Raiot Posts

December 16, 2018 /

What makes an artist, or at what moment, does the realization of artistic gift happen? Moments of epiphany, or realization, are always, especially for artists themselves, difficult to pinpoint; even with hindsight and retrospection. It’s best left to interpreters – filmmakers or memoirists; and fiction, that with all its allusions and suggestiveness, can help shed light, on what makes possible the creative process. This piece looks at some films on writers; how their lives were shaped indelibly by their art.

December 7, 2018 /

Let’s start with the positives – a novel about the Bengali experience in Shillong, especially during the troubles, is always welcome. The novel has some nice passages and some wit at times, for example ‘…..he transformed himself into an amalgam of Devdas and Descartes—a perpetually intoxicated mathematical genius, composed, in equal parts, of alcohol and algebra’, to describe Debu’s tutor, Professor Bose… The novel’s treatment of the Sylhet-Calcutta divide imbibes it with an angle that will be new to Khasi readers while the episodes around the first TV in Upper Jail Road and the Bengali fish embargo during the troubles are well recounted. The loss of home or the lack of it, the longing and sorrow that emerges as a result and the plight of people who have suddenly become outsiders in a place they love can be felt throughout the novel and is movingly rendered in parts. But the novel also fails on many fronts. It surrenders too easily to stereotypes and it miserably fails to overcome the tropes that have become a bit tiresome in novels about Shillong…

December 5, 2018 /

Is it really unthinkable that this state’s indigenous people could earn their ja pliang from climate mitigation, adopting decentralised renewable energy, rather than through their copious contribution to climate change? Could there be a future for Meghalaya where Poipynhun, Agnes and Amita are not the going price for coal?

November 28, 2018 /

Land in Meghalaya, India, was traditionally agricultural/forest land, owned by the community. With increasing privatization and rising commercial value of land for non-agricultural use, many owners have sold the land for mining operations. So-called rat-hole coal mining has resulted in environmental degradation as well as in the loss of lives of miners, most of whom are from outside the state. The National Green Tribunal has banned coal mining until safer, more environmentally sound policies and practices are in place. Critics in Meghalaya claim that the ban encroaches on the tribal way of life and point to constitutional provisions exempting Meghalaya from the purview of national mining laws. However, the courts are clear: Meghalaya’s exemptions do not allow them to violate the constitutional right to life of all Indian citizens. The traditional institutions are not strong enough to mitigate the rising inequality among citizens following from mining and other commercial operations.

November 25, 2018 /

I was in Cherrapunji for three years. It was in my 2nd or 3rd year there that I was taken to a camp in Bamundi, Kamrup, Assam. It was winter and we had to get up at 4 in the morning and practice various exercises, with a bamboo pole (lathi), big knife (chaku) and other such weapons. We were trained to attack and also to defend. The camp must have been for about a week, I vaguely remember. But one thing I remember for sure was the salute with the right hand on the chest singing, “Namaste sada vatsale matribhumi…” So I definitely think it was a RSS camp, though I was not aware of it then. Was I scared? Did I enjoy it? Well… I don’t remember.

November 19, 2018 /

Death (or perhaps rituals post-death) has a unique way to bring out one’s ideology in the open. This happened recently, when I lost my father to cardiac arrest, a month before the assembly election in Tripura was announced. My father would want me to come for casting of vote and to be with the family for a few days and relish the winter in Agartala. Perhaps, winter is the only season that people, especially in Agartala really look forward to, since summer and monsoon bring drought and massive waterlogging across the city.

The Axom Nagarik Samaj’s (Citizen Community of Assam) recent pamphlet, “NRC and Why is it Important?,” seems to have gone with the tried and tested narrative template of Assamese nationalist discourse. A forum of prominent intellectuals including writer and former police officer Harekrishna Deka, journalists Ajit Bhuyan and Prasanta Rajguru, and academic Dr. Akhil Ranjan Dutta among others, Axom Nagarik Samaj claims to represent the legitimate demands of the “indigenous communities” of Assam for protection against the “heavy influx” of illegal migrants from Bangladesh that “threatens their political, economic and social space.” The document hardly stands out for its literary ingenuity, even less so for its political vision. They present a narrative that has been the staple of Assamese nationalist discourse, available for consumption at least since the late-1970s and extremely popular during the Assam Movement. Unfortunately, for the authors, they are not living in 1982. In reproducing this discourse today, they also reinforce the blind-spots that have afflicted this fantasy of a harmonious, multi-ethnic pastoral Assam, rudely intruded upon by colonialism and outsiders.

November 2, 2018 /

Initially, the media attributed this heinous act to the ULFA (I). However in a statement issued by the outfit it has claimed that it has no links to the said act of cold blooded killings.  As we are writing this statement fingers are shifting towards the peace-talk faction of the ULFA and the police has detained Jiten Dutta and Mrinal Hazarika on suspicion of instigating/enacting the killings, given the incendiary statements recently given by the said members threatening to target Bengali community if the Citizenship Amendment Bill (2016) was to be rammed in by the government. From the ground, the lone survivor of the killings in Tinsukia last evening, Sahadev Namasudra stated that the gunmen were in military fatigues and spoke in Hindi.

October 22, 2018 /

We’re still lacking a language in which to talk honestly about the forms of everyday sexism different women face in families, intimate relationships, and friend groups. As feminists we need to learn to take everyday struggles seriously, break out of the polite silence of the “private” sphere and be frank about the roles we ourselves play. This essay muses on just why it’s so hard to even talk about sexism and silence when it’s happening very close to home.

October 20, 2018 /

Ki Nongeh beijot ia ka doh bad longrynnieng jong nga: 
1.U (Br.) Francis Gale (uba la tip ruh kum u Frank Gale) uba dei jong ka Christian Brothers, St Edmunds Shillong.
2. (Br.) Muscat, Don Bosco, Laitumkhrah, Shillong (ka tnat shon kot)
Lai snem mynshuwa, ha ka rta kaba 37, nga shim ka rai kut ba nga dei ban wad jingiarap na ki nongiasyllok kiba la pyntbit ha ka kam bad nga shem ia ka nongiasyllok kaba paka bad ba phylla shisha. Lyngba bun tylli ki bnai jong ka jingiasyllok ka la don kawei ka khep kaba nga shem bad mad ba la weng noh shi syndon ia u mawbah mawsan uba la ban khia halor ka met bad mynsiem jong nga naduh ba nga dang dap 5 snem ka rta. Kaei ba kata ka nongiasyllok ka ong ia nga ha kata ka khyllipmat ba ma nga ka khynnah kaba wan na ka longiing longsem kaba kynrum kynram bad ba duk bad ba la shu ieh noh marwei ban iada ia la ka longrynnieng bad ka doh nga long iba suk ban shah bam klep bad shah leh bein ha kum kine ki riew sniew. Hoid kum kaba la san nga tip shai ba kam dei ka jingbakla jong nga, pynban ka long kaba eh ban ym kynnoh ia lade. Hynrei kaei kaba ka nongiasyllok ka ong ia nga ha kata ka sngi ha kata ka khep ka la jubab ia ka jingkylli kaba nga la kylli baroh shi katta “balei”? Balei ia nga? bad ka jingiasyllok ka la pyntngen ia nga namar ba nga la shem ia ka jubab. Ka la long ka jingiaid lynti kaba jlan bad kan nang jrong ka lynti bad nga dei ban skhem ka jingmut bad kum ka briew kaba la shah leh be ijot ha ki rta 5 haduh 12 snem nga dei ban bat ia la ka jong ka jingtip briew.

October 19, 2018 /

My abusers:
1.(Br.) Francis Gale (also known as Frank Gale) of the Christian Brothers, St. Edmunds Shillong
2.(Br.) Muscat, Don Bosco, Laitumkhrah, Shillong (printing unit)
Three years ago, at the age of 37, I finally decided that I needed professional help & found a wonderful counsellor. Through the months of counselling, there is one session that stands out for me, where I felt literally like someone lifted this huge boulder lodged in my chest that was there since I was 5 years old. What she said to me at that session was that as a child, from a broken family, an economically poor background, left to my own defences, I made the ‘ideal profile’ of victim for a sexual predator. Even though as an adult, I understand and can differentiate that I was not responsible, it is hard to really feel and live that knowledge, to not blame myself. What my counsellor said to me that day- answered the ‘why’ I have asked over and over again ‘why me’ and it gave me such huge relief to have finally found an answer that I knew to be true. It’s a long journey and an ongoing one to stay whole, balanced, sane as someone who was sexually abused through my childhood, age 5 till age 12.

October 18, 2018 /

Manipur Research Forum (MRF) is organising a book event at the official residence of the Chief Minister of Manipur on the 18th of October 2018. This is to release an edited book; the editors of the book are members of the Forum and the articles are reprints from the Forum’s journal – Eastern Quarterly.
We, as contributors to the book and/or as Trustees of the Forum, would like to make this statement dissociating ourselves from the said event.

October 3, 2018 /

So many people instinctively cheered upon hearing that the Indian Supreme Court has ruled that women of all ages must be granted access to the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. Even I was thrilled that the court’s decision came down on the side recognizing women as equal to men even in religious spaces. However, on further thought, I’m afraid I’ve revised my opinion to a more unpopular or contentious view: I don’t believe that upholding a woman’s right to worship as she pleases in any one particular temple is more important than the principle that state law cannot and should not attempt to regulate religious belief systems. Doing so is entering very dangerous territory that is ultimately likely to backfire in some unexpected and deeply damaging way. Our constitution grants us freedom of religion for very good reasons.

October 2, 2018 /

What qualities should such an honoured servant of society exemplify in his person? In my opinion an ideal Bhangi should have a thorough knowledge of the principles of sanitation. He should know how a right kind of latrine is constructed and the correct way of cleaning it. He should know how to overcome and destroy the odour of excreta and the various disinfectants to render them innocuous. He should likewise know the process of converting night- soil and urine into manure.

October 2, 2018 /

Gandhism is a paradox. It stands for freedom from foreign domination, which means the destruction of the existing political structure of the country. At the same time it seeks to maintain intact a social structure which permits the domination of one class by another on a hereditary basis which means a perpetual domination of one class by another. What is the explanation of this paradox?

October 1, 2018 /

The tea plantation workers of Assam have historically, and continue to, contribute to the making of Assam, and yet continue to remain one the most super-exploited working class communities in the State. The current daily wage rate of tea workers in Assam is Rs.137, which is much lower than the min wage of other industrial workers in the State itself. Also, as the government calculation note itself notes, the wages of Tea workers of Kerala (290, in fact the revised wages in the Munnar plantations since 2016 is above Rs.300), Tamil Nadu (Rs.289.41), etc. are about 111% more than that of Assam. This needs to be seriously addressed by the government and people of Assam, as has been time and again demanded by the workers.

On May 3, 2017, EPW accepted a draft written by me and my friend for its publication under “note section”. We were aware that our draft has its limitations with certain gaps; with these in place, we were looking forward to work upon our draft after their review. As budding researchers, we were optimistic to work with them and learn a thing or two to enhance our research skills.

September 28, 2018 /

One of the reliefs sought by the petitioners in the Constitutional Challenge to the Aadhaar Scheme was an OPT-OUT option for both the new enrollments, as well as those who had enrolled and wanted to exit the scheme. Although the courts had always said that Aadhaar was voluntary but the way the government went about implementing the scheme, Aadhaar turned out to be a mandatory lifetime commitment because there is no opt out option in the Aadhaar Act, which made consent irrevocable and deprived individuals the ability to make decisions about their life.

September 26, 2018 /

RAIOT as a webzine loosely connected with a political organisation from Meghalaya, Thma U Rangli Juki (TUR) sometimes has to pay its obeisance to its mother body. TUR has been a part of anti Aadhaar/UID movement right from its inception and thus RAIOT has published all kinds of essays, reports and even investigations on Aadhaar in English & Khasi. Today (26/09/18) when the second longest running case in the Supreme Court will be decided, it is a good time to let you sample RAIOT’s Aadhaar obsession.

September 25, 2018 /

What worries concerned citizens of the state is not that the fact that the police arrested the agitating students and the teachers named in the FIR (FIR number: 223(9) 2018). But the manner and the modus operandi of the state in effecting those arrests. There are a number of laws and legislation at the state’s disposal to establish its actions as rational. One can get easily lost in the maze of the State’s bureaucratic jargon and proceduralism. Even if the state could argue that it was authorized to use necessary force to effect the arrest of the accused students and teachers according to section 46 of the Criminal procedure code; measures such as firing tear gas and rubber bullets at students will only add fuel to the fire. It is a standard counterinsurgency policing practice in an insurgency-torn state like Manipur to launch operations in the wee hours of the day to utilize the element of surprise. The midnight Blitzkrieg at Manipur University which uses this same logic points to more disturbing trends. The incident has become a lesson in how not to tackle student unrest.

September 24, 2018 /

In case of New Shillong Township, the state presents the case as a possible way out for congestion, which it says is a consequence of population rise, migration and the lack of space in the city. However, the plan of the state is not oriented towards meeting these required objectives. Rather, the plan of the state is to allot the land so acquired to a class of people who work for the state such as bureaucrats, government officials and the army. This is an open violation of the Sixth Schedule provisions that aim at protecting and safeguarding the interest and welfare of the tribal people. The people are not opposed to urban development but at the manner in which it is being executed. In the case of New Shillong, there has been a severe misuse of the law and power in favour of the state and private forces and players. There is a deep divide between the state’s manner of executing urban development and the people’s aspirations and their expectations from the state.

September 20, 2018 /

Maulana Bhashani remains a much demonised figure amongst a certain section of North East India for leading the movement for immigration of Bengali land hungry peasant into colonial Assam. So who was Maulana Bhashani? A rustic pir? A vulgar peasant leader? Scourge of Colonial India and Post colonial Pakistan & Bangladesh state? Communist? Islamist? Today, socialism and Islam are often viewed as incompatible. Does the career of Maulana Bhashani, “the Red Maulana” of Bangladesh, offer a corrective to this view?

September 18, 2018 /

Every year on 18th September, Khasi & Jaintia Hills gets a public holiday for Unitarian Day, a day when Hajom Kissor Singh Lyngdoh Nongbri led the first real Unitarian church service in his home in Jowai in 1887. Apart from the small and influential population of Khasi-Jaintia Unitarians for whom the day has historical and personal meaning others just enjoy the holiday without knowing the historical significance of the Day. For a small faith group worldwide as well as locally, Unitarians suffer from ignorance of society at large. Are Unitarians Christians? What do Unitarians believe in? What does Unitarian mean? So here it goes – a short guide to Unitarianism for you to read this 18th September.

September 13, 2018 /

Being different is no crime. Being gay is not a sin. And for a gay person to desire and pursue love and marriage and family is no more selfish or sinful than when a straight person desires and pursues the very same things. The Song of Songs tells us that King Solomon’s wedding day was “the day his heart rejoiced.” To deny to a small minority of people, not just a wedding day, but a lifetime of love and commitment and family is to inflict on them a devastating level of hurt and anguish. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates that Christians are called to perpetuate that kind of pain in other people’s lives rather than work to alleviate it, especially when the problem is so easy to fix. All it takes is acceptance. The Bible is not opposed to the acceptance of gay Christians, or to the possibility of loving relationships for them. And if you are uncomfortable with the idea of two men or two women in love, if you are dead-set against that idea, then I am asking you to try to see things differently for my sake, even if it makes you uncomfortable. I’m asking you to ask yourself this: How deeply do you care about your family? How deeply do you love your spouse? And how tenaciously would you fight for them if they were ever in danger or in harm’s way? That is how deeply you should care, and that is how tenaciously you should fight, for the very same things for my life, because they matter just as much to me. Gay people should be a treasured part of our families and our communities, and the truly Christian response to them is acceptance, support, and love.

September 11, 2018 /

Yes, you heard it right. After a whole lot of brainstorming and deliberation we decided that all of you must refrain from using the category ‘Dalit’, for the official nomenclature is ‘Scheduled Caste’ and that must be used at all times, especially when communicating matters publicly. Not to say that we like you being Scheduled Caste either. Remember RohithVemula! Despite our best efforts in denying his Scheduled Caste identity, his being Dalit prevailed and eventually proved that he was a born scheduled caste. So we of course know that being a scheduled caste is a lot to deal with too, but being a Dalit is an entirely different story, which is increasingly becoming our everyday nightmare. Therefore, just don’t use this word anymore. Besides, scheduled castes – it’s quite a mouthful, so let’s say SC – an intrusion into our state of profound bliss and absolute peace, that continues to remind us that the state ought to make policies for your betterment, because you know the constitution! It’s difficult to make head or tail of this book, anyway.

September 10, 2018 /

The feeling sank into my stomach like a stone. This wasn’t the city of my childhood vacations anymore. Had I grown up so quickly as to quietly absorb this pinching away of the dearest part of my treasure of memories? Or was this gross erasure an external change taking everything and everyone over elsewhere as well as in the city? I wasn’t so corrupted with knowledge then as now. As any child of eleven, I too didn’t bother to explain or philosophise. I only felt the difference with my senses: the cattle-touched smell of earth was gone; and it had taken with it a school-ridden child’s hyacinth and vine-covered paradise of her imagination and escape. I had lost something irretrievably. And it wasn’t even my fault.

September 5, 2018 /

We, a group of alumni of IIT Kanpur and others as students, researchers, faculty, staff and other community members affiliated with the same institute strongly condemn the arrest of IIT Kanpur alumna Sudha Bharadwaj (Integrated MSc., Mathematics, 1979-1984) and other activists namely, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha and Varavara Rao, and the raiding of houses of Anand Teltumbde, K. Satyanarayana and Stan Swamy among many others. These arrests seem to be a mere sequel in an ongoing attempt to intimidate and arrest activists, eminent writers, professors, journalists, and human rights defenders around the country.

September 5, 2018 /

Newspapers recently reported that acting on a West Bengal Notification from 2014, Presidency University is going to seek permission to begin the process of “dereserving” its seats. For many, this may be the first time they have heard such a term. Even a cursory reading of the stipulation sits at odds with the language of affirmative action. The term “unavoidable” seems to suggest as if reservations are a burden on academic institutions.

September 4, 2018 /

In a country where more than 91 per cent of news coverage on the Maoist conflict in Chhatisgarh is state-driven, particularly in the national English media, there were no accounts or voices of the Adivasi inhabitants of Nalkatong in whose village the encounter took place. Nor was there any follow-through or accounts of the women who ran behind the tractor that was carrying the dead bodies, unceremoniously stuffed into black plastic bags. The women went first to Konta and then to Sukma where the post mortems took place. Who were the dead and who were these grieving families who milled around the roads of Sukma?

September 2, 2018 /

Once the guests entered and we (the students of the North East) wanted to enter the Koyna Mess, were blocked right at the gate by ABVP representatives working alongside the security guards. Moreover, when we were about to enter, most of us heard the term “Naxalites” being thrown at us.
The ABVP screamed at us, that we were “security threats”. The representatives also pushed and pulled the students at the forefront of the gathering. We were manhandled. They did not allow us to enter, calling us “Naxalites”. It was in this moment when the students immediately and collectively decided to sit down outside the event and continued with our silent protest.
After a while, a few representatives of ABVP came outside to tell us that they will ‘allow’ us inside but without our posters which were our signs of resistance. It was then that we collectively demanded an apology from the ABVP for calling us “Naxalites” and “security threats”, which they outrightly denied.

September 2, 2018 /

You are told you write depressing poetry
You answered “The trick is to read newspapers incessantly”
You didn’t tell them “The trick is to feel every death in your bone”
The familiar blackout is not because of load shedding, now it is your choice because electricity is prepaid.
In another time I am sure
they’ll treat you with electricity
coursing your skin or maybe they did.

September 1, 2018 /

An important historical record of a traumatic period in India’s recent political history, PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE by Anand Patwardhan focuses on the State of Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi from June 1975 to March 1977. During the Emergency the media was muzzled, over 100,000 people were arrested without charge and imprisoned without trial. But political prisoners existed before the Emergency, and they continue to exist even after it is over.

August 31, 2018 /

This Hindu Fascist emergency will never be officially declared; it need not be. Emergency is the constituent aspect of fascist politics. Indira’s formal emergency was a limited response to an unfolding of a crisis, that actually threatened the survival of the Indian State. Modi’s informal emergency is an unlimited reaction to create a crisis against democratization of Indian society, that threatens the survival of the caste system.

August 31, 2018 /

In 2018, the musical North, West, East and South of Shillong have all combined to give us this very talented group of young musicians whose EP ‘Tempted’ is out now in all the world’s digital stores. They call themselves Blue Temptation and comprise, at some point or the other, Gregory Ford Nongrum, his elder brother El Nathan Ford Nongrum, Shepherd Najiar, Manavon Massar and Vincent Tariang (also of Soulmate). These five young men encapsulate Shillong’s old histories and musical geographies but, as they should, also burn them to the ground. Greg, El Nathan and Shepherd (Shep) are from ‘the West’ but they barely remember the Highway Band anymore and their journey into the blues was as simple and complex as the music itself. Manavon is a keyboard player/sound system blaster/DJ from the ‘Roots Region’ and his dreadlocks and patois, are therefore quite historically grounded. Vincent too is a direct descendant of the ‘Roots Region’ and I’m sure, his father Rudy Wallang must’ve played a small part in his love for the blues.