Category: English

January 22, 2018 /

“Where are you going Bahdeng?” I asked a friend of mine who seemed excited and in a hurry. He said, “I got a new job, I’m in the business of collecting money”. Not sure and intrigued by the true nature of his new profession, I congratulated him and tried to get more details about it. He enthusiastically told me that I should join in, “It’s very profitable” he said, “Yesterday I told them my mother was sick, the other day I said my daughter was sick; you see, I’m in the business of collecting charity money from candidates contesting the upcoming elections and so far I’ve received Rs.10,000”.

January 16, 2018 /

Attacks on Dalits are often viewed only from the perspective of violation of their basic rights and dignity. A lot of attention this time has been paid to the political context of Dalit mobilization, and the recent state of their relation with the dominant Maratha caste in the area. Analyses from such perspectives often miss the actual elephant in the room, namely the caste Hindu society to whom their attackers belong, and from whose normative world they derive their justifications. Confronting this elephant is crucial at present.

January 15, 2018 /

Yes, we will be hospitable; yes, we welcome you; yes, we will host you; yes, we will feed you well; yes, we will offer you what we have, and yes, we will host you on our terms. Yes, to control of numbers to ecologically and otherwise sensitive areas.  Yes, to local guides, small business, shops and eating establishments.

January 12, 2018 /

If one was being parochial one would have only said that Kalikho Pul’s Suicide Note is one the most important literary sources to understand politics and governance in the North East of India (relevant parochial sections highlighted in green in the english translation). But this Suicide note is also a key public document which lifted the tattered veil of judicial incorruptibility (highlighted in pink in the english translation). Today when 4 senior most judges have broken ranks to point at the rot in the judicial system under the present CJI Mr. Dipak Misra, it is important to revisit the suicide note, for here was the fuse which finally ignited the firework today.

January 5, 2018 /

Mamata Banerjee should not have poked her nose with half-baked knowledge and make polarising statements like she did yesterday and that is what is highly condemnable. For anyone who is in the know of political developments in Assam, such wild statements are at the least laughable. Updating the NRC is an attempt at bringing a closure to the vexed foreigners’ issue in Assam, an issue over which thousands have lost their lives in Assam. Even though there are many daunting challenges after the final NRC is published and there are many loose ends to tie.

January 4, 2018 /

An aspect that I have come to associate with Shillong is nostalgia; a longing for a city that once was. This relates to the colonial past, when the city was less populated, greener and cleaner, but also to a more recent postcolonial past. Among middle-aged people – those I mainly socialise with – this longing is mainly for the city of their youth; a city prior to violence and protests, a peaceful and friendly place where you go to meet a friend or watch a movie late in the evening without fear. But as many of my interlocutors lament, this ended in the 1980s with increasing ethnic conflicts, curfews, rallies and underground activities. The past – the 1960s and 70s – appears as a time of innocence, freedom and possibilities in a world that was opening up. While I suppose it is a universal feature to cling to memories of the formative period of one’s youth, Shillongites seem especially besieged by a nostalgic mood, a collective commemoration of the past. That life for many in the city has improved materially doesn’t seem to alter such cravings for the city that once was.

December 30, 2017 /

Ia ka History ngi pule ym tang kum ka jingiathuh khana, hynrei ngi dei ruh ban pynshai shynna (interpret) ia ki jingjia history na kawei ka pateng sha kawei pat. Ki jingjia ha ka history ym dei ba ki iathuh ne kdew tang shaphang ka mynnor, khamtam eh ka History ka don ruh ban hikai bad pyrsad mynsiem thymmai ia ka mynta. Lada don ei ei ban kynmaw ia U Kiang Nangbah ka long kum u nongialam ha ka thma jong ki paidbah (Peoples rebellion).

December 27, 2017 /

First off, though you might be infested with con-men at any social strata depending on what it is they are after, it is generally a problem associated with the middle and upper classes. This is because these strata are easily impressed by fancy-sounding English words and preening talk especially related to big dreams and big bucks.

December 23, 2017 /

It doesn’t snow in my village,
Santa Claus is unfamiliar to us,
though we don’t get Christmas cake,
Yet Christmas is best in my village;

Reindeers don’t roam in our forest,
Exchanging Christmas gifts is not our tradition,
Bethlehem is a place we’ve never seen,
yet Christmas is best in my village.
[Khrismas Ye Niphulo pavi / Christmas is best in my village, a christmas song by Sumi Naga Choral group NAGAGENOUS]

December 22, 2017 /

Around a month and half ago, I was sitting in a restaurant in Cherrapunjee having lunch with my friend Raymond when a group of seven or eight tourists walked in. They asked at the counter, on their way in, if the place served vegetarian food, and on hearing it did, they took a table about 10 feet away from where we were sitting. Then someone at that table probably spotted me eating a leg of chicken. Immediately, all hell broke loose.

December 19, 2017 /

This is an election where BJP was made to fight. This is not just about using political firepower but unlike other elections, channels like Times Now, Republic TV and ZEE had to become an extension of BJP without not even a shred of neutrality in their coverage. Local Gujarati media also became increasingly partisan as elections progressed. The Parliament session was delayed, all the resources were diverted towards Gujarat. EC even delayed Gujarat elections and their excuse for the delay was very flimsy. The delay helped BJP to partly tide over the GST anger by reducing tax slabs for certain items.

December 17, 2017 /

Shillong was really cold at this time of the year. A walk past any row of houses would send fumes of burning coal into the nose-that comforting, slightly toxic smell which was reassuring in the still winters. It seemed the leaves of trees would make a crackling groan when the breeze lightly blew in the evening. The hens were nestled in their coops and the puppies were huddled on old sacks, hiding away their creamy bellies.

December 14, 2017 /

At the background of this piece lies the general political rage, moments frozen in heat, surrounding the developments that concern the overwhelming capitalistic, neo-liberalistic engagement of the non-queer population with the politics of the queer, and queer politics; one, the fact that the Transgender Person’s Bill 2016 is going to be tabled soon in the winter session of the parliament, and two, Presidency University, Kolkata, is going to witness its own version of the Pride as a part of its annual ‘fest’, Milieu 2018, both of which disturb me in their own ways.

December 13, 2017 /

Here is a place where it is a matter of pride to be casteist and a matter of pride to be against people who are not your own creed or clan. With relation to the current election, one thing I heard repeated over and over again by the people I met (privileged upper caste) was that Congress is a “Muslim” party and will bring back the riots of the 80s and we have already shown them their place on the other side of the river and we don’t want them back. 

December 12, 2017 /

The media is currently rife with the debate about the exorbitant billing made by a five-star hospital in Delhi to the father of a young girl who succumbed to her brief illness. But is it the right debate? Are those throwing stones at the hospital not the kind who go to private hospitals themselves? Is it okay if private care is affordable and not exorbitant? At an individual level, I do not and would not like to ever submit myself to private health care. It is because I believe that medical care must never be treated as a commodity and must be available to every human equally.

December 10, 2017 /

Without corresponding protective mechanisms for the workers of the unorganised sector, the Meghalaya Fifth Pay Commission is a recipe for further widening socio economic inequalities in Meghalaya. Unnoticed by many, Meghalaya Government’s ‘gift’ to 68,280 regular Govt Servants also includes plans for further contractualisation and informalisation of work in the state Government sector.

December 10, 2017 /

Many moons ago, as a 12 yr. old bookworm, I was allowed access to a cupboard full of books in my school. My father was posted in Jowai, a little town in Meghalaya where the marketplace, school, movie hall and police station were at walking distance from each other. With the nearest bookstore some more than 60 kilometers away in Shillong, that joy came occasionally. So when Sister Rose allowed me access to that cupboard, my joy knew no bounds! Her kind soul must have noticed my hunger for the written word and she decided to go out of her way and allow me this luxury. Among the old books, mostly donated from schools in the US and UK, I found a copy of The Room on the Roof. Thus began my tryst with Ruskin Bond.

December 6, 2017 /

There is always that unease that some of us feel on the 6th of December, for it is a reminder of the destruction of Babi Masjid in 1992. I was born in the early 1980s and this was the first major public event that made me realise that law and order, the constitution, the courts none of it mattered. The Hindus had asserted their willfulness against all appeals. There may have been a few thousand people in Ayodhya that day but I remember the excited chattering that I personally witnessed in the aftermath even down South. A lot of people were saying that they contributed in some way to this great adventure. Many supported it by saying that Ayodhya is the Mecca for Hindus. Every religion has one prime place of worship so Hindus should be given this place if they feel so strongly about it. As a nation, the unpleasant truth is that the destruction of the mosque was privately hailed, even celebrated by millions. The ethos of contemporary politics in India (or the lack of it) can be largely attributed to the destruction of this mosque.

December 5, 2017 /

“Ka Shillong, Ka Meghalaya – Jong Baroh / SHILLONG & MEGHALAYA BELONG TO ALL”
These words that appeared on placards by Shillong’s vendors at rally in June 2016. It carried a political message that is at the heart of demands for rights to livelihood and right to the city. In very plain terms the vendors stated that the city of Shillong, and the state of Meghalaya belongs to everyone. This message challenges dominant ideas of belonging in a city that has experienced decades of violence- both state and non-state- whose primary purpose has been to mark difference.

December 4, 2017 /

Just like the people in Amchang, the people in Sipajhar were also victims of river erosion. Their earlier generations moved from places like Jonia in Barpeta to escape poverty and river erosion. These people were further tricked into buying government land from the locals of Kuruwa. But there was no investigation on the multiple level of exploitation that these people faced. Merely accusing them of being illegal immigrants somehow provided impunity to those who torched their homes. Not a single person was brought to book for taking law in their own hands. One must ask if these are illegal immigrants, why weren’t they sent to detention camps for gradual deportation?

December 3, 2017 /

Sometimes, through no fault of its own, a neighbourhood picks up a bad reputation. If you happen to visit it on a singularly uneventful day, you will find it roofed with a blue sky, and dark-green pines and bamboos stooping to kiss its dusty road. And although it is true that love was made in all its wintry houses and its dead have been buried in its unruffled graveyard, you would never guess how it earned such a vague hatred from outsiders.

November 29, 2017 /

It is true that Bhupen Hazarika’s political views took a significant turn in his later life and in many ways he became the cynosure of conservative politicians of different hues. We should add to it our collective misfortune that there is no dearth of politicians in this country who can appropriate a cultural capital towards a political end and turn it to material/ military/ electoral gain

November 25, 2017 /

‘Chandal Jibon’ (2009) by Manoranjan Byapari 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.

November 24, 2017 /

NEHU needs a change, it needs a change in the mindset on how to tackle problems and figure out solutions. We cannot just leave NEHU believing it will get better because it won’t. Sexual harassment cases are piling up, and students are too afraid to even put forth a complaint because when they do, the teachers are at times reinstated, which does not make sense and speaks of complete injustice.

November 24, 2017 /

The opposition to Hadiya’s conversion and their marriage has not been created or sustained merely by the right-wing, but also by those who have either chosen to stay silent on the case or have actively aided and abetted the state in furthering their persecution, whether it is the LDF government, or the Women’s Commissions, national or at the state level. Many feminists have otherwise spoken about choice and agency, but who, facing the will of a 25 year old Muslim woman to question the established norms of the Hindu household and life-world, have fallen absolutely silent. When she and Shafin are being pushed into a dangerous web of state-backed and NIA-produced rumour mongering of indoctrination and larger patterns, what good is silence? What good is half-hearted conversations around her right to choose, when they are suffixed with a “but…”?

Assam has had a long and bloody history of ethnic violence arising from extremely complex reasons. Ethnic violence in Assam implicates cultural, political and economic aspects of relations between communities in ways that cannot be captured in a simple majority-minority, or a khilonjia-foreigner dynamic. Here, virtually every community has at one time or another been the victim as well as perpetrator of ethnic violence. And in the shadow of a militarized state, political antagonisms among various communities have often been shaped by the force of arms.

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.

November 21, 2017 /

Recently, a furious debate about ‘sexual harassment’ was initiated on social media, after a Dalit woman student brought out a list on Facebook accusing many powerful Indian male academics, many of them Brahmin, for being sexual harassers. Soon, certain upper caste feminists came forward with a statement that opposed the list, asking the anonymous complainants to pull it down and follow the ‘due process’ in dealing with sexual harassment. There was a huge uproar against this statement and younger women reproached the older feminists for espousing a Savarna feminism that sought to protect (Brahmin) men. Things have tempered down now after the appearance of a second list (this time posted from an anonymous Facebook account) in which many Bahujan scholars and student leaders of Bahujan movements were named as sexual harassers. This list too, it was claimed, was created by Dalit Bahujan women.

November 17, 2017 /

Unlike Meghalaya, in Japan cherry blossom culture is “natural”, it has been celebrated, in some form or the other, over hundreds of years. It didn’t grow out of a need to impress tourists or to be an “international” PR event. “International” is the new buzz word which hurts my ears! And then I have to ask, why cherry blossoms? Why not ‘sohphoh’ blossoms? (a member of the apple family found widely in the Khasi-Jaintia Hills) Those blossoms are quite beautiful as well. At least the hardy and indigenous ‘sohphoh’ gives you fruits as well. Many locals use it to make jams, preserves and ciders as well so I am for the ‘non-international sohphoh’.