Category: Commentary

January 22, 2018 /

“Where are you going Bahdeng?” I asked a friend of mine who seemed excited and in a hurry. He said, “I got a new job, I’m in the business of collecting money”. Not sure and intrigued by the true nature of his new profession, I congratulated him and tried to get more details about it. He enthusiastically told me that I should join in, “It’s very profitable” he said, “Yesterday I told them my mother was sick, the other day I said my daughter was sick; you see, I’m in the business of collecting charity money from candidates contesting the upcoming elections and so far I’ve received Rs.10,000”.

January 16, 2018 /

Attacks on Dalits are often viewed only from the perspective of violation of their basic rights and dignity. A lot of attention this time has been paid to the political context of Dalit mobilization, and the recent state of their relation with the dominant Maratha caste in the area. Analyses from such perspectives often miss the actual elephant in the room, namely the caste Hindu society to whom their attackers belong, and from whose normative world they derive their justifications. Confronting this elephant is crucial at present.

January 15, 2018 /

Yes, we will be hospitable; yes, we welcome you; yes, we will host you; yes, we will feed you well; yes, we will offer you what we have, and yes, we will host you on our terms. Yes, to control of numbers to ecologically and otherwise sensitive areas.  Yes, to local guides, small business, shops and eating establishments.

January 12, 2018 /

If one was being parochial one would have only said that Kalikho Pul’s Suicide Note is one the most important literary sources to understand politics and governance in the North East of India (relevant parochial sections highlighted in green in the english translation). But this Suicide note is also a key public document which lifted the tattered veil of judicial incorruptibility (highlighted in pink in the english translation). Today when 4 senior most judges have broken ranks to point at the rot in the judicial system under the present CJI Mr. Dipak Misra, it is important to revisit the suicide note, for here was the fuse which finally ignited the firework today.

January 5, 2018 /

Mamata Banerjee should not have poked her nose with half-baked knowledge and make polarising statements like she did yesterday and that is what is highly condemnable. For anyone who is in the know of political developments in Assam, such wild statements are at the least laughable. Updating the NRC is an attempt at bringing a closure to the vexed foreigners’ issue in Assam, an issue over which thousands have lost their lives in Assam. Even though there are many daunting challenges after the final NRC is published and there are many loose ends to tie.

December 27, 2017 /

First off, though you might be infested with con-men at any social strata depending on what it is they are after, it is generally a problem associated with the middle and upper classes. This is because these strata are easily impressed by fancy-sounding English words and preening talk especially related to big dreams and big bucks.

December 22, 2017 /

Around a month and half ago, I was sitting in a restaurant in Cherrapunjee having lunch with my friend Raymond when a group of seven or eight tourists walked in. They asked at the counter, on their way in, if the place served vegetarian food, and on hearing it did, they took a table about 10 feet away from where we were sitting. Then someone at that table probably spotted me eating a leg of chicken. Immediately, all hell broke loose.

December 19, 2017 /

This is an election where BJP was made to fight. This is not just about using political firepower but unlike other elections, channels like Times Now, Republic TV and ZEE had to become an extension of BJP without not even a shred of neutrality in their coverage. Local Gujarati media also became increasingly partisan as elections progressed. The Parliament session was delayed, all the resources were diverted towards Gujarat. EC even delayed Gujarat elections and their excuse for the delay was very flimsy. The delay helped BJP to partly tide over the GST anger by reducing tax slabs for certain items.

December 15, 2017 /

The news of a famous wedding has been hogging all the limelight in the media throughout this week. The excitement over Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli’s wedding to actress Anushka Sharma has been putting even the drama surrounding Harry Windsor’s Royal Wedding to shame. However, Virushka (their moniker, which wins my vote for the worst couple name. As a friend pointed out to me, why anyone would go with Virushka and not Korma is beyond me) is not the significant development in wedding related news to occur this week. The real story, which flew largely under the radar, was about Sankar and Kausalya, a Tamilian inter-caste couple that fell victim to a brutal murder.

December 13, 2017 /

Ha kaba kut, na ka bynta ka lawei bad ka jingbha jingbit-jingbiang bad jingshngain ki nongshong shnong jong ka Jylla, ngi donkam kyrkieh ia ka jingiamir jingmut lang khnang ban lah ban sei madan da ka kynhun ba thymmai kaba ieng ha ka sain pyrkhat kaba thymmai (Ideology), ka sain pyrkhat kaba niewkor ia ka jinglong mar ryngkat (Equality) ia ka Hok (Justice) ia ka Jinglaitluid (Freedom) bad ia ka roi ka par kaba pynmyntoi ia baroh bad kaba neh pateng la pateng. Ha shuwa ba ngin ryngkoh sha ka kper tyrso jong ka meinah thymmai to ngin puson bad shim da kawei pat ka lad ban pynkha ia ka seng ne kynhun bad ka ban mih napoh ka Jylla hi, ka seng ka ban ieng bad iakhun na ka bynta hok ban im bad ka ban iada ia ka khyndew ka shyiap bad ia ka hok longbriew man briew. Thma U Rangli Juki (TUR) ka khyllie pyrda ia ki jingshisha bad jingarsap

December 12, 2017 /

The media is currently rife with the debate about the exorbitant billing made by a five-star hospital in Delhi to the father of a young girl who succumbed to her brief illness. But is it the right debate? Are those throwing stones at the hospital not the kind who go to private hospitals themselves? Is it okay if private care is affordable and not exorbitant? At an individual level, I do not and would not like to ever submit myself to private health care. It is because I believe that medical care must never be treated as a commodity and must be available to every human equally.

December 6, 2017 /

There is always that unease that some of us feel on the 6th of December, for it is a reminder of the destruction of Babi Masjid in 1992. I was born in the early 1980s and this was the first major public event that made me realise that law and order, the constitution, the courts none of it mattered. The Hindus had asserted their willfulness against all appeals. There may have been a few thousand people in Ayodhya that day but I remember the excited chattering that I personally witnessed in the aftermath even down South. A lot of people were saying that they contributed in some way to this great adventure. Many supported it by saying that Ayodhya is the Mecca for Hindus. Every religion has one prime place of worship so Hindus should be given this place if they feel so strongly about it. As a nation, the unpleasant truth is that the destruction of the mosque was privately hailed, even celebrated by millions. The ethos of contemporary politics in India (or the lack of it) can be largely attributed to the destruction of this mosque.

December 5, 2017 /

“Ka Shillong, Ka Meghalaya – Jong Baroh / SHILLONG & MEGHALAYA BELONG TO ALL”
These words that appeared on placards by Shillong’s vendors at rally in June 2016. It carried a political message that is at the heart of demands for rights to livelihood and right to the city. In very plain terms the vendors stated that the city of Shillong, and the state of Meghalaya belongs to everyone. This message challenges dominant ideas of belonging in a city that has experienced decades of violence- both state and non-state- whose primary purpose has been to mark difference.

December 4, 2017 /

Just like the people in Amchang, the people in Sipajhar were also victims of river erosion. Their earlier generations moved from places like Jonia in Barpeta to escape poverty and river erosion. These people were further tricked into buying government land from the locals of Kuruwa. But there was no investigation on the multiple level of exploitation that these people faced. Merely accusing them of being illegal immigrants somehow provided impunity to those who torched their homes. Not a single person was brought to book for taking law in their own hands. One must ask if these are illegal immigrants, why weren’t they sent to detention camps for gradual deportation?

November 24, 2017 /

NEHU needs a change, it needs a change in the mindset on how to tackle problems and figure out solutions. We cannot just leave NEHU believing it will get better because it won’t. Sexual harassment cases are piling up, and students are too afraid to even put forth a complaint because when they do, the teachers are at times reinstated, which does not make sense and speaks of complete injustice.

November 24, 2017 /

The opposition to Hadiya’s conversion and their marriage has not been created or sustained merely by the right-wing, but also by those who have either chosen to stay silent on the case or have actively aided and abetted the state in furthering their persecution, whether it is the LDF government, or the Women’s Commissions, national or at the state level. Many feminists have otherwise spoken about choice and agency, but who, facing the will of a 25 year old Muslim woman to question the established norms of the Hindu household and life-world, have fallen absolutely silent. When she and Shafin are being pushed into a dangerous web of state-backed and NIA-produced rumour mongering of indoctrination and larger patterns, what good is silence? What good is half-hearted conversations around her right to choose, when they are suffixed with a “but…”?

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 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 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.