My alma mater, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kharagpur, has created a condensed history of Indian knowledge systems in calendar form. Lavishly produced, it is being widely shared and praised on social media. Sadly, it brims with lies, misleading ideas, and fanciful fictions. Rather than educating to inform and delight, it seeks to inflate cultural pride by taking liberties with the truth. Let me explain.
Tanmoy Sharma on Sanjib Baruah’s new book In the Name of the Nation: India and Its Northeast; Stanford University Press, 2020
How a ‘German’ publishing mill is ‘helping’ certain Indian academics to promote their academic careers
Throughout his school and college days Meghnad Saha had often to suffer untouchability and this continued even after he became a teacher and researcher. He had a particularly tough time in Allahabad because of the greater casteism that prevailed there as compared to Bengal. So unlike other Indian scientists he did not remain content to do scientific research only but drawing from his own difficult experience of school and college, began working to popularise teaching and research in science. He said that given the very low level of education right from schools to colleges, India had a very poor scientific base and human power and this could be rectified only by universalising state sponsored free quality education. He believed that the problems of social and economic oppression and the medieval mindset from which they emanated could be eradicated by the spread of science education at all levels even more than by social and political mobilisation. He also believed that modern industrial development would be necessary for removing poverty but cautioned against a total discard of the traditional methods of agriculture and rural cottage industry. To this end he founded The National Institute of Science in 1935 and began publishing the journal “Science and Culture” to propagate his views.
Deliriously successful when first released way back in 1996, Lucky Ali’s O Sanam, once again sparked interest when a video-blogger by the name of Saad Khan recently released a video of Lucky Ali singing the song. Within a couple of days Saad Khan’s video went viral and raked in a huge amount of nostalgia for the India of the nineties. Lost in this surge of emotion was the fact that the Lucky Ali we saw in the video was far from the Lucky Ali we first saw in the mid-nineties. The man in Saad Khan’s blog video was older, with a face marked by the passage of time and more importantly marked by a beard and a skull cap, which seemed to suggest that he was a pious Muslim. The fact that this markedly Muslim accoutrement went unremarked upon in a time of general hostility to Muslims in India is surprising. But this silence could also imply apathy, which is a shame since this image does have a message for contemporary India even as the country bathes in the nostalgia for the nineties.
Earlier this year, I was going through the hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) from the 1960s. HUAC was responsible for investigating suspected Communist activities in the US, and elsewhere. One particular testimonial from New York caught my eye…
Bhashani, treated contemptuously by foes and even friends as ‘illiterate’ and a ‘rustic fool’, was on the editorial board of one the leading Afro-Asian magazines of the 1960s!…
Throughout his political career, Maulana Bhashani had been the founder and publisher of several papers and magazines, notably Ittefaq in 1949 and Haq Katha in 1972. However, this was the first time I was seeing his name on an international editorial board, and what an illustrious one it was as well.
Thma U Rangli-Juki has been campaigning for THE RIGHT OF CITIZENS FOR GRIEVANCE REDRESS AND SERVICE GUARANTEE IN MEGHALAYA Law, draft of which it had submitted to the government in 2013. Sadly, the law to this effect that was recently tabled, The Meghalaya Right to Public Services Act 2020 (MRPSA2020) is a law fraught with the problems of conception and drafting. A Law which is supposed to bring transparency and accountability of the Public Authorities for the citizens was placed in the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly without any pre-legislative consultation. This lack of consultation is now apparent in the draft bill, which in its drafting is full of legal loopholes and is designed to frustrate citizens in redressing their grievances.
Not many young people may know now but the Hindi comic book industry was very vibrant during the 1990’s. There were so many titles coming out every month. You had Raj Comics (my favourite), Manoj Comics, Tulsi Comics, Fort Comics, Radha Comics, Diamond Comics and then you had characters like Super Commando Dhruva (my favourite), Najrag, Ram-Rahim, Chacha Choudhary, Abedh, Judo queen Radha, Inspector Crookbond, Hawaldar Bahadur, Bankelal, and many more. And then there were other publications like Rajhans, Chandamama and of course Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle. I can say with pride that I had one of the early issues of Tinkle and a particular story of loan repayment which has always stuck with me. In short, my childhood was filled with comic books.
Kabiranjan Saikia, popularly known as Swadhinata Phukan who was the Assistant Publicity Secretary of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). Although Swadhinata Phukan was a member of the civil wing of the banned outfit, he was gunned down in a fake encounter by the state police on the night of 26 May 2000 at Garumara in the Jorhat district of Assam. He was 26 at that time. These two poems by Kabiranjan Saikia – “Aartonador Enixa” [“A Night of Screams”], written on 29 February 1992 and “Xamprotik” [“Nowadays”], written on 18 February 1993 – are sourced from an anthology of his poems, Moi Kabiranjan Uttopto Hobo Khuja Eta Kobitar Naam [I Am Kabiranjan, the Name of a Poem Wanting to Erupt], published by Aank-Baank in 2011.
It is the season for bambooshoot in Northeast India. Hundreds of women venture into the forests during these months to forage for the tender shoots. Some are consumed fresh, and a large quantity are fermented and preserved. As condiments, fermented bambooshoot (dried or wet) are generously added to meat, fish, and vegetables.
The Proposal No one knows where the proposal for building a new mall in BARIK point of Shillong, similar to Saket’s Select in Delhi, first began.…
We, 12 staff of The Shillong Times, stand in solidarity with the three senior journalists—EM Jose (News Editor), Nabamita Mitra (Features Editor) and Dipankar Roy (Executive Editor)— whose services were terminated for “Covid-19 generated reasons” with effect from September 1, when they were in quarantine, although they were served the letters only on September 7; no prior intimation was given to them…
KA ÏING KHOM IEW HA BARIK
Da lah kyntiew
yn sa ieng kum u mot bah
ka ing tep ba ramhah kynsha
ba mih tyrpeng ba pyiar
ban kajoh ban dem sdien da jingsngewrain
ha ki biar, ki dak thoh kin khih kyrbeit
sha ki kyrteng jong ki paidbah…
A SHOPPING MALL IN BARIK
When it rises
it will stand like a large tomb
A monstrous mausoleum
with shoulders stretched
long enough to hang in shame
on its walls, alphabets will assemble
into the names of the people…
The Whole Family’ is a photo project that portrays the emotional longing of the family members of the missing. It is an artistic intervention in support of them as they continually ask the authorities about the whereabouts of the enforced disappeared people during the 10 years long People’s War in Nepal.
It is a reenactment to create a complete family photo that portrays the vacuum created by the loss of the family member. This photo project focuses on the emotional loss and shows the current socio-economic situation of the remaining family members.
The construction of popular narratives about a place is sometimes driven by an overuse of popular tropes, which delegitimises and silences the local community’s own interpretations of their history and culture. A Google search on ‘Mayong’ opens results such as ‘India’s Black Magic Capital’, ‘Land of Black Magic’, and so on, where the words ‘black’, ‘occult’, and ‘spooky’ take a connotative precedence. The image search provides a confusing plethora of images ranging from portraits of Naga sadhus smeared in bibhuti (holy ash), neo-Vaishnavite Assamese monks, Amazonian tribes and shamans passed off as practitioners of ‘black magic’ in Mayong. There is a particularly odd image of a collection of globes, a skeleton, and an assortment of objects, ostensibly hosted by the ‘Mayong Central Museum and Emporium of Black Magic and Witchcraft’. The image is definitely not from any museum in Mayong and the words “Black Magic” and “Witchcraft” were never a part of any museum title in Assam. The frontier Kamrupa-Pragjyotishpur has always been associated with magic and myths around magical practices since ancient times, because of the Śākta cult of the Kamakhya temple, and alleged instances of blood sacrifices and associated Tantric practices. This exoticization of Mayong in popular imagery, therefore, has deep historical roots.
It will be soon two years since the raid of August 28th when five additional persons including Sudha Bharadwaj was arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case.
Sudha Bharadwaj’s health condition is now showing signs of stress. Her daughter, Maaysha, was particularly upset over it. A few friends and those closely acquainted with her work got together to understand and decided to collectively raise the matter.
On 5th August 2020 the Bhartiya Janta Party lived up to its promise of ‘Mandir Vahin Banega’ as India’s Prime Minister laid the foundation stone of a temple at the place of a historical mosque demolished by the same party in 1992 in Ayodhya. While preparations of a grand temple in Ayodhya are on, it must be remembered that just a couple of years back in 2017, the Sardar Sarovar dam was inaugurated by the same Prime Minister with great fanfare in which large number of religious places of the Adivasis, Hindus, Jains and Muslims were drowned in the dam waters permanently.
When the world was young and when all the animals spoke the language of mankind, the peacock, U Klew, was but an ordinary grey-feathered bird without any pretensions to beauty. But, even in those days, he was much given to pride and vanity, and strutted about with all the majesty of royalty, just because his tuft was more erect than the tuft of other birds and because his tail was longer and was carried with more grace than the tails of any of his companions.
On August 9, 2020 my colleague, friend and mentor Prof. Ilina Sen passed away in Kolkata, in the presence of her partner Dr. Binayak Sen and their two daughters, Pranhita and Aparajita. She was 69 years old and in the space of the number of years that she was with us, Ilina taught us the value of compassion, courage and determination as weapons of resistance in the face of adversity. I had first heard of her when I first got involved in the human rights movement in the 1990s. She and Binayak had settled in Chattisgarh, where the trade union movement led by Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha had brought together a radical, grassroots platform that included indigenous rights activists, mine workers, women’s rights advocates and others marginalised groups.
If instead of being hanged by the neck
you’re thrown inside
for not giving up hope
in the world, your country, your people,
if you do ten or fifteen years
apart from the time you have left,
you won’t say,
“Better I had swung from the end of a rope
like a flag” —
You’ll put your foot down and live.
It may not be a pleasure exactly,
but it’s your solemn duty
to live one more day
to spite the enemy.
A Muslim man identified as Lukeman was brutally thrashed with hammer on the suspicion of smuggling cow meat by an angry mob of cow vigilante’s on the eve of the Eid- al- adha on Friday (July 31) in Gurugram. This incident comes as one of a series of attacks that has taken place across the country, targeting Muslim since the current ruling populist regime acquired the power with absolute Majority in 2014. Friction between Hindus and Muslims has been a persistent feature of Indian life. But in the last six years a hundreds of Muslims have been lynched, always with the pretext of defending “Hindu values”, which, in some interpretations, considers cow as sacred has revealed the emerging socio- political complexities and schisms in India.
Sandh Karmari is a village in the Bakawand Block of Bastar district. In the village is the Maulikot, also known as the Bendrakot, one of the largest sacred groves in central India, spreading over about 100 acres. It is a small slice of an old growth forest in the eastern part of the district that borders Odisha. There are more than 400 species of woody plants, terrestrial orchids including the species of Nervilia and Habenaria, large ficus and silk cotton trees that have buttressed with age, and giant lianas that provide a wonderful high-way for the giant squirrels, langurs and civets that make this grove their home. The shrine at one corner of the grove is of Mauli Mata, also known as Kanda-khai, tuber eater. Legend has it that the first signs of her presence came about when three women went out to dig yams and one of them found a figure of the goddess in her basket.
In sad times one does not write poems
but does whole lot of other things
from cracking jokes to gulping poison
but one does not write poems
Will Mr. Conrad Sangma speak up? Will he clarify how the haphazard establishment of multiple coke plants determine a more “liveable place?” Will he explain his double-tongue approach towards environmental policies of the state? Because his outward soft-speaking self seemingly hides his mischievous agenda. Or will he emulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi who doesn’t address hard-hitting questions? If he doesn’t address this issue then I will lend voice to more questions hovering around Meghalaya’s polluted air such as unabated limestone mining, remorseless timber smuggling to dubious factories, issuing of deceitful transport permits, and others that warrant an explanation from the horse’s mouth.
Faizabad District Judge KM Pandey made the decision to open the gates of the Babri, back in February of 1986, assuring everybody that heavens will not fall if the locks are removed. In his autobiography, he mentions that his decision was validated by a black monkey, who sat holding the flag post on the roof of the court all day long, and despite offerings of groundnuts and fruits from thousands of people of Faizabad and Ayodhya, refused to accept any. The judge spots the black monkey later in the verandah of his bungalow, and salutes him, taking him to be some divine power.
Earth’s been around the Sun. Kashmir, where it was, in darkness
While tyrants spin untruths, enact laws in darkness
The tortuous thicket of laws, constitutional provisions, presidential orders, political history and legal mystifications surrounding Article 370 and Article 35A make it difficult to navigate through recent debates about its abrogation in an informed way. This series of three essays by Shrimoyee Nandini Ghosh, lawyer and legal researcher, which we published last year, aimed to be a somewhat eclectic guidebook— at times proffering a no frills step-by-step road map, at others traversing some rather more unfrequented and adventurous legal diversions.
With or without the political intention of its makers, history itself has placed a mountain of representational and creative responsibility on Axone. Immediately after its…
In death, shaheed articulates both his agency and his suffering. In death, he bears witness to the pain and truth of Kashmir. In death, he makes it clear that the world’s largest democracy is afraid of simple dreams in the eyes of simple men.
“But what do these Kashmiris want,” the world asks.
A totalitarian control over histories and a calculated manipulation of meanings have been instrumental in India’s narrative warfare. Its armed and administrative forces have actively pursued the destruction of historiographic and material evidence of the Kashmiri past.
However, there exist ‘witnesses’ that reject the Indian imagination, refuse to grant it any legitimacy, and rule out any possibility of submission to its apparatus of regulation. These ‘witnesses’ attest to the multiple struggles of Kashmir’s pasts and preserve the evidence of its demands from the future. They undermine the colonial design by engaging in a negotiation of power where they reimagine the Kashmiri body, Kashmiri history, and the Kashmiri everyday. Subverting the threat of erasure and elimination, the ‘witnesses’ promise life in their sense of continuity, renewal, and resilience.”
I forgot to sanitise my hand because love taught me to reach out without thinking twice. My mask came off because reflex taught me to…
We, the undersigned former and current students of Prof Hany Babu M.T., condemn his arrest by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday and stand in firm solidarity with him. Prof. Babu is a noted academic, a well known anti-caste activist, and a member of the committee formed for the defence of G.N. Saibaba, a former Delhi University professor who is over 90% disabled, and wheelchair bound. Prof. Babu has maintained his innocence since the illegal raid at his Noida apartment last year in September by Pune police. The raid, which was conducted without a warrant, resulted in the Pune Police confiscating Prof. Babu’s laptop, mobile phones, two booklets printed for the G.N. Saibaba defence committee and two books which are publicly available in bookstores and libraries. The nature of his alleged ‘crime’ remains unclear because the NIA’s warrant is, in our opinion, deliberately vague with clearly fabricated accusations. According to news reports, the ‘evidence’ that has apparently led to Prof Babu’s arrest was based off of an e folder on his hard disk. He was, however, not given a hash value for his laptop.
The opposition to the government’s intention to make Hindi mandatory in schools would have been an ideal moment for India to introspect on what it means to be such a language-rich country. It would have been an opportunity to take stock of the languages we have and those that are threatened, of those that require support in terms of documentation before they disappear, and how to honestly – and not just on paper – promote education in mother tongues. But none of this happened. The moment the “Hindi” issue cropped up, it became a political stand-off, instead of leading to a fruitful debate about what languages and linguistic diversity indicate about our sub-continent, and how such richness can be conserved. And so, once again the issue has been brushed under the carpet, and our ever-present notion of the vote-bank and other populist ideals have taken precedence. The present calm has lulled us to believe that nothing is the matter. The storm of linguistic decline is yet to unfold.
Swapna Barman became the only Indian so far to have won gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games in the event called heptathlon, an athletic event which, like many of them, most of her own villagers never heard of till she won the medal. Earlier she had also won gold medal in Asian Athletic Championship in 2017 and got silver medal in the SAF Games in 2016. Being the champion of one of the toughest athletic events she soon became well-known all over the country. For her extraordinary sporting achievements, she was also conferred with the coveted Arjuna Award. In the same Asiad the Assamese girl, Hima Das too won the gold medal in the 400 metres mixed and women’s relay. Young Hima Das deservedly became a celebrity in Assm. She has also been offered the job of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) by the state government. In stark contrast to such glorious journey, Swapna Barman received a lukewarm welcome in Kolkata airport, the capital of her home state, moderate cash rewards from the state, a clerical job to her brother, and that’s about it, where it all ended. Swapna belongs to the Koch Rajbanshi community, an indigenous repressed community recognized as Scheduled Caste in the state of West Bengal. In the caste sensitive Bengal society, they have always been considered as paraiahs, the low castes.
Recently, I came across a statement by 81 intellectuals and activists from Assam spotlighting the ‘disinformation’ published as part of a Call-for-Papers for a journal. Assam is a place with a complex political history and scholars do mix up issues from time to time. Therefore, the writing of the statement is a welcome step in the direction of understanding the state and the multitude of voices that it enkindles. It is in the same spirit of polyphony and dialogue that I write my comment…
#Poetry #Axomiya #RashmirekhaBorah
“Without any of us beholding
A forest is walking alongside the multitude heading home in throngs
Without any of us knowing
The blood oozing from their torn toe nails keeps marking the path”
I’ve often been invited to strange places
To keep in company with strange people.
Or, it may be truer to say I am the strange one in all that
I am the unknown usually among the known faces
As we all sit there talking poetry
First always is the introduction
And some, though already known,
For fear we may miss out on any detail
Start shooting off long lists of books and awards
And important journals-domestic and foreign
I always dreaded my turn…
It is the dead of the night. I look out of my favourite bed-side window and find the darkness, illuminated by tiny lights at Takht-e-Sulayman, staring at me. Each dot of luminosity reminding me of the military occupation of my land. This takes me back to my childhood days when I was growing up in my hometown. Every morning, long rifles protruding from the surrounding military camps would inspect me as I walked to the school bus stop, and each night, a blinding beam of search-light from the nearest military camp would invade one of the rooms of our home. As a child, it would startle me and I was left petrified. I would navigate around that torturous foreign beam, scared of being mowed down by the long rifles if I got into the crosshairs of the searchlight. As I grew up, my mind started questioning these search-lights and long rifles, crackdowns and curfews, killings and rapes, and the causative agent of these monstrous manifestations in Kashmir:– the occupation.
July 17 2020
Professor G.N. Saibaba
Nagpur Central jail
I’m sorry to disappoint you, but this is me, Arundhati writing to you and not Anjum. You wrote to her three years ago and she most certainly owes you a reply. But what can I say—her sense of time is entirely different from yours and mine, leave alone the speedy world of Whatsapp and Twitter. She thinks nothing of taking three years to reply to a letter (or not)…
I can’t remember the first time I felt excluded. I can’t remember ever feeling excluded. Maybe because for certain people, being excluded is a normative state of mind. In any case, I never looked at it as an undesirable way of being. I loved the fact that the seas and the mountains merged within me, that I could feel at home in totally diverse geographical and cultural spaces, or that I could once speak 6 different languages before I even turned ten. Years later, lovers would describe me in the exact same way: as this exotic, improbable creature, who could be so many different things at once. I had a yearning for extremely divergent things that could never exist in the same place: for instance, I wanted to walk directly from the surging, mildly chaotic seas of Chennai to the Chinar trees of my childhood, yawning in the horizons while I gasped as a baby. I craved for vadais and chutney while dawdling at a weekly bazaar in Bombay, but hunted a million markets in Chennai for just one pair of jootis.
Writing the northeast, often leads to misrepresentation, distortion, misinformation of the places, peoples and resources. These are not merely floating around in popular mentality, these stereotypes are consciously constructed and maintained in films and also in academic discourses. This particular Call for Paper (CFP) for a journal issue, entitled “Assam: A Citizenship Battleground” (Cached link)to be published under University of York project entitled Rethinking Civil Society: History, Society, Critique caught our attention and quite a few of us discussed it and decided to address the issue.
The result was a statement of concern, which is not about a closed academic discussion but more about placing the northeast of India, Assam in particular in a more complex frame of reference for a global readership. This was also making people of the region aware of the developments taking place in academic circles in the West. The NRC and CAA has captured a lot of global press and as it happens, the margins get distorted in the generalised narrative.
The Meghalaya RTI series has a success story to report. On 27th June, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a charge-sheet against Ampareen Lyngdoh, JD Sangma, and AL Lyngdoh for their alleged involvement in the White Ink Scam, which occurred during Ampareen Lyngdoh’s tenure as Education Minister of Meghalaya. The scam, which occurred over a decade ago, was quite simple. In 2008, the Deputy Inspector of Schools advertised for applicants to the post of assistant teacher in government schools, and a list of selected candidates was issued the following year.
Since the days of the colonial takeover of this part of the country by the British Administration the native people of Assam as well as North East India have been facing indiscriminate land aggression by outsiders. From the very days of the colonial administration and even after independence, the land has become the central issue of conflict between subject versus subject and also the subject versus state. The legal changes that began in the colonial age that do not recognize the difference between the tribal tradition and the formal law are basic to all forms of land alienation.
In these series of photographs, Akash Basumatari, a film-maker, and photographer based out of Assam captures this lived reality of the people in Matia and Simlitola areas of the Goalpara district.
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.
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.
Translation and Commentary by Nabina Das Nabina Das is a poet and writer based in Hyderabad. Assamese poet Nilim Kumar recently published a poem Ekhon Asustha…
This is a message from concerned citizens of Meghalaya. In view of the growing number of CoViD 19 positive cases , our concern is regarding the government’s decision to open up college admissions for session 2020-2021.
Tiktok has been the social media of choice for working-class self-expression in recent times.
Watch a selection and read about the politics of it all
In Assam, indigenous communities are living under constant threat of eviction. Even after living for generations they are still not getting settlement for their land. Landless farmers are demanding land. But this government which stormed to power by promising to protect indigenous interests are now becoming the major threat to the indigenous people. From bringing in the CAA to the Ordinance for Automatic Reclassification of Land, we are witnessing a series of decisions by the present regime which will ultimately destroy our collective existence.