Category: English

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.

May 5, 2020 /

People who dictate policies and the ones who implement them, those who create the propaganda and the ones who carry it, those who make art out of ordinary men’s miseries and the ones who lecture the world from comfortable TV studios, those who pretend they care and the ones who remain apathetic, those who put their individual interests above the collective benefit and the ones whose rationality borders on cruelty. 
I myself fall in the same group – among those currently facing an epidemic of anxiety, loneliness and mental health issues. Long been shielded by our economic and social status, we now need to loosen our purses and our egos. As we find us and our loved ones to be as susceptible to the vagaries of the unkind world, we should do some soul searching. Here is what the elites of India, and the world, can do in our spare time. 

May 1, 2020 /

The messed up person in this story is not the girl herself. The messed up people here are those trying to justify her actions. Those who are tacitly propping up these structures of privilege, dependence and corruption. To put things in perspective – Last year, a musician from Laitumkhrah was battered and bruised in police custody. How many people stood up for him? A week ago, another boy from Shillong was called Corona by Bengaluru police while being taken to jail. How many people stood up for him? Now, a woman has become a meme legend by saying crazy things at a police station. And some mindless people are writing odes to her innocence and silently shedding a tear for her strength.

April 29, 2020 /

“We are frustrated by the hunger, disparity and isolation that is staring at us in the face. We have never seen such nakedness. My mother recently told me over the phone that ‘corona’ is the first word that comes to her mind when she wakes up and it brings along images of mass unemployment, persons stuck in abusive homes, hunger and death in isolation. She wakes up to this everyday. She is terrified. For herself and others. We all are.
Add to this the persecution of students, activists, scholars, doctors (persons any sane society would hold dear, especially in these times) by the state and its lackadaisical response to the woes of the most marginalized. It seems to us that this lockdown is the end of the world as we know it. And we are not able to ‘move’, mobilize, and protest to save it.
But, difficult as it is, we cannot let fear turn us into unscientific fools whose demands are based on ‘feelings’ and overlook facts. And whose facts are placed out of context in an argument. That is the work of those who walk towards the other direction from the center.”

Ever since Covid-19 appeared in public knowledge, a racist approach to the epidemic is witnessed in various parts of the world. The President of the United States of America, Mr. Donald Trump went on to term the Novel coronavirus as the ‘Chinese virus’. In India, the brunt has been borne by mostly people from the Northeast, Darjeeling and Ladakh. There are many media reports and personal narratives of people from the Northeast facing getting targeted and harassed in many parts of the country. Different conspiracy theories have flooded the social media regarding patient zero and why and how it got transmitted, although the actual cross-species transmission is yet to be confirmed. Rumours such as the virus got transmitted to a human body by coming in contact with a host animal carrier and so on are doing the rounds. In the popular Indian Upper Caste psyche, the already available theories about ‘weird’, ‘uncivilized’, ‘unhygienic’, ‘wild’ and ‘very Chinese’ food habits of the communities from the Northeast are enough to create quick racial profiling and targeting of the Northeasterners. We have seen various rumours, widespread conspiracy theories and social media forward messages regarding the food habits of the inhabitants of Northeast India being viral in the Indian social mediascapes.

As we continue to face a mostly unknown threat and have no specific guidelines on ideal exit plans (eg, from World Health Organization), it is, therefore, critical that developing countries formulate their own “context-specific” strategies before relaxing the nationwide social distancing interventions.
Besides solidarity, integrative thinking, multidisciplinary coordination, planning, and preparation are key.
Therefore, the measures proposed here might helpfully inform the policy-makers to think locally, act promptly, and balance health protection and economy pragmatically, in low-income settings worldwide , when a decision is made to relax the social distancing.

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 21, 2020 /

The 2 country-wide lockdowns of 3 weeks each, one after another are unprecedented anywhere in the world. We all know of the distress caused to millions of migrant labourers but we can only wish that someone had planned the first lockdown much better! Maybe there were some compulsions that have been hidden from public domain! We may also like to be generous at such times and forgive those who took the decisions “for they knew not what they did!”

April 21, 2020 /

One of the key factors in tackling the spread of COVID-19 across the globe is testing. In South Korea, for example, mass testing has been used to try and quickly identify and isolate those with the disease. Testing is also vital to calculate accurate infection and survival rates – data that is critical for getting public safety measures right. And as this coronavirus continues to spread, people are being offered tests for sale, either at a high price from private clinics – or tests that are not officially approved, or perhaps even fake. So what tests are being used by health officials, how much do they really cost and what developments are there to come?

April 20, 2020 /

For those who will look for public health in this essay and see a political argument,  may do well to know that the social determinants of health are always amenable to good or bad politics. For example, to spend 24% of the annual budget on military and police while spending only 1.3% on public health measures is a political decision that makes us so vulnerable to public health emergencies. Similarly, responding to this Corona pandemic by listening to great clinicians instead of pubic health experts who understand rural distress and the social determinants of health is as much a political decision. Testing the members of one religious congregation and not the others’ meetings may also be political. Rudolf Virchow, the celebrated nineteenth century German physician wisely said, “Politics is nothing but medicine at a larger scale!”

April 19, 2020 /

With basic mathematical models, researchers can begin to forecast the progression of diseases and understand the effect of interventions on disease spread. With more complex models, we can start to answer questions about how to efficiently allocate limited resources or tease out the consequences of public health interventions, like closing pubs and banning gatherings.
Insights from mathematical modelling are vital to ensuring that authorities can prevent as many deaths as possible. As the COVID-19 pandemic escalates, here’s a look inside the modelling that experts use to try and stay one step ahead of the virus.

April 19, 2020 /

Now you are locked down, where can you go? An abuser threatened his wife in a remote village in Assam. The violence escalated and was aggravated by the lockdown which is in force now to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic. The woman waited for night to set in. She did not want to be seen by anyone. But would anyone see the violence she was going through? With a five month old infant wrapped in her sador/clothing, she fled. She crossed two paddy fields and reached her natal home.

April 15, 2020 /

Unless you have been on a remote island with no access to the internet (if so, you should have stayed there!), several new words will have been added to your vocabulary in the past few months. Terms such as case fatality rate, antibody, and PPE are no longer just used by scientists. Consider this your coronavirus jargon-buster.

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 11, 2020 /

The sudden and untimely demise of Kaka D. Iralu amidst the unending Naga Peace Talk has left a void in the Naga discourse and it’s one big family spanning across the states of Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and parts of Myanmar. A towering figure who spoke truth to power and questioned the state and institutional power to reflect on its excesses on the Naga people. He is the author of “The Naga Saga”, “Nagaland and India: The Blood and the Tears: A Historical Account of the Fifty-Two year Indo Naga War and the Story of Those who were never allowed to tell it”, and “Uncovering the Political Lies that Have Covered Indo-Naga History from the 1940s to the Present”, and numerous writings on Naga Nationalism and social issues faced by the Naga society. His decision to self-publish his books remains an act of resistance and in academia it precisely animates the decolonial methodology. His selfless contribution towards documenting the histories, narrative and experiences of the Naga peoples despite numerous constraints have shaped understandings beyond academia.

April 11, 2020 /

We, the undersigned, are writing to you to express our deep concern about the arbitrary arrest of the human rights activists and peasant leaders Pranab Doley and Soneshwar Narah, in Golaghat District of Assam, on April 6, 2020.

The circumstances under which they were arrested, imprisoned without an immediate bail makes the intention behind their arrest extremely suspicious and their arrest itself a violation of basic human rights and an attempt to suppress voices which are raising serious issues in these difficult times brought about by Covid-19.

April 10, 2020 /

Every Good Friday, I have grown up listening to  sermons about what happened on the cross, how Jesus was tortured, those nails, those thorns, the blood and those last words of Jesus on the cross. But this year and in the midst of the corona pandemic as a Pastor preparing sermon reflecting on the death of Christ, it just came to my mind that well for so many years it was always, “what happened on the cross?”
Well this time I felt that my reflection should be about:  Jesus telling the world what the Cross is all about and why was he crucified on it?

April 9, 2020 /

The Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) calls on all democratic organisations and individuals to come together and condemn the denial of relief for Prof. Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha, stand in solidarity with all such voices of democracy and demand the immediate release of all political prisoners. Our unity at this time of crisis is all the more urgent and necessary for our silence in the time of injustice is bound to render us voiceless in the days to come. Let us unite and demand

Immediate reprieve from arrest of Prof. Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha.
Immediate release of all political prisoners lodged in jails all over the country, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Immediate release of all under-trial prisoners and persons convicted on minor charges to decongest prisons.
2. Action (with restraint in light of COVID-19) against the perpetrators of violence in the Bhima Koregaon case including Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote.
Repeal of all draconian laws like UAPA, NSA and PSA, among others.

April 8, 2020 /

This reality points toward the fact that racism is not just about discrimination and ignorance, it is more than that. Power structure and sense of cultural superiority, and historical basis of dominance are central to racism and its perpetuation in various forms. It is on this regards that as much there is nothing as such as ‘reverse sexism’, ‘reverse casteism’, or ‘reverse homophobia’, there is also nothing like ‘reverse racism’. This is not to say that a form of ill treatment towards the other (non-local) doesn’t exist in Manipur or adjoining states. It does exist which is contextual and specific to particular circumstances. We must discuss that as well, but not by cancelling out racism experiences of people from northeastern states which has its historical basis and power dynamics. This kind of balancing by inventing concept like reverse racism does equal harm and gives an impetus to racism to thrive and continue to perpetuate without holding people accountable for its existence and practice.

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 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 25, 2020 /

the domestic workers of Meghalaya also wanted to strongly join hands in the lock down that has been announced by the government but at the same time we are also burdened with a trauma of survival, we really need the support of the government to ensure that we have a free ration and basic income package so that we will be able to feed our children especially at this time of crisis.

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 /

It is only by social solidarity and by thinking beyond our individual safety that we can come out of this crisis with our social fabric intact. If communities together are not safe, no individual is safe. If the working classes, disadvantaged and poor are not able to take safety measures, the disease will reach everyone sooner or later. Assurance of minimum income support and assurance of good emergency response— both will help ensure that everyone, including the poor, can adopt social distancing.

We as a movement feel that the battle against COVID19 is not only to protect lives and but also livelihoods. All measures such as social distancing and lockdowns will fail if this relationship between lives and livelihoods is not acknowledged. Therefore we are suggesting following measures that can be a part of the people oriented strategy against the pandemic in Meghalaya.

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 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.