Category: Commentary

January 10, 2019 /

A petition was submitted to the President of India on January 8, 2019 by 135 academics, lawyers and activists urging upon him to uphold human rights and ensure justice for around one million people (10 lakh) in Assam, who have been excluded through the NRC process. The petition also urges upon the President of India, as the custodian of the Indian Constitution, to advise the central government to withdraw the Citizenship Amendment Bill which explicitly discriminates on the ground of religion and violates the constitutional principle of equality.

December 29, 2018 /

I would have missed its existence had I not seen her crawling along, pulling a wooden box on wheels loaded with lumps of coal. She was harnessed to the cart by means of a patch of linen strapped across her forehead. She was fair in complexion, wearing a short skirt, and her knees were heavily padded. I slowed down my car and turned to look. She was not alone! They were coming out of a hole in the side of the hill to my right. I noticed a thin outcrop of a coal seam running parallel to the road.
I was an Inspector of Mines, with the Department of Mines, Dhanbad, returning from Cherrapunji on my way to Shillong after an inspection of a limestone mine. It was in the year 1956.

December 22, 2018 /

Mr. Bashan J Laloo, SP(Traffic) of Shillong needs a better press agent. Rather than defend his ‘subduing’ action which resulted in fractured hand of Manavon Massar, Mr. Laloo should go back to his textbooks. Even some of those who want to balance the story of a ‘Musician with Broken Fingers’, need to know that no traffic offence or for that matter any offence allows the Police to inflict violence on any person. We will repeat for you balanced heads – no traffic offence or for that matter any offence allows the Police to inflict violence on any person. Even Manavon Massar agrees that he had violated traffic laws by overtaking and he should have been punished accordingly. But Mr. B J Laloo reads some other rule book where sticks do the work rather than fines. So to help Mr. BJL (and you loyal readers), we provide you with short guide to punishments and fines for traffic violations.

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 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 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 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.

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 30, 2018 /

Recent analyses of real voter data as well the Lokniti-CSDS-ABP Mood of the Nation survey have shown that the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are losing popularity at an alarming pace (for them). This means that we are entering dangerous times. There will be ruthless and continuous attempts to divert attention from the reasons for this loss of popularity, and to fracture the growing solidarity of the opposition. It will be a continuous circus from now to the elections—arrests, assassinations, lynchings, bomb attacks, false flag attacks, riots, pogroms. We have learned to connect the season of elections with the onset of all kinds of violence. Divide and Rule, yes. But add to that—Divert and Rule. From now until the elections, we will not know from when, and where and how the fireball will fall on us, and what the nature of that fireball will be.

August 29, 2018 /

Marriage is an important social institution, which has been closely linked to the mating patterns of primitive societies. Marriage is what determines the nature of familial relationships in a society. As such, it must be understood that it is not entirely a private affair, especially when viewed in the context of a country like India, where the family as an institution, has a say in the minutest of details, including the selection of a suitable partner. In fact, the question of marriage, has become such a sensitive topic, that even the state has taken it upon itself to be involved. A particular example, is taken from Meghalaya, India, where a government organization has proposed a bill that seeks to redefine the identity of a woman who chooses to marry outside the community that she belongs to. Given such an interweaving of external factors and the question of love, we clearly see how Game Theory can help provide an answer.

August 27, 2018 /

27/08/2018, it was really shocking for me to read the local dailies. According to Bah H. S. Shylla, esteemed CEM of KHADC, his proposed  amendment to Khasi Social Custom of Lineage Act 1997, preventing marriages between Khasi women and Non-Khasi Men by stripping Khasi women of their Khasi status was:
“aimed at protecting the community from the imminent threat of deadly diseases such as HIV-AIDS which are through marriage with bus and truck drivers from outside the state, migrant workers including drug addicts.”

August 22, 2018 /

The thrust of the Bill was to ensure that there is purity of race (a discarded concept) by forbidding marriages outside the community. But by leaving out Khasi men marrying non-Khasi women the cat got out of the bag. Racial purity (supposed) is going to be disturbed if any foreign element is brought in. It doesn’t matter whether it’s from the men’s side or the women’s. The answer to this dilemma was given by one of the panellists in one of the TV debate held on the issue. “The problem doesn’t arise because the seed comes from the man” argued by one who was in support of the bill. Not surprisingly it was a man who said it.

August 21, 2018 /

Celebrated historian (and obviously a Stephenian) Ramachandra Guha, in his article “The shrinking of St. Stephen’s,” in Hindustan Times claims that, ‘the galloping Christianisation of [his] old college has hurt its image badly.’ He emphasizes ‘concern’ over the increasing numbers of Christians in the institute, especially after the Supreme Court’s judgement, that gave St. Stephen’s the right to admit up to 50% students from its founding community – the Christians. This quite surprises me, coming from a respected intellectual. In what follows, I mention few things why Guha’s opinion downplays certain issues at hand.

August 20, 2018 /

The flash-point was reached when a team of women belonging to an NGO performing a play in Kochang, a remote part of the district where the rogue militia of PLFI – People’s Liberation Front of India – rules the roost, were allegedly raped. The general impression in the state is that PLFI is a creation of the state police, to counter the Maoists who are said to be on the decline in Jharkhand, if the claims of the government are to be believed. The government quickly blamed the Pathalgadi leaders for the alleged gangrape. Without producing any evidence, it chose to tar the entire movement by the tribal population fighting for its rights. In an instance of terrible chicanery and perfidy, the local media parroted the allegations without making any background checks of its own. 

August 20, 2018 /

It was in 2006 when I awoke to misogyny in the Khasi community. It happened rather innocuously. I was seated in one of the lawns of the North Eastern Hill University, Shillong Campus when a group of male scholars stationed themselves next to me. Because I was quiet and unassuming back then, this group of men did not notice my presence. A conversation ensued in which I was the fortunate (or unfortunate) eavesdropper.
“For my part,” one of the men began. “If a woman were to offer me sex, I would go ahead and enjoy the ride. But where marriage is concerned te, I will opt for a virgin.”
“That’s true,” another one agreed.

August 13, 2018 /

This might seem like a remote debate of little significance to most people. But names have power. There is a huge difference to the story of humanity if we are living in the Meghalayan Age that makes no mention of the human impact on the environment – or in the Anthropocene Epoch which says human actions constitute a new force of nature. The Meghalayan Age says the present is just more of the same as the past. The Anthropocene rewrites the human story, highlighting the need for planetary stewardship.

August 13, 2018 /

The left-wing movements championing greater inclusion are plainly very different from right-wing ones keen on reinforced or increased exclusion. But despite their profound differences, they have one thing in common: they claim to represent a supposedly victimised popular majority, “the people”.
Exactly who these “people” actually are is far from clear. All sides are embroiled in an ongoing struggle to determine how to define which populations count and which do not. Lost in the public outcry regarding populism is a deeper conflict over who matters socially, economically and politically.

August 10, 2018 /

Is there a higher Rate of Exclusion from NRC in Bengali Hindu dominated Districts of Assam? In absence of official disaggregation of the 4 million left out of the Final Draft of NRC, grassroots activists and senior journalists have been crunching local data and discovering some surprising trends. Assam has 33 Districts presently, of which 10 districts have a more than 50% Muslim population. However, other than Darrang, all other, nine, Muslim dominated districts of Assam are seeing lower percentage drop rates from the NRC draft list as compared to other Districts with a lesser Muslim population… This overall situation has created trepidation, fear and dis-satisfaction amongst the state leadership of BJP.

August 9, 2018 /

Though political schisms exist between tribal political subjectivity and forces representing Assamese ruling elites, yet both tribal and non-tribal people of Assam consider continued migration into Assam as a shared problem that must be adequately addressed.
There is no correct political position to be assumed on this issue, except the one which aims at addressing long standing historical demands without resulting in mass displacement and injury to anyone. More than anything, at this particular juncture, one has to be careful about the BJP and the communal forces it is willing to unleash.

August 9, 2018 /

“I have been hearing the euphoria of the Gorkhaland movement since my childhood days but never experienced the reality of the movement. My blood boils when my ancestor narrates me the story of humiliation and suppression that Nepalis has been living under the regime of Bengal government. I become rebellious and agitated when I heard of 1986 movement’s (chyasi ko andolan) story where thousands of Gorkhalis have sacrificed their lives for the sake of their motherland. But I feel embarrassed again when I think of the leaders and their petty political interest because of which we failed always” said one of my friends, Dewan when he was drunk.

August 8, 2018 /

DNA tests would suggest a truly pure “Khasi” as an impossibility, giving how people constantly mix with each other through migration, immigration and so on. This makes “Khasi” an abstract, a notion we built in our minds that may somehow, find a place in our hearts (figuratively, of course).
In realising this, one finds that “Khasi-ness” as defined by the “Khasi jingoists”/ “Khla Wait Ka Ri” makes it corrupted, toxic and deplorable. To them, “Khasi-ness” attains a divine status that further implies the delusional belief of “Khasi” as a superior race. For these Khla Wait to sustain the delusional superiority in being “Khasi”, it almost seems necessary to instil fear and hatred of the “non-Khasi” through lies, propaganda, and punishments.