Category: Words

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.

January 12, 2020 /

I never learnt Jana Gana Mana.
Every Independence Day was our annual celebration
As a day of burning flames and protests,
A day of complete shutdown.
Each day, a day of murder, a day of rape
A day when crimson tears fell on each memory’s hearth
My heart never could feel the love for Jana Gana Mana
This anthem did not bear the name of my land
Nor the names of my rivers, my hills.

January 12, 2020 /

As regards the Bengali population of Shillong, we formed two rather conflicting impressions. One was that the women were very much more free at Shillong than at any other place we knew of, and the other was that the men were very much less so. It appeared to us that the men at Shillong spent their days shut up in a room and working at their desks. The impression was right because most of the Bengalis at Shillong were clerks in government offices. It also seemed to us that Shillong was a place where monotheism prevailed over polytheism and that in the face of the One-God or Brahma, as we called him following Brahmo theology, our familiar many-gods kept themselves very much in the background.

January 11, 2020 /

As of now there are no direct links, and the alliances between the Azadis, in India and in Kashmir. But remarkable and perplexing exchanges are not uncommon in history, and we should not close our eyes to such possibilities beforehand. Kashmiris have demonstrated the ability to patiently out-wait the state, not least of all in this present crisis of the post-370 abrogation. The rhizomatic subterranean diffusion and spread of Azadi into India’s social – slowly navigating across barriers and police pickets, surviving and seeking life – into all different directions, should also be patiently nurtured and allowed to grow for more mature solidarities and struggles to come later in the day. It’s not the responsibility of the oppressed to emancipate their oppressors but somehow Kashmiris might have just given India such a gift. How far India will go with this gift is an open question.

January 8, 2020 /

Since the past couple of months I have been thinking a lot about home and ways in which it archives the passage of time. In one such afternoon of sluggish enquiry, I learnt about my great-aunt for the first time some forty years after her death when I discovered an old trunk in my house. The trunk was brought by her when she migrated from Sylhet to India (Assam) because of the partition of 1947. Coincidentally, the day I discovered this relic of the inglorious history turned out to be the anniversary of the country’s independence. It was on the 15th August 2018.

January 6, 2020 /

Even if for a moment we keep aside the fresh universal humiliation of Kashmiri peoples demand of self-determination, we still have other, less heard about, mostly ignored state sponsored persecution of people and their right to self-determination by the Brahmanical Indian state.

One such marginalized story is from Assam and its demand for self-determination which again has been gaining fresh momentum in and through the ‘Brahmanical’ Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019.

January 4, 2020 /

This Graphic Novel contains the linkage between Tribal (khasi) folktales and Living root bridges construction. It also speaks about the cultural aspect of the matrilineal social structure, the myths and beliefs of the tribe, the geographical aspects and the materials used and the process of construction. When I was a school boy, the school library had a great collection of Comics, Graphic novels and illustrated books about Tin Tin, The Ramayana, The Bible, Japanese folktales, Celtic tales etc. Being inspired by these tales at such a young age, I had the passion to create a Graphic Novel that can communicate and narrate the stories of my land : The Khasi Hills. I hope with this graphic novel I can contribute at least a fraction if not a whole to my culture in sustaining and preserving it.

January 3, 2020 /

I have been listening to T. M. Krishna’s ‘unsung anthem’ from the morning. I never thought I would actually sit down and listen to the national anthem (he clarifies though that this is not the national anthem, but rarely-sung verses selected from the longer poem); listen, and listen again and think, and then I want to write something about it.

January 3, 2020 /

The problem with JNU is that it’s a space for political correctness, not for understanding & questioning the real issues and reaching at clarity. If we see statistically too, the students who are able to make good careers and fly abroad are already a privileged batch with bundles of exposure with academia & globe. The underprivileged portion of students who get into this posturing ploy barely manage to get their M.Phils.’ and Ph.Ds. realised, and if they do, they lack proper skillset.

January 3, 2020 /

The problem with JNU is that it’s a space for political correctness, not for understanding & questioning the real issues and reaching at clarity. If we see statistically too, the students who are able to make good careers and fly abroad are already a privileged batch with bundles of exposure with academia & globe. The underprivileged portion of students who get into this posturing ploy barely manage to get their M.Phils.’ and Ph.Ds. realised, and if they do, they lack proper skillset.

January 2, 2020 /

We, Korean civil societies strongly urge the following:

The Modi government should instantly withdraw the Citizenship Amendment Act(CAA).
The Modi government should withdraw prohibition of demonstration and communication services cut off throughout India including Kashmir.
The Modi government should discontinue discrimination policies against Muslims, treat and protect all citizens and refugees equally.
The Korean government should state its stance toward anti-human rights policies of the Modi government and reconsider its cooperation with the Modi government.

January 2, 2020 /

While there are numerous instances of police violence in custody against certain sections of society (think poor, dalits, tribals, transgender people, “urban naxals,” Muslims amongst others), it is only at these moments, the blatant role of the police become more publicly visible to those who routinely ignore such violence elsewhere. The police asking the Jamia women students to go to Pakistan, stating that they are not Indians, even as their non Muslim friends watched in shock, are just some of the comments shared by these courageous women in a conversation with Ravish Kumar. The subsequent police targeting of Muslim journalists and lawyers/activists and subjecting them to illegal detention or in some cases torture then becomes the logical next step.

December 26, 2019 /

The extraordinary mass awakening erupted in Assam after the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 had been introduced in the Lok Sabha on 9 December 2019 is hitherto unseen in the history of the state. We are at a loss whether to term it a mass movement or a mass protest! It is certain that it is a phenomenon that would shake Assam’s social life. Everyone would agree that it is a historic eruption in the life of the Assamese nationality. But no matter how massive this mass protest is, this mass movement by the people would not be able to achieve its goal unless it is given a rational direction. Therefore we are trying to propose a blueprint to carry forward this movement, so that the biggest political phenomenon that we have ever seen in our lifetime does not become a nine day wonder.

December 25, 2019 /

Think of Mariam today. At this moment, she is a young woman who has travelled for many days and nights to Bethlehem (her husband’s native town), so that the birth can be registered in a Census ordered by Caesar Augustus. There is no room in the inn for a pregnant woman, so she brings her baby into the world alone in a manger. As she holds this infant in her arms, she whispers to him the insensitivity of a state that does not recognise birth to be the ultimate testament of inclusion, of how terrifying and vulnerable it is to be undocumented, to be denied a home…

December 23, 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.”

December 22, 2019 /

Ka Khristmas kam dei tang ka por ba ngin lehkmen, hynrei ka dei ruh ka por ba ngi peit shakhmat da ka jingkyrmen. Ka Khristmas ka iai pynkynmaw ia ngi ba ka don ka lad jong ka jingkyrmen bad ka pynkynmaw ruh ba U Jisu Khrist da la ka jong ka doh u la mad ia kaei kaba ki briew ki mad ne shem ha ka jingim hangne ha pyrthei. Ka kam kaba khia bad kyrkieh kaba don ha khmat jong ngi ka long kumno ban pynneh pynsah bad iada ia ka khyndew ka shyiap, ka ktien, ka kolshor ne ka dei riti jong ka Ri bad Jaidbynriew ba ritpaid bad ha kajuh ka por pat ban thew hok ia ka pyrla ka jingiarap ba shongnia kaba ngin ai sha ki phetwir ne nongwei katkum ki Ain bad ka hok longbriew manbriew, khlem da leh klet ruh ban buh pynap ia ki Ain bad kyndon ban iada ialade. Ngin ym lah ban leh ia kane lymne weng ia ki jingeh lada ngi don ia ka nongrim bad ka jingmut kaba khim.

December 20, 2019 /

The abrogation of Article 370 has been accompanied by many colossal whoppers about its politics and history, and deliberate disinformation about the consequences for legal and constitutional rights and status. Yet in Kashmir, from where I write this, none of it matters. It is all of a piece with India’s long history of lawlessness and lies in the name of law. In the face of overwhelming ontological insecurity and terrifying state brutality, no one, not even the lawyering community (such of them as are not busy filing habeas corpus and bail petitions or themselves hiding from arrest), can be bothered to pore over the niceties of how exactly the deed was accomplished. With no Internet access many Kashmiri lawyers I speak to have not so far been able to read the full text of the two Constitutional Orders that altered their fate. What, after all, is a legal sleight of hand or an elaborately constructed constitutional lie when you have not spoken to a beloved daughter in two months? Who cares if Tulsi Gabbard (“who?”) or the late Arun Jaitley (“he died?”) misrepresent the nature of property rights that daughters enjoyed under your one-time, so-called semi-autonomous legal system? Many had not heard that this was even a thing. When I informed them, seething with indignation, they shrugged. “Yes” they said. “They lie.”

December 18, 2019 /

Over the last few days, I’ve found myself repeatedly on the defensive—from accusations flying around about the xenophobic Northeast, that people there “just want to kick everybody out”.
Other “mainlanders” confess they are torn, wanting to understand and extend support but struggling to because they can’t align the protest there with their fight against anti-secularism.
For those of you who may still be confused, yes “mainland” India and Assam are protesting the CAA but not for the same reasons. The former are rightfully enraged over its dire implications for the Muslim community. The Assamese (not a monolithic ethnic block btw but an intricate, precarious web of over 200 tribes) are angered over how they feel it threatens their indigenous existences.

December 17, 2019 /

Tear gas, formally known as a lachrymator agent or lachrymator (from the Latin lacrima, meaning “tear”), sometimes colloquially known as mace, is a chemical weapon that causes severe eye and respiratory pain, skin irritation, bleeding, and blindness. Tear gas works very quickly. So what should you do?

December 17, 2019 /

By relegating the cries of the North-East region to fringes, a strong and powerful ‘liberal’ discourse on ‘secularism’ has emerged in India’s ‘heartland’. One can clearly observe the immorality of this discourse; news reports, opinion pieces announce the new Citizen Act as “islamophobic” and “anti-secular” while using images from the protesting ‘North-East’. One will also find news reports where images are used from the current Assam protest and the news item never mentions the protest in Assam and its reason but talks of passing an “Anti Secular Bill”. Deaths of protesters in Assam is cited in making their ‘liberal’ ‘secularist’ arguments in news rooms and opinion pieces.

December 14, 2019 /

Despite massive protests against the CAB, the BJP formed government in Assam in 2016 with a vast majority. Our apprehension that Hindu nationalism has devoured Assamese nationalism has been proved true over and over again. We may have raised certain demands at the level of parliamentary politics which are against Hindu nationalism, but culturally we are gradually stepping inside the deep and dark tunnel of Hindu nationalism. Hegemony of neoliberal and Hindutva ideology has been gradually established in our society. We have witnessed many people becoming euphoric at the news of the four rape-accused being shot dead in an encounter by the Hyderabad Police, including people who are nationalists, who are known as progressive-democratic. How could Assamese people support encounters? The blood-soaked history of Assamese nationalism makes it impossible. But now it has also become easy in Assam. This change is easily recognisable if one looks at the reactions to the various incidents happening in Jammu and Kashmir, including the abrogation of Article 370. This is just one example. Does it mean that although we vocally oppose Indian national aggression, we are gradually embracing the ideology of Hindu nationalism? We will have to find out a rational answer to it from the protest movements happening at this moment. As of now, these protests are characteristically different from the earlier protests—firstly, these are much more aggressive than the earlier protests and inclusive of people from all sections of society; and secondly, the people of Assam have firsthand had a good taste of the BJP’s rule and their ideology during the period since the earlier protests. That is why we hope that these protests shall not be like the earlier protests—unlike earlier protests, these protests should not go back to the point of their origin where the protests need to be restarted from again. These protests must take us a step forward, engender a qualitative transformation in us.

December 13, 2019 /

In the morning of December 12, 2019 most people around the Uzan Bazar, Ambari area of Guwahati had come out to see who had assembled at the Latasil field and hear some of the speakers they were sure would come: Zubeen, Samujjal and others who had been vocal in their opposition to to the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). Before mobile internet services were shut down at 1900 hours on December 11, 2019, many citizens of Guwahati had updated their status to ask people to come to Latasil grounds at 1100 hours the following day. The messages had a ring of defiance to them. In an age that demands distraction via the world wide web, the status updates managed to help individuals focus on the event that they were coming out to participate in.

December 13, 2019 /

A big shot editor while explaining the CAB and situation in Assam and its neighboring states, puts the majority of Tribes of Assam under the Hindu religion. And when taking about the Tripura he accepts that tribes over there have been pushed to minority by immigrant Hindu Bengalis who rule the place now. And he calls it a democracy, the logic of numbers! And he also go on saying that how people from northeast are now working in main land India which is good sign and it should happen both ways.

December 12, 2019 /

Indian Liberals must understand that the CAB and the NRC are truly pernicious and evil, not simply because they are against Indian Muslims. By and large (outside Assam) they are not. So let’s stop pretending that this is the case. If you happen to be a non-Muslim Indian liberal, then you need to understand that stating that you will now ‘register’ yourself as a ‘Muslim’ because of the CAB and the NRC, is not something that will affect your citizenship status by even one jot. This is not and cannot be ‘civil disobedience’ because an Indian citizen registering as a Muslim ‘disobeys’ nothing and nobody insofar as citizenship is concerned. That is a matter under the ambit of the law pertaining to conversion, not citizenship. We need more than token gestures of this kind.

December 11, 2019 /

Why is it so hard for Indian Liberals to understand that CAB is both anti indigenous people, and anti secular? To label the protests in northeast as a call for “everyone kicked out” and xenophobic is simplistic and historically ignorant when there are ways to seek solutions without the need of inconveniencing, traumatising, and harassing people who do not belong to indigenous people.

December 10, 2019 /

There was a parking lot in Shillong
that took a year and crores to build.
Why, I asked, was it not used to ease congestion?
It awaited the Minister for Roads to inaugurate,
who awaited the fall of his government.
And the waiting goes on,
for here they change parties and governments
like Hindi film stars changing dresses in a song.

December 7, 2019 /

It is a night that Kamla Kaka will perhaps never forget. A mitanin (health care provider) trainer she had returned to her village in Bastar, Chhatisgarh, after a visit to Bijapur, some 52 km away where she had gone for a delivery case. “I had eaten my meal and was listening to songs when the loud burst of firing startled me. Many of us rushed out from our homes. We wondered why the forces had entered our village and were firing continually. It went on and on and later there were flare bombs that illuminated the area. A vehicle arrived later and picked up our dead but many of the armed personnel stayed on,” she told me when I met her earlier this year.
Among the dead were three relatives and her nephew Rahul Kaka, the 15-year-old-son of her father’s brother (chacha). “A class nine student he was so special to me,” she added.

December 6, 2019 /

Fear of Lions sets the bar for South Asian historical fiction. Aurangazeb is neither vilified nor celebrated, he and his reign are showcased with all its problematic and a rare honesty. The book sets up describing every aspect of socio political life during this period – caste, bureaucracy, political intrigues, army, revenue system, administration, aristocracy, commerce, migration, mobility etc. through an intertwined fictionalized narratives about individuals. If I were teaching a course on this period of history, I would prescribe this as an essential reading.

November 30, 2019 /

Kuki Rebellion has been has been usually portrayed as a heroic act of fighting the Colonial force but this particular ‘anti-colonial’ narrative ignores the sufferings meted out to Zeliangrong people (a conglomeration of Naga tribes (Zeme, Liangmai, Rongmei and Inpui). How a significant part of historical event has been obscured so far requires a retelling/rewriting experiences of Zeliangrong people from Kuki Rebellion, 1917-1919.

November 29, 2019 /

Life and Death. War and Peace. A book that would forever alter the way I look at History. I don’t remember the precise date on which I started reading the book, but I do remember the month, the year, the conditions of life, in which I made one of the most courageous attempts of life – to read War and Peace – and the exact number of days it took me to read the book, 18 days

November 2, 2019 /

Some things to remember amidst this WhatsApp hack sensation:

The government may not actually have in any records, data on who all have been targeted for illegal surveillance and accessing of their devices. Such unauthorised surveillance – conducted by private contractors – is never directly contracted by police/IB etc. Front organisations, like the one that issued the invitations to European MEPs to visit Kashmir, set up by individual officials via their proxies are the ones that contract the surveillance contractors.

October 28, 2019 /

“We are guyoor log” (Proud and honourable people).
“We do not beg. We are merely demanding our rights_ those that had been promised to us on the floors of Parliament. Where is this people’s mandate?” These were some of the questions posed to me by Hayat Ahmed Butt, the pro freedom leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim league, in a conversation I had just two days before he was picked up by police from Anchar, adjoining Soura in Srinagar on Wednesday, October 16.

October 27, 2019 /

The final list of NRC published on 31st August, 2019 is a culmination of a long drawn process that can be traced back to the state politics of Assam in the pre independence period. The state’s history is marked by incidents which continue to shape the politics of the state. Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty’s book Assam: The Accord, the Discord tries to do exactly this – revisit the roots of the problems and understand when the seeds of discord were sown. 

October 3, 2019 /

Despite Kashmir valley experiencing a crippling communication blackout for the last sixty days, with massive restrictions and curfew imposed, where it has impacted life beyond one’s imagination, one comes across the launch of a fashion campaign (Zooni) directed by Avani Rai for a label called Raw Mango. It is not just that the campaign is ill-timed and insensitive, but it does damage by further fetishing Kashmiri women.

September 26, 2019 /

This statement is in the context of an invitation to Kashmiri students studying at Aligarh Muslim University by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. It has been reported in the National media that forty Kashmiri students from AMU have been called to Lucknow for a meeting with the Chief Minister wherein the Chief Minister will discuss the abrogation of Article 370 with students and will explain the “advantages” of the decision.

September 25, 2019 /

It is worth asking whether the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A will ensure the safe return of the more than 100,000 Kashmiri Pandits to the idyllic homes they left behind in the 1990s, on their “own terms”. If those terms entail a return not merely to the territory of Kashmir but to any semblance of the cultural and social relations that had once made Kashmir home, then jubilating Kashmiri Pandits might want to ask whether their native home is being secured or only further eroded by the recent decision.

In a strange twist, the removal of Article 35 A, which was important to Kashmiri Pandits’ own early mobilisation to secure government jobs for themselves from Indians of the plains, may now well turn the erstwhile Kashmiri Pandit native into a settler. Pandits who have nursed dreams of return must know that they will arrive not as neighbours, but as a demographic stick with which to beat local Kashmiri Muslims and pave the way for a settler-colonial project designed to transform India’s only Muslim-majority state into a Hindu-majority one. 

September 23, 2019 /

The Eco-Hindutva movement values an intense internality guided by Vedic scriptures, one which equates indigeneity with an ancient, Brahminized Hindu identity. It advocates for a worldview that understands nature as pristine or “clean”, which is now polluted by humanity. It has seeded an approach where environmental science and knowledge could be re-shaped according to Hindu mythology and spirituality. Notably, it ignores forest dwellers and tribal knowledge, generational guardianship and sovereignty – while dismissing significant Adivasi environmental struggles and fights for justice in South Asia. Eco-hindutva shifts focus on what counts as environmental issues – it directs concern towards environmental cleanliness and a highly individualized focus on vegetarianism and cow protection. At the same time, it literalizes tropes of “invasion” on “Hindu land” and uses Vedic mythology as the basis for ecological preservation. These foundational ideologies find legitimacy in environmental platforms and is part of how the diaspora both amplifies and justifies Hindutva violence.

September 20, 2019 /

More than a month has passed since India unilaterally broke the treaty of accession it had made with the last Dogra Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. Amidst a complete communication blockade, only the foggiest and vaguest details of the situation on the ground in the state in general, and the Muslim majority areas in particular, have been able to waft out. This uncertainty has afforded “concerned” Indians an opportunity to once more pack their woollens (only the light ones, since it is still quite balmy in Kashmir, thank you very much) and book their air tickets (cheap, courtesy the blockade, delightful!) and travel to the ground on “fact finding” missions.
That in itself is not the problem. All are welcome to Kashmir—tourists, well-wishers, tourists masquerading as well-wishers and well-wishers pretending to be tourists. We are nothing if not hospitable. In any case, India has hundreds of thousands of troops in Kashmir. It is not as if Kashmiris have the power to stop Indians from visiting their latest Union Territory.