Category: English

February 12, 2019 /

Every winter Sumi Pegu, a fifty year old Mising woman runs the single ply yarn into exquisite horizontal patterns. A narrow paddy field in Gohpur’s Mising-gaon (about 230 kms from Guwahati in Sonitpur District, Assam) leads me to her loom. If you walk some kilometres further, you can get a serene view of the hills of Arunachal. The sound of working looms takes over the chirrup of tiny local sparrows looking for some grains to chew. The grain providers, mostly neighbours of Sumi, have to tend to the poultry and pigs regularly. Their children go to the nearby primary schools and have picked up the dominant Assamese tongue fluently—yet, all through the year, there is someone or the other tending the fibres of the loom.

February 11, 2019 /

Section 124A on Indian Penal Code on Sedition was introduced by the British colonial government in 1870 when it felt the need for a specific section to deal with the offence. It was one of the many draconian laws enacted to stifle any voices of dissent at that time. Mahatma Gandhi was prescient in recognising the fundamental threat it provided to democracy when he called it the ‘prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen.’

February 9, 2019 /

On Sixth February 2019, Mr. Kiran Rijiju, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs of India, quietly introduced The Constitution (125th Amendment) Bill, 2019. This bill which seeks to amend Article 280 of  and the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution in order to increase the financial and executive powers of the ten autonomous councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of the Northeast…
Raiot brings you the text of the amendment as well as a short 10 point cheat sheet on it including the sad case of Meghalaya which will lose substantial amount of funds meant for Rural Development.”

February 9, 2019 /

Migration is a universal phenomenon and no part of the world can be completely immune from it. Meghalaya, one of the states in Northeast India, is not an exception and has been experiencing migration of the outsiders particularly the non-tribals over a fairly long period of time. However, it was in the 1970s that the process of its problematization started with the tribal educated elite undertaking the leadership role under the influence of several factors that worked collectively. Though the process eventually led to the occurrence of a series of violent ethnic conflict in the state, yet it was largely responsible for the prevention of the emergence of existential crisis situation for the indigenous tribals.

February 7, 2019 /

We are a group of concerned citizens. We have varied political opinions and affiliations, but are united in our trust in democratic institutions, in our adherence to the philosophy of the Constitution and belief in the idea of a plural, democratic Republic of India. Deeply concerned, of late, over the multiple challenges to the Republic, we have undertaken to examine these challenges in some depth, and to propose to our fellow citizens means to protect and strengthen the Constitutional safeguards for our democratic polity and composite society. We see the forthcoming Lok Sabha election as an opportunity to retrieve and, indeed, reclaim from manipulation and subversion, our legacy of the Republic.

February 6, 2019 /

On January 2, 2019 the union minister of the Human Research Development appraised the parliament about the exact number of reserved category faculty members in the Indian Institutes of Technology. Responding to a question asked by Mr. Udit Raj, a BJP MP, the union minister Prakash Javadekar said that out of 6043 faculty members in 23 institutes there are only 170 faculty members who are from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe categories. He also informed that the reservation in these premier educational institutes is kept open only for the entry-level positions, i.e., assistant professors and lectures.

February 3, 2019 /

Why an Iraqi and an American in an Indian play, somebody asked me? Not to difficult to figure out:
I wanted an Indian army officer, Rajiv Kapoor, playing the part of the American, Robert Klarmann; I wanted a Kashmiri, Anwar Mir, playing the part of the Iraqi, Raza Husain. I would play with locale, idiom, make it real for us in this country, tell ourselves that we are no different from Robert and Raza.
Then I thought to myself, would the goons of the hyper-nationalistic ABVP, actually allow this to be staged? No way. I’ve seen how they operate, spitting venom, ready to cripple and kill.
Not important. Let the locale be Indian, let the characters be American and Iraqi. Maybe watching Soldiers’ Silence, audiences will put two and two together and say, hey, this could be happening in Kashmir too.

February 2, 2019 /

Soft winter light bathes the fields in a glow. But the pastoral idyll of Pandu padda, Sameli, Dantewada district in Chhatisgarh is deceptive. Dark shadows lurk. I am shown the tree from which a 17-year-old Adivasi girl hung herself on the intervening night of 29/30 December, some four months after she had charged security forces of sexual violence.

January 27, 2019 /

The idea that Indian Constitution would include various provisions like the Fifth and Sixth Schedule to protect the rights of the Tribal indigenous people was not palatable to many non tribal members of the Constituent Assembly. The debates on the question of Tribal rights and autonomy are therefore quite fascinating to read to understand the attitudes of racial and cultural superiority that the plains dwelling Indian harboured toward the tribal people. As Rohini Kumar Chaudhuri put it, “We want to assimilate the tribal people. We were not given that opportunity so far.” But these ‘racist’ comments were eloquently challenged and dismantled by Rev. J. J. M. Nichols Roy, a Khasi  and Mr. Jaipal Singh, a Munda. Their historic speeches to the Assembly need revisiting again because the attitudes they challenged and the questions they raised have not yet become history.

January 27, 2019 /

The cup has been around for a while. Its popularity, although slow in number, is immense in intensity. Every woman I know, who uses the cup, has shared and proclaimed its wonder on social media. It gives freedom, it saves the environment, it saves money. Basically if you are a cool-ass new-age thing that bleeds voluntarily at regular (well almost) intervals, you have to do the cup. Many years of feeling uncool last week I got the opportunity to see a real cup, hold it and hear panegyric about it from a user’s mouth. Although, it would have been more convenient if vaginas could talk. But there were technical issues and it was in public.

January 25, 2019 /

Absolute ‘consistency’ is perhaps not a desirable quality and much more so with questions and figures of culture. But Bhupen Hazarika’s jajabor/nomadic inconsistency, and so perhaps the ups and downs of the journey of those whom he sang for and about, is historic. Riding on the energy of the communist-led peasant uprisings which lasted up to the mid 1950s in Assam, Hazarika’s radicalism borrowed directly from the ‘people’s singer’, the communist legacy of Comrade Bishnu Rabha and Jyoti Prasad Agarwala…
With the ever more naked rightist turn in the political life of Assam’s middle classes in the late 1990s, Hazarika followed suit. With the formation of the NDA government (Asom Gana Parishad or AGP was part of the coalition) in 1998, his political journey came to its culmination with viewing the rabidly communal RSS as the authentic agent of social transformation. He even contested a Lok Sabha seat from Guwahati (which he fortunately lost) on a BJP ticket in 2004, with its cadres blaring his humanist plea ‘mahuhe manuhor babey, jodihe okonu nabhabey…bhabibo kunenu kuwa, xomonia’ (‘if man doesn’t think of man … who will?’) on their election vans…

January 24, 2019 /

So, from the lazy and anti-nationalbunch of Raioteer, another belated new year gift of Shillong’s ethnically mixed up celebrities. Samrat Ray and his nostalgic graphic world of ML05‘s local memories are once again here. You can click on the images to view the gallery and scroll down to download high resolution pdf of the calendar to print. Also, remember that we make this gift for personal purposes – any profiteering idiot wanting to sell the hardcopy will be appropriately dealt with.

January 24, 2019 /

Justices Ramana and Shantanagounder of the Supreme Court have come under a lot of flak especially from the liberals for their judgment in a case that was to settle inheritance in a disputed inter-religious marriage. Most newspapers and social media commentators reported the judgment as having called marriages between Muslim men and non-Muslim women as “irregular” – thereby giving the impression that the judges were being deliberately misogynist and in the process adding substantially to all-pervasive Muslimophobia – spreading a false impression that legally Muslim men can “irregularly” marry non Muslim women – a completely false claim – and this was being spread because of shoddy and lazy reportage apart from of course Muslimophobia which is ever ready homogenize Muslims and ready to accept anything that paints Muslims as backward readily.

January 23, 2019 /

Much talked about, two volumes of “Curse of Unregulated Coal Mining in Meghalaya” were put together by a motley group of activists, researchers dismayed by the murderous attack on Kong Agnes Kharshiing & Amita Sangma by coal mine owners, traders and transporters of East Jaintia Hills. Agnes & Amita had been tracing the source of illegal coal mining in violation of National Green Tribunal orders imposing an interim ban on environmentally destructive, unscientific rat hole coal mining in Meghalaya. The first report was submitted to Mr. Colin Gonsalves, who had been appointed Amicus Curea by the Supreme Court in the various appeals challenging the interim ban on unscientific and unregulated ‘rat hole’ mining in Meghalaya imposed by the National Green Tribunal. This first report, subtitled as “How Unregulated & Illegal Coal Mining in Meghalaya is Destroying Environment and Dispossessing Tribal People of their Land and Livelihood” examines the claims about livelihood and tribal autonomy made by Coal Mine owners and Government of Meghalaya. The second report looks at how unregulated & illegal Coal Mining in Meghalaya continued even after the orders of National Green Tribunal & Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. 

January 20, 2019 /

Assam is boiling. Boiling over an overtly communal bill brought in by a communal regime aiming to polarise society. The bill got the nod of Lok Sabha on 8th of December, a day after a hastily prepared report was submitted by the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). The report was prepared by a Committee, (the majority members belong to the ruling BJP) by brushing aside all alternative opinions and was based on surmises and conjectures.

January 11, 2019 /

Dear great liberals of the Indian mainstream,
You are the vocal proponents of Indian secularism. We often listen to your grandiloquent lectures on television screens – on secularism, on democracy, on the Constitution of the country. But, what the fuck did you do against this fatal Bill? Unlike you, we are jungli people living on the margins of the Indian state and society. That these jungli people had to save your secularism from death and save the face of the country in front of the world, what the fuck would you say now? That is why we say your secularism is damned – fuck your secularism.

January 10, 2019 /

I got to know about Bandersnatch when I chanced upon its trailer on Boxing Day on the show’s Facebook page. Like any other devout fan of the show, I was eagerly looking forward to the ‘film’. On the appointed day, I opened the Netflix website. I hovered my mouse over the Bandersnatch icon. The blurb showed that its about 90 minutes long. This appeared to me as usual. A Black Mirror special is not really of any longer duration. Bandersnatch, however, proved to be anything but the usual. It took me over three hours to finally ‘finish’ the film and over 90 minutes to actually understand that the director of the story is not David Slade.

January 10, 2019 /

A petition was submitted to the President of India on January 8, 2019 by 135 academics, lawyers and activists urging upon him to uphold human rights and ensure justice for around one million people (10 lakh) in Assam, who have been excluded through the NRC process. The petition also urges upon the President of India, as the custodian of the Indian Constitution, to advise the central government to withdraw the Citizenship Amendment Bill which explicitly discriminates on the ground of religion and violates the constitutional principle of equality.

January 8, 2019 /

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

December 29, 2018 /

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

December 22, 2018 /

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

December 16, 2018 /

What makes an artist, or at what moment, does the realization of artistic gift happen? Moments of epiphany, or realization, are always, especially for artists themselves, difficult to pinpoint; even with hindsight and retrospection. It’s best left to interpreters – filmmakers or memoirists; and fiction, that with all its allusions and suggestiveness, can help shed light, on what makes possible the creative process. This piece looks at some films on writers; how their lives were shaped indelibly by their art.

December 7, 2018 /

Let’s start with the positives – a novel about the Bengali experience in Shillong, especially during the troubles, is always welcome. The novel has some nice passages and some wit at times, for example ‘…..he transformed himself into an amalgam of Devdas and Descartes—a perpetually intoxicated mathematical genius, composed, in equal parts, of alcohol and algebra’, to describe Debu’s tutor, Professor Bose… The novel’s treatment of the Sylhet-Calcutta divide imbibes it with an angle that will be new to Khasi readers while the episodes around the first TV in Upper Jail Road and the Bengali fish embargo during the troubles are well recounted. The loss of home or the lack of it, the longing and sorrow that emerges as a result and the plight of people who have suddenly become outsiders in a place they love can be felt throughout the novel and is movingly rendered in parts. But the novel also fails on many fronts. It surrenders too easily to stereotypes and it miserably fails to overcome the tropes that have become a bit tiresome in novels about Shillong…

December 5, 2018 /

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

November 28, 2018 /

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

November 25, 2018 /

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

November 19, 2018 /

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

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

November 6, 2018 /

Now that Justice Pranoy Kumar Musahary has been appointed the first chairperson of Lokayukta in Meghalaya, it is time to start knowing about the law and start using it to challenge the regime of corruption in Meghalaya. So here is your short guide to Meghalaya Lokayukta Act 2014 made by Thma U Rangli Juki (TUR).

November 2, 2018 /

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

October 22, 2018 /

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

October 19, 2018 /

My abusers:
1.(Br.) Francis Gale (also known as Frank Gale) of the Christian Brothers, St. Edmunds Shillong
2.(Br.) Muscat, Don Bosco, Laitumkhrah, Shillong (printing unit)
Three years ago, at the age of 37, I finally decided that I needed professional help & found a wonderful counsellor. Through the months of counselling, there is one session that stands out for me, where I felt literally like someone lifted this huge boulder lodged in my chest that was there since I was 5 years old. What she said to me at that session was that as a child, from a broken family, an economically poor background, left to my own defences, I made the ‘ideal profile’ of victim for a sexual predator. Even though as an adult, I understand and can differentiate that I was not responsible, it is hard to really feel and live that knowledge, to not blame myself. What my counsellor said to me that day- answered the ‘why’ I have asked over and over again ‘why me’ and it gave me such huge relief to have finally found an answer that I knew to be true. It’s a long journey and an ongoing one to stay whole, balanced, sane as someone who was sexually abused through my childhood, age 5 till age 12.

October 18, 2018 /

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

October 3, 2018 /

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

October 2, 2018 /

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

October 2, 2018 /

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

October 1, 2018 /

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

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