la pynioh ha I ia ka khusnam Yuva Puraskar na ka Sahitya Academy. Ki khana kiba don ha katei ka kot ki dei ki jingmutdur ia ka por bad hadien ka jingsynshar jong ki phareng bad ka Sorkar Bilat ia ka Ri Khasi Jaintia. Ia kane ka kot la pynkylla ruh sha ka ktien khasi da I Bah Sumar Sing Sawian.
Mynta ka dei sngi ba ka Ri Khasi Jaintia ka kynmaw burom ia u Thomas Jones u missionary Khristan ka Balang Presbyterian na Ri Wales uba la wan poi ha Sohra 179 snem mynshuwa. Kumta ngi wanrah sha phi ki nongpule ia kawei ka khana kaba iasnoh bad ka Shnong Pomreng,ka Shnong kaba u Thomas Jones u la phet rieh na ki tyrsim u Hary Englis uba la thmu sniew ban shim ia ka jingim u.

June 21, 2020 /

It has been eight years since my father departed from this world on 3rd May 2012. Gurucharan Murmu, who entered the hallowed IPS (Indian Police Service) in 1972, is the first ever Santal to serve the Union Civil Services. Being his daughter and having to see him suffer all his life for his integrity and for upholding an incorruptible moral universe has been an agonizing experience. While it was personal pain earlier, it is more of anger towards gross violation of social justice that triggers me these days. The persistence of the skilfully devised myth that the thirty four years of left front rule in West Bengal has somehow abolished caste based discrimination is due to the pervasive dominance of the forward caste Bengali bhadralok over political, social, economic and cultural domains and academic discourses. Dismissal, oppression, deprivation, injustice, contempt and most importantly stigma and trauma of humiliation and harassment, violation of dignity and human rights on account of caste disparity remain brutal everyday realities for adivasis in this state.

June 17, 2020 /

Axone, the film is being critically received and widely acclaimed for depicting the racial discriminations faced by the people from the Northeast in Indian metros, an aspect that has assumed a special significance due to a spike of racist attacks and discrimination against people form the region in different cities of India as the panic around COVID19 grows. Nicholas Kharkongor, the director of the movie, made this connection too in an interview to Outlook calling the movie has come in the right time, as “the idea was to be able to tell the story of Northeast people’s experience of living in a big city.”

June 8, 2020 /

Today (8th June 2020) is the second death anniversary of Sukracharjya Rabha (1977-2018), whom I lovingly called Sukra Da. He was my senior, my big brother. We both learned theatre from our Oja Kanhailal and Ima Sabitri. He was the founder-director of the theatre group Badungduppa Kalakendra, Rampur, an extended family of Kalakshetra Manipur. Under the guidance of late Heisnam Kanhailal, Sukracharjya Rabha started the theatre festival Under the Sal Tree in 2008 at his village Rampur. The first festival was jointly organized by Badungduppa Kalakendra and Kalakshetra Manipur, the theatre group founded by late Heisnam Kanhailal and Heisnam Sabitri.

June 8, 2020 /

Online education should be seen as a portentous messenger of things to come and not the message in itself. Even before the physical classroom and face to face academic interactions were deemed a viral hazard, the contemporary university system was already down with a high fever and looking for ways to cool off from their dependence on brick and mortar teaching.

All commemorations and commemorative projects are political in nature, and each represents the political visions of a community, which in most of the cases transgress the political or cultural autonomy of another community. Manipur state for a long time have been projecting a particular Meetei-centric history and identity through the museums, state holidays and other types of commemorations. This should be questioned and had been questioned through political and academic language for years, but with little success. For example, the entire history of Pangal community or Manipuri Muslims hardly found any space in history writing, hero-making or such state commemorations in the region. The building of this contentious park is a continuation of this problematic state commemorations, and is most likely to result in political confrontations, which is avoidable in such a fragile political arrangement in the state. The purpose of this article is not to question the building of the park or the oppositions to its building. It merely questions the ahistorical reading of the Chibu inscriptions and the historical circumstances leading to their installation at the site.

May 17, 2020 /

I have heard many who claim to have many things growing in their garden but also have well manicured finger-nails. You may own a garden but might not be responsible for what grows in it because you have outsourced this task to a gardener. So you cannot claim to have grown anything and it does not make you a gardener. You can’t have those delicate nails and also be doing gardening. Gardening leaves its marks. On a hot sunny day you can turn a burnished red and your hands are always rough no matter what hand cream you use, including those that claim to work miracles. I take about two hours daily to weed, prune, rake and ensure that the roots of the plants are well looked after and the leaves are healthy. Every once in a while one also has to look for little pests that devour the leaves and cruelly kill them for the choice is between allowing the pest to thrive or your vegetables.

May 16, 2020 /

Then there are the other good souls, picking up local bakery and often, surreptitiously procuring our vices like cigarettes and duma, sourced from friends and acquaintances moonlighting as suppliers. So there’s a lesson for me here, be nice to everyone. Spread your friendship net far and wide. You never know who could arrange that last packet of Gold Flake for you.

April 26, 2020 /

Daily we gulped down the alcoholic news
of roasted cars and brutalised bodies, fleeing
families and flimsy appeals for peace, curfew
reliefs, temporal windows for resupply, while

at home we gossiped about spilled blood
between endless games of scrabble, our tones
hushed lest the police patrolling sanitised streets
would hear and accuse us of plotting. That year,

with winter fast approaching with no sign
of school reopening, I learnt the vocabulary
of hate and placed my preadolescent signature
on a certificate that declared my neighbour

and friend, Abhijit, his family, had become
our enemy.

April 24, 2020 /

At a time like this, Kafka is imperative to inform ourselves of the experience of a life lived like this. His prescience has been evoked several times over the years, as elements of his stories have found parallels everywhere. During the Prague Spring in 1968, his works saw a resurgence after the ban because they mirrored the conditions under communism, capturing the emotional suffocation and paranoia of living under a faceless power. In 2011, the rape case of a Chinese official’s daughter by a mining magnate contained the all the ironic twists typical to a Kafkaesque, futile quest for justice.

April 22, 2020 /

Dierhekolie Iralu, known as Kaka, impulsive and straightforward, sentimental, domineering at times but innocent like a child, foaming at the mouth when voicing convictions, but with an attentive ear to the views of others. He is the man who revealed the history and truth of the Naga people that no one before him had dared to divulge.
Nineteen fifty six – the year Kaka was born, India launched a full-fledged military invasion of Nagaland. Naga villages were burned to ashes one after another, and the helpless people were driven into the jungle. Shortly after his birth, Kaka wandered the jungles with his mother, and was detained as a political prisoner at the age of 8 months. During his boyhood, scenes of blood and gore were etched into his memory as he spent time with his grandfather, who was a doctor.

April 12, 2020 /

With churches closed and annual pilgrimages cancelled, Christians across the world are wondering how to give thanks to God this Easter. And not just Christians – think also of “Chreasters”. Do you attend church only at Christmas and Easter? If so, you’re a Chreaster, and you’re not alone

April 12, 2020 /

Fifty years ago, when Paul McCartney announced he had left the Beatles, the news dashed the hopes of millions of fans, while fueling false reunion rumors that persisted well into the new decade.
In a press release on April 10, 1970 for his first solo album, “McCartney,” he leaked his intention to leave. In doing so, he shocked his three bandmates.
The Beatles had symbolized the great communal spirit of the era. How could they possibly come apart?

April 7, 2020 /

While growing up, my relationship with death as a young child was shaped by these funerary customs and gatherings. I didn’t fear death. I saw it as a part of everyday life. A death in the community meant meeting scores of new people and catching up with friends. We were always taught to be respectful of the deceased person’s family’s grief but we also played our role in alleviating the sudden emptiness that comes with the death of a loved one.
In many ways, Khasi funerals become a celebration of a person’s life. People sit around and reminisce about the life of the person who has just left this earthly realm.

April 5, 2020 /

Cooped up in a little apartment in New York, Mir Suhail, Koshur (Kashmiri for the uninitiated) artist extraordinaire, has been struggling, like the rest of us, to make sense of the arcane pandemic. Perhaps the talented cartoonist’s art ensures that he has better tools at his disposal in this endeavour than most of us. On the other hand, he shares a burden all Kaesher (Kashmiris) must bear—the India occupation of Kashmir and the utter lack of compassion for and solidarity with Kaesher by most of the global community. That probably balances out any advantages his art might supply.

April 3, 2020 /

Today, the Joker is in control of America. All the usual blandishments, calls to reason, liberal handwringing about his damnable lies and his absolute contempt of all norms have the least affect. And the Batman hired by the Democratic Party, the Washington Post, the Obama-was-the-greatest industry, the old hippies and college grads, is powerless. He simply flails and puffs. Because at heart the public seems to have decided that they would prefer an bald faced liar than one that has been terrorizing them for decades, if at a remove and in the name of justice, truth and the American Way.
And then in the midst of this toxic stew Bob Dylan quietly drops a 16-minute tour de force that somehow manages to sum the whole clusterfuck up perfectly.

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 22, 2020 /

While the world struggles against COVID19 pandemic, India’s music loving Supreme Leader, Sri (216) Narendra Modi appealed to the Indians to self impose a curfew on 22nd March from 5.00am to 9.00pm with a proviso that at 5.00 pm all Indians shall step out and make a noise to show their appreciation for the health professionals. Like loyal citizens, Indians came out in droves, they danced, they hugged, they screamed and enjoyed their Social Distancing. These videos are some of the best examples of Indians having Corona fun. 

March 22, 2020 /

While the world struggles against COVID19 pandemic, India’s music loving Supreme Leader, Sri (216) Narendra Modi appealed to Indians to self impose a curfew on 22nd March from 5.00am to 9.00pm with a proviso that at 5.00 pm all Indians shall step out and make a noise to show their appreciation for the health professionals. Like loyal citizens, Indians came out in droves, they danced, they hugged, they screamed and enjoyed their Social Distancing. These videos are some of the best examples of Indians having Corona fun. 

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 2, 2020 /

“Ernesto Cardenal, the renowned poet and Roman Catholic cleric who became a symbol of revolutionary verse in Nicaragua and around Latin America, and whose suspension from the priesthood by St. John Paul II lasted over three decades, died March 1, 2020. He was 95.
RAIOT remembers Cardenal via two piracies. First, an interview on Liberation Theology and second, his most famous poem ORACIÓN POR MARILYN MONROE / PRAYER FOR MARILYN MONROE

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.

Raashid Maqbool – poet, teacher, scholar, journalist, friend-recited this ghazal to me in late December 2019 in his dusty car, parked on the side of a main thoroughfare in Srinagar, Kashmir. We had only an hour ago driven by a macabre spectacle: a young man, no more than 25 years of age, was being dragged by his long hair, his body bouncing against the rutted road as he flailed and kicked in protest.

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 8, 2020 /

The massive carpet that adorns the famous Morning Drawing Room of Holyrood House (the Queen’s residence in Edinburgh) was made in a weaving village near Mirzapur in northern India. It took seventeen months to make and was put together by 12 workers, all males, each paid about 600 rupees a month (equal to roughly £25 in 1987 when the carpet was commissioned). OCM (Oriental Carpet Manufacturers), which received the commission (and well over a million pounds for it??), had for decades had no presence in the Mirzapur carpet industry and only established one when it took over E.F. Hill’s business in 1944. By the late 1980s OCM had become a division of Ralli Brothers, having been acquired through a City investment firm whose partners were directors of Rallis; this happened between 1969 and 1972. The gap between the royal sum received for the Holyrood carpet and the wages that went into its Indian manufacture seems staggering, but of course it was and is typical of the carpet industry worldwide.

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.