Category: Commentary

July 10, 2018 /

The members of Meghalaya & Greater Shillong Progressive Hawkers & Street Vendors Association and Thma U Rangli Juki (TUR)  provided following suggestions to High Level Committee for Rehabilitation of The Residents of Punjabi Lane setup by Govt. of Meghalaya with regards to:
1) Formulation of a just and humane solution for the long-term residents of Sweepers’ Line in Them Iew Mawlong keeping in mind protections envisaged under Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution and Tribal nature of the state of Meghalaya. 
2) Redevelopment plans for the area. 
3) Safety and security of livelihood of Hawkers and Street Vendors.

July 6, 2018 /

The Bengali Bhadrolok class always gets rattled whenever there is even a scratch on its two academic fiefdoms, Presidency and Jadavpur Universities. These are the two primary apparatuses for the reproduction of hegemony of this class in Bengal’s socio-cultural life. Noone has found this extraordinarily parochial class moving petitions or capturing media time and space to express their concern about or outrage against Bengal’s bleak education system. In the last few years, this class has gradually given up on the Presidency, and now, it is more bothered about Jadavpur. In the rising populist tidal water, the island mentality of the Bhadralok class has become acute. Latest is their rage against the decision of the Jadavpur University (JU) administration to scrap entrance examination to a few undergraduate programmes, English being the focal point.

July 2, 2018 /

Most of the problems and social conflicts experienced by the Khasi society today are due to misinterpretation of traditions and acceptance of colonial innovations as sacred and God-given traditions that existed since time immemorial. Let us discuss on one of these colonial innovations which remains in force today through modern legal instruments, but stands in perpetual conflict with the deep-seated cultural sentiments of the people. Khasi elders of old said that the Syiem was appointed in a Raid or Hima because the Bakhraw, as leaders of the founding clans refused to take over the properties of extinct clans, to inflict punishments on criminals, thieves and murderers. The Bakhraw also thought that it was dishonourable for them to live by begging for free gifts, donations, or to fill one’s coffer by fees, fines and taxes levied on the products of others in the markets. Hence, all these reprehensible functions and unholy sources of income were handed over to the Syiem.   

On 30th June, the complete draft list of NRC will be published, a narrative has been constructed, mostly by BJP leaders and the Sangh Parivar that 30th June will decide the fate of who is a citizen and who not. This narrative of finality has been spearheaded by powerful BJP minister Himanta Biswa Sarma who has been repeatedly saying that 30th June 2018 will decide ‘friend or foe of Assam”. This imposed narrative has, understandable, created anxiety and fear among many people, especially Muslims of East Bengali origin.
That being the situation, If any issue related to NRC is sensationalized without proper substantiation or due to lack of understanding of the nuances related to the process, one may unintentionally further strengthen the conspiracy of fear that is being spread by the Sangh parivar.

June 26, 2018 /

What actually happened on the 31/5/2018 would be best known only to a few with whom the incident occurred. But when an incident is made sensational news for heavy sale, for political power, for organizational comeback, then facts are distorted and everyday the facts are woven into such lies that creates mayhem and breeds hatred among communities. Sad to see people reach to such a low with their vulgarities. We were known for being a loving race that respects man and God but the recent incident displayed all. Our level of tolerance was zero. All because the past Governments did not do their work all these years and one wonders why…

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 /

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 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 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 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.

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 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 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 /

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 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.”

April 30, 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.

April 25, 2018 /

Ka sorkar pdeng pynmih da ka hukum ne ka ordinance ban pyniap ia kito kiba leh beijot bad batbor ia ki khynnah hapoh ka 12 snem ka rta. Bad U President ka Ri ruh u la ai ka jingmynjur halor kane ka hokum. Shisien iohsngew ia kane ka khubor bad ryngkat bad ka jingbitar ia kine ki jait kam bad ia ki briew kiba leh ia kine ki kam runar, ka long kaei kaei kaba ngi kloi ban pdiang bad mynjur. Ia ki riew runar ba kum kine, ka jingiap ruh ka dang jem palat.

April 23, 2018 /

what does the Indian left-liberal solidarity choose to do differently about a people who, one can argue, are doubly colonized? They choose to express their ‘desire’ for the “beautiful woman” by exporting a girl, who faces multiple hierarchies of oppression besides the double colonization of her community, to their mainland and call her “another Nirbhaya” or “India’s daughter”. They stress that Aasifa’s rape and murder is an ‘issue of humanity’. By deliberately trying to erase the specificity of the case, they are obfuscating their complicity in the crimes the Indian state has committed in Kashmir in their name for all these years.

April 20, 2018 /

I first heard of the “Gaidinliu notebooks” when I was doing research in North Cachar Hills of Assam, India, in 2005. These “notebooks” are associated with the prophetess, Gaidinliu (1915–1993), affectionately also known as Rani (Queen), who was the leader of an indigenous religious movement known as the Heraka. No one possessed the notebooks in their entirety. Therefore descriptions were elusive and mysterious—some people talked about them as “god given,” and others as a “script” that contained in it many “signs” about future events. There was speculation that once the notebooks were made available, translated, and understood, it would usher in the heguangram, generally translated as “kingdom.” What is this kingdom? And how is one to recognize it? Then, other requests came in: people wanted to know of these “notebooks” and whether I had seen them. I assuaged their curiosity by informing them that I had seen a copy of the “script” in the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford. I assured them that I would request a copy from the curator. Upon returning to Britain, I contacted PRM regarding the Gaidinliu notebooks and about taking a copy to the Zeme people of North Cachar Hills.They scanned the notebooks and provided copies to take back to the community.

April 18, 2018 /

If we could look back a little in Guwahati, we recall the incidents of 2012 G.S. road molestation, the news where girls wearing shorts were compared to monkeys in a local news channel in 2015, the photographs of two girls shared by a well known news reader when they were outside an alcohol shop in their traditional attires on the day of Saraswati puja early this year, as examples that are emblematic of the manner in which dominant, middle-class, male-dominated cultures portray independent women in Assam. The road from such views, to those that lead to tragic violence against women, is unfortunately well short and well-travelled. Distracting women with ideas that such violence can be done by only one class of people, belonging to a particular religion is misleading and dangerous because it deflects from the long struggles that needed for a gender just society.

April 11, 2018 /

There are nationalist, there are racists, there are right wingers and there are these so called ” KHASI SONS OF THE SOIL” whom we term as INTERNET KHLAWAIT. They are found in their natural habitats; Facebook, Whatsapp, twitter and sometimes, in you tube. They are always criticising everything that is not Khasi or written in Khasi along with other languages. Here are some of the traits of these INTERNET KHLAWAIT…

April 9, 2018 /

In response to Sunday’s events, the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) in Kashmir gave a call for a solidarity march to Shopian on April 3. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who continues to be a part of the JRL along with senior leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, too hoped to march this time. The government had recently announced his release from a seven-year-long house detention after his resignation as the TeH chief. As Geelani slowly walked towards the gate of his party residence, he found it closed. Peeping out through a small window in the door, he asked the armed personnel stationed outside to open the gate. When they refused citing “orders” Geelani quipped: “Darwaaza kholo, tumhari jamhooriyat ka jinaza nikal raha hai…hindustan ki jamhooriyat ka… uska jinaaza nikal raha hai… Open the door, the funeral of your democracy is leaving… Of India’s democracy…here goes its funeral!”

April 5, 2018 /

Ramachandra Guha is among Indias’ most visible intellectuals, and his newspaper columns and television appearances mark him off from the more reticent world of academic historians. At 900 pages his new book India after Gandhi is not shy of claiming its own space on the bookshelf: from it’s title page, where it announces itself as “The History of the World’s Largest Democracy” (not A History, mind you, but The History); to it’s end papers, which tells us that the author’s entire career seems in retrospect to have been preparation for the writing of this book.