Category: Commentary

April 2, 2019 /

Dear Media of every hue, and dear Urban Middle Class / Civil Society , and dear Leftists and Liberals , please go ahead and lionise Kanhaiya all you like but do not presume to tell the people of Bihar and most specifically of Begusarai to see him through the prism of your opinion ; they can and will make their own choices according to their own felt needs and practical priorities , as well they should ; and stop making Kanhaiya’s candidature a stick to beat Tejaswi , Lalu Prasad Yadav , and the RJD with : the fact that they have different ground based priorities does not by any means give you the license to selectively vilify them , and not any other party or leader in the MGB , including INC and Rahul , RLSP and Kushwaha , HAM and Manjhi. In fact , the MGB as a whole is absolutely at liberty to decide its own priorities based on their cadre feedback from the ground . Just because your blue – eyed boy is not their top darling doesn’t of necessity make them evil or selfish or condemnable.

April 2, 2019 /

Education is the basis of the growth of any nation. Power, steel, and coal may be what we need for building things, but without educated minds the steel might just as well rust through disuse. The world is getting more and more complex, and our children and young adults need quality education in order to help India compete in the global marketplace. How well are we doing here?

March 27, 2019 /

“No one wants to be a hawker; no one is born a hawker”, says Basudev and yet all are caught in the machinic routine of railway life, time-tables at the tip of their tongue and every train remembered by its own sound. Unlike jobs in the corporate and government sectors, this routine assures no dignity and does little to take away from the legal and existential precarity of running hawkers.

March 26, 2019 /

Kulsuma Begum’s son was evicted even before he was born. On 2nd, 4th and 8th March Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council carried an eviction drive at Sarkebasti at the border of East Karbi Anglong and Hojai districts. Eviction was carried out at Sarkebasti’s Bahadur Bazaar, Islampur, Choudhury School Block, Ambari etc. Almost 580 families were evicted and 2700 people rendered homeless. And Kulsuma Begum was one of them.Heavily pregnant, Kulsuma was dragged out of her home and physically assaulted. She was left out in the open bleeding. Kulsuma Begum went into labour after being hit by police and gave birth to her son in an open field.

March 20, 2019 /

Politics in Assam had a turning point when a dismembered leg of an adult human was found on a dead stream in the village of Hudumpur at the outskirts of Guwahati by two journalists in June 1999. This discovery brought in the discourse of mystery and secrecy surrounding many killings and disappearances in Assam.

March 15, 2019 /

When I say that Jesus was a socialist, I am not referring to the communal ownership of the means of production. This aspect of socialism is certainly consistent with Jesus’ message, and one could argue that it is a logical outworking from it for an industrial society, but it is not something Jesus ever specifically addressed. However, the socialist principle that positively saturates Jesus’ gospel is the idea of fair distribution of wealth, “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” And that is what I will be defending in this article.I advocate this variety of socialism in no small part because I see it as being so well aligned with what Jesus taught. However, democratic socialism is an ideology particular to our time and culture, and I do not presume it to be exactly one and the same as Jesus’ teachings. Jesus was a socialist in principle, but he left all manner of room for us to figure out the specifics of applying that principle today.

March 13, 2019 /

My first personal introduction to the flurry of activities that would be associated with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam was in June 2015. My partner and I were in Australia for a conference, when my father left several text messages for us to call him. He wanted the exact spelling of my deceased father-in-law’s name, as well as the name of his village in Nagaland. “Where have you both kept your school and college certificates?” he asked when I called. Thus it began, a scramble for documents that would prove that I was indeed a citizen of India, who was from Assam and had a formidable array of evidence as proof. My father explained that my partner’s details would be sent to Nagaland and once the administration there verified the details sent to them, she too would be included in the NRC.

March 12, 2019 /

When the Tang family returned to Shillong, they found that their shoe shop had been confiscated by the Custodian of Enemy Property. The only compensation that the family received was about 500 rupees, which was only a fraction of the thousands that the building and merchandise were actually worth. Nothing else was given back to the family, not even the sewing machines.It goes without saying that life was hard after returning to Shillong. Mr. and Mrs. Tang had to work hard in order to regain what had been lost. But their story is unlike other internees’ stories in that Mr. and Mrs. Tang were offered help—and they accepted it. Though the couple had struggled to make ends meet, the local Khasi people in Shillong and the missionaries there were extremely kind and generous.

March 9, 2019 /

Paraphrasing a tweet that I read earlier today: if the judges of the Meghalaya High Court were any more fragile, they’ll have to be checked in with fragile items and a sticker on top at the airport to be able to fly. That, at any rate, seems to be the only conclusion one can draw from reading the bizarre order (and the equally disturbing record of proceedings) passed by a two-judge bench of that Court today, holding two editor and publisher of the Shillong Times guilty of contempt of court, fining them Rs. 2 lakh, and failing that, six months imprisonment and a ban (!) upon the newspaper.What calumny did The Shillong Times level at the Learned Justice S.R. Sen – who, incidentally, issued notice for contempt of himself, and then also wrote the judgment finding the journalist in contempt  (one might call that a classic case of being a judge in one’s own cause, but one wouldn’t, because that might be construed by the Learned Judge to be contempt)?

March 7, 2019 /

Within the last 10-15 years many thousands of women worldwide have begun to recognise and to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD). It is, however, unfortunate that that its origins are not more widely known given that its foundation almost 100 years ago and subsequent history is truly inspirational.

February 28, 2019 /

Kashmir has been an eyesore on India’s body politic for the last 72 years. The average life expectancy in India is only 68.5 years, so there is a danger the eyesore might become congenital. The latest attack on Indian armed forces at Lithpur in District Pulwoam, where a Kashmiri suicide bomber killed more than forty Indian soldiers, can become India’s “enough is enough” moment. While randomly beating and harassing Kashmiris working or studying in various parts of Bharat is a good beginning, it won’t be enough. After all, if killing more than 80,000 Kashmiris and making about 10,000 of them disappear has not taught them a lesson, what will a few beatings achieve? No, India needs to do more.This is my cue. Hear me out.

February 27, 2019 /

This is how it unfolded. The Uri film releases, with the media very transparently hyping it up. Just a month later, in the midst of the Rafael controversy, out of the blue, comes an opportunity to replicate that (disputed) strike in real life again, just two months before the elections.The North Korean Indian TV channels activate full-blown mass hysteria. (While South Korea gives Modi a peace prize.) Suddenly, the Pulwama attack is more about Pakistan than Kashmir, more about World Cup cricket than time-honoured rogue terrorism and most disconcertedly, more about war than dialogue.

February 26, 2019 /

Sometimes it is important to think about the unthinkable. Although South Asia has been called “the most dangerous place in the world” by many, the discourse in those countries, and elsewhere, about the potential aftermath of a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan has been remarkably muted. What would these two enduring rivals, home to more than a sixth of the world’s population, look like after a nuclear exchange?

February 26, 2019 /

Sometimes it is important to think about the unthinkable. Although South Asia has been called “the most dangerous place in the world” by many, the discourse in those countries, and elsewhere, about the potential aftermath of a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan has been remarkably muted. What would these two enduring rivals, home to more than a sixth of the world’s population, look like after a nuclear exchange?

February 16, 2019 /

Thokchom Veewon’s cause belongs to all of us coming from areas far away from the heartland, physically and psychologically. The assault on Kashmiri students in Dehradun and Kashmiri employees in Jammu in a display of Hindutva nationalism is our cause too. It’s the cause of every person living in this nation state with a conflicted and an imposed sense of identity. The state apparatus is against our very existence and that is clear from the way the local court in Delhi easily granted the police remand to take him back to Manipur- a homeland that has seen so much violence over the past 70 years. Let’s not forget that Thockchom knew what was at stake when he decided to speak against the government policies having grown up in a place where the traffic control is done by army men carrying loaded rifles and AK47. He knew what the consequences could be, yet till the very end he stood firm on ground. On 12th February, two days before being arrested, he had posted on social media that the police had visited his house in Manipur and threatened his parents.

February 14, 2019 /

Manoranjan Byapari, the Dalit Bengali novelist who has written searingly about the continuing travails of the Dalits in India, recently spoke along with Kancha Illaiah in Kolkata Book Fair. The conversation turned into a bit of a debate about Dalits learning English. Manoranjan Byapari shared his thoughts about the book fair encounter on his facebook page. His FB status was translated from Bangla by Arunava Sinha and then edited by Rahul Bannerjee. 

February 10, 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 8, 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 6, 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 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 29, 2019 /

Most discussions of Basic Income revolve around two clusters of issues: first, the normative implications of Basic Income for various conceptions of justice, and second, the pragmatic problems of the sustainability of basic income given a range of economic considerations including such things as effects on tax rates, incentives, labor markets, and so on. These are obviously important issues, but I want to explore a different sort of question: In what ways can a guaranteed basic income be considered part of a broad socialist challenge to capitalism?
This may seem to some people a somewhat irrelevant question, perhaps even a stupid question, since the very idea of socialism has lost so much of its intellectual and political appeal in recent years. The idea that there is a feasible systemic alternative to capitalism, either in the sense of a workable design for alternative economic institutions, or in the sense of a politically achievable goal, seems very far-fetched to many people who still share the traditional socialist criticisms of capitalism.

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 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 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 10, 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 9, 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 7, 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 28, 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 21, 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 4, 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 27, 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 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 21, 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.