Category: Words

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 /

Ma ngi ki nongtrei nongbylla hapoh ka shatri jong ka sengbah ki nongtrei nongbylla, kata ka Workers Power of Meghalaya, ngi ia snoh kti lang bad ai ka jingkyrshan ia ka Sorkar ha ka jingiakhun pyrshah ia ka khlam COVID 19 ne kata ka Corona Virus kaba la sar bad saphriang satlak ka pyrthei. Ngi ngeit skhem ba dei tang ka jingiatreilang da baroh ki nongshnong shnong bad da kaba jam ruh ia u pud ka pyrkhat shimet ne ka khwan myntoi ba ngi lah ban jop ia kane ka thma bad ngi lah ruh ban pynneh ia ki nongrim tynrai ka imlang sahlang. Lada ki nongshong shnong ne ka imlang sahlang kim shngain ym don uwei ne kawei ruh na ngi ki riewshimet ki ban shngain. Lada ki rangli ki juki, kiba duk ba kyrduh, ki nongtrei nongbylla ki bym don ki lad jingiada kiba biang kim lah ban sumar bad iada ialade shen kane ka khlam ka lah ban sar naphang bad khlem pep kan lynshop ia ngi iwei pa iwei. Ka jingpynthikna ba uwei pa uwei ne kawei pa kawei ki nongshong shnong bad ki nongtrei nongbylla ki ioh ia ka jingkyrshan kum ka bai bylla sngi bad ka jingpynthikna ba uwei pa uwei ne kawei pa kawei ki ioh ka jingiarap kaba stet bad ba paka lada jia ba ki shitom ne kem pang, kan long ka jingiarap bakhraw ha kane ka jingiakhun bad kan pynlah ia baroh la uba duk ne ba riewspah ban bud pyrkhing bad ryntih ia ki jingbthah ki tnat Sorkar ban shong khop ha la iing bad ban kiar na kaba ia mih na iing ban leit sha ki jaka paidbah ne jaka trei.

Ma ngi kum ka kynhun ki nongtrei nongbylla ngi ngeit ba don ar tylli ki thong ha kane ka thma pyrshah ia ka khlam Corona, kita ki long, wei ban iada ia ka jingim briew bad ar ban iada ia ka jakpoh bad ka kamai kajih. Baroh ki jingpyrshang jong ngi bad jong ka Sorkar kin pulom lada ngim sngewthuh ia kane bad lada ngim lah ban iada ia ka jingim bad ka kamai jakpoh ki briew. Namarkata ka daw ngi buh ha khmat jong phi ia kine ki mat harum bad ngi kyrpad ba phin shim khia ia ki bad ban kynthup lang ia ki ha ki mat treikam bad ki plan jong ka Sorkar Jylla ha kaba iadei bad ka jingiakhun pyrshah ia ka khlam Corona…

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.

March 9, 2020 /

The deaths of Lurshai Hynniewta, Rupsang Dewan, and Ussaduddin, as well as various attacks and stabbings shows a complete lack of remorse and lack of understanding over the value of life. We should not be afraid to speak the truth, debate and defend our arguments by finding common ground. We need to stand together to end the hatred, it only brings loss and death. Enough is enough. 

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

March 2, 2020 /

“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 /

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

March 2, 2020 /

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

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 29, 2020 /

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

February 28, 2020 /

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

February 24, 2020 /

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

February 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.

February 6, 2020 /

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

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

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

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

February 5, 2020 /

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

January 30, 2020 /

Mr. Mantre Passah and Rev. Kyrsoibor Pyrtuh, who have been part of progressive people’s movements and part of collectives including Thma U Rangli-Juki (TUR) and Workers Power of Meghalaya (WPM), have filed a PIL in the Supreme Court of India on the 13th of January 2020, challenging the constitutionality of the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA). Their challenge bases on the arbitrariness of CAA and its attack on the freedom of religion, reality of transborder tribal lives and privacy of individuals.

January 30, 2020 /

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

January 26, 2020 /

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

January 25, 2020 /

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

January 18, 2020 /

On October 25, 1947, Vappala Pangunni Menon, India’s envoy par excellence, gifted a car to Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Dogra king of Jammu and Kashmir (hereon J&K). Or did he? The exact details of the events of that fateful era are lost behind a perennial fog of war. Some people say that the Maharaja had actually bought the car from the British. That it was one of the numerous vehicles used to transport Muslims of Jammu to the new, temporary border in Akhnoor and Ranbir Singh Pora, where they were disembarked, dismembered and massacred. The charons driving the vehicles would quickly turn them around to pick up and transport more people. The car was so efficient during the exercise, these people conclude, that the Maharaja thought it might impress even somebody like Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. So the Maharaja tried to gift the car to Menon; but he refused to take it, reasoning that it might serve more useful purposes in J&K. Alas! A written copy of the purported gift deed has not survived, so we can only speculate about the nature of the agreement. One thing is certain though, the car became a ubiquitous fixture in Indian-controlled J&K.

January 15, 2020 /

Arif Ayaz Parrey tells a short tale from Kashmir about Avtar Singh, a counter-insurgency officer of the Indian Army, wanted for the murder of the Kashmiri human rights lawyer Jalil Andrabi. On June 9, 2012, in Selma, California, he shot his family and himself.