Category: Words

July 8, 2020 /

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.

July 5, 2020 /

Axone was a much awaited film- simply because it promised ‘to speak for the Northeast ‘-the mainstream after all has taken so long to look east and whenever it has chosen to ‘speak’ for us – it has always been distorted and misrepresented, steeped in stereotypes. Axone’s promise to speak of ‘lived realities’ of the people of the Northeast-in choosing Axone as the title and the theme of the movie- to engage with questions of racism through food politics- there really could not have been any better time than now to bring forth the harsh truth of racism experienced by people of the Eastern region. But all it did- and very problematically- was to cater to these crucial questions from a very privileged and elite position, almost similar to the stance of the mainland- lacking depth, ignorant and oblivious of the ‘lived realities’ that it seeks to represent. Interesting debates have already been forth from the Northeastern community it seeks to represent; my purpose therefore is to introspect on the representation of the Nepali character of Upasna Rai as ‘part of’ and yet different from the Northeast.

July 5, 2020 /

“Adults are not reading books.”
“Children are not reading books.”
These 2 lines one comes across frequently. These are, on most occasions, followed with gyan encouraging one to read. To read more. Most of this gyan also lays the blame – for fall in reading – entirely or almost entirely on technology. In other words, televisions and mobile phones are the reason for people going away from books and reading. Roald Dahl too famously written, “So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install a lovely bookshelf on the wall”.

On June 29, 2020; the Minister of Industries and Commerce of Assam released a series of tweets announcing that the Council of Ministers had approved an ordinance by which industries could be set up in Assam by just “one self-declaration” and land would be deemed converted for industrial purpose. The Ordinance presently awaits the approval of the Governor of Assam.
In law, land as a natural resource is considered to be held in public trust by the State. The State holds land for the enjoyment by the citizen at large. This essentially means that there is an embargo on the State transferring public properties such as Government held land to private parties if such transfers affect the public interest.

July 3, 2020 /

In the evening of 25 May 2020, George Floyd, a 46 years old African-American man was choked to death by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer of the Minneapolis Police Department, an incident that sparked massive outrage and protest demonstrations against police brutality and lack of police accountability and racism, in the United States of America and around the world.
At around 00:30 AM on 15 June 2020, a team of Indian Army personnel under Major Sachin Sinha of 244 Field Regiment based in Charaideo assisted by a team of Assam Police under Amit Kumar Hojai, Sub-Divisional Police Officer, Titabor and Mintu Kumar Handique, Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Borholla Police Station (PS) picked up Jayanta Borah, 25 years old son of late Hem Borah who had served in the Indian Army, from his home at Balijan Gabhoru Ali, Kakodonga Habi Gaon, Borholla in Jorhat district in Assam where he lived with his old mother, Lila Borah.

July 3, 2020 /

Greetings like “Comrade” or “Lal Salam” can land one in jail under the UAPA as per NIA’s chargesheet against Bittu Sonowal. When greetings start triggering anti-terror laws, it becomes important to revisit the definition of ‘anti-terror’. Every right guaranteed to citizen comes with a caveat taking away the absoluteness of such laws. For example, Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution guarantees the freedom of speech and expression and at the same time Article 19(2) allows for reasonable restrictions to be imposed on the same freedom to speech and expression. While in principle, exceptions might not be problematic, yet exceptions are usually used to quell voices of the opposition.

July 1, 2020 /

What does it take to build a nation? Hiren Gohain and Sanjib Baruah once had a prolonged debate on the stakes of nationalism during the Assam Movement in the 1980s. Professor Gohain, broadly skeptical of the Assam Movement, argued that it was a bourgeois reaction to the consolidation of communist organizing in the region. Professor Baruah, more sympathetic, suggested that it was a strategic mobilization responding to India’s continued treatment of Assam as a colony. Revisiting that debate, one is struck less by their disagreements— which were many and profound—but by the impossibility of that argument today. This is partly because of the intervening forty years, of course, especially the collapse of the organized Left, the rise (and betrayal) of ULFA, and the saffronization of nationalism, such that even imagining it could be an emancipatory vision seems ludicrous these days. It is also because, as both Professors Gohain and Baruah emphasize in their recent books, the rest of the country never grasped the sheer novelty of the Assam Movement. Most of us today remember the Assam Movement only insofar as it led to the Assam Accord, which we in turn blame for the NRC and the CAA. Read together, Professors Gohain and Baruah offer us an important corrective to that narrow and self-serving narrative, even as they highlight different aspects of the complex history and consequences of that moment in Indian history.

June 25, 2020 /

As Baghjan burns I find myself (almost like everyone of us) entangled in heap of anxieties that comes from my association and experience with societies and institutions across the region. As Baghjan is not a case in isolation I find myself compelled to inform what cause my anxiousness. I should add, reliving and writing the self is not always a happy exercise even when one knows one is politically and morally obliged to do so. Yet, I write because much about Baghjan will be determined by what we choose to see in the sufferings and loss. What we see determines how we respond, how we care and for how long. It will decide what we will fight for in the various phases of its healing/curing. It will tell us when we will choose to withdraw our love and responsibilities.

June 23, 2020 /

Axone, an extreme comfort food, rarely has an in-between. You either love it or hate it. It seems the film Axone by Nicholas Kharkongor, has gone the same direction as well. Much criticism has been poured on it in terms of accuracy and how it has dealt with many important issues, especially to North-easterners, on racism and discrimination. With everything else going on in the world, perhaps the film seems weak to many in its stance on these issues in light of present social and political conflicts. Thus, it has been chewed down, digested and excreted with all the stench to put off anyone going near it.
I enjoyed Axone thoroughly. Both the food and the film.

June 22, 2020 /

I Janice Pariat I dei iwei na ki nongthoh iba la sdang paw ha ka jylli ki nongthoh kot ka Ri India. Ki khanatang kiba I la thoh bad lum thup ha ka kot kaba I la ai kyrteng Boats on Land (Ki Lieng Kynda ha Ryngkew) ki la pynioh ha I ia ka khusnam Yuva Puraskar na ka Sahitya Academy. Ki khana kiba don ha katei ka kot ki dei ki jingmutdur ia ka por bad hadien ka jingsynshar jong ki phareng bad ka Sorkar Bilat ia ka Ri Khasi Jaintia. Ia kane ka kot la pynkylla ruh sha ka ktien khasi da I Bah Sumar Sing Sawian.
Mynta ka dei sngi ba ka Ri Khasi Jaintia ka kynmaw burom ia u Thomas Jones u missionary Khristan ka Balang Presbyterian na Ri Wales uba la wan poi ha Sohra 179 snem mynshuwa. Kumta ngi wanrah sha phi ki nongpule ia kawei ka khana kaba iasnoh bad ka Shnong Pomreng,ka Shnong kaba u Thomas Jones u la phet rieh na ki tyrsim u Hary Englis uba la thmu sniew ban shim ia ka jingim u.

June 22, 2020 /

Today is “Rev. Thomas Jones Day”, gazetted as a Special Holiday for all State Government Offices and all revenue and Magisterial Courts and Educational Institutions across the Khasi and Jaintia Hills and the Ri-Bhoi District. What might this 22 June holiday mean, individually or collectively, for Christian or non-Christian, in that shape-shifting ground between the past and the present?

June 22, 2020 /

The malicious act of re-opening and construction toll gates while a national lockdown in times of a global pandemic is in progress, when people cannot voice their disagreements or lodge their protest, is a backdoor fascist attack on the very idea of democracy and citizenry. It is a clear signal that the Indian state will, by hook or crook, relegate it’s citizenry to the status of a consumer bereft of any quality service and rights that is enshrined in the constitution.

June 21, 2020 /

Recently, three incidents have rocked Assam: a coal mining concession in a part of Dehing-Patkai Elephant Reserve, an oil blowout in Baghjaan, and the extra-judicial killing of an Assamese youth in Jorhat by security forces and police. While the state narrative regarding Jayanta Bora, the deceased youth, seems to connect him with the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) without any conclusive proof, multiple local media outlets have reported a different version of his death. This version states that Bora was seen taking photographs of trucks carrying illegal coal from the adjacent Naga hills, which might have had a role in his death. Meanwhile, different narratives have emerged from Baghjaan oil blowout as well. While one calls for a relook at the extractive economy and its power relations in Assam vis-a-vis the Indian state, another emphasize on reading it as an industrial disaster. In an interview with The Wire a few years ago economic commentator Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar said, “Assamese chauvinism has long come in the way of oil exploration. The government must dismiss it for the narrow-minded silliness that it is,” suggesting how the Baghjaan oil blowout can be plotted in extractive relations of competing groups and nationalist aspirations. This essay seeks to reflect on the extractive economy, the historical and the contemporary, that has been at the centre of the development narrative in Assam.

June 21, 2020 /

It has been eight years since my father departed from this world on 3rd May 2012. Gurucharan Murmu, who entered the hallowed IPS (Indian Police Service) in 1972, is the first ever Santal to serve the Union Civil Services. Being his daughter and having to see him suffer all his life for his integrity and for upholding an incorruptible moral universe has been an agonizing experience. While it was personal pain earlier, it is more of anger towards gross violation of social justice that triggers me these days. The persistence of the skilfully devised myth that the thirty four years of left front rule in West Bengal has somehow abolished caste based discrimination is due to the pervasive dominance of the forward caste Bengali bhadralok over political, social, economic and cultural domains and academic discourses. Dismissal, oppression, deprivation, injustice, contempt and most importantly stigma and trauma of humiliation and harassment, violation of dignity and human rights on account of caste disparity remain brutal everyday realities for adivasis in this state.

June 21, 2020 /

Ka Balang Presbyterian hapoh ka Bri ki Hynniewtrep, ka dei kawei na ki Balang Khristan kaba la rim tam bad kaba la seng nongrim ne saindur katkum ki jinghikai shong tynrai jong ki Methodist ka Ri Wales bad U John Calvin. Nalor kaba ialap ia ka Khubor Babha sha ki bynriew, ka Balang ka don ruh ka jingkitkhlieh kaba khraw ban pyniaid ia ka kam jingpynkhiah kaba ka la tyngkhap ha ka saindur jong ka. Ha kiwei pat ki kyntien, ka mission jong ka Balang Presbyterian ha ka Ri ka long ban pynkhiah ia ki briew na ki jingpang bad ruh ban ai ka jingsumar pang (Health care) kaba paka lyngba ki Hospital jong ka.

June 19, 2020 /

Autonomous District Councils are frequently blamed for failures of governance in Meghalaya. Their inefficiency, however, is a feature of the system rather than an anomaly. In seeking to preserve traditional institutions by transforming them, the Sixth Schedule only further entrenched the colonial paradox it inherited. The ADCs it invented—simultaneously accountable to everybody and responsible for nobody— were practically designed for endemic corruption and abuse. Sometimes, as in the case that opened this essay, the legal system works. The RTI infrastructure helps citizens uncover specific illegalities and then the judiciary provides a remedy. More often it does not, because structural inequity cannot be meaningfully addressed in this piecemeal fashion. The eternal liminality of the ADCs also indicates just how indebted our institutional imagination remains to condescending colonial assumptions about tribal peoples and the need to “gently assimilate” them into modernity. The Constituent Assembly’s recognition of indigenous sovereignty was a landmark moment in world history, but it was only half the task. It falls to us now to build institutions that can live up to that sweeping democratic vision.

June 17, 2020 /

Axone, the film is being critically received and widely acclaimed for depicting the racial discriminations faced by the people from the Northeast in Indian metros, an aspect that has assumed a special significance due to a spike of racist attacks and discrimination against people form the region in different cities of India as the panic around COVID19 grows. Nicholas Kharkongor, the director of the movie, made this connection too in an interview to Outlook calling the movie has come in the right time, as “the idea was to be able to tell the story of Northeast people’s experience of living in a big city.”

June 10, 2020 /

#CoalMining #Meghalaya
“It is easy to see why coal interests in Meghalaya are so threatened by people like Agnes Kharshiing. They murdered P.N. Marbaniang, a policeman, simply for doing his job— how much more terrifying must it be to be confronted with someone with such a blazing sense of duty and such persistence? RTI activism is, by definition, a plodding enterprise. One soon learns the truth of the saying that the devil lies with the details, especially when the chasm between the law and the reality is so gaping it appears to be an abyss. The ladder across it is constructed laboriously, one patient enquiry after the next. The citizens’ report was built out of a dozen RTI petitions, filed by different people in different times and places and for different reasons. It was stitched together to offer the Supreme Court a complete account of the dilemma before it. In some ways, the court abdicated its responsibility when it ordered the state government to begin enforcing laws it has ignored for fifty years. This simplistic resolution prolonged the open season on mining that has prevailed since the original “ban,” and it has pushed the coal economy even further into the shadows.”

June 8, 2020 /

Today (8th June 2020) is the second death anniversary of Sukracharjya Rabha (1977-2018), whom I lovingly called Sukra Da. He was my senior, my big brother. We both learned theatre from our Oja Kanhailal and Ima Sabitri. He was the founder-director of the theatre group Badungduppa Kalakendra, Rampur, an extended family of Kalakshetra Manipur. Under the guidance of late Heisnam Kanhailal, Sukracharjya Rabha started the theatre festival Under the Sal Tree in 2008 at his village Rampur. The first festival was jointly organized by Badungduppa Kalakendra and Kalakshetra Manipur, the theatre group founded by late Heisnam Kanhailal and Heisnam Sabitri.

June 8, 2020 /

Online education should be seen as a portentous messenger of things to come and not the message in itself. Even before the physical classroom and face to face academic interactions were deemed a viral hazard, the contemporary university system was already down with a high fever and looking for ways to cool off from their dependence on brick and mortar teaching.

All commemorations and commemorative projects are political in nature, and each represents the political visions of a community, which in most of the cases transgress the political or cultural autonomy of another community. Manipur state for a long time have been projecting a particular Meetei-centric history and identity through the museums, state holidays and other types of commemorations. This should be questioned and had been questioned through political and academic language for years, but with little success. For example, the entire history of Pangal community or Manipuri Muslims hardly found any space in history writing, hero-making or such state commemorations in the region. The building of this contentious park is a continuation of this problematic state commemorations, and is most likely to result in political confrontations, which is avoidable in such a fragile political arrangement in the state. The purpose of this article is not to question the building of the park or the oppositions to its building. It merely questions the ahistorical reading of the Chibu inscriptions and the historical circumstances leading to their installation at the site.

June 5, 2020 /

On May 26, The Print published an article by Martha Lee of Middle East Forum (MEF) entitled “Stand With Kashmir not an innocent hashtag, it supports violent Islamists and terrorists.” The article made a number of defamatory claims regarding our grassroots social justice advocacy movement, Stand with Kashmir.
The Middle East Forum is notorious for its virulent Islamophobia and was created for the purpose of demonizing scholars and activists who call attention to the Israeli state’s vindictive treatment of Palestinians.

June 4, 2020 /

There is a kind of myth making going on in the media that migrant workers are leaving cities for their love of home. The question is what choice these migrant workers had. They did not start their journey from the cities out of love for their homeland and relatives. They had to leave their homes in the cities. We conveniently/unconsciously switch this compulsion to leave cities for a phrase ‘love for the home’. Those who had some means to stay deferred their journey.
To say that migrant workers are leaving cities for their love of home/natives is to absolve ourselves from looking at harsh conditions which forced them out of city boundaries and left them walking in extreme conditions or undertaking arduous train journey.

The recent amazon prime series “Pataal Lok” has witnessed wide backlash from the Indian Gorkha community who are protesting against the slur “Nepali Randi” used in the series. The community asserts that the usage of such slur is offensive to the Nepali speaking community at large. In the immediate aftermath, multiple FIR’s have been filed against the series, and the producer and numerous letters have been written to distinguished persons in the government calling for its withdrawal. Social media and Facebook, in particular, has become the new battleground where the “honour” of Indian Nepali women, whose moral standing in the use of the word “Nepali Randi” allegedly degrades, is now being fought. The past few weeks have seen Nepali men’s chauvinism and masculine need to protect the “honour” of the women in their community on an unprecedented scale, given the space that is now being provided by social media.

June 2, 2020 /

At Raiot, we remember the conviction that launched the RTI movement: hum jaanenge, hum jeeyenge; when we know, we survive. We are launching a new series this week, in which we reassess the history of the RTI in Meghalaya in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the dilemmas it has posed for governance in both the state and the nation. For the next few weeks, we will tell you stories from 15 years of RTI activism: the successes, the failures, and what we learned through it all. The RTI Act was once called the sunshine law; may it serve now to illuminate these dark times.

May 17, 2020 /

I have heard many who claim to have many things growing in their garden but also have well manicured finger-nails. You may own a garden but might not be responsible for what grows in it because you have outsourced this task to a gardener. So you cannot claim to have grown anything and it does not make you a gardener. You can’t have those delicate nails and also be doing gardening. Gardening leaves its marks. On a hot sunny day you can turn a burnished red and your hands are always rough no matter what hand cream you use, including those that claim to work miracles. I take about two hours daily to weed, prune, rake and ensure that the roots of the plants are well looked after and the leaves are healthy. Every once in a while one also has to look for little pests that devour the leaves and cruelly kill them for the choice is between allowing the pest to thrive or your vegetables.

May 16, 2020 /

Then there are the other good souls, picking up local bakery and often, surreptitiously procuring our vices like cigarettes and duma, sourced from friends and acquaintances moonlighting as suppliers. So there’s a lesson for me here, be nice to everyone. Spread your friendship net far and wide. You never know who could arrange that last packet of Gold Flake for you.

May 5, 2020 /

People who dictate policies and the ones who implement them, those who create the propaganda and the ones who carry it, those who make art out of ordinary men’s miseries and the ones who lecture the world from comfortable TV studios, those who pretend they care and the ones who remain apathetic, those who put their individual interests above the collective benefit and the ones whose rationality borders on cruelty. 
I myself fall in the same group – among those currently facing an epidemic of anxiety, loneliness and mental health issues. Long been shielded by our economic and social status, we now need to loosen our purses and our egos. As we find us and our loved ones to be as susceptible to the vagaries of the unkind world, we should do some soul searching. Here is what the elites of India, and the world, can do in our spare time. 

May 1, 2020 /

The messed up person in this story is not the girl herself. The messed up people here are those trying to justify her actions. Those who are tacitly propping up these structures of privilege, dependence and corruption. To put things in perspective – Last year, a musician from Laitumkhrah was battered and bruised in police custody. How many people stood up for him? A week ago, another boy from Shillong was called Corona by Bengaluru police while being taken to jail. How many people stood up for him? Now, a woman has become a meme legend by saying crazy things at a police station. And some mindless people are writing odes to her innocence and silently shedding a tear for her strength.

April 29, 2020 /

“We are frustrated by the hunger, disparity and isolation that is staring at us in the face. We have never seen such nakedness. My mother recently told me over the phone that ‘corona’ is the first word that comes to her mind when she wakes up and it brings along images of mass unemployment, persons stuck in abusive homes, hunger and death in isolation. She wakes up to this everyday. She is terrified. For herself and others. We all are.
Add to this the persecution of students, activists, scholars, doctors (persons any sane society would hold dear, especially in these times) by the state and its lackadaisical response to the woes of the most marginalized. It seems to us that this lockdown is the end of the world as we know it. And we are not able to ‘move’, mobilize, and protest to save it.
But, difficult as it is, we cannot let fear turn us into unscientific fools whose demands are based on ‘feelings’ and overlook facts. And whose facts are placed out of context in an argument. That is the work of those who walk towards the other direction from the center.”

Ever since Covid-19 appeared in public knowledge, a racist approach to the epidemic is witnessed in various parts of the world. The President of the United States of America, Mr. Donald Trump went on to term the Novel coronavirus as the ‘Chinese virus’. In India, the brunt has been borne by mostly people from the Northeast, Darjeeling and Ladakh. There are many media reports and personal narratives of people from the Northeast facing getting targeted and harassed in many parts of the country. Different conspiracy theories have flooded the social media regarding patient zero and why and how it got transmitted, although the actual cross-species transmission is yet to be confirmed. Rumours such as the virus got transmitted to a human body by coming in contact with a host animal carrier and so on are doing the rounds. In the popular Indian Upper Caste psyche, the already available theories about ‘weird’, ‘uncivilized’, ‘unhygienic’, ‘wild’ and ‘very Chinese’ food habits of the communities from the Northeast are enough to create quick racial profiling and targeting of the Northeasterners. We have seen various rumours, widespread conspiracy theories and social media forward messages regarding the food habits of the inhabitants of Northeast India being viral in the Indian social mediascapes.

As we continue to face a mostly unknown threat and have no specific guidelines on ideal exit plans (eg, from World Health Organization), it is, therefore, critical that developing countries formulate their own “context-specific” strategies before relaxing the nationwide social distancing interventions.
Besides solidarity, integrative thinking, multidisciplinary coordination, planning, and preparation are key.
Therefore, the measures proposed here might helpfully inform the policy-makers to think locally, act promptly, and balance health protection and economy pragmatically, in low-income settings worldwide , when a decision is made to relax the social distancing.

April 26, 2020 /

Daily we gulped down the alcoholic news
of roasted cars and brutalised bodies, fleeing
families and flimsy appeals for peace, curfew
reliefs, temporal windows for resupply, while

at home we gossiped about spilled blood
between endless games of scrabble, our tones
hushed lest the police patrolling sanitised streets
would hear and accuse us of plotting. That year,

with winter fast approaching with no sign
of school reopening, I learnt the vocabulary
of hate and placed my preadolescent signature
on a certificate that declared my neighbour

and friend, Abhijit, his family, had become
our enemy.

April 24, 2020 /

At a time like this, Kafka is imperative to inform ourselves of the experience of a life lived like this. His prescience has been evoked several times over the years, as elements of his stories have found parallels everywhere. During the Prague Spring in 1968, his works saw a resurgence after the ban because they mirrored the conditions under communism, capturing the emotional suffocation and paranoia of living under a faceless power. In 2011, the rape case of a Chinese official’s daughter by a mining magnate contained the all the ironic twists typical to a Kafkaesque, futile quest for justice.

April 22, 2020 /

Dierhekolie Iralu, known as Kaka, impulsive and straightforward, sentimental, domineering at times but innocent like a child, foaming at the mouth when voicing convictions, but with an attentive ear to the views of others. He is the man who revealed the history and truth of the Naga people that no one before him had dared to divulge.
Nineteen fifty six – the year Kaka was born, India launched a full-fledged military invasion of Nagaland. Naga villages were burned to ashes one after another, and the helpless people were driven into the jungle. Shortly after his birth, Kaka wandered the jungles with his mother, and was detained as a political prisoner at the age of 8 months. During his boyhood, scenes of blood and gore were etched into his memory as he spent time with his grandfather, who was a doctor.

April 21, 2020 /

The 2 country-wide lockdowns of 3 weeks each, one after another are unprecedented anywhere in the world. We all know of the distress caused to millions of migrant labourers but we can only wish that someone had planned the first lockdown much better! Maybe there were some compulsions that have been hidden from public domain! We may also like to be generous at such times and forgive those who took the decisions “for they knew not what they did!”

April 21, 2020 /

One of the key factors in tackling the spread of COVID-19 across the globe is testing. In South Korea, for example, mass testing has been used to try and quickly identify and isolate those with the disease. Testing is also vital to calculate accurate infection and survival rates – data that is critical for getting public safety measures right. And as this coronavirus continues to spread, people are being offered tests for sale, either at a high price from private clinics – or tests that are not officially approved, or perhaps even fake. So what tests are being used by health officials, how much do they really cost and what developments are there to come?

April 20, 2020 /

For those who will look for public health in this essay and see a political argument,  may do well to know that the social determinants of health are always amenable to good or bad politics. For example, to spend 24% of the annual budget on military and police while spending only 1.3% on public health measures is a political decision that makes us so vulnerable to public health emergencies. Similarly, responding to this Corona pandemic by listening to great clinicians instead of pubic health experts who understand rural distress and the social determinants of health is as much a political decision. Testing the members of one religious congregation and not the others’ meetings may also be political. Rudolf Virchow, the celebrated nineteenth century German physician wisely said, “Politics is nothing but medicine at a larger scale!”