Category: Commentary

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.

November 2, 2017 /

Internet activists and the government form a strange alliance to destroy long-standing feminist attempts at creating conditions for justice in cases of sexual harassment in educational institutions,” says Ashley Tellis

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 /

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 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 18, 2017 /

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other organizations that fall under the umbrella of the Sangh Parivar have grown roots in the United States and have become active in fundraising and propaganda activities. Taking advantage of their status as an ethnic minority, these groups nakedly pursue a majoritarian Hindu agenda in the west and lash out against institutions and individuals that critique India’s Hindu nationalist government or it’s leader Narendra Modi.

October 17, 2017 /

In the context of the rise of Corbyn and Sanders and the rise of left-wing populist movements like Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain, this article asks, through an engagement with Chantal Mouffe’s writings on left-wing populism, whether there can be a left-wing populism in India that can counter the right-wing populism of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The article explores the conditions for a “populist situation” that exist in India at present.

October 16, 2017 /

I got a message from my brother that my aunt had been arrested along with 11 others for vigilante violence against two women. I’d been off Facebook and the internet and missed the news. As soon as I heard this I called my aunt to find out what was happening. She was unwell and didn’t seem to know what was happening. In fact at that point I knew more than she did, because I have internet and a smartphone, which she doesn’t . However she gave me the background to what happened. She and most of my family lives in Shillong, a city I was born in and where I spent my childhood and teens. The women of the community had organised a period of night vigils to have a say and some control of elements that they were afraid of – mostly drugs and sex work.

October 11, 2017 /

The BBC documentary that alleged a darker side to the ‘success story’ of conserving the one-horned rhino in the Kaziranga National Park has provided an occasion to think about the intertwined destinies of the animal and certain conceptions of Assamese nationalism. The article argues that the discourse of conservation in the state is constrained by a failure to see the animal as an end in itself. Conservation efforts are instead subordinated to various ideological agendas and therefore the animal’s value is seen as residing in the ideological role that it fulfils. The article traces the history of constructing the animal as an indispensable constituent of Assamese nationalism and how the metaphors used to represent this relationship have changed in response to the changing notions of Assamese nationalism.

October 10, 2017 /

The panel discussion, the worst that television news has invented – the half-hour/one hour compact spectacle performed with incensed verbose flying statements, filled with multiple screens, presenting zero logic but finding increasing traction amongst the audience – is what is plaguing Indian journalism and journalism education in particular.

October 9, 2017 /

I read The Wire’s story and Jay Amit Shah’s response. The story is factual, based on the annual reports filed with ROC. The story doesn’t make any allegations or imputations. It quotes the responses of the lawyer of Jay Amit Shah extensively. It also puts up their entire response. All It does is a mere extrapolation based on the numbers in the ROC filings. And in a country where public scrutiny of individuals who rule us is minimal, It does raise important questions

The imminent hour of compromise and betrayal is upon the hill people as the opportunistic and spineless Gorkha “leadership” is making overtures towards the West Bengal government, with their begging bowls lined with thick layers of opportunism and greed. Once again, a telltale picture is emerging wherein the hill public has been used as political bait in this game of profit and self-interest of the Gorkha leadership. The hapless hill people are hooked by their noses as they are coerced to yield in whatever direction the shallow and weak leaders point them towards.

October 6, 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.

October 5, 2017 /

To keep our children malnourished, worse than what sub-Saharan Africa manages to do with much worse poverty, must take special levels of insensitivity or callousness for a country like India which has enough money to be the largest importer of weapons and having an arsenal of nuclear weapons of its own!

October 5, 2017 /

Much has been made about the absence of large-scale protests by farmers against demonetization, as if farmers could march in the streets at the time of harvest, leaving their crops untended. On this topic, the journalist Ugale told me that some farmers had contemplated dumping tomatoes outside the collector’s office, but then changed their minds, thinking: “Even if we protest, what will we achieve?” Ugale trailed off and then, in a somber tone, concluded: “Helplessness and apathy, that’s what I see everywhere.”

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.

October 4, 2017 /

Vigilantism cannot be curbed without addressing the vigilante culture that sustains it. Countering vigilante culture requires us to grasp how it is put in place over long periods by creation of signs that motivate communities of believers and vigilantes to act, and to produce an alternative repertoire of signs.

The issue of trafficking in Northeast India is symptomatic of many economic, social and political factors that exist in the region, the primary ones being underdevelopment, political isolation and inefficient governance. Education and the failure of the job market to offer and successfully integrate employment opportunities, especially outside urban centres has played a huge role in paving the way for trafficking, because many of the victims of child-trafficking come from economically underprivileged, mostly rural backgrounds. Therefore, political economy becomes one of the driving forces behind the vulnerability of children and women.

October 2, 2017 /

The reason most of the people in North East do not want to admit the Ronghiya Muslims because they understand the repercussion of what might happen if someday the immigrants grow in population. Right now we have the authority to oppress but if we allow outsiders to grow in number we will then become the oppressed. We understand this very well because this is exactly what we have been doing to our minorities in our own territories.

September 27, 2017 /

This year is the fiftieth death anniversary of the firebrand socialist Dr Ram Manohar Lohia and it is an apt occasion to remember his militant legacy. He died at the relatively young age of fifty seven in 1967. I too am fifty seven now and despite having trod the same path of mass politics as him, am still alive and have done precious little in comparison!! Lohia needs to be remembered today because he fought relentlessly against the corrupt dominance of the Indian National Congress and his mobilisation strategies are extremely valid today. 

September 26, 2017 /

Recently, the American College of Physicians (ACP) recognised Hate Crimes as a Public Health issue… What we doctors in India, need to learn from them? While a Modi-fied government seems to be pushing India’s public health into private hands thanks to its belief in unleashing India’s economy in the same style as the US does for its medical services, isn’t it surprising that none of us can imagine our premier physicians’ organisation, the Indian Medical Association taking up such a cause even in the next few decades! In fact, if history teaches us lessons, what we learn is that a large chunk of its leadership which is right-wing, may actually aid and abet the hate!

September 25, 2017 /

Satya Prasoon dissects the claims made by the Government of India in its affidavit on 18th Sept in the Supreme Court. Examining the constitutional law and international law positions he argues that the Government’s stand of deporting 40,000 Rohingyas is not legally justifiable. However, The Indian State needs to see beyond the law and frame it as a larger moral question of human suffering and loss. This case is not just about deciding the fate of 40000 individuals butalso indicates, if India is just a geographical construct or a nation with a moral core.

September 20, 2017 /

Sacrifice and who sacrificed how much is a dominant trope in discussions within (largely urban) left organisations. As experience suggests, it is usually invoked to sideline important self-reflections. Priya Ranjan problematizes the notion of ‘sacrifice’ in the revolutionary discourse.

September 19, 2017 /

Few days ago one of the Raiot collective members received a Whatsapp message in Hindi. However, since some of the receivers of this message could not read hindi, the thrust of the threat was not instantly delivered, so it turned into a bit of a failure. But then yesterday, it came to our attention that a few other people- journalists, activists, as well as students – received the same whatsapp-forwarded death-threat; each coming from different numbers originating from different states in the country.

September 17, 2017 /

how do i explain to her why a cat
wants to run over the stairs up and down?
or want to go out in the cold and heat
and sit for ages in some folorn corner
of an abandoned room of some apartment?
cats do what they do. i also remember
someone who once asked what it was
that one could learn from a cat?
i wanted to say everything but
i did not think she would get it