Category: Words

September 18, 2018 /

Every year on 18th September, Khasi & Jaintia Hills gets a public holiday for Unitarian Day, a day when Hajom Kissor Singh Lyngdoh Nongbri led the first real Unitarian church service in his home in Jowai in 1887. Apart from the small and influential population of Khasi-Jaintia Unitarians for whom the day has historical and personal meaning others just enjoy the holiday without knowing the historical significance of the Day. For a small faith group worldwide as well as locally, Unitarians suffer from ignorance of society at large. Are Unitarians Christians? What do Unitarians believe in? What does Unitarian mean? So here it goes – a short guide to Unitarianism for you to read this 18th September.

September 13, 2018 /

Being different is no crime. Being gay is not a sin. And for a gay person to desire and pursue love and marriage and family is no more selfish or sinful than when a straight person desires and pursues the very same things. The Song of Songs tells us that King Solomon’s wedding day was “the day his heart rejoiced.” To deny to a small minority of people, not just a wedding day, but a lifetime of love and commitment and family is to inflict on them a devastating level of hurt and anguish. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates that Christians are called to perpetuate that kind of pain in other people’s lives rather than work to alleviate it, especially when the problem is so easy to fix. All it takes is acceptance. The Bible is not opposed to the acceptance of gay Christians, or to the possibility of loving relationships for them. And if you are uncomfortable with the idea of two men or two women in love, if you are dead-set against that idea, then I am asking you to try to see things differently for my sake, even if it makes you uncomfortable. I’m asking you to ask yourself this: How deeply do you care about your family? How deeply do you love your spouse? And how tenaciously would you fight for them if they were ever in danger or in harm’s way? That is how deeply you should care, and that is how tenaciously you should fight, for the very same things for my life, because they matter just as much to me. Gay people should be a treasured part of our families and our communities, and the truly Christian response to them is acceptance, support, and love.

September 11, 2018 /

Yes, you heard it right. After a whole lot of brainstorming and deliberation we decided that all of you must refrain from using the category ‘Dalit’, for the official nomenclature is ‘Scheduled Caste’ and that must be used at all times, especially when communicating matters publicly. Not to say that we like you being Scheduled Caste either. Remember RohithVemula! Despite our best efforts in denying his Scheduled Caste identity, his being Dalit prevailed and eventually proved that he was a born scheduled caste. So we of course know that being a scheduled caste is a lot to deal with too, but being a Dalit is an entirely different story, which is increasingly becoming our everyday nightmare. Therefore, just don’t use this word anymore. Besides, scheduled castes – it’s quite a mouthful, so let’s say SC – an intrusion into our state of profound bliss and absolute peace, that continues to remind us that the state ought to make policies for your betterment, because you know the constitution! It’s difficult to make head or tail of this book, anyway.

September 10, 2018 /

The feeling sank into my stomach like a stone. This wasn’t the city of my childhood vacations anymore. Had I grown up so quickly as to quietly absorb this pinching away of the dearest part of my treasure of memories? Or was this gross erasure an external change taking everything and everyone over elsewhere as well as in the city? I wasn’t so corrupted with knowledge then as now. As any child of eleven, I too didn’t bother to explain or philosophise. I only felt the difference with my senses: the cattle-touched smell of earth was gone; and it had taken with it a school-ridden child’s hyacinth and vine-covered paradise of her imagination and escape. I had lost something irretrievably. And it wasn’t even my fault.

September 5, 2018 /

We, a group of alumni of IIT Kanpur and others as students, researchers, faculty, staff and other community members affiliated with the same institute strongly condemn the arrest of IIT Kanpur alumna Sudha Bharadwaj (Integrated MSc., Mathematics, 1979-1984) and other activists namely, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha and Varavara Rao, and the raiding of houses of Anand Teltumbde, K. Satyanarayana and Stan Swamy among many others. These arrests seem to be a mere sequel in an ongoing attempt to intimidate and arrest activists, eminent writers, professors, journalists, and human rights defenders around the country.

September 5, 2018 /

Newspapers recently reported that acting on a West Bengal Notification from 2014, Presidency University is going to seek permission to begin the process of “dereserving” its seats. For many, this may be the first time they have heard such a term. Even a cursory reading of the stipulation sits at odds with the language of affirmative action. The term “unavoidable” seems to suggest as if reservations are a burden on academic institutions.

September 4, 2018 /

In a country where more than 91 per cent of news coverage on the Maoist conflict in Chhatisgarh is state-driven, particularly in the national English media, there were no accounts or voices of the Adivasi inhabitants of Nalkatong in whose village the encounter took place. Nor was there any follow-through or accounts of the women who ran behind the tractor that was carrying the dead bodies, unceremoniously stuffed into black plastic bags. The women went first to Konta and then to Sukma where the post mortems took place. Who were the dead and who were these grieving families who milled around the roads of Sukma?

September 2, 2018 /

Once the guests entered and we (the students of the North East) wanted to enter the Koyna Mess, were blocked right at the gate by ABVP representatives working alongside the security guards. Moreover, when we were about to enter, most of us heard the term “Naxalites” being thrown at us.
The ABVP screamed at us, that we were “security threats”. The representatives also pushed and pulled the students at the forefront of the gathering. We were manhandled. They did not allow us to enter, calling us “Naxalites”. It was in this moment when the students immediately and collectively decided to sit down outside the event and continued with our silent protest.
After a while, a few representatives of ABVP came outside to tell us that they will ‘allow’ us inside but without our posters which were our signs of resistance. It was then that we collectively demanded an apology from the ABVP for calling us “Naxalites” and “security threats”, which they outrightly denied.

September 2, 2018 /

You are told you write depressing poetry
You answered “The trick is to read newspapers incessantly”
You didn’t tell them “The trick is to feel every death in your bone”
The familiar blackout is not because of load shedding, now it is your choice because electricity is prepaid.
In another time I am sure
they’ll treat you with electricity
coursing your skin or maybe they did.

August 31, 2018 /

This Hindu Fascist emergency will never be officially declared; it need not be. Emergency is the constituent aspect of fascist politics. Indira’s formal emergency was a limited response to an unfolding of a crisis, that actually threatened the survival of the Indian State. Modi’s informal emergency is an unlimited reaction to create a crisis against democratization of Indian society, that threatens the survival of the caste system.

August 31, 2018 /

In 2018, the musical North, West, East and South of Shillong have all combined to give us this very talented group of young musicians whose EP ‘Tempted’ is out now in all the world’s digital stores. They call themselves Blue Temptation and comprise, at some point or the other, Gregory Ford Nongrum, his elder brother El Nathan Ford Nongrum, Shepherd Najiar, Manavon Massar and Vincent Tariang (also of Soulmate). These five young men encapsulate Shillong’s old histories and musical geographies but, as they should, also burn them to the ground. Greg, El Nathan and Shepherd (Shep) are from ‘the West’ but they barely remember the Highway Band anymore and their journey into the blues was as simple and complex as the music itself. Manavon is a keyboard player/sound system blaster/DJ from the ‘Roots Region’ and his dreadlocks and patois, are therefore quite historically grounded. Vincent too is a direct descendant of the ‘Roots Region’ and I’m sure, his father Rudy Wallang must’ve played a small part in his love for the blues.

August 30, 2018 /

Recent analyses of real voter data as well the Lokniti-CSDS-ABP Mood of the Nation survey have shown that the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are losing popularity at an alarming pace (for them). This means that we are entering dangerous times. There will be ruthless and continuous attempts to divert attention from the reasons for this loss of popularity, and to fracture the growing solidarity of the opposition. It will be a continuous circus from now to the elections—arrests, assassinations, lynchings, bomb attacks, false flag attacks, riots, pogroms. We have learned to connect the season of elections with the onset of all kinds of violence. Divide and Rule, yes. But add to that—Divert and Rule. From now until the elections, we will not know from when, and where and how the fireball will fall on us, and what the nature of that fireball will be.

August 29, 2018 /

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) Condemns Arrests of Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha and Varavara Rao. WSS strongly condemns targeted attack on democratic rights activists, blatantly retributive actions of Maharashtra Police and demands immediate and unconditional release of all arrested activists, lawyers, writers and journalists. 

August 29, 2018 /

Marriage is an important social institution, which has been closely linked to the mating patterns of primitive societies. Marriage is what determines the nature of familial relationships in a society. As such, it must be understood that it is not entirely a private affair, especially when viewed in the context of a country like India, where the family as an institution, has a say in the minutest of details, including the selection of a suitable partner. In fact, the question of marriage, has become such a sensitive topic, that even the state has taken it upon itself to be involved. A particular example, is taken from Meghalaya, India, where a government organization has proposed a bill that seeks to redefine the identity of a woman who chooses to marry outside the community that she belongs to. Given such an interweaving of external factors and the question of love, we clearly see how Game Theory can help provide an answer.

August 27, 2018 /

27/08/2018, it was really shocking for me to read the local dailies. According to Bah H. S. Shylla, esteemed CEM of KHADC, his proposed  amendment to Khasi Social Custom of Lineage Act 1997, preventing marriages between Khasi women and Non-Khasi Men by stripping Khasi women of their Khasi status was:
“aimed at protecting the community from the imminent threat of deadly diseases such as HIV-AIDS which are through marriage with bus and truck drivers from outside the state, migrant workers including drug addicts.”

August 24, 2018 /

This article focuses on practices among us—that is, among seemingly liberal, educated Savarnas who seem to decry casteism in theory, in principle, and even in practice (i.e. academically-transmitted critiques bolstering our claims to caste innocence). But, we are simultaneously deeply invested in unseeing, denying, deflecting or defending our casteist practices in everyday and institutional life. My goal is to highlight these practices of denial and deflection as acts of caste terror and I want to suggest that everyday caste terror and everyday claims to caste innocence are two sides of the same coin, both of which help liberal savarnas project upper caste castelessness.

August 22, 2018 /

The thrust of the Bill was to ensure that there is purity of race (a discarded concept) by forbidding marriages outside the community. But by leaving out Khasi men marrying non-Khasi women the cat got out of the bag. Racial purity (supposed) is going to be disturbed if any foreign element is brought in. It doesn’t matter whether it’s from the men’s side or the women’s. The answer to this dilemma was given by one of the panellists in one of the TV debate held on the issue. “The problem doesn’t arise because the seed comes from the man” argued by one who was in support of the bill. Not surprisingly it was a man who said it.

August 21, 2018 /

Celebrated historian (and obviously a Stephenian) Ramachandra Guha, in his article “The shrinking of St. Stephen’s,” in Hindustan Times claims that, ‘the galloping Christianisation of [his] old college has hurt its image badly.’ He emphasizes ‘concern’ over the increasing numbers of Christians in the institute, especially after the Supreme Court’s judgement, that gave St. Stephen’s the right to admit up to 50% students from its founding community – the Christians. This quite surprises me, coming from a respected intellectual. In what follows, I mention few things why Guha’s opinion downplays certain issues at hand.

August 20, 2018 /

The flash-point was reached when a team of women belonging to an NGO performing a play in Kochang, a remote part of the district where the rogue militia of PLFI – People’s Liberation Front of India – rules the roost, were allegedly raped. The general impression in the state is that PLFI is a creation of the state police, to counter the Maoists who are said to be on the decline in Jharkhand, if the claims of the government are to be believed. The government quickly blamed the Pathalgadi leaders for the alleged gangrape. Without producing any evidence, it chose to tar the entire movement by the tribal population fighting for its rights. In an instance of terrible chicanery and perfidy, the local media parroted the allegations without making any background checks of its own. 

August 20, 2018 /

It was in 2006 when I awoke to misogyny in the Khasi community. It happened rather innocuously. I was seated in one of the lawns of the North Eastern Hill University, Shillong Campus when a group of male scholars stationed themselves next to me. Because I was quiet and unassuming back then, this group of men did not notice my presence. A conversation ensued in which I was the fortunate (or unfortunate) eavesdropper.
“For my part,” one of the men began. “If a woman were to offer me sex, I would go ahead and enjoy the ride. But where marriage is concerned te, I will opt for a virgin.”
“That’s true,” another one agreed.

August 19, 2018 /

JUNE 2002.
IT IS raining on the morning he leaves Shillong. It has rained for the past three days, alternating between drizzle and downpour. He looks out of the bathroom window as he brushes his teeth—grey skies, rain, pine trees on the far hills, red tin roofs—and feels an indefinable sadness in his heart. He quickly bids farewell to his mother and brother and walks through the rain with his bag to the car where his father waits.
He is dropped off at Police Bazar where a long line of Guwahati-bound Tata Sumos wait for passengers, their engines idling. A swarm of young touts encircle him as he gets down from the car; he allows one of them to lead him to the second Sumo in the line. He clambers into the last row where there is just one person at the moment.

August 15, 2018 /

There are political rights; a government is set up in the land. Democracy functions with total success. An election is held every five years. But for the people in this land there are no names. So for the nameless citizens the nameless representatives govern the land of the half-humans. Because whether to give human names to the head or to the body — no one can decide. A land such as this is very much in the news, a land much talked about.

August 13, 2018 /

This might seem like a remote debate of little significance to most people. But names have power. There is a huge difference to the story of humanity if we are living in the Meghalayan Age that makes no mention of the human impact on the environment – or in the Anthropocene Epoch which says human actions constitute a new force of nature. The Meghalayan Age says the present is just more of the same as the past. The Anthropocene rewrites the human story, highlighting the need for planetary stewardship.

August 13, 2018 /

The left-wing movements championing greater inclusion are plainly very different from right-wing ones keen on reinforced or increased exclusion. But despite their profound differences, they have one thing in common: they claim to represent a supposedly victimised popular majority, “the people”.
Exactly who these “people” actually are is far from clear. All sides are embroiled in an ongoing struggle to determine how to define which populations count and which do not. Lost in the public outcry regarding populism is a deeper conflict over who matters socially, economically and politically.

August 10, 2018 /

Is there a higher Rate of Exclusion from NRC in Bengali Hindu dominated Districts of Assam? In absence of official disaggregation of the 4 million left out of the Final Draft of NRC, grassroots activists and senior journalists have been crunching local data and discovering some surprising trends. Assam has 33 Districts presently, of which 10 districts have a more than 50% Muslim population. However, other than Darrang, all other, nine, Muslim dominated districts of Assam are seeing lower percentage drop rates from the NRC draft list as compared to other Districts with a lesser Muslim population… This overall situation has created trepidation, fear and dis-satisfaction amongst the state leadership of BJP.

August 10, 2018 /

There was a time when people from the Northeast, settled and studying in different cities of the country would call home for one reason only, to talk about their cravings for home food. Home was then, a place tucked very far away, and a chance of visiting home was awfully hard to come by. However, things have been slightly different in the past few years with the growth of the Northeast stores in Delhi.

August 9, 2018 /

Though political schisms exist between tribal political subjectivity and forces representing Assamese ruling elites, yet both tribal and non-tribal people of Assam consider continued migration into Assam as a shared problem that must be adequately addressed.
There is no correct political position to be assumed on this issue, except the one which aims at addressing long standing historical demands without resulting in mass displacement and injury to anyone. More than anything, at this particular juncture, one has to be careful about the BJP and the communal forces it is willing to unleash.

August 9, 2018 /

“I have been hearing the euphoria of the Gorkhaland movement since my childhood days but never experienced the reality of the movement. My blood boils when my ancestor narrates me the story of humiliation and suppression that Nepalis has been living under the regime of Bengal government. I become rebellious and agitated when I heard of 1986 movement’s (chyasi ko andolan) story where thousands of Gorkhalis have sacrificed their lives for the sake of their motherland. But I feel embarrassed again when I think of the leaders and their petty political interest because of which we failed always” said one of my friends, Dewan when he was drunk.

August 8, 2018 /

DNA tests would suggest a truly pure “Khasi” as an impossibility, giving how people constantly mix with each other through migration, immigration and so on. This makes “Khasi” an abstract, a notion we built in our minds that may somehow, find a place in our hearts (figuratively, of course).
In realising this, one finds that “Khasi-ness” as defined by the “Khasi jingoists”/ “Khla Wait Ka Ri” makes it corrupted, toxic and deplorable. To them, “Khasi-ness” attains a divine status that further implies the delusional belief of “Khasi” as a superior race. For these Khla Wait to sustain the delusional superiority in being “Khasi”, it almost seems necessary to instil fear and hatred of the “non-Khasi” through lies, propaganda, and punishments.

August 7, 2018 /

The Bakarwal tribe is a Muslim nomadic pastoral tribe in Jammu and Kashmir also found in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is one such tribe which is facing numerous challenges which are posing a threat not only to their livelihood but also puts into question their existence. Following is an interview conducted on a pleasant evening as part of my study on the tribe exploring the lives of Bakarwals, a tribe which came into the limelight after the Kathua rape case.

August 6, 2018 /

The idea that races are part of our existence and daily experience, especially those of us living in multicultural societies, seems to be just taken for granted by many people. But are races real or simply social/political constructs? Is there any scientific evidence they exist in humans? Or are some scientists just being politically correct in denying their existence?

August 5, 2018 /

Members of my father’s house, languages mix like the marriage of clattering utensils. Members of the house, you folded your mats and gave yourself up to another religion. Members of the house, let us not pretend that we are one thing and one thing alone. Together we brewed in the cauldron of that kitchen or have you chosen to forget? We will never be just one thing again. Never again will there be enough to burn to purify the impure in us.

August 4, 2018 /

Nagamese has been for close to a century and a half the lingua franca of the people of Nagaland and parts of Assam. A hybrid of Naga languages, all of which belong to the Tibeto-Burman family and Assamese, an Indo-European language, Nagamese occupies a distinct space in the region and plays a unique role serving as a connector between the various Naga tribes. It also facilitates communication between the Nagas and the Assamese. To understand the origins of Nagamese, it is essential to briefly dip into the history of the Nagas as a people and the history of their contact with the Assamese.

August 2, 2018 /

Citizenship lists are not like census data collection, population transfers are not like displacements of development projects, dislocations, and relocations and statelessness such demographic engineering projects, basically the fantasies-turned-policies “cumulatively radicalize”, until the point of no return when the only rational solution to the mess created is to dispose of the people off the horizon.

August 2, 2018 /

Some Q & A on NRC. Might sound repetitive and self evident . But people need to be told, because some know too little, some know it all wrong and some are deliberately being informed all wrong…

Bottom line is that there are complexities in this country that cannot be fit into ideological straightjacket or ready to serve linear narratives. Should the empathy for the stateless (although let us remember 40 lakh is a ‘draft figure’, yet to be finalised and there is no ‘official’ position on the ‘punitive measures’ to be taken) not essentially co-exist with empathy and concern for those coerced into sharing resources and habitats to waves and waves of immigrants? Or perhaps feeling for both( the one’s seeking a home and the one’s loosing their homes and fields) compromises one’s ‘politics’?

July 31, 2018 /

The Lineage Act is flawed because it fails to cover customary male privileges and this is the reason that there is so much confusion and frustration and economic imbalance amongst the Khasi males today. Now to amend the 1997 Act by stripping away the Khasi status of a woman who enters into marriage with a non Khasi is not only regressive but morally wrong. This is no justice at all. This approach is very Taliban in nature. It is my humble request to the Governor to perceive and give a careful thought to the kinship aspect of my Matrilineal System…
KHADC, please stop the massacre of our unique culture by codifying certain customs and overlooking others. Or else this act will be just a goldmine of the lawyers. This action of yours is an embarrassment and the entire world is laughing at us.

July 31, 2018 /

The lack of outrage in progressive quarters over NRC updation or detention of suspected foreigners is worth mulling over. Do they not see that perfectly innocent people are being incarcerated on dubious grounds by the Foreigners’ Tribunals? Or, that people are going bonkers trying to procure the right NRC papers, and killing themselves when they are unable to? Most of the unfortunates are Muslims – 70% of those lodged in detention camps are Muslims. Some, though Hindu, speak Bengali. But the considerations of religion and language were important to the blood and soil politics-propagating rightists. Not to the left, who stand by the marginalised. Indeed, should they err, it better be on the side of the weak. Or, so one thought. Unfortunately, as a friend put it, it has become hard to distinguish the position of the left from that of the right. What explains the want of empathy?

July 31, 2018 /

The Proposed amendment clearly seeks to excommunicate and ostracise a Khasi woman who marries a non Khasi and her children, in contravention to our customary practices, Human Rights law and our Constitution. The bill is being justified on grounds of protecting the Khasis against economic exploitation and land alienation, but this was done without proper and diligent research and the proposed amendment will not in any way resolve what is sought to be projected as being the crisis in Khasi society. In fact legislations such as the land Transfer Act and The Benami Act already exist to protect and curb economic exploitation and land alienation. These need to be strictly implemented in letter and spirit. Further there is an urgent need to bring a Land Ceiling Act such that rampant land alienation leading to landlessness especially rural landlessness is immediately checked. Given the serious nature of the lapses and violations to the many constitutional provisions and our customary practices we sincerely urge you to withhold assent to this problematic amendment bill.