Raiot Posts

September 22, 2017 /

Ali Shariati was throughout his life a deeply committed Muslim but his Shi‘ism was of a radical, revolutionary type, thoroughly anti-clerical in its opposition to what he called ‘Safavid Shi‘ism’ (as opposed to his own ‘Red Shi‘ism’), the kind of Islam that disarmed the masses through its passive complicity with the ruling classes. Given that in modern Iran the clergy depended on the financial support of the richer merchants (bazaaris), Shariati’s ‘visceral contempt for the bourgeoisie’ extended to the ulama as well. His lectures and writings enraged the clerics, especially the influential group that saw in Khomeini the true face of the ‘revolutionary’ movement against Muhammad Reza Shah, and led to repeated fatwas condemning him after the revolution.

September 20, 2017 /

Sacrifice and who sacrificed how much is a dominant trope in discussions within (largely urban) left organisations. As experience suggests, it is usually invoked to sideline important self-reflections. Priya Ranjan problematizes the notion of ‘sacrifice’ in the revolutionary discourse.

September 19, 2017 /

Few days ago one of the Raiot collective members received a Whatsapp message in Hindi. However, since some of the receivers of this message could not read hindi, the thrust of the threat was not instantly delivered, so it turned into a bit of a failure. But then yesterday, it came to our attention that a few other people- journalists, activists, as well as students – received the same whatsapp-forwarded death-threat; each coming from different numbers originating from different states in the country.

September 17, 2017 /

how do i explain to her why a cat
wants to run over the stairs up and down?
or want to go out in the cold and heat
and sit for ages in some folorn corner
of an abandoned room of some apartment?
cats do what they do. i also remember
someone who once asked what it was
that one could learn from a cat?
i wanted to say everything but
i did not think she would get it

September 15, 2017 /

Tagging two of his friends, Mizanur Rehman, a young primary school teacher of Naskara Lower Primary School in lower Assam’s Dhubri district, uploaded a photograph in the morning hours of 15th August on his Facebook timeline. The photograph featured an elderly man, a male adolescent, and two toddlers saluting the fluttering Indian flag while murky flood waters rose upto their chest, threatening to engulf their salutations. By afternoon, most people had seen and shared the post, the image itself had been catapulted to the heavenly skies of social-media circulation. Detached from the original context, it moved freely as a lone object.

September 14, 2017 /

States in North east of India- Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland share border with Myanmar. Looking into geography in relation to present situation, Mizoram is closer to Rakhine state of Myanmar than other states in the northeast of India. A Christian dominated state- Mizoram which takes pride in being a beacon of helping the needy and imparting teachings of Christianity, is silent when it comes to fleeing refugees at its backyards. It throws a question on how faith can be blinding in this hour of crisis. The porous Indo Myanmar border along Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram have cases of people crossing from one side to other side of the border from the past.

September 13, 2017 /

The high profile rally initiative to save India’s rivers taken up by well respected religious guru Sadguru and his followers is noteworthy, and the most recent case in point. It is striking that so many film stars, politicians, governments, and public personalities, are joining the call. Lakhs of children are expected to join in the program. While we welcome such an outpouring of good intentions and good will as a demonstration of the positive energy all around, unfortunately, we have seen no evidence either from the rally organisers, on their website or their messaging, that they understand or plan to address the real threats faced by our rivers and their sorry state.

September 13, 2017 /

More than 100 people died in bank queues trying to get to their own hard-earned money. Eight thousand crore rupees were spent to print notes. Billions of hours were wasted waiting patiently in bank queues. Bank staff forgot all their other works as well as night sleep. The working poor lost livelihood, for the notes to pay them with were nowhere to be found. All this, it appears, is a trifle in the worship of the fuehrer, er, the Bharatmata.

September 13, 2017 /

Gauri Lankesh – woman, journalist, activist, woman – murdered in front of her home the other day while returning from work. What is the anatomy of such a murder – the ingredients that go into its making? And what are the levers, policy and otherwise, that can be put to use to address such events? And what can we, as individuals, do? Where and how can we intervene?

September 12, 2017 /

There is a famous Khasi middle class story about selfishness and it goes something like this. There were a number of crabs in a bucket and they were all destined to become dinner at some point in time. The crabs knew about this and they realised that they needed to escape this horrible fate. The story goes on to tell us about how one of the crabs had somehow managed to get a firm grip on the rim of the bucket and was proceeding to pull himself out to the relative safety of the outside world. However, just as he was about to complete his great escape, the other crabs resorted to pulling him back down to the bottom of the bucket. He was, thus, doomed like the rest.

September 9, 2017 /

This year, 25 districts and more than 32 lakh of people have been affected by flood and over hundred people have lost their lives. However, the issue unfortunately and unsurprisingly fails to grab the national limelight. In the national dailies, this issue only finds a neglected corner.

September 8, 2017 /

Journalists play a unique and pivotal role in every society and must be able to do their work without interference from the state. But as the boundaries between journalists and nonjournalists continue to erode and any meaningful definition of journalism becomes more and more elusive, journalists have to recognize that their rights are best protected not by the special realm of “press freedom” but rather by ensuring that guarantees of free expression are extended to all.

September 7, 2017 /

Almost seven years ago, to the week, I had sent off instructions to Gauri Lankesh about who would receive her at Imphal airport and then take her up to Ukhrul. She was part of a team of women writers from different parts of India who had been invited to travel across the Northeast and write stories about their experiences

September 6, 2017 /

We are curious about why the government wants to block our website. A traveling arts project is not exactly threatening the status quo. Further, curiosity and engagement with processes of identity construction is necessarily an open-ended process. There is no in-advance condemnation of any particular party, politician or any social group. From concerns about language, to food habits, to religion, marriage, divorce, clothing, color of skin and other minutiae of public and private life, identity has acquired weight if you live in India.

September 2, 2017 /

If you’re waiting for Jaggi to transform India’s rivers, don’t hold your breath. In Jaggi’s world, there are no strangers. Only friends that haven’t met. Also, there are no bad things that have to be stopped — like dams on rivers, the Ken-Betwa interlinking that will drown a tiger habitat, or the indiscriminate pollution from coal mines and coal power plants operated by his partners in this campaign. All these bad things can be cured by doing just one good thing — planting trees.

September 1, 2017 /

Dogs mean different things in Naga society: pet, companion, food, medicine, guard, spirit sensors, thief catchers and cat chasers. They also feature centrally in the most famous origin myth about the Naga script, which is connected to identity and language. According to legend, a dog ate the Naga script written down on animal skin, and from that day onwards, Naga tradition and knowledge has only been received and shared orally. The relationship between dogs and people in Naga society is an intimate one, and is integral to everyday lives. Dog meat has been part of Naga cuisine for a long time, yet, before dishes started to appear on restaurant menus and before vendors starting selling the meat in the market place, there was no debate or national campaign to ban dog meat.

August 31, 2017 /

It has become commonplace in India to try to invalidate any concerns expressed by liberals regarding atrocities committed against minorities, such as Muslims, or Dalits, with a technique known as “Whataboutery.” This technique, used by people from the Hindu right wing, involves putting the liberals on the defensive by aggressively questioning them as to whether they were or are as concerned about injustices done to the majority community, and implying that since they have not shown the same passion regarding injustices suffered by the majority Hindu community, their concerns are inadmissible.

August 30, 2017 /

“Whither is our democracy bound?”—It can be said that the present time is marked by a deterioration of circumstances in which such questions can be raised. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government and its fraternal organisations have defined democracy in their own terms. These organisations have also tried to define citizenship to suit their agenda by trying to determine who is an Indian and a patriot as well as who are anti-nationals. As a result, the fundamental ideas about free speech have also transformed. It has been seen that the ruling party and its fraternal organisations have given priority to those who are their ideological allies when it comes to appointing the heads of institutions of higher education and research in the country. A parallel may be drawn between the situation that prevails today and the curtailment of free speech during the emergency in the 1970s. During emergency, it was not possible for independent writers to publish articles or broadcast radio plays in government media unless they maintained the interests of Indira Gandhi and the Nehru-Gandhi family or promoted the twenty point programme and the five point programme introduced by Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi. Even private newspapers were censored or they succumbed to the iron grip of the government. The situation today is more or less the same if not worst.

August 30, 2017 /

It was not that all of grandma’s tales about Partition were bitter. One in particular was of extreme generosity and gratitude. The hero of this tale was the son in law of the same sister, the husband of her niece. This gentleman was employed in a government office in Lahore. When grandma was trapped alone with her daughter in her house in a Muslim majority neighbourhood, it was this gentleman who arranged for and came with a military truck to move her to the main refugee camp of Lahore, no doubt with considerable threat to his own life.

August 29, 2017 /

Food as cultural identity in regards to dog meat is an under researched area in South Asia or places where dog meat is consumed; in the case of Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram- consumption of dog meat is very much in their cultures (for some it is a choice) and can be counted as an expression of their cultural identity. When practice like this happens in places like Delhi, it is meted with sneering and disgust from the pedestal of high moral ground.

August 29, 2017 /

Dog meat is not a taboo. Dog meat is exotic. It is one of the costliest culinary traditions of the Nagas and in parts of the Northeast. A kilo of dog meat costsRs. 350/- or more. Mutton is not even half the taste of it. I bet.

August 29, 2017 /

It’s that time of the year again. My facebook page is flooded with posts and shared memes either commenting on how the national media and the centre ignores Assam’s flood or asking people to donate stuff. The great floods of Assam are such a part of Oxomia life that it affects not just the affected but also all others who are affected by the effect on the affected. It affects the Oxomia jati, irrespective of whether your bheti has been washed out by the Lueit, Kolong or Pagladia. In fact you could be comfortably perched on a hilltop like me and still be affected by flood. I will tell you how.

August 24, 2017 /

MPCA urges upon all concerned and at various levels of authority not to breach upon the right of privacy of each and every individual while attempting to get maximum number of persons for Aadhaar enrolment during a given period of time. As we have received the Ruling on the Right to Privacy, so shall come the Ruling on Aadhaar enrolment and registration. “Force, unaided by judgement, collapses through its own weight.” (Horace, 65-8 BC: Ode)

August 22, 2017 /

A few months back as I was laying out the table of contents for a magazine I publish on Asian art, culture and spiritual traditions, I inserted the names of two Sufi writers. On spotting the Muslim names, one of the volunteers, a white woman in her late sixties launched into an unhinged rant, claiming Sufi writers were in fact Jihadis in disguise, and accused me of enabling terrorists to invade and conquer Hindu lands.

August 21, 2017 /

When we were sitting in the park in Surya Nagar, I had asked him about the title conferred on him by a magazine – The Henri Cartier Bresson of India. I had a feeling that he doesn’t enjoy the title much and he insisted on being called as the S Paul of India, if referred to as anything apart from his name. Most of us would kill to be compared on that scale yet Paul wasn’t.

August 17, 2017 /

Not so long ago, Naxal movement and the conceptual renderings or reflections of it used to present an alternative view of politics, from economics and International relations to the culture and campus discussions. Never a dominant view, but this Naxal-inspired argument about everything would temper and have an impact on the liberal, left and even mainstream points of view.

August 17, 2017 /

The Hindutva ideology, much like other fundamentalist undercurrents would have us deny the humanism of Manto and the syncretic traditions of Husain. It is in this context that the Partition themed fiction provides an effective counter-narrative to all efforts at social engineering. It need hardly be mentioned that the absence of an effective political discourse challenging the RSS-BJP combine, willing to transcend the secular-communal binary, mandates a search for a different language sensitive to past history and cognizant of our own failures.

August 15, 2017 /

My mother once told me a story
Of when she was a little girl, 
How the entire village huddled up inside a church, 
When the bombs dropped. 
And the surprise checking they endured
My grandmother would pick her up
And carry her on her back
Praying they would not rape mothers and children.

August 13, 2017 /

“Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission,
Having never set eyes on this land he was called to partition
Between two peoples fanatically at odds,
With their different diets and incompatible gods.”