Category: Politics

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 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’.

November 10, 2017 /

An important legislation like THE MEGHALAYA COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION AND PUBLIC SERVICES SOCIAL AUDIT ACT, 2017 came into being without any element of Community Participation through Pre-Legislative consultation about its intent and content. Some of the remarks we make about the Act are due to this ‘failure’ on the part of the government to take the people and community into confidence about the law.

November 8, 2017 /

It is one thing to say that demonetisation has failed empirically, but quite another to assume that it will lead to BJP’s defeat. On the contrary, Mr. Modi has jumped from one policy to the other, and every time, the residue in public consciousness is the honourable intention. Meanwhile the opposition parties seem to be completely unaware of these dynamics.

November 8, 2017 /

It used to be said that Indians don’t queue. Clerks despaired of organizing the crowds that clamored for attention at service counters, and paying one’s electric bill in northern cities required a set of sharp elbows for jostling. In this context, postdemonetization bank and ATM queues were remarkable—not only for the very orderliness of their existence, but also for the intimacies they fostered and ways in which they rearticulated class and kinship.

November 8, 2017 /

No formal government program or agenda has been so socially malignant for India as the 2016 demonetization, both in the intent and manner in which the policy was deployed and in its impact on the working poor. While the forced sterilizations (nas bandi) of the mid-1970s were met with widespread subversion and eventually led to the fall of the Indira Gandhi government, the recent round of notebandi (literally, note ban) or demonetization was met by mass acquiescence.

November 6, 2017 /

The case was simple – based on the recommendations from the politicians – then Education Minister Ms. Ampareen Lyngdoh, instructed her officer Mr. J. D. Sangma to doctor the selection list. Mr. Sangma ably supported by Ms Lyngdoh’s supporters wantonly white inked successful candidates and marks and created a ‘tainted’ merit list. It took eight years of long and convoluted struggle, from the lowest to highest court, inside and outside the court system, before the division bench of Meghalaya High Court delivered its bombshell judgement on 2nd November 2017. 
Some of us in RAIOT Collective (and our mother ship Thma U Rangli-Juki) have been closely associated with the challenge to this mega corruption case and we thought that we should draw up a chronology of this long struggle, not merely for the sake of history but also to remind the citizens that justice can be won, if one persists with commitment.

October 27, 2017 /

Each instance of alleged sexual harassment needs to be examined and dealt with on its own merit – with due process available both to the accused and to the accuser. Sweeping, anonymously driven collective assertions of the culpability of a cluster of named and shamed persons violates the principles of the need for rigourous individual examination of each instance, with due attention to the testimonies of victims and the defences of the accused, without which justice and resolution can never be served.

October 26, 2017 /

Over the last two days, my facebook has gone on overdrive with feminists finding themselves in polarised positions against the list of perpetrators that Raya Sarkar, a Dalit lawyer in California circulated on facebook after compiling the names of some powerful men in the academic world and alleged sexual harassers. Some feminists as mouthpieces for the entire community wrote an apology of an article in kafila urging that the list be taken down for it violates ‘due process’ of law. Other feminists have come out in full support and some have taken the middle ground, allowing themselves to articulate their confusions, while many have remained mum for the more one thinks about it the more contradictory one seems to become.

October 23, 2017 /

Sadguru who has taken up to saving the rivers by spending millions of crores of rupees himself is accused of violation of many environmental laws in Tamil Nadu. Encroachment on the Kundakoi tributary of the river Noyal, construction of ashram with nearly one thousand buildings on the reserved forest, encroachment on the elephants corridors, are some of the acts he is involved in. There are many petitions filed before the court against him, which are in progress. In this regard, the government officials of Combatore district have confirmed these violations in affidavits and even given stop order, which has been violated by Sadhguru.
We need to also know that Jaggi Vasudev’s father-in-law has charged him with murder of his wife. The case is still pending. “Why are they not arresting me then?” this is what he said in response to a question by a journalist. We only want to remind people who are bowing down to him and colluding with him today, must remember the fate of Asaram Bapu or Ram-Rahim. One must support, or donate only after complete awareness and inquiry. We would like to give this warning on behalf of the Narmada Bachao Andolan to all. The journalists and newspaper correspondents must thoroughly research so that rivers can be saved and not sold in the name of “Rally for Rivers”.

October 17, 2017 /

In the context of the rise of Corbyn and Sanders and the rise of left-wing populist movements like Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain, this article asks, through an engagement with Chantal Mouffe’s writings on left-wing populism, whether there can be a left-wing populism in India that can counter the right-wing populism of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The article explores the conditions for a “populist situation” that exist in India at present.

October 13, 2017 /

On the third day of their ongoing peaceful agitation around 1200 longstanding regular casual workers of Meghalaya Energy Corporation Ltd had lunch time protest in various parts of Meghalaya, including Shillong, Umiam, Kyrdem Kulai, Jowai, Khlierihat, Tura, Phulbari, Ampati, Baghmara, Garobadha, Mendipathar, Nongstoin, Mairang & Mawkyrwat. They held placards with slogans outlining their various grievances.

October 9, 2017 /

I read The Wire’s story and Jay Amit Shah’s response. The story is factual, based on the annual reports filed with ROC. The story doesn’t make any allegations or imputations. It quotes the responses of the lawyer of Jay Amit Shah extensively. It also puts up their entire response. All It does is a mere extrapolation based on the numbers in the ROC filings. And in a country where public scrutiny of individuals who rule us is minimal, It does raise important questions

The imminent hour of compromise and betrayal is upon the hill people as the opportunistic and spineless Gorkha “leadership” is making overtures towards the West Bengal government, with their begging bowls lined with thick layers of opportunism and greed. Once again, a telltale picture is emerging wherein the hill public has been used as political bait in this game of profit and self-interest of the Gorkha leadership. The hapless hill people are hooked by their noses as they are coerced to yield in whatever direction the shallow and weak leaders point them towards.

October 6, 2017 /

No formal government program or agenda has been so socially malignant for India as the 2016 demonetization, both in the intent and manner in which the policy was deployed and in its impact on the working poor. While the forced sterilizations (nas bandi) of the mid-1970s were met with widespread subversion and eventually led to the fall of the Indira Gandhi government, the recent round of notebandi (literally, note ban) or demonetization was met by mass acquiescence.

October 5, 2017 /

Much has been made about the absence of large-scale protests by farmers against demonetization, as if farmers could march in the streets at the time of harvest, leaving their crops untended. On this topic, the journalist Ugale told me that some farmers had contemplated dumping tomatoes outside the collector’s office, but then changed their minds, thinking: “Even if we protest, what will we achieve?” Ugale trailed off and then, in a somber tone, concluded: “Helplessness and apathy, that’s what I see everywhere.”

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 2, 2017 /

The reason most of the people in North East do not want to admit the Ronghiya Muslims because they understand the repercussion of what might happen if someday the immigrants grow in population. Right now we have the authority to oppress but if we allow outsiders to grow in number we will then become the oppressed. We understand this very well because this is exactly what we have been doing to our minorities in our own territories.

September 27, 2017 /

This year is the fiftieth death anniversary of the firebrand socialist Dr Ram Manohar Lohia and it is an apt occasion to remember his militant legacy. He died at the relatively young age of fifty seven in 1967. I too am fifty seven now and despite having trod the same path of mass politics as him, am still alive and have done precious little in comparison!! Lohia needs to be remembered today because he fought relentlessly against the corrupt dominance of the Indian National Congress and his mobilisation strategies are extremely valid today. 

September 26, 2017 /

Recently, the American College of Physicians (ACP) recognised Hate Crimes as a Public Health issue… What we doctors in India, need to learn from them? While a Modi-fied government seems to be pushing India’s public health into private hands thanks to its belief in unleashing India’s economy in the same style as the US does for its medical services, isn’t it surprising that none of us can imagine our premier physicians’ organisation, the Indian Medical Association taking up such a cause even in the next few decades! In fact, if history teaches us lessons, what we learn is that a large chunk of its leadership which is right-wing, may actually aid and abet the hate!

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.

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 17, 2017 /

Not so long ago, Naxal movement and the conceptual renderings or reflections of it used to present an alternative view of politics, from economics and International relations to the culture and campus discussions. Never a dominant view, but this Naxal-inspired argument about everything would temper and have an impact on the liberal, left and even mainstream points of view.

August 7, 2017 /

Mission 2020, a Northeast Frontier Railways initiative to connect the capital cities of the northeast as well extend railway line to other parts, has for over a year now run into obstacles in Meghalaya. In particular, two ongoing projects – the Teteliya-Byrnihat line and the Byrnihat-Shillong line for which approximately Rs 4500 crore has been earmarked, have been put on hold. Initiated by the Khasi Students Union (KSU) there are now a host of dissenters against the railway extension plans, demanding that without a proper mechanism to check the influx of immigrants the railway project must not proceed. As a result, land surveys have been interrupted, NOCs from KHADC have not been provided and headmen have denied railway authorities access into villages. On the other hand, the state government sees the introduction of these railway lines as an important means to benefit the economy of the state – through tourism and reduced costs of goods, while committing to check influx through a number of administrative and legal ways including fencing the international border with Bangladesh. At the end of May the protests began to turn violent leading to altercations between the protesters and the police. 

Whether the India- China stand-off escalates or not, Modi has too much to gain from it. Whether India humiliates China or the other way, it would allow them their ongoing project of making India a Hindu Rashtra easier. Even in 1962, during the war, Delhi was able to force the Dravida Movement into submission and the Tamils had to surrender fully. In 2017, with Hindu Rashtra is no longer any distant possibility, an Indo-China war would be the final seal on our coffins of a Secular Democratic Republic.

August 2, 2017 /

On 30 June 2017, almost two hundred protesters who had gathered together to draw attention of the Assam government towards the concerns of the citizens of the state in relation to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Doubtful voters (D-voters) issue at Kharbazaar in Assam’s Goalpara district were dispersed by the district police administration during which an youth named Yakub Ali was shot dead by the police.

July 25, 2017 /

‘All politics is identity politics.’ And ‘Without identity politics there can be no defence of women’s rights or the rights of minority groups.’ So run the two most common contemporary defences of identity politics. As criticism of the politics of identity has become more developed and fierce, so has the defence. So, I want here to begin a critique the critique, as it were, and in so doing reassert the necessity for challenging identity politics.

July 10, 2017 /

It is fate of marginal groups everywhere to bear the burden of this ‘double-consciousness’ – one’s self-worth, one’s sense of self is never one’s own, but always refracted through the eyes of the powerful, who gazes at him with ‘contempt and pity’. As time goes by, one starts believing in the narrative of the dominant group, one internalizes others’ judgements about him.

June 30, 2017 /

I personally had many problems with the #NotInMyName Campaign for reasons that have been pointed out by many – its Brahmanical and Left elitism amongst others – and I resent that truth. But I shall also not dismiss it completely, not because I want to be complacent but because, reactionary as it is, it is a movement across sixteen locations in the country and beyond that is expressing a collective rejection of the growing fatalistic violence and brutalities unleashed on minorities, a violence that is an extension of the silent and malignant power of the BJP and its allies.

June 28, 2017 /

No one wants to give serious thoughts to creating a Meghalaya which is self-sustainable and economically independent. Forget the pre-election rhetoric, the policies do not reflect it. To actually initiate such a task would require work, will power and actual thinking. A Meghalaya that stands on its own two feet is a Meghalaya where the citizens stand on their own two feet, and that my friends, is dangerous for the dominant power structure.

June 27, 2017 /

The Hindus on the Asoti railway platform managed to collectively not see a 15 year old Muslim boy being stabbed to death. Then they collectively, but without prior agreement, continued to not see what they had seen after the event. This is the uniquely terrifying aspect of this incident on which this report reflects: the totalising force of an unspoken, but collectively binding, agreement between Hindus to not see the dead body of a Muslim child.