Raiot Posts

Assam has had a long and bloody history of ethnic violence arising from extremely complex reasons. Ethnic violence in Assam implicates cultural, political and economic aspects of relations between communities in ways that cannot be captured in a simple majority-minority, or a khilonjia-foreigner dynamic. Here, virtually every community has at one time or another been the victim as well as perpetrator of ethnic violence. And in the shadow of a militarized state, political antagonisms among various communities have often been shaped by the force of arms.

This interview by Amrapali Basumatary & Bonojit Hussain was taken in 2016 December, just two days after Akhil Gogoi was released from his 78 days of imprisonment by The Assam Government. For various reasons the interview couldn’t be published during that time. However, with the recent re-imprisonment of Akhil Gogoi under the National Security Act (NSA) in September 2017, we feel that it is important to bring this interview to public domain.

November 21, 2017 /

Recently, a furious debate about ‘sexual harassment’ was initiated on social media, after a Dalit woman student brought out a list on Facebook accusing many powerful Indian male academics, many of them Brahmin, for being sexual harassers. Soon, certain upper caste feminists came forward with a statement that opposed the list, asking the anonymous complainants to pull it down and follow the ‘due process’ in dealing with sexual harassment. There was a huge uproar against this statement and younger women reproached the older feminists for espousing a Savarna feminism that sought to protect (Brahmin) men. Things have tempered down now after the appearance of a second list (this time posted from an anonymous Facebook account) in which many Bahujan scholars and student leaders of Bahujan movements were named as sexual harassers. This list too, it was claimed, was created by Dalit Bahujan women.

November 17, 2017 /

Unlike Meghalaya, in Japan cherry blossom culture is “natural”, it has been celebrated, in some form or the other, over hundreds of years. It didn’t grow out of a need to impress tourists or to be an “international” PR event. “International” is the new buzz word which hurts my ears! And then I have to ask, why cherry blossoms? Why not ‘sohphoh’ blossoms? (a member of the apple family found widely in the Khasi-Jaintia Hills) Those blossoms are quite beautiful as well. At least the hardy and indigenous ‘sohphoh’ gives you fruits as well. Many locals use it to make jams, preserves and ciders as well so I am for the ‘non-international sohphoh’.

November 14, 2017 /

Five hundred years ago, on the eve of All Saints Day, 1517, an obscure professor and cleric at an upstart university in Electoral Saxony published a lengthy list of scholarly debating points over the theology of indulgences.
The “Ninety-Five Theses,” as they came to be called, catapulted Martin Luther into the centre of a controversy that would soon affect all of Europe in staggeringly diverse ways — from great wars and religious persecution to massive educational renewal and marriage reforms.

November 14, 2017 /

When no party gets a majority in an election there is unbridled enthusiasm among some legislators, individually or in small groups to help a party form the government. They cannot be faulted for this, elections are held to form a government, This leads to party hopping, the easiest way to create a majority when the electorates did not help is to put a majority in party in place.

November 12, 2017 /

Drag today must respond to the exclusion of clubs, to the transphobia and femmephobia of gay men, to the respectability politics of our savarna movements. Drag to be drag – exciting, critical, entertaining – must be dangerous. Imagine, drag queens lipsyncing for their lives as the house of patriarchy burns in the background!

November 10, 2017 /

An important legislation like THE MEGHALAYA COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION AND PUBLIC SERVICES SOCIAL AUDIT ACT, 2017 came into being without any element of Community Participation through Pre-Legislative consultation about its intent and content. Some of the remarks we make about the Act are due to this ‘failure’ on the part of the government to take the people and community into confidence about the law.

November 8, 2017 /

It is one thing to say that demonetisation has failed empirically, but quite another to assume that it will lead to BJP’s defeat. On the contrary, Mr. Modi has jumped from one policy to the other, and every time, the residue in public consciousness is the honourable intention. Meanwhile the opposition parties seem to be completely unaware of these dynamics.

November 8, 2017 /

It used to be said that Indians don’t queue. Clerks despaired of organizing the crowds that clamored for attention at service counters, and paying one’s electric bill in northern cities required a set of sharp elbows for jostling. In this context, postdemonetization bank and ATM queues were remarkable—not only for the very orderliness of their existence, but also for the intimacies they fostered and ways in which they rearticulated class and kinship.

November 8, 2017 /

No formal government program or agenda has been so socially malignant for India as the 2016 demonetization, both in the intent and manner in which the policy was deployed and in its impact on the working poor. While the forced sterilizations (nas bandi) of the mid-1970s were met with widespread subversion and eventually led to the fall of the Indira Gandhi government, the recent round of notebandi (literally, note ban) or demonetization was met by mass acquiescence.

November 6, 2017 /

There has been a lot of discussion about Aadhar and now the matter of compulsory linkage of Aadhar to mobile and banks is being heard in the courts. However, the public discourse has almost entirely focused on surveillance. Aadhar may result in surveillance, but its purpose seems to be an enabler for Universal Basic Income. From the very beginning, Mr. Modi has been working towards a virtual and physical infrastructure to enable Direct Beneficiary Transfer (DBT).

November 6, 2017 /

The case was simple – based on the recommendations from the politicians – then Education Minister Ms. Ampareen Lyngdoh, instructed her officer Mr. J. D. Sangma to doctor the selection list. Mr. Sangma ably supported by Ms Lyngdoh’s supporters wantonly white inked successful candidates and marks and created a ‘tainted’ merit list. It took eight years of long and convoluted struggle, from the lowest to highest court, inside and outside the court system, before the division bench of Meghalaya High Court delivered its bombshell judgement on 2nd November 2017. 
Some of us in RAIOT Collective (and our mother ship Thma U Rangli-Juki) have been closely associated with the challenge to this mega corruption case and we thought that we should draw up a chronology of this long struggle, not merely for the sake of history but also to remind the citizens that justice can be won, if one persists with commitment.

November 4, 2017 /

As the youngest member of my department, I am frustrated. I am frustrated for many reasons, official and non-official alike, one being this – I feel I am the biggest hypocrite in the world- I teach my students the significance of women’s rights, activism and women’s jurisdiction but in reality, I don’t even have that iota of power to stretch out my hands to them, hug them, and tell them that-We will be taking some concrete steps!

November 3, 2017 /

The conversation with Vinita Chandra of Ramjas College, Delhi was conducted by Rochelle Pinto to address the fact that the process of filing a complaint against sexual harassment in a university and the details of the law were not widely known, adding uncertainty to what is likely to be a difficult decision. Ramjas College had sustained a working unity among a group of teachers that enabled the functioning of a committee to deal with sexual harassment. The following is an account of what an institution can become if about four or five people withstand the pressures on organizations that protects the rights of its members. Ramjas is not the only college to have a committee that enjoys credibility, but it belongs to a small minority of institutions that have sustained the process. The majority of educational institutions in the country have a different story.

October 31, 2017 /

Soibam Haripriya is being abused into accepting her status as a woman from “within the community” who the men can punish and lay claims over. Nationalism requires pious and submissive women to create a “pure” community. Women such as Soibam Haripriya through their work and politics exemplify the transgressive women which threaten to destabilise the nationalist aspirations of a community. Any such criticism puncturing the myth of Northeast exceptionalism of being an ‘egalitarian’ society immediately injures the patriarchal ego of the keepers of such myth and nationalisms.

October 30, 2017 /

The list by Raya Sarkar raises questions that were, deliberately or otherwise, ignored and silenced increasingly over the years. The problems of male entitlement and casteist bias stand exposed in the names of the people in the list. We can’t therefore afford to dismiss the urgent resolving of these problems within our revolutionary politics and its practice. Our Parties and Organizations are filled to the brim with such people who wouldn’t baulk an inch if they had the chance to sexually harass or rape a woman. Our sole obsession with class struggle has made us blatantly ignorant of the gender question. These are legitimate critiques which this list has raised and which we need to address.

October 28, 2017 /

Yes, procedures and institutions have often failed us, but a feminist politics demands that we continue the struggle to make these processes more robust. Let me reiterate that I believe that testimonies are certainly a strong feminist strategy, but not the simple naming of people with no context or explanation. There is no easy fix. The building of feminist cultures requires taking responsibility for lengthy struggles, building of solidarities, rethinking of strategies from time to time, engaging in dialogue with mutual trust.
I am not very hopeful that the trust that has been so wantonly destroyed can be rebuilt very easily.

October 28, 2017 /

My only hope is that the list does not remain a list, but goes on further to secure some form of justice. It would be great to see older feminist activists, the ones we look up to, come forward and offer assistance to the victims and assure them of support. So that they can shed their anonymity and take on their perpetrators. It would be the logical conclusion to see those who keep talking of institutional redressal, actually offer some redressal to the victims by assuring that their institutions will seriously probe all complains. Unless, these are assured, this will remain another FB viral sensation to be forgotten within 3 months and I sincerely hope that this does not happen.

October 28, 2017 /

I have one simple question to the proponents of “The List”, what are we going to do next after this? I am not talking about preparing other lists; let us focus on this one for now. Assuming people named on the ‘list’ are actual perpetrators of sexual harassment, they might have a change of heart and rectify themselves after this social media outrage. Or else, they will get back at the complainants very nastily. Given our experiences, the latter seems more probable. The list has not given justice to anyone, it has only named and shamed people, most of them are highly placed and powerful.

October 27, 2017 /

As a student, I remember this surgeon, who took about 12 of us students, mostly male, on rounds, stripped a young woman upto her waist, without any form of consent and proceeded to ‘palpate’ her breasts the entire 15 minutes that he was ‘teaching’ us. What is my memory of that? My memory is filled with guilt – that I didn’t intervene, that I didn’t slap him, that I didn’t complain. What are women like us to do with guilt such as that? Where was ‘due process’ then and where is it now?

October 27, 2017 /

The fact is that it is too late to debate process vs. anonymous accusations. The deed has been done and from all accounts the list will expand. It serves no purpose to post facto discuss what should have been or what could be. All of us have always known the stink pit that all institutions are as far as masculinities and sexual harassment are concerned. The problem that we are facing today is that our dear friends and acquaintances occupy the list and it may at a later date also come out that some should not have been on that list. The question that is bothering me is whether my discomfort with this naming exercise would be as strong and as acute and as urgent if those being named were not from largely my side of the fence? My hunch is that most of us would be baying for blood with scant respect for process or principles.

October 27, 2017 /

Each instance of alleged sexual harassment needs to be examined and dealt with on its own merit – with due process available both to the accused and to the accuser. Sweeping, anonymously driven collective assertions of the culpability of a cluster of named and shamed persons violates the principles of the need for rigourous individual examination of each instance, with due attention to the testimonies of victims and the defences of the accused, without which justice and resolution can never be served.

October 27, 2017 /

I don’t have solutions to offer. The lists in circulation will soon be dismissed either by threats or rebuttals, the claimants dismissed as bitter harpies with an axe to grind. And, yes, lists are not the sharpest, fairest kind of weapon but nothing in any of these miserable situations is fair and people are resorting to the only weapons they have.

October 26, 2017 /

Over the last two days, my facebook has gone on overdrive with feminists finding themselves in polarised positions against the list of perpetrators that Raya Sarkar, a Dalit lawyer in California circulated on facebook after compiling the names of some powerful men in the academic world and alleged sexual harassers. Some feminists as mouthpieces for the entire community wrote an apology of an article in kafila urging that the list be taken down for it violates ‘due process’ of law. Other feminists have come out in full support and some have taken the middle ground, allowing themselves to articulate their confusions, while many have remained mum for the more one thinks about it the more contradictory one seems to become.

October 26, 2017 /

I don’t disagree that there are problems with this list but in relation to complaints through GSCASHs and similar structures, there are problems in ‘due-procedures’ and their own guidelines are often deeply flawed. The very procedures designed to protect complainants have been used against complainants again and again. I wish that this list on facebook opened up a debate of the lack of structural integrity in GSCASHs and ICCs, instead of what is happening right now.

October 26, 2017 /

Most of the local, national and international media houses claimed the series of Maratha Kranti Muk (Silent) Morchas (MKM) that started over the rape of a minor girl from Maratha caste in the Kopardi village of Ahmednagar district on July 23, 2016, by three Dalit men, to be ‘unique’ for its mass support base, speeches given by young Maratha girls and for its non-alignments with political parties. However, what is also unique about these marches which remains either highlighted or hidden from the mainstream is the hateful aggressive speeches, the sidelining of the issue of rape, the public display of caste power and rooted patriarchal rhetorical elocutionary speeches given by the young Maratha girls.

October 24, 2017 /

The Meeting resolved to start an Opt-Out campaign for those who had already enrolled in Aadhaar but who wish to withdraw their consent and with draw from the Central Data Storage which they believe that both their Bio-metric and Demographic Information are stored. The Opt-Out campaign is based on an informed opinion that the adhaar project is inherently flawed/dangerous and it is also based on the fact that now Privacy is a Fundamental Right as guaranteed in Part III of the Constitution of India so therefore the Adhaar Project infringes upon this Right and as citizens we resolved to protect our Right to Privacy by opting out of Adhaar. A sample Opt-Out Letter was drafted both in English and Khasi and distributed so that people can read, understand and decide. The Meghalaya Peoples Committee on Adhaar had fixed 30 October as a date to collect all those individual opt-out letters and send them to authorities concerned and the Committee firmly believed that this opt-out campaign will have long lasting impact on the fight against intrusion by the Power of the State on individual citizens. Individuals who wish to withdraw their consent are requested to come to KSU office at Jaiaw Shillong on the 30 October 2017 and submit their opt-out letters from 11am to 3pm.

October 23, 2017 /

Sadguru who has taken up to saving the rivers by spending millions of crores of rupees himself is accused of violation of many environmental laws in Tamil Nadu. Encroachment on the Kundakoi tributary of the river Noyal, construction of ashram with nearly one thousand buildings on the reserved forest, encroachment on the elephants corridors, are some of the acts he is involved in. There are many petitions filed before the court against him, which are in progress. In this regard, the government officials of Combatore district have confirmed these violations in affidavits and even given stop order, which has been violated by Sadhguru.
We need to also know that Jaggi Vasudev’s father-in-law has charged him with murder of his wife. The case is still pending. “Why are they not arresting me then?” this is what he said in response to a question by a journalist. We only want to remind people who are bowing down to him and colluding with him today, must remember the fate of Asaram Bapu or Ram-Rahim. One must support, or donate only after complete awareness and inquiry. We would like to give this warning on behalf of the Narmada Bachao Andolan to all. The journalists and newspaper correspondents must thoroughly research so that rivers can be saved and not sold in the name of “Rally for Rivers”.

October 21, 2017 /

He started his career in music at a very young age of 6 Years playing in church services and winning many music competitions at a very young age.
At a time when many of his school mates where preparing for their final exams, Manfulson was busy playing as a session musician in studios making music for iconic albums like those produced by the Khasi Students Union. He continued playing for bands like Conbrio and others. Meanwhile he continued playing in gospel albums produced by the Bible Society India Shillong Auxilliary and innumerable other albums.

October 20, 2017 /

We have almost become numb to the many lynchings that happen on a regular basis in India these days, especially of Muslim citizens (men, mostly). But, the lynching of a Manganiyar musician was almost like a personal affront. I have had a memorable encounter with the Manganiyar or Merasi community in 2014 and I always wanted to write about them. I never knew of their caste structures and hierarchies till I visited them in their village. I am just going to write here about this Merasi musician, Dapu Khan, and my encounter with him. The Merasis are the voice of the desert, they have been and will remain so.