Category: Culture

October 20, 2017 /

We have almost become numb to the many lynchings that happen on a regular basis in India these days, especially of Muslim citizens (men, mostly). But, the lynching of a Manganiyar musician was almost like a personal affront. I have had a memorable encounter with the Manganiyar or Merasi community in 2014 and I always wanted to write about them. I never knew of their caste structures and hierarchies till I visited them in their village. I am just going to write here about this Merasi musician, Dapu Khan, and my encounter with him. The Merasis are the voice of the desert, they have been and will remain so.

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 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 7, 2017 /

The man was arrested because he laughed.
He laughed at a time when laughing had been strictly prohibited. It was an unusual time, when people were not supposed to laugh, or even open their mouths. They were only meant to listen; it was only a select few who would do all the talking while everyone else simply listened – that was the rule in those days.

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 /

Gauri Lankesh was one of the Karnataka’s most prominent and fearless journalist. She was shot dead outside her house in Bengaluru on the night of 5th September, 2017. Gauri spoke out against communal forces in the Country and represented dissent and freedom of speech. The film is more than a personal tribute and follows her political journey, envisaging what she stood for and her struggle for communal harmony until her last breath. And her life story has become the history of Karnataka’s fight against right-wing communal forces.

September 22, 2017 /

Ali Shariati was throughout his life a deeply committed Muslim but his Shi‘ism was of a radical, revolutionary type, thoroughly anti-clerical in its opposition to what he called ‘Safavid Shi‘ism’ (as opposed to his own ‘Red Shi‘ism’), the kind of Islam that disarmed the masses through its passive complicity with the ruling classes. Given that in modern Iran the clergy depended on the financial support of the richer merchants (bazaaris), Shariati’s ‘visceral contempt for the bourgeoisie’ extended to the ulama as well. His lectures and writings enraged the clerics, especially the influential group that saw in Khomeini the true face of the ‘revolutionary’ movement against Muhammad Reza Shah, and led to repeated fatwas condemning him after the revolution.

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

September 15, 2017 /

Tagging two of his friends, Mizanur Rehman, a young primary school teacher of Naskara Lower Primary School in lower Assam’s Dhubri district, uploaded a photograph in the morning hours of 15th August on his Facebook timeline. The photograph featured an elderly man, a male adolescent, and two toddlers saluting the fluttering Indian flag while murky flood waters rose upto their chest, threatening to engulf their salutations. By afternoon, most people had seen and shared the post, the image itself had been catapulted to the heavenly skies of social-media circulation. Detached from the original context, it moved freely as a lone object.

September 12, 2017 /

There is a famous Khasi middle class story about selfishness and it goes something like this. There were a number of crabs in a bucket and they were all destined to become dinner at some point in time. The crabs knew about this and they realised that they needed to escape this horrible fate. The story goes on to tell us about how one of the crabs had somehow managed to get a firm grip on the rim of the bucket and was proceeding to pull himself out to the relative safety of the outside world. However, just as he was about to complete his great escape, the other crabs resorted to pulling him back down to the bottom of the bucket. He was, thus, doomed like the rest.

September 8, 2017 /

Journalists play a unique and pivotal role in every society and must be able to do their work without interference from the state. But as the boundaries between journalists and nonjournalists continue to erode and any meaningful definition of journalism becomes more and more elusive, journalists have to recognize that their rights are best protected not by the special realm of “press freedom” but rather by ensuring that guarantees of free expression are extended to all.

September 6, 2017 /

We are curious about why the government wants to block our website. A traveling arts project is not exactly threatening the status quo. Further, curiosity and engagement with processes of identity construction is necessarily an open-ended process. There is no in-advance condemnation of any particular party, politician or any social group. From concerns about language, to food habits, to religion, marriage, divorce, clothing, color of skin and other minutiae of public and private life, identity has acquired weight if you live in India.

September 1, 2017 /

Dogs mean different things in Naga society: pet, companion, food, medicine, guard, spirit sensors, thief catchers and cat chasers. They also feature centrally in the most famous origin myth about the Naga script, which is connected to identity and language. According to legend, a dog ate the Naga script written down on animal skin, and from that day onwards, Naga tradition and knowledge has only been received and shared orally. The relationship between dogs and people in Naga society is an intimate one, and is integral to everyday lives. Dog meat has been part of Naga cuisine for a long time, yet, before dishes started to appear on restaurant menus and before vendors starting selling the meat in the market place, there was no debate or national campaign to ban dog meat.

August 31, 2017 /

It has become commonplace in India to try to invalidate any concerns expressed by liberals regarding atrocities committed against minorities, such as Muslims, or Dalits, with a technique known as “Whataboutery.” This technique, used by people from the Hindu right wing, involves putting the liberals on the defensive by aggressively questioning them as to whether they were or are as concerned about injustices done to the majority community, and implying that since they have not shown the same passion regarding injustices suffered by the majority Hindu community, their concerns are inadmissible.

August 30, 2017 /

It was not that all of grandma’s tales about Partition were bitter. One in particular was of extreme generosity and gratitude. The hero of this tale was the son in law of the same sister, the husband of her niece. This gentleman was employed in a government office in Lahore. When grandma was trapped alone with her daughter in her house in a Muslim majority neighbourhood, it was this gentleman who arranged for and came with a military truck to move her to the main refugee camp of Lahore, no doubt with considerable threat to his own life.

August 29, 2017 /

Food as cultural identity in regards to dog meat is an under researched area in South Asia or places where dog meat is consumed; in the case of Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram- consumption of dog meat is very much in their cultures (for some it is a choice) and can be counted as an expression of their cultural identity. When practice like this happens in places like Delhi, it is meted with sneering and disgust from the pedestal of high moral ground.

August 22, 2017 /

A few months back as I was laying out the table of contents for a magazine I publish on Asian art, culture and spiritual traditions, I inserted the names of two Sufi writers. On spotting the Muslim names, one of the volunteers, a white woman in her late sixties launched into an unhinged rant, claiming Sufi writers were in fact Jihadis in disguise, and accused me of enabling terrorists to invade and conquer Hindu lands.

August 21, 2017 /

When we were sitting in the park in Surya Nagar, I had asked him about the title conferred on him by a magazine – The Henri Cartier Bresson of India. I had a feeling that he doesn’t enjoy the title much and he insisted on being called as the S Paul of India, if referred to as anything apart from his name. Most of us would kill to be compared on that scale yet Paul wasn’t.

August 17, 2017 /

The Hindutva ideology, much like other fundamentalist undercurrents would have us deny the humanism of Manto and the syncretic traditions of Husain. It is in this context that the Partition themed fiction provides an effective counter-narrative to all efforts at social engineering. It need hardly be mentioned that the absence of an effective political discourse challenging the RSS-BJP combine, willing to transcend the secular-communal binary, mandates a search for a different language sensitive to past history and cognizant of our own failures.

August 15, 2017 /

My mother once told me a story
Of when she was a little girl, 
How the entire village huddled up inside a church, 
When the bombs dropped. 
And the surprise checking they endured
My grandmother would pick her up
And carry her on her back
Praying they would not rape mothers and children.

August 1, 2017 /

Having been in the Tourism Sector in North East India since 1997, I feel I do have a little to say regarding the topic and the direction it is going. This piece of writing may offend some, may wake up some, or may even turn some against me; some may even think I write out of jealousy: let it all be – I point out things because they are in the context of the topic. When I write or speak I do not try to say I know best, I believe in debate, strong views and discussion, therefore I often say what I feel, in the belief that it will not only make my own mind think in the broader perspective but also hope that others will think. It is not a put down to others who are doing things differently, it is a question, as I believe others can question me.

July 31, 2017 /

The college authorities decided one day that they needed to ask women students not to wear skirts above the knee, and to ban students from smoking on the college grounds. The Vice Principal came to our classroom to make this announcement: its effect was marred considerably by the sight of Eunice at the back of the room, pointedly lighting up a cigarette with a trademark look of ironic amusement on her face.

July 31, 2017 /

Since the Supreme Court order to play the national anthem before every movie screening was passed on 30th November 2016, I have been to three movies but have never once stood up. It is not that I am protesting something. Unlike say Colin Kaepernick’s protest in the US I do not want to draw attention to anything. But while twice before I had not stood up and nobody in the cinema hall with me seemed to mind or at least outright complain, this time the man sitting next to me minded very much.

July 30, 2017 /

A. Have you read the new Arundhati Roy?
B. No. I’m not a fan.
A. Oh, OK. Didn’t you like ‘The God of Small Things’?
B. Um, it was OK. I felt like she was trying very hard to be different and clever.
A. Is it? In what way?
B. Her use of language for one thing. I found it too self-consciously inventive. And I also feel she tends to fetishize the tragic.

July 30, 2017 /

Where do I belong?
In this city that is too old
In those hills that are too cold 
Or America
But I am no burly Polish dissident 
Nor of cultivated Bengali intellect 
Or a Punjabi with a partitioned wallet 
Only a rough diamond with festers and sores 
Shall I then go to Surat? 

July 29, 2017 /

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…