Raiot Posts

June 25, 2018 /

A day before Eid, a Twitter storm with the hashtag #InquireKashmirKillings erupted. Notwithstanding the pall of gloom caused by the killing of respected editor- in-chief of Rising Kashmir, Shujat Bukhari by unknown gunmen on the very day that the report by the UN on the situation in Kashmir vis-a-vis human rights was released, Kashmiris hurled themselves into battle.

June 22, 2018 /

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 22 June holiday commemorates Thomas Jones as a founder, a father, a first. The idea of historical “firsts” often drives a popular understanding of the past— and more pertinently, the political use of the past in the present—but is not always helpful in really getting to grips with complex and interconnected historical processes. There’s not necessarily a ground zero moment when it comes to cultural change. Hero worship, furthermore — though it comes with a feel-good factor— can be rather unhelpful.

June 22, 2018 /

Convergence of an existing ‘fitness fad’ amongst India’s aspirational middle class with the #HumFitTohIndiaFit social media campaign as a precursor to the International Yoga Day, has helped to convert an exclusionary and violent somatic nationalism of the RSS into a secular principle. This appeals greatly to the Indian middle-class. It allows India Inc. to feel the rush of patriotic sentiment without having to get its hands dirty in a refurbished akhada. It allows those of us who live in comfortable high-rises with attached gyms and swimming pools to smell our own sweat and feel incredibly proud for having performed an immensely patriotic act.
This is lifestyle patriotism of the most insidious variety. It turns citizens into consumers, yoga into a collapsed 5-minute workout video, and the very real issue of both individual health as well as the health of a vast citizenry into nothing more than a social media gimmick.

June 21, 2018 /

“What about the Kashmiri Pandits?” For well over a quarter century every public conversation on Kashmir has been dogged by that question. As a tiny Hindu minority in predominantly Muslim Kashmir (they constituted less than 5% in the 1990s) Pandits have had an extraordinary valence in the often-heated discourse around the conflict, and their “migration” from Kashmir in the early 1990s continues to cast a baleful shadow on the present.

June 21, 2018 /

The convenor and the presenters of the panel ‘Feminist Reframings of India’s Northeast: Gendered Geographies and Genealogies’ have decided to withdraw our panel from the AAS-in-Asia, 2018 Conference. The panel has made this decision in the light of how the denial of visas to scholars from Pakistan was handled by AAS and Ashoka University. The Association has kept this news away from all other participants of the conference.

June 20, 2018 /

On August 15, 1947, when India gained independence, Bishnu Prasad Rabha led a black flag demonstration in a village named Dighelia, shouting “Ye Azaadi Jhootha Hain, Sirf Chamra Ka Badal” (This freedom is a hoax : only a change of skin), and he was promptly arrested and put behind bars. After he was released, Rabha went underground for years – presenting a serious challenge to the establishment. He took up arms and engaged in guerrilla warfare against the government.

June 20, 2018 /

No other issue, in the recent memory, evokes the relevance of history more than the Sweepers’ Line Imbroglio. The week, following the incident of 31st May, misinformation and misrepresentation flew thick and fast. One such, being the nomenclature (name), ‘Punjabi Lane’. One does not deny the fact that there had been clashes in the past three decades, but never was it attached a communal colour, as this time round. That the situation, spin from a brawl to a communal flare up, stemmed from the ‘falsification’ of the name of the said ‘Area’, thereby unnecessarily, dragging the name of a particular community to it.

June 18, 2018 /

The image she shows me on her laptop shows smears of blood on the floor, discarded clothing and prayer mats at one corner of the corridor. No action. No people. But Sanna Irshad Mattoo, one of Kashmir’s growing bunch of women photo-journalists, conveys the potential of objects and belongings to bear “witness”. The inanimate speaks out of the terrible violence that stains, not just the hospital floor, but, as the hashtgag suggests one that has permeated the soul of Kashmir.

June 16, 2018 /

In a statement issued on April 16th 2018, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) claimed that the ‘National Policy and Action Plan’ to combat Left Wing Extremism (LWE) is ‘a multi-pronged strategy involving security and development related measures’. This new policy, apparently in place since the NDA government came to power at the centre, claims to have ‘zero tolerance towards violence coupled with a big push to developmental activities so that benefits of development reached the poor and vulnerable in the affected areas’. The statement talks of substantial improvement in the LWE scenario by indicating reduced incidents of violence over the last four years. Within a week of this statement to the press, several Maoists are killed in an alleged encounter in Gadchiroli district of Maharastra and, then, in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh.

June 16, 2018 /

In #Shillong, never is #masculinity as intensively interrogated as during the World Cup…Personally, I had never developed a love for any sport, let alone football. This year’s world cup for me is a time machine. As it takes me back, I rediscover an old feeling of resilience. Each time the world cup happened, it has allowed for me to become a target of collective bullying. “Why are you such a sissy?”, “What kind of man are you?”, “Hijras like you should not be born”.

June 13, 2018 /

The complicity of the Association of Asian Studies (AAS) with the Indian government’s violation of academic freedom compels us to boycott the conference. We do so in solidarity with our Pakistani colleagues and to express our commitment to the unfettered exchange of ideas. Today, this government has decided to ban Pakistani scholars. Tomorrow, another might decide to deny Indian or Chinese or British scholars, or issue conference visas on the basis of religious identification or sexual preference. Would we still allow pragmatic reasons to dictate our participation? Boycotting is an obligation we owe not only to our Pakistani colleagues, but also to the values of open and inclusive intellectual exchange that we cherish.

June 12, 2018 /

Sukracharjya Rabha was born in 1977, in a remote village Rampur in Goalpara district of western Assam. He started working with local tribal people to promote theatre. Within short span of time he authored and directed number of drama and got recognition as a unique theatre activist in the part of the country. He was honoured with the Bismillah Khan Yuba Puraskar from Sangeet Natak Akademi in 2009 for direction and the Aditya Bokra Birla Kala Kira Puruskar in 2010. On June 8th 2018, at the age of just 41 years he succumbed to a massive cardiac arrest. He is survived by his wife and two children. Maulee Senapati, filmmaker & Abdul Kalam Azad, an activist write pay their tributes.

June 11, 2018 /

Hasmukh P. Modi and his wife came with their young daughter to Shillong in 1979. A Gujarati family from Rajkot, they had settled in Africa, but were forced to leave during the civil war in Ethiopia. Their quest for a suitable school for their daughter, a place where they could strike roots and establish means of livelihood ended during a holiday in Shillong. In Ethiopia, Hasmukhbhai had worked in the marketing department of French and British firms selling everything from pins to jet planes. In Shillong he decided to take up the business of his grandfather— grocery—and deal in spices imported from Kerala—cardamom, cinnamon, cloves—and from Gujarat—coriander, cumin, fenugreek and fennel seeds (jeera, methi, sauf ).

June 10, 2018 /

My mother is a woman with ten tongues
That is why she raves incessantly
Unmindful whether it’s day or night!
I run from home to bazaar
Muddle-headed on lanes and streets
Like an owner-less dog;
When I returned she fumed again
“Offspring of sin why don’t you die
At least other children die by swallowing poison”,
I became so angry my blood boiled,
From my heart my pulse bounced in and out.

June 9, 2018 /

This essay describes socio-economic profile of the Mazhabi Sikhs (and other ‘sweeper’ Punjabis) settled at Shillong for more than a century. These safai karamcharis (sweepers) have been keeping the city clean but themselves live in worst slums. The essay tries to locate survival strategies of Punjabi sweepers in a milieu hostile to ‘outsiders’. What makes them stick together, maintain their ethnic and religious identity and resist various attempts to ‘relocate’ them.

June 5, 2018 /

I am near the Indo-Bhutan border in a village called Dimakuchi in the Udalguri district of Assam in Northeast India. There are hundreds of people around me and we are in a large field where temporary tents are pitched. Lightning flashes in the sky as people huddle together under a slight drizzle. The faces of the crowd are all turned to one direction, captivated by the spectacle of dance, song and entertainment on the makeshift stage as though they are under a spell. As the compere monotonously calls for the next performer in line for the Master of Dance competition, I wonder if this is the Bodo Film Festival I was invited to, and how I am supposed to make sense of it.

June 4, 2018 /

I intend to go beyond the Punjab and seek to review the Mazhabi Sikh past of two important urban centres of north-eastern India. They are located in Shillong and Guwahati, and have so far escaped the attention of scholars engaged in studying the Dalit past of the region. Situated in the Khasi Hills, their early presence in Shillong goes back to the days of colonial rule, while in Guwahati of the Brahmaputra Valley they may have settled around the time of the country’s Independence. Their emergence in two different cities under dissimilar political conditions perhaps offers an interesting point for the enquiry.

June 2, 2018 /

This is the best time to read Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih’s poem Sundori, while we sit amidst angers, rumours and curfews in Shillong. Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih is the key Khasi modern poet whose rooted yet critical verses uncover the unsaid of Khasi society. Sundori was written during the troubles of 1990s when the local nationalist anger and resentment was at its peak. 

May 30, 2018 /

Documentary film has had a long and interesting career in India. It was mobilised, until Independence, as a vehicle for Imperial propaganda, and put in the service of the nation-building project in free India. To be sure, much of Films Division (FD) sponsored documentary work also did not rise much above the status of propaganda, but its ideals were self-avowedly loftier – to educate the ‘masses’ beholden to tradition, to create modern and scientific-minded citizens, national integration, etc. Work of several filmmakers, like S. Sukhdev and SNS Sastry, supported by FD in the 60s and 70s did betray an independent streak, evidenced by their efforts to tackle difficult subjects coupled with bold formal experiments, but their critical perspective seems to have dissipated by the time of the Emergency.

May 29, 2018 /

We who come from the north-east of India to feel a sense of guilt for reading English books, watching Hollywood movies and soaps and not regional cinema, let alone popular Hindi movies and for hearing and singing English songs. I also found myself sometimes, defending the fact that cinema halls in Darjeeling and Sikkim did screen Hindi movies, which were widely watched and that south Indian movies were much awaited and enjoyed as well. But to much dismay, this still did not alter the attempts at fitting in well to engage in the cultural dialogue that existed among the lower classes in mainland India.

May 28, 2018 /

By this time, most of you would have heard of Modi’s huge blunder in China where he misspelled “STRENGTH” as “STREANH” and became a laughingstock.
Now, let me make myself clear on one thing: I don’t expect Modi to know good English. So I do not judge him poorly for his poor mastery of English.
I would have been perfectly happy if Modi gave a speech to the Chinese in languages he is comfortable with – Hindi or Gujarati.
But given that he chose to speak in English despite having the option, he bears the responsibility for the goof-up.

May 26, 2018 /

The past four years provide a grim picture of neglect of public health by the government and further, a disdain towards policies that promote welfare. The period has seen several outbreaks of infectious diseases such as dengue and chikungunya, often reaching epidemic proportions in many parts of the country. The epidemics have laid bare the inability of the country’s health systems to protect people’s health. Yet successive budgets presented by the Central government have strengthened the perception that this government is ideologically committed to reducing public expenditure on welfare and public services. The period also saw examples of extreme failure to provide healthcare of acceptable quality both in the Public and Private sectors. The failure of public services was epitomised by the horrendous report of deaths of hundreds of children in a hospital in Gorakhpur, which lies in the constituency of the Chief Minister of UP. Yet we were informed from the ramparts of the Red Fort that the children who died in Gorakhpur’s hospital were victims of a ‘natural calamity’.

May 23, 2018 /

The bill is flawed because of its omissions. One wonders why the bill is selective about providing refuge to religious minorities of three Muslim-majority countries. Is it because that would exclude Muslims? Sri Lanka and Myanmar are India’s neighbours too, where religious minorities including Muslims are persecuted. Mass torture of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar is a case in point. Why not extend the special treatment to them? Is it because that would enable more Muslims to become Indian citizens? In Pakistan Shias, Ahmedis have been persecuted for long. Are they not being considered because they are Muslims? One can also question why consider religion as the ground for giving refuge. People get persecuted for their political views, for their sexual orientation and many other reasons. Are those minorities not the right kind of persecuted minorities? The bill is clearly against the spirit of secularism.

May 23, 2018 /

Unfortunately, many people today seem to take great licence with the right to believe, flouting their responsibility. The wilful ignorance and false knowledge that are commonly defended by the assertion ‘I have a right to my belief’ do not meet James’s requirements. Consider those who believe that the lunar landings or the Sandy Hook school shooting were unreal, government-created dramas; that Barack Obama is Muslim; that the Earth is flat; or that climate change is a hoax. In such cases, the right to believe is proclaimed as a negative right; that is, its intent is to foreclose dialogue, to deflect all challenges; to enjoin others from interfering with one’s belief-commitment. The mind is closed, not open for learning. They might be ‘true believers’, but they are not believers in the truth.

May 19, 2018 /

Professor Kim is a well-respected progressive academic in one of the numerous Universities of Seoul (SungKongHoe University), where I have also spent several good years – for the first year as a scholar and later as a Research Professor. But I never had the opportunity to chat with Professor Kim about politics. He spoke only Korean and Russian; and I spoke only English and ‘unintelligible’ Korean. But Professor Kim, was, and still is well known among students as the ‘nutty professor’ who, as a PhD student, went to Moscow to study in the early 1990s. As the rumour goes, study was just an excuse for him- in reality, he wanted to (un)confirm his worst nightmare: whether the Soviet Union has truly collapsed or was yet another western capitalist propaganda.
To anyone today it would appear that he was ‘crazy’. After all, why do you need to go to Moscow to see for yourself whether the Soviet Union has collapsed or not?

May 18, 2018 /

With grief in her usual frail voice she utters, “I saw the poverty with my own eyes; my Mother’s gold and silver ornaments had to be traded to make ends meet. I remember running from pillar to post for loans and to collect pending money. What other alternative we had? None! All of us left Wahlong for Shillong in the next few months after partition for the better or worse, while Dad persisted to stay back and supervise the remaining lands (certain portions of our land is in Bangladesh today). Our journey to Shillong was treacherous! We walked from Wahlong to Mawbang and then we finally took a bus to Shillong.”

May 16, 2018 /

The people of Karnataka, along with considerable money and muscle power, have delivered the verdict on who will govern for the next five years. Lets face it, the Congress didn’t see it coming – the performance of both the JD(S) and the BJP. Maybe, Congress & JD(S) end up arithmetically forming the govt, but I’m reasonably sure a lot of Congress supporters didn’t see the scale of defeat coming. Rather than harp upon faulty EVMs etc., I would like to take the opportunity to reflect on few other issues that in my humble opinion, deserve some attention – primarily because these will repeat not just in the other assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram but also I believe in the general elections due in 2019. Further, I also believe these issues have relevance outside and beyond elections and any government in power will necessarily have to deal with these intelligently and sensitively.

May 14, 2018 /

Soso Tham refused to believe that a people with no evidence of a written history was without foundation or worth. He set out to compile in verse shared memories of the ancient past—ki sngi barim—presenting his people with their own mythology depicting a social and moral universe still relevant to the present day. For him the past is not a dark place but a source of Light, of Enlightenment. It may lie buried but it is not dead, and when discovered will provide the reason for its continued survival. Ki Sngi Barim U Hynñiew Trep is the lyrical result of dedicated devotion. It is an account of how Seven Clans—U Hynñiew Trep—came down to live on this earth.

May 11, 2018 /

The cryptocurrency (aka crypto) movement is exciting—full of brainy people, venture capital, heady innovation, and high hopes. It behoves us to more clearly understand the animating ideology of the crypto movement. Should it ever succeed, where might it fit into our political economy and what might be its effects on society? And finally, just how likely is it to succeed?

May 5, 2018 /

This collection of extracts from the works of Mikhail Bakunin are taken from his writings touching on his controversy with Marx over the nature of the state and its role in the liberation of the international working class. Written between 1867 and 1872, many of Bakunin’s predictions about the outcome of following the authoritarian communist road have been proven valid by the actions of Marxist Leninist authoritarians across the world.

May 5, 2018 /

Some would argue that Karl Marx, author of “Capital,” has been proven wrong on just about everything he wrote. 
These naysayers would point out that Soviet socialism imploded decades ago, and that China is heading merrily down the capitalist path. Marx and his collaborator Friedrich Engels wrote in “The Communist Manifesto” that the capitalist ruling class “produced its own grave-diggers” in the proletariat – that is, the working class. However, we have yet to see workers pick up the shovel and bury capitalism once and for all.

May 4, 2018 /

Gillo Pontecorvo (1919–2006), whose masterpiece “The Battle of Algiers” (1966) remains the most perfect example of a ‘reconstructed realism’, the purest cinematic equivalent of Marx’s famous metaphor of the ‘life of the subject-matter’ being ‘ideally reflected as in a mirror’. What Pontecorvo set out to do was, in his words, ‘represent the irreversibility of a revolutionary process when a colonized people acquire consciousness of its identity as a nation’. And he did this so well that the film was boycotted by the French delegation at the Venice Film Festival in 1966 and banned for over three years in both France and England (till 1971).”

May 3, 2018 /

“The Ken is considered to be one of India’s cleaner rivers. It is part of the Ganga basin and meets the Yamuna at Chilla Ghat in Banda District, Uttar Pradesh. To closely understand the  Ken, this walk along the Ken was organised by SANDRP – South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People from Delhi and Veditum India Foundation from Kolkata. The difficult terrain of the Ken River and the harsh weather required this journey to be undertaken in multiple parts (June 2017, October 2017 and April 2018) and took 33 days to complete this over 600 km journey on foot, where they discussed issues of the river, water, agriculture, the proposed Ken Betwa project and other socio-environmental topics with villagers in over 60 villages.”