Category: Commentary

May 23, 2017 /

Views on the appropriateness of sharing certain kinds of images for political awareness and galvanization may vary but at the very least keeping in mind the power relations between the photographed subjects and takers of the images, viewers and sharers could make us think before unquestioningly and well-meaningly sharing them and could make us conscious that the act of sharing the image is a complicated one.

May 21, 2017 /

‘He has a very traditional Metal voice’, remarked a senior editor of Raiot as Reach Down by Temple of the Dog was playing. I disagreed and tried explaining that it was, in fact, the voice of ‘grunge’. Not the voice but certainly an influential one.

May 19, 2017 /

Young Kashmiri women know the public space is theirs to keep and rightly so. When they raise their middle finger at the occupation, their heads are held high in knowing that standing up to oppression in all forms of expression does not diminish their dignity. It is clear that these women do not need to be called from the Masjid pulpits, but that they have arrived of their own accord. And they have come to stay.

May 10, 2017 /

This is a coffin of a dead 7 year old girl who was raped and killed by her uncle, and whose body was strategically buried by the man inside a church compound. No, this is not a village in North India or any other place in which public and private life is popularly designated as “violently patriarchal.” This is the Khasi Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya, often hitting national and international headlines for fake and catchy narratives like “women’s empowerment ” and “gender equality.”

May 10, 2017 /

For the good part of two years, we have been hearing a lot of noise about the Village Administration Bill (VAB). There were protests and speeches about it, demonstrations and weary policemen. The people against it seemed to be in the majority and only the government side seriously thought it was a good idea. In Jaintia Hills, it went off fairly well and was passed without much delay or opposition.

May 4, 2017 /

India is scared of a facebook post. India is scared of a poem. India is scared of a video. India is scared of the smile of a martyr. India is scared of a girl in hijab pelting stones. India is scared of a boy helping his friend reach to safety​. India is scared of the people coming together.

April 28, 2017 /

It has been obvious for many decades now that Bhagat Singh’s image carries contrasting messages for Indians. The image of the man, whose popularity in India around the time of his execution nearly eclipsed the established leadership of Congress and Gandhi, is truly an icon in the popular political culture of India; and like all popular icons the messages it carries actually manifest the internal contradictions of this very culture. Religious revivalist organisations like Arya Samaj, rightwing Hindutva groups and even the Khalistan movement have used his image of a militant nationalist to challenge Congress domination of the discourse on freedom struggle.

April 24, 2017 /

Today I write songs in Haflong Hindi. Haflong Hindi I would like to define is a mixture of Hindi, English, Urdu, Sufi, Bengali, Assamese, Nepali, Manipuri, Punjabi, Bihari, and with few words from different tribes like Zeme, Dimasa, Hmar, Kuki, Biate, Hrangkol, Jaintia and maybe even more which I am not aware of.

April 19, 2017 /

Entering Ri Bhoi is the first sign for me that I have come reached home. It was not just the low hills and the wide valleys nestled within them that elevated my heart but the sight of the shops littered along the highway and the people sitting inside them. Stopping and having tea and jingbam in these shops is one of my favourite moments of the journey.

April 17, 2017 /

Zubeen Garg, as the generation that grew up clutching onto his music through the turbulent 1990s and 2000s would tell you, cannot be defined. It is hare-brained to suggest that he was promoting Hindi imperialism in Assam by singing one of his old songs. But even if he was, it is ridiculous to see well-fed Bihu-committee tearaways hoisting the flag of a linguistic nationalism that was exclusive, chauvinistic and, more importantly, unbendingly middle-class from the word go.

April 17, 2017 /

Among nationalists in India, who have wet dreams of global “superpower” and watch over and over videos of “Indian weapons” and “most powerful militaries” on the YouTube, seeing images of those arms and men being reduced to a barbaric spectacle against an unarmed people produces a dispiriting dissonance. “Indian man” has fantasized a genocide for long. In its eyes, a genocide has a metonymic association with “national will.” This fantasy is now a metastasized desire to act like the US in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as ISIS in Syria. They want Indian military to kill without any compunction: “kill 1000 of them for our one;” “drop MOABs on them;” and “take Kashmiri women as slaves.”

April 14, 2017 /

Ambedkar’s “contribution to the making of modern India is possibly more substantial than that of any other leader of his generation.” Uniquely among leading national figures, Ambedkar not only overcame enormous personal odds (caste humiliation, poverty, the deaths of four of his five children), he also pioneered a critique of Indian society based on Enlightenment values of liberty, equality, and fraternity—values that he situated in India’s own ancient traditions, most notably in Buddhism. He was more of a secular rationalist than even Nehru, with a far more sophisticated sense of history, economics, and philosophy. This aspect of Ambedkar—rooted in a worldly, inclusive, scrupulously reasoned, secular and radical egalitarianism, coupled with a bracing focus on equal dignity and social justice as foundations for civil rights—still hasn’t received its due in mainstream scholarship and opinion. Which other leader of the 20th century is as relevant to every dream of a just, modern, liberal, secular, humane, and democratic society in India today?

April 13, 2017 /

“So where does your son work?” I asked; ‘Hajirabad’, replied Ghanshyam Thapa, a Nepali elder from Bhutankhuti village falling under Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). Confused initially, I said that it’s Hyderabad, in vain though. “Yes, that place – Hajirabad” replied Ghanshyam. Later it dawned in my mind that the apparent linguistic travesty of Ghanshyam Thapa inadvertently represented the stark reality of Bhutankhuti along with most of the villages of the region falling under Baksa district in Western Assam. Hajira in Assamese roughly translates in English as labour, hence as Hyderabad hosts a large number of migrants from northeast India, it becomes ‘Hajirabad’ to Ghyansam Thapa. Bhutankhuti is the last village in India before the Bhutan border; lying 21 km north of the National highway 31. A random interview in the households of the nearby villages, across the different communities would provide similar narratives of out migration.

April 11, 2017 /

Government assistance/intervention, from farm to store shelf, is crucial for the success of a product in our current predicament. Many local (agro-based) businesses which I have observed flounder after a while because they simply cannot survive the intense rigours of the competitive marketplace. It is nonsense to say that only the fittest products/brands shall survive because the winners of such competition are always backed up either by cash accumulated over many years or concessions made by governments themselves.

April 8, 2017 /

Various incidents of racism against people of African origin in India from the past are not isolated incidents, they stemmed from the deep rooted prejudice mindset of the majority of Indians. We condemn racial discrimination against anyone (particularly people of African origin) and caricatures people make by creating stereotypes like cannibalism and drug users/peddlers. These stereotypes are reflection of racist mindset which we, people from North East India are also at receiving end over and over again.

April 7, 2017 /

It was a standard and wonted response from an Indian politician when being confronted with questions on human rights abuses in Kashmir – unsophisticated, evasive, ahistorical and blame-shifting. MP Shashi Tharoor takes it to a new level through his disturbing conception of illusions that he tries to exhibit during a recent interview with Tim Sebastian, a Deutsche Welle journalist, who interviewed him on the subject.

April 6, 2017 /

Naturally, there are sexual relationships between men and women within activist spaces and organisations, but male entitlement combined with a privileged position, and a significant follower/comrade base provides a sense of dangerous impunity to these men. As a result of this, there are various cases of asymmetrical power relations between men and women, which translates into sexual harrassment at work and intimate partner abuse or both.

April 5, 2017 /

Those who eat beef partake in the infliction of momentary albeit lethal pain, lasting at the most a few minutes. Death might well be a relief for the cow, who otherwise might be left to fend for herself once she is past her prime. She might have to walk the streets, scrounge around in rubbish, eat paper and plastic (even in rural India), which ravages her entrails. Consumers of dairy products partake in and enjoy the results of torture on a mass scale. Perennially ropes are pushed up the typical Indian cow’s nose and round her neck and she is tied up in a confined space, left to wallow in her dung and urine: not for minutes or hours, but for days, weeks, months and many years.

April 4, 2017 /

Every year, in March, I have to listen to the same pseudo-technical verbosity at State and Central levels being reported across various media outlets. The Budget Session, it is clear from all the attention and scrutiny it receives, is by far the single most important Parliamentary session there is, and rightly so. Economic activities are the life-blood of society. Here in Meghalaya sadly, the only sheets we know are bed-sheets (which we buy with money which isn’t ours). The grim reality of the state balance sheets has not roused us from our slumber.

Africans in Delhi often get yelled at as kala bandar or habshi, invariably laughed at and ridiculed, sometimes denied something as basic as milk in stores, refused houses on rent and made to feel inferior on public transport, harassed by police as potential criminals and so on. Similarly, the array of racist discrimination that people from the Northeast face, includes everything from actual violence to persistent racist remarks like chinky or safed bandar, stares and at times sexual harassment. Women of both the “races” are popularly perceived as sexually “available”.

March 31, 2017 /

As I navigate my way through the substance of the everyday in Delhi, I become a specimen of strangeness, a piece of curiosity and sometimes, a trigger for disdain. While some sections formulate ideas of sub-oriental and exotic fantasies, some would try desperately to figure out my existence using theory, and the rest, through the sexiness of political love.

March 30, 2017 /

I was twenty-four, fresh out of University and eager to put my skills to the test. My first teaching assignment was at a private college where my cousin, upon hearing about my incursion to the relative unknown, jokingly remarked, “There are colleges for First Class students, so there must be colleges for Third Class and Simple Pass students as well. If there aren’t any of the latter, you and I can establish one. We will have many takers. ”

March 28, 2017 /

What probably were once scenic and beautiful rivers and streams have been reduced to smelly black waters, full of all denominations of solid waste conceivable and something which people only stop to consider, when they have the dire urge to urinate.

March 22, 2017 /

Dalit students talk not only of their social alienation in these elite spaces, but of their intellectual alienation. Why is it that we do not use moments like this to reflect on the very nature of our social sciences? Why is our academic and intellectual culture such that, despite writing of subaltern subjects, social stratification, caste, nationalism, resistance and oppression, it is not able to speak to a section of students in the class?

March 21, 2017 /

On 14th March, a local Assamese news channel – News Live, owned and managed by the wife of the most powerful Assam BJP minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, connected few dots with ‘creative journalism’ and went on a frenzy that a fatwa has been issued by 46 Muslim clerics against Nahid Afreen. Soon other local news channels jumped into the war of TRP. Soon came the two midnight tweets of Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal adding fuel to the fire.

March 20, 2017 /

Assam University Diphu Campus (AUDC), located 8th Km from the heart of Diphu Town, spread at 273 bighas with 10 academic departments. It offers Post Graduate degree up to the research level of M Phil and PhD. It is the only annexe campus of the Assam University, Silchar, and the only Campus in the Karbi Anglong, a hill-district of Assam. As such, the University campus offers the scope, apart from the students coming from other districts of Assam, to all the people living in Karbi Anglong, irrespective of caste, creed, religion or any other differences, to pursue higher education. However, despite almost a decade since its establishment in 2007, there has been negligible development of the campus in many crucial areas. Time and again, students have been brought to the edge of their patience and have attempted to raise their voices against the administration’s indifference to their grievances. Although a ‘central university’, in no way does the campus qualify as one.

March 17, 2017 /

In last few days there have been several attempts to create a dogma that Krish allegedly committed suicide for personal reasons, but this argument neglects the story of Krish’s life, his thoughts shared in different blogs and even the trajectory of earlier Dalit students suicide cases. Many Dalits students in different university campuses have committed suicide, but if the casteist institutions, upper-caste faculty and peers are responsible for continuously alienating the marginalised studies, equally responsible are we as Dalit organisations members, faculty and students for not being able to provide timely help to the needy students.

March 16, 2017 /

We are failing so many of our students, those who come to our universities with singular dreams sparkling in their eyes, when they enter they want to believe that such a place as they have wished to break into from far-flung places and rough homes is the one that will succour them and give them light and water to grow. Krish Rajini was a poet in his soul, not just a scholar, he rode among the clouds on his first ever plane journey from Hyderabad to Delhi and spilled words on to his Facebook that transformed effortlessly into poetry for the sheer radiance of his experience. And so we killed not just a budding scholar but a poet too.

March 15, 2017 /

After Irom Sharmila’s humiliating defeat in the recently concluded Manipur Assembly Elections, where she got only 90 votes, social media was filled with concerned citizens and activists going berserk, talking about how poorly this defeat reflected upon the new political culture of India. The idealism and politics of Irom Sharmila was put on a pedestal to an extent that people sitting far away from the rough and tumble of Manipur’s politics saw themselves as capable of pronouncing judgement upon the morality of the people of Manipur.

Looking at the recent episode in Ramjas College, and having had first-hand experience of the ABVP-fueled violence unleashed there, I am shocked and traumatized by the unbridled attack on the educational space that first drew me to this university. The whole idea of Indian nationalism articulated by these factions is so alien and vague to me. Personally, I grew up being exposed to a different kind of nationalism, that of my own community (Khasi), and my encounter with any form of Indian nationalism was confined to televised programmes on Republic Day and Independence Day or at the most, when an important member of a national political party visits to assist with local election campaigns.

March 13, 2017 /

In just two and a half months in 2017, Meghalaya has been in the national news for all the wrong reasons. Twenty-five reported cases of rape and sexual assault in the state is something that we should all be ashamed of. And yet, our very own ‘honourable’ public representatives shamelessly compete to prove who is guiltier and who is not.

March 11, 2017 /

Moms may or may not believe that the salt does anything amazing but she’s got to make a decision based on something for a product that is effectively a commodity. Some moms may be moved by the ‘Desh ka namakh’ tagline of Tata salt, some may be moved by the ‘natural’ tagline of the ITC salt, some may be moved by the ‘make your child smarter’.
And so let’s market to their emotional needs rather than the functional needs.
I’m beginning to think it’s the same for political parties.

March 11, 2017 /

What is dead in UP today is the damaging illusion that victims of Hindu Nazists ((Dalits, Muslims, OBCs, Modernising Women, the Left) can be busy fighting each other and Modi and BJP will fall on their own merely watching the ferocity of the fight among their victims

March 10, 2017 /

Having gone to the polls on 4 February, Goa is awaiting the results of the assembly elections with bated breath. Known to be pro-active in terms of exercising its democratic franchise, Goa’s 83 percent voter turnout was praised by all. The month-long wait for the results, however, is witnessing controversies around such issues as those of irregularities in the voting process through postal ballots, and the enrollment of around 600 army men as voters in the Navelim constituency. These controversies have cast doubts on whether elections in Goa were conducted in a free and fair manner.

Mamata Banerjee showed the way in how to fight fascists in mainstream political space. Unless dealt with in the streets, they will not budge. Mamata’s greatest political invention is her lumpen synthesis of means of law and means of lawlessness (utmost necessity in street fighting the fascists); she can traverse both realms smoothly, without falling under any. If anything, she had learnt from living as political activist under CPI-M’s totalitarian rule, it is that law is not aloof from the political deployment of human muscles in the streets. She knows that we have to invent a whole set of new constitutional measures, bordering between the formal and the informal, the violent and the non-violent, to save the Indian Constitution from its worst violators in authority.