Category: Culture

May 18, 2018 /

With grief in her usual frail voice she utters, “I saw the poverty with my own eyes; my Mother’s gold and silver ornaments had to be traded to make ends meet. I remember running from pillar to post for loans and to collect pending money. What other alternative we had? None! All of us left Wahlong for Shillong in the next few months after partition for the better or worse, while Dad persisted to stay back and supervise the remaining lands (certain portions of our land is in Bangladesh today). Our journey to Shillong was treacherous! We walked from Wahlong to Mawbang and then we finally took a bus to Shillong.”

May 14, 2018 /

Soso Tham refused to believe that a people with no evidence of a written history was without foundation or worth. He set out to compile in verse shared memories of the ancient past—ki sngi barim—presenting his people with their own mythology depicting a social and moral universe still relevant to the present day. For him the past is not a dark place but a source of Light, of Enlightenment. It may lie buried but it is not dead, and when discovered will provide the reason for its continued survival. Ki Sngi Barim U Hynñiew Trep is the lyrical result of dedicated devotion. It is an account of how Seven Clans—U Hynñiew Trep—came down to live on this earth.

May 4, 2018 /

Gillo Pontecorvo (1919–2006), whose masterpiece “The Battle of Algiers” (1966) remains the most perfect example of a ‘reconstructed realism’, the purest cinematic equivalent of Marx’s famous metaphor of the ‘life of the subject-matter’ being ‘ideally reflected as in a mirror’. What Pontecorvo set out to do was, in his words, ‘represent the irreversibility of a revolutionary process when a colonized people acquire consciousness of its identity as a nation’. And he did this so well that the film was boycotted by the French delegation at the Venice Film Festival in 1966 and banned for over three years in both France and England (till 1971).”

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 25, 2018 /

Born and brought up in Guwahati, I have a bond as deep as an umbilical cord with the city. Living outside the city and the state for almost fourteen years now, I have been through my academic and creative pursuits in the recent past, trying to explore non-mainstream narratives of Assam. This is a project that I embarked on since 2016 where I am trying to map the cityscape through my camera.

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 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 8, 2018 /

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. ” It was also the first time that I saw women in burqas

April 7, 2018 /

But of course it cannot be said that the fascists of any single nationality have a monopoly over the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of libraries. In 1943 the Nazis had ‘soaked each room of the Royal Society Library in Naples with gasoline and ignited them by throwing in hand grenades’, destroying about 200,000 books and manuscripts, ostensibly in retaliation for the shooting of a German soldier (Knuth, Libricide, p.53). More recently, in 2013, Islamist insurgents retreating from Timbuktu in Mali ‘set fire to a library containing thousands of priceless historic manuscripts’, according to the mayor of the town. The vast majority of those were in Arabic, others in Songhai, Tamashek and Bambara, showing just how much the self-styled protagonists of Islam (in this case, AQIM, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) care for the heritage of Islam itself.

April 7, 2018 /

Deep Choudhury’s debut venture Alifa is a story of a family’s struggle languishing in the margins. Young Alifa and her family lives in a hill overseeing the sprawling city of Guwahati. Her parents Ali and Fatima played by seasoned actors Baharul Islam and Jaya Seal work as daily wage labourers while she and her younger brother Faizal stay home or roam around in the wilderness. They go to the maktab and are waiting for a school to open in the vicinity to resume education. This family like many others living in the hill comprises of Muslims of East Bengal origin or ‘Miya’ Muslims. Hailing from Barpeta, they have lost their home and hearth to the Beki, a tributary of Brahmaputra.

April 4, 2018 /

On March 29, 2018, Mahesh Hegde, the founder of the alt-right online news site Postcard News was arrested by the Karnataka police and several sections of the Indian Penal Code were cited to justify the police action. Within a matter of hours many users of social media posted in joy and glee that action was taken against a much-despised site that often peddled fake news and radical opinions that were invariably pro-government, pro-Hindutva, often Islamophobic and xenophobic.

April 2, 2018 /

The recent speech in Hindi by the Chief Minister of Manipur on 28th March at Madhavpur fair held at Porbandar, Gujarat claiming Manipur and the entire Northeast region as a part of the Brahmanical cosmological universe dragged out from obscurity and obsoleteness, an old debate which have been dumped in the darkest abyss by generations of historians so that it does not find light again. The Indian state has not been very successful in nationalizing this recalcitrant region and its population, and successive governments have used different strategies to bring the region under their firm control. With successive electoral gains in the region, the ruling party has been emboldened to go ahead their master plan of submerging the entire country under one national identity. The Madhavpur Mela, organized by Ministry of culture in Gujarat to celebrate another mythical claim that Lord Krishna married an Arunachali princess, is a grand and a very expensive affair to bring the region and its population under the hegemonic Hindu nation.

April 1, 2018 /

Easter is one of those times of year when even the most irregular churchgoer can feel impelled to don their Sunday best and attend a service. This joyful highpoint of the Christian calendar – and the darker-toned days of the Passion which precede it – may not nowadays have quite the same all-pervading presence in the secular consciousness as Christmas. But this time of year has captured the imagination of composers through the ages – not least because the Church was one of the few steady employment options available for composers for centuries. The result has been some of the best-loved, most enduring, and most ethereally transcendent pieces in the choral repertoire.

March 31, 2018 /

The quaint hillside house was larger than it had looked from the outside and the first room led to a wide hallway. She coughed mildly as she entered the aisle, her footsteps disturbing the dust that had settled undisturbed for a long time. The dust was now dancing in spirals in thin sunbeams that seemed to magically cut across her. Her backpack felt heavy, so she slid it off and left it on the ground. There were two broken windows on the west of this long hallway, or maybe it was large enough to be a room.

March 30, 2018 /

Some Christians have a hard time reckoning with the reality of the crucifixion, and it is often glossed over in favor of the more dramatic (and positive) Resurrection on Sunday.  As solemn as Easter Sunday often is (at least in my family), it is usually easier for people to celebrate life than death. But the crucifixion is just as important as the resurrection.  They are two sides of the same Easter coin, and without a proper understanding of the crucifixion, we cannot hope to fully understand the resurrection.

March 27, 2018 /

One needs to constantly remind oneself of the impossibility of extrapolation especially when using few stories to stand in for the whole. For example, the reading of ‘Meitei women’ as ‘unique as they are deeply concerned about the society they live in and are involved in various social organizations,’ or ‘This little girl grew up, got married and like most Meitei women, got actively involved in social work.’ is remarkable in its lack of nuance and (mis) reading the parts for the whole.

March 19, 2018 /

The feminization of the Indian man via the Khasi garment (traditionally worn by women) is used as a tool to ridicule and shame the ‘outsider.’ Yet, it is also a matter of the local tribal folks manipulating and exploiting the tourism industry, and the commodification of cultures and cultural materials, because hey, we can sell whatever the Indian tourist is willing to buy, and trust us, he would buy anything which exudes the aura of exotic tribalism. Often, this comes with a complete lack of knowledge or the complete lack of a desire to acquire knowledge of the various people and places he visits in Meghalaya. But wait, isn’t this just a probably unprecedented but almost natural repercussion of the grand endeavour called Meghalaya tourism?

March 18, 2018 /

When she took an afternoon nap, 
she was tigerish: “You sons of a vagina!” she 
would snarl, “you won’t even let me rest for a moment, 
sons of a fiend! Come here sons of a beast! If I 
get you I’ll lame you! I’ll maim you! …Sons 
of a louse! You feed on the flesh that breeds you! 
Make a noise again when I sleep and I’ll thrash you 
till you howl like a dog! You irresponsible nitwits! 
how will I play the numbers If I don’t get a good dream? 
How will I feed you, sons of a lowbred?

March 3, 2018 /

Around 00:05 on February 19 2018, Indian armed forces shot dead Syed Habibullah after he allegedly “tried to enter the high security Air Force Station” in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district. The police spokesman said that the man, in his fifties, “appeared to be mentally challenged”—he was not wearing any footwear, had no winter clothing, and did not carry any identity card. Those who knew him told media-persons that “he used to roam from once place to another, not because he was mentally challenged but because he was distressed with extreme penury.” He was laid to rest in his native village of Soibug amidst pro-freedom slogans and clashes with the government forces.
 The name Habibullah translates as ‘the beloved of God.’

March 1, 2018 /

Black Panther, apart from its spectacular reconstruction of an “Afro-future, also encapsulates the reality of indigenous societies of North East India succinctly. I don’t think there is any other popular movie in recent times than Black Panther that has engaged with the questions of modernity and oppression. It may have its problems (after all it is a movie) but the message of Black Panther needs reflection.

February 28, 2018 /

After almost a year of rigmarolic churning of volcanic events – from vandalism, to criticism, to criticism of the vandalism and criticism, and finally full-throated endorsement – Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat seems to have reached a moment of critical enervation, triggering an intellectual sluggishness of monolithic and polar responses. The film, and its legal and extra-legal instances of censorships fomented such frenzied passions that almost all sides of the political spectrum, from the right to the center to the liberal-left to the left…

February 21, 2018 /

If Asma’s vision for Pakistan had ever become a reality, it would be a much better place. But it is hard to talk about dreams. It is the reality of a country which shapes who we make of ourselves. Throughout her life, Asma stood with the oppressed and the marginalized, whether they be women, religious minorities, brick kiln workers or peasants. Asma, like her father, was on the wrong side of Pakistan’s historical consensus.

February 18, 2018 /

We speak Mnar in Jirang, a language so different, mutually unintelligible from Khasi. My training in linguistics tells me this is a different variety of the Khasian languages. There are several of them. While we share so many of the ways in which we talk about the world, about our experiences of it, languages are also different. To call a language a language and to mark variances as dialects, is a political process and very often do not do justice to the variants. If we look at Norwegian and Swedish, they share many more similarities than Standard Khasi and Mnar, and yet they are languages, because they are spoken in different countries. So for historical reasons and political reasons, Standard Khasi has become “the Language”, and all the others, dialects.

February 14, 2018 /

Northeast India is littered with concrete. From winding flyovers to towering churches on village hillsides to surveillance towers housing paramilitary forces, concrete is an integral to the region’s urban and rural landscapes and everything in in between. What can all this concrete tell us? What stories does it open up? What can questions about politics, power, development, and culture concrete rais

February 13, 2018 /

Such videos which claim to address the issue of ‘women’s safety’ post the 16th December 2012 rape are fantastic in their myopia, and deeply offensive, and need to be challenged. In this video, the juxtaposition of the narratives of primarily upper class and upper caste women with random shots of working class men in public spaces, is unacceptable, and adds to reinforcing the construct of working-class men as the only and markedly, perpetrators of sexual violence. It is horrible how in this video, the narrative of privileged women’s experiences that include never daring “to take public transport at night” or talking about “backward mentality” and “patriarchy” are repeatedly counter-posed with random visuals of working-class men going about their daily lives, whether in the sabzi mandi or waiting for passengers in their e-rickshaws or travelling in the back of a truck together.

February 11, 2018 /

RAIOT is pleased to publish this second extract from ‘Chandal Jibon’ (2009) by Manoranjan Byapari. ‘Chandal Jibon’ is the story of Jibon, a boy born into the hitherto ‘untouchable’ Chandal (or Namasudra) community in East Bengal, whose parents flee from East Pakistan and arrive as refugees in India. The story of the boy’s journey to adulthood – is also the story of the experience of the subaltern Bengali refugee community and of caste oppression, humiliation and violence, providing a trenchant bottom-up view of post-1947 Bengal and of Calcutta in the turbulent Naxalite era. It is an epic tale of the indomitable human will to survive.

February 9, 2018 /

The freedom to express and art’s license remain paramount and need to be protected; as a collateral risk, one ends up endorsing even films which valorise and romanticise abominable ‘values’… I take this chance to introduce you to a less-known terrain… a film by the name Tango Charlie, directed by Mani Shankar, a self-proclaimed anti-war film

February 7, 2018 /

On 22 January, on the day of Saraswati Puja, two girls were photographed buying alcohol from a wine shop in Assam. The photograph not only went viral on social media, but also became subject to a news on a popular news channel, News Live, attracting unwanted attention and creating a hullabaloo among the self-professed guardians of Assamese national culture. Assam has been a regular witness of such events.

February 6, 2018 /

Nearly eleven years after the infamous attack on the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University of Baroda and the arrest and brief incarceration of the student Chandramohan S. and the suspension of the then in-charge Dean, Shivaji K. Panikkar, on 2nd of February 2018 we bear witness to an uncanny event that unfolded in the Vice-Chancellor’s cabin of MSU. Chandramohan had allegedly set fire to the office of the vice chancellor as a marker of his self-consuming frustration resulting from the institutional violence inflicted on him by denying him the basic dignity as a human being.