Faizabad District Judge KM Pandey made the decision to open the gates of the Babri, back in February of 1986, assuring everybody that heavens will not fall if the locks are removed. In his autobiography, he mentions that his decision was validated by a black monkey, who sat holding the flag post on the roof of the court all day long, and despite offerings of groundnuts and fruits from thousands of people of Faizabad and Ayodhya, refused to accept any. The judge spots the black monkey later in the verandah of his bungalow, and salutes him, taking him to be some divine power.
Earth’s been around the Sun. Kashmir, where it was, in darkness
While tyrants spin untruths, enact laws in darkness
The tortuous thicket of laws, constitutional provisions, presidential orders, political history and legal mystifications surrounding Article 370 and Article 35A make it difficult to navigate through recent debates about its abrogation in an informed way. This series of three essays by Shrimoyee Nandini Ghosh, lawyer and legal researcher, which we published last year, aimed to be a somewhat eclectic guidebook— at times proffering a no frills step-by-step road map, at others traversing some rather more unfrequented and adventurous legal diversions.
With or without the political intention of its makers, history itself has placed a mountain of representational and creative responsibility on Axone. Immediately after its…
In death, shaheed articulates both his agency and his suffering. In death, he bears witness to the pain and truth of Kashmir. In death, he makes it clear that the world’s largest democracy is afraid of simple dreams in the eyes of simple men.
“But what do these Kashmiris want,” the world asks.
A totalitarian control over histories and a calculated manipulation of meanings have been instrumental in India’s narrative warfare. Its armed and administrative forces have actively pursued the destruction of historiographic and material evidence of the Kashmiri past.
However, there exist ‘witnesses’ that reject the Indian imagination, refuse to grant it any legitimacy, and rule out any possibility of submission to its apparatus of regulation. These ‘witnesses’ attest to the multiple struggles of Kashmir’s pasts and preserve the evidence of its demands from the future. They undermine the colonial design by engaging in a negotiation of power where they reimagine the Kashmiri body, Kashmiri history, and the Kashmiri everyday. Subverting the threat of erasure and elimination, the ‘witnesses’ promise life in their sense of continuity, renewal, and resilience.”
I forgot to sanitise my hand because love taught me to reach out without thinking twice. My mask came off because reflex taught me to…
Sa kawei ka kambah kaba ma ngi ki nongshong shnong ngi dei ban pynjia long hadien ba la shem ia ki dawai, ki lad jingsumar bad ki lad jingiada. Kata ka kambah ka long kane, ba baroh ki nongshong shnong salonsar ki dei ban ioh ia kita ki dawai, ki lad jingsumar bad ki lad jingiada khlem da pyniapher kyrdan ne jaitbynriew bad dei ban pynioh ia ki ha ka dor kaba jem bad ba biang briew, kaba ki rangli ki juki bad ki nongbylla sngi ki kotbor. Nalor nangta ngi dei ruh ban pynthymmai bad pynim pat ia ka koit ka khiah bad ka sumar pang (Health Care) ha baroh ki shnong ha ka Jylla.
We, the undersigned former and current students of Prof Hany Babu M.T., condemn his arrest by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday and stand in firm solidarity with him. Prof. Babu is a noted academic, a well known anti-caste activist, and a member of the committee formed for the defence of G.N. Saibaba, a former Delhi University professor who is over 90% disabled, and wheelchair bound. Prof. Babu has maintained his innocence since the illegal raid at his Noida apartment last year in September by Pune police. The raid, which was conducted without a warrant, resulted in the Pune Police confiscating Prof. Babu’s laptop, mobile phones, two booklets printed for the G.N. Saibaba defence committee and two books which are publicly available in bookstores and libraries. The nature of his alleged ‘crime’ remains unclear because the NIA’s warrant is, in our opinion, deliberately vague with clearly fabricated accusations. According to news reports, the ‘evidence’ that has apparently led to Prof Babu’s arrest was based off of an e folder on his hard disk. He was, however, not given a hash value for his laptop.
The opposition to the government’s intention to make Hindi mandatory in schools would have been an ideal moment for India to introspect on what it means to be such a language-rich country. It would have been an opportunity to take stock of the languages we have and those that are threatened, of those that require support in terms of documentation before they disappear, and how to honestly – and not just on paper – promote education in mother tongues. But none of this happened. The moment the “Hindi” issue cropped up, it became a political stand-off, instead of leading to a fruitful debate about what languages and linguistic diversity indicate about our sub-continent, and how such richness can be conserved. And so, once again the issue has been brushed under the carpet, and our ever-present notion of the vote-bank and other populist ideals have taken precedence. The present calm has lulled us to believe that nothing is the matter. The storm of linguistic decline is yet to unfold.
Swapna Barman became the only Indian so far to have won gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games in the event called heptathlon, an athletic event which, like many of them, most of her own villagers never heard of till she won the medal. Earlier she had also won gold medal in Asian Athletic Championship in 2017 and got silver medal in the SAF Games in 2016. Being the champion of one of the toughest athletic events she soon became well-known all over the country. For her extraordinary sporting achievements, she was also conferred with the coveted Arjuna Award. In the same Asiad the Assamese girl, Hima Das too won the gold medal in the 400 metres mixed and women’s relay. Young Hima Das deservedly became a celebrity in Assm. She has also been offered the job of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) by the state government. In stark contrast to such glorious journey, Swapna Barman received a lukewarm welcome in Kolkata airport, the capital of her home state, moderate cash rewards from the state, a clerical job to her brother, and that’s about it, where it all ended. Swapna belongs to the Koch Rajbanshi community, an indigenous repressed community recognized as Scheduled Caste in the state of West Bengal. In the caste sensitive Bengal society, they have always been considered as paraiahs, the low castes.
Recently, I came across a statement by 81 intellectuals and activists from Assam spotlighting the ‘disinformation’ published as part of a Call-for-Papers for a journal. Assam is a place with a complex political history and scholars do mix up issues from time to time. Therefore, the writing of the statement is a welcome step in the direction of understanding the state and the multitude of voices that it enkindles. It is in the same spirit of polyphony and dialogue that I write my comment…
#Poetry #Axomiya #RashmirekhaBorah
“Without any of us beholding
A forest is walking alongside the multitude heading home in throngs
Without any of us knowing
The blood oozing from their torn toe nails keeps marking the path”
I’ve often been invited to strange places
To keep in company with strange people.
Or, it may be truer to say I am the strange one in all that
I am the unknown usually among the known faces
As we all sit there talking poetry
First always is the introduction
And some, though already known,
For fear we may miss out on any detail
Start shooting off long lists of books and awards
And important journals-domestic and foreign
I always dreaded my turn…
Mynta kumne ngi don hapdeng ka khlam bad ka khlam ka la pynjot bad pynjulor ia ka jingim. Kumta ka jingkhot ia ngi ka long ym tang ba ngin ia duwai lang, hynrei ban iakhun, ban iaksaid bad iatreilang para shnong para thaw, para kher para mer bad ruh u Blei un iatreilang bad ngi ba na kane ka khlam kan mih ka pyrthei-mariang kaba thymmai- ka pyrthei kaba shngain bad kaba khiah krat ; ka pyrthei kaba dap kyrhai, ka pyrthei kaba ia ieid, ia niewkor bad ia burom kylliang iwei ia iwei pat bad kan mih ruh ka imlang sahlang ka bym lah shilliang bad ka bym leh shilliang khmat bad kaba ialong mar ryngkat ha khmat u Blei ha khmat u briew.
U Blei un kyrkhu ia phi baroh
It is the dead of the night. I look out of my favourite bed-side window and find the darkness, illuminated by tiny lights at Takht-e-Sulayman, staring at me. Each dot of luminosity reminding me of the military occupation of my land. This takes me back to my childhood days when I was growing up in my hometown. Every morning, long rifles protruding from the surrounding military camps would inspect me as I walked to the school bus stop, and each night, a blinding beam of search-light from the nearest military camp would invade one of the rooms of our home. As a child, it would startle me and I was left petrified. I would navigate around that torturous foreign beam, scared of being mowed down by the long rifles if I got into the crosshairs of the searchlight. As I grew up, my mind started questioning these search-lights and long rifles, crackdowns and curfews, killings and rapes, and the causative agent of these monstrous manifestations in Kashmir:– the occupation.
July 17 2020
Professor G.N. Saibaba
Nagpur Central jail
I’m sorry to disappoint you, but this is me, Arundhati writing to you and not Anjum. You wrote to her three years ago and she most certainly owes you a reply. But what can I say—her sense of time is entirely different from yours and mine, leave alone the speedy world of Whatsapp and Twitter. She thinks nothing of taking three years to reply to a letter (or not)…
I can’t remember the first time I felt excluded. I can’t remember ever feeling excluded. Maybe because for certain people, being excluded is a normative state of mind. In any case, I never looked at it as an undesirable way of being. I loved the fact that the seas and the mountains merged within me, that I could feel at home in totally diverse geographical and cultural spaces, or that I could once speak 6 different languages before I even turned ten. Years later, lovers would describe me in the exact same way: as this exotic, improbable creature, who could be so many different things at once. I had a yearning for extremely divergent things that could never exist in the same place: for instance, I wanted to walk directly from the surging, mildly chaotic seas of Chennai to the Chinar trees of my childhood, yawning in the horizons while I gasped as a baby. I craved for vadais and chutney while dawdling at a weekly bazaar in Bombay, but hunted a million markets in Chennai for just one pair of jootis.
Writing the northeast, often leads to misrepresentation, distortion, misinformation of the places, peoples and resources. These are not merely floating around in popular mentality, these stereotypes are consciously constructed and maintained in films and also in academic discourses. This particular Call for Paper (CFP) for a journal issue, entitled “Assam: A Citizenship Battleground” (Cached link)to be published under University of York project entitled Rethinking Civil Society: History, Society, Critique caught our attention and quite a few of us discussed it and decided to address the issue.
The result was a statement of concern, which is not about a closed academic discussion but more about placing the northeast of India, Assam in particular in a more complex frame of reference for a global readership. This was also making people of the region aware of the developments taking place in academic circles in the West. The NRC and CAA has captured a lot of global press and as it happens, the margins get distorted in the generalised narrative.
The Meghalaya RTI series has a success story to report. On 27th June, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a charge-sheet against Ampareen Lyngdoh, JD Sangma, and AL Lyngdoh for their alleged involvement in the White Ink Scam, which occurred during Ampareen Lyngdoh’s tenure as Education Minister of Meghalaya. The scam, which occurred over a decade ago, was quite simple. In 2008, the Deputy Inspector of Schools advertised for applicants to the post of assistant teacher in government schools, and a list of selected candidates was issued the following year.
Since the days of the colonial takeover of this part of the country by the British Administration the native people of Assam as well as North East India have been facing indiscriminate land aggression by outsiders. From the very days of the colonial administration and even after independence, the land has become the central issue of conflict between subject versus subject and also the subject versus state. The legal changes that began in the colonial age that do not recognize the difference between the tribal tradition and the formal law are basic to all forms of land alienation.
In these series of photographs, Akash Basumatari, a film-maker, and photographer based out of Assam captures this lived reality of the people in Matia and Simlitola areas of the Goalpara district.
In the last few days, the news and debate concerning the dog meat ban in Nagaland has been spreading like an oil-spill, contaminating conversations and diluting dispassionate and rational debate – stirring both those in favour and against it. While a good deal has now been said, much more remains to be elucidated… In this piece, Roderick Wijunamai & Menokhono highlight two points. First, how dogs feature in Naga cosmology, lifeworld, and livelihoods. Second, they foreground how the dog meat ban understate the existing constitutional provision in place for tribes in India, and the Nagas in particularly. They show how the recent dog meat ban has been an outright disregard to both.
The pandemic has opened up a whole new, yet familiar backdrop of self speculation through my lens. The images chronicle the mundane setting around my own domestic space, featuring my family of six members and the choices I make to freeze moments for eternity. They have been created alongside many thoughts running through my restless mind during the lockdown appending my state of mind, my political stance, my privileges, my body image, my space, my relationships, my priorities, my future and how we would turn out after all this is over.
Translation and Commentary by Nabina Das Nabina Das is a poet and writer based in Hyderabad. Assamese poet Nilim Kumar recently published a poem Ekhon Asustha…
This is a message from concerned citizens of Meghalaya. In view of the growing number of CoViD 19 positive cases , our concern is regarding the government’s decision to open up college admissions for session 2020-2021.
Tiktok has been the social media of choice for working-class self-expression in recent times.
Watch a selection and read about the politics of it all
In Assam, indigenous communities are living under constant threat of eviction. Even after living for generations they are still not getting settlement for their land. Landless farmers are demanding land. But this government which stormed to power by promising to protect indigenous interests are now becoming the major threat to the indigenous people. From bringing in the CAA to the Ordinance for Automatic Reclassification of Land, we are witnessing a series of decisions by the present regime which will ultimately destroy our collective existence.
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.
“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”.
Torrential rains, this monsoon like every other has worsened the flood situation in Assam. This year already around 1.1 million people have been affected in 23 districts and the fatalities due to flood this year has gone up to 24 and counting. While the state administration is doing its best to tackle the situation, locals of villages near the rivers are being moved to safer places as their villages are being inundated by flood waters. Soon the public cry will be about the ineffectual bureaucracy and aid programs on the ground as lakhs of rupees will be once again spent and pocketed.
māti is a short documentary film (22 minutes) that attempts to understand this annual cycle. This film is in Assamese and English (with subtitles in English) and remains institutionally unfunded, made in partnership with the local communities by the river.
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.
I am a poet, of a continent inscribed with rivers and mountains,
The world is my song.
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.
Dr. Sambit Patra, the numero uno mouthpiece of the BJP, wants a three-year-old-child sitting atop the blood-smeared chest of his slain grandfather to be a Pulitzer moment for India. Why not? Hasn’t Kashmir been the locus classicus of cinematographers? Erstwhile of the Bollywood, and now of the Bollywood-style newsrooms? Patra sees nothing in the image worth commenting on, his emotional sensibilities were long traded up to filthy political point scoring. But that is just routine, especially in today’s India. Tweets of the Patras are a narrative that lulls such gore, making it palatable.
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.
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.
How Oil India Limited (OIL) is trying to spin Baghjan oil spill disaster?
We make tiktok, memes,
dalgona coffee and chicken dry fry.
We sons of bitches are doing fine.
We write rain-poems, sing songs,
paint pictures and hold online Bihu;
curse the useless prime minister
at eight in the evening
and fuck at midnight and high noon.
We sons of bastards are doing fine.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.”