Tag: assam

June 20, 2018 /

On August 15, 1947, when India gained independence, Bishnu Prasad Rabha led a black flag demonstration in a village named Dighelia, shouting “Ye Azaadi Jhootha Hain, Sirf Chamra Ka Badal” (This freedom is a hoax : only a change of skin), and he was promptly arrested and put behind bars. After he was released, Rabha went underground for years – presenting a serious challenge to the establishment. He took up arms and engaged in guerrilla warfare against the government.

June 12, 2018 /

Sukracharjya Rabha was born in 1977, in a remote village Rampur in Goalpara district of western Assam. He started working with local tribal people to promote theatre. Within short span of time he authored and directed number of drama and got recognition as a unique theatre activist in the part of the country. He was honoured with the Bismillah Khan Yuba Puraskar from Sangeet Natak Akademi in 2009 for direction and the Aditya Bokra Birla Kala Kira Puruskar in 2010. On June 8th 2018, at the age of just 41 years he succumbed to a massive cardiac arrest. He is survived by his wife and two children. Maulee Senapati, filmmaker & Abdul Kalam Azad, an activist write pay their tributes.

June 5, 2018 /

I am near the Indo-Bhutan border in a village called Dimakuchi in the Udalguri district of Assam in Northeast India. There are hundreds of people around me and we are in a large field where temporary tents are pitched. Lightning flashes in the sky as people huddle together under a slight drizzle. The faces of the crowd are all turned to one direction, captivated by the spectacle of dance, song and entertainment on the makeshift stage as though they are under a spell. As the compere monotonously calls for the next performer in line for the Master of Dance competition, I wonder if this is the Bodo Film Festival I was invited to, and how I am supposed to make sense of it.

May 23, 2018 /

The bill is flawed because of its omissions. One wonders why the bill is selective about providing refuge to religious minorities of three Muslim-majority countries. Is it because that would exclude Muslims? Sri Lanka and Myanmar are India’s neighbours too, where religious minorities including Muslims are persecuted. Mass torture of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar is a case in point. Why not extend the special treatment to them? Is it because that would enable more Muslims to become Indian citizens? In Pakistan Shias, Ahmedis have been persecuted for long. Are they not being considered because they are Muslims? One can also question why consider religion as the ground for giving refuge. People get persecuted for their political views, for their sexual orientation and many other reasons. Are those minorities not the right kind of persecuted minorities? The bill is clearly against the spirit of secularism.

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 18, 2018 /

If we could look back a little in Guwahati, we recall the incidents of 2012 G.S. road molestation, the news where girls wearing shorts were compared to monkeys in a local news channel in 2015, the photographs of two girls shared by a well known news reader when they were outside an alcohol shop in their traditional attires on the day of Saraswati puja early this year, as examples that are emblematic of the manner in which dominant, middle-class, male-dominated cultures portray independent women in Assam. The road from such views, to those that lead to tragic violence against women, is unfortunately well short and well-travelled. Distracting women with ideas that such violence can be done by only one class of people, belonging to a particular religion is misleading and dangerous because it deflects from the long struggles that needed for a gender just society.

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.

March 7, 2018 /

“Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, speaking at a conference on Northeast made a few statements which did not go down well with many. At the conference “ North East Region of India—Bridging Gaps and Securing Borders” held in New Delhi’s DRDO Bhavan, the Army Chief commented that the region is bound to see migration which is being accentuated by India’s northern and western neighbours to destabilize the region and carry on a proxy war. And this is reflected in the growth of a party like All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) which grew much faster compared to parties like BJP and which allegedly enjoys the support of ‘illegal’ immigrants.”

February 19, 2018 /

Mrs. Christina Pyrtuh and her family were assaulted, molested and driven out of her home and village for protesting against corruption in implementation of schemes under the local area development fund of the member of legislative assembly (MLA) of Assam representing their constituency Katigorah in the district of Cachar in Assam. She also protested against the corruption of funds meant for Indira Avas Yojana (now rechristened as Pradhan Mantri Avas Yojana). She and her family are now temporarily living in Meghalaya at great risks of danger to her and her children’s life and limbs. She and her family are being persecuted for her protest against corruption.

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.

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.

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?

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

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.

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.

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.

August 30, 2017 /

“Whither is our democracy bound?”—It can be said that the present time is marked by a deterioration of circumstances in which such questions can be raised. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government and its fraternal organisations have defined democracy in their own terms. These organisations have also tried to define citizenship to suit their agenda by trying to determine who is an Indian and a patriot as well as who are anti-nationals. As a result, the fundamental ideas about free speech have also transformed. It has been seen that the ruling party and its fraternal organisations have given priority to those who are their ideological allies when it comes to appointing the heads of institutions of higher education and research in the country. A parallel may be drawn between the situation that prevails today and the curtailment of free speech during the emergency in the 1970s. During emergency, it was not possible for independent writers to publish articles or broadcast radio plays in government media unless they maintained the interests of Indira Gandhi and the Nehru-Gandhi family or promoted the twenty point programme and the five point programme introduced by Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi. Even private newspapers were censored or they succumbed to the iron grip of the government. The situation today is more or less the same if not worst.

August 29, 2017 /

It’s that time of the year again. My facebook page is flooded with posts and shared memes either commenting on how the national media and the centre ignores Assam’s flood or asking people to donate stuff. The great floods of Assam are such a part of Oxomia life that it affects not just the affected but also all others who are affected by the effect on the affected. It affects the Oxomia jati, irrespective of whether your bheti has been washed out by the Lueit, Kolong or Pagladia. In fact you could be comfortably perched on a hilltop like me and still be affected by flood. I will tell you how.

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.

June 13, 2017 /

It was a chilly cold November morning in 2016, when my respondent’s acquaintance dropped me at Simaluguri and arranged an auto-cum-carrier for my remaining journey to United Liberation Front of Asom’s (ULFA) designated camp, popularly known as ‘Asom Navnirman Kendra’ at Lakwa in Sivasagar. I wasn’t scared but I was apprehensive. Anxieties in fact started right in the morning when I saw this elderly but very handsome former ULFA Commander who drove me to Simaluguri. I found him handsome because he drove with great confidence in spite of only his left hand being intact while at the same time sharing the significance of the historic Sivasagar town. It was a grenade that blew off his right hand during one of his former tough underground days. He had embraced his disability with grace.

June 10, 2017 /

An extract from Assamese novelist Dhrubajyoti Bora’s novel Kalantoror Gadya (The Prose of Tempest) (1997) written in the background of the ULFA insurgency and counter insurgency operations by Indian Security Forces in the 1990’s. It deals with the arrival of AFSPA, army operations and state terrorism in the province and the changes it brought to the local landscape.

April 26, 2017 /

Assam’s Debjani Bora, who has won gold at the national level for her javelin throws, was targeted as a witch in 2014 in the state and assaulted, of all the places, in a community prayer hall. Debjani’s case puts into question one of the biggest myths around witch-hunting, that it takes place only due to superstition, ignorance and lack of education in far-flung remote villages, and among poor, uneducated people.

March 21, 2017 /

On 14th March, a local Assamese news channel – News Live, owned and managed by the wife of the most powerful Assam BJP minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, connected few dots with ‘creative journalism’ and went on a frenzy that a fatwa has been issued by 46 Muslim clerics against Nahid Afreen. Soon other local news channels jumped into the war of TRP. Soon came the two midnight tweets of Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal adding fuel to the fire.

March 17, 2017 /

Translation of now infamous non-fatwa (pamphlet) against singer Nahid Afreen of Assam about which half the country is going crazy especially Delhi media. The non-fatwa is regressive and condemnable, no doubt about it. But it is also hilariously polite. Also, it tries to be emotional; it tries to be emotional by invoking hardships, hunger, drought etc. from the yonder years of migration (perhaps 80-100 years ago). By the end of it, it is oldies complaining about the newer generations who are transgressing regressive ideas

January 16, 2017 /

The government’s intention of amending the Citizenship Act via the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 has been met with anger, anxiety, and unrest across Assam. Faced with a strident opposition to the proposed amendments from across Assam in the last few weeks, the BJP—with the support of a number of Bengali organisations as well—has reoriented its strategy by calling on the Bengali-speaking community to identify themselves as Assamese-speakers. Key leaders such as Himanta Biswa Sarma have advocated the assimilation of the Bengali-speakers of Barak into Assamese linguistic and cultural identity. Others have suggested that they “become Assamese” while maintaining their linguistic identity, and yet others have called on them to return Assamese as their mother-tongue in the Census.

January 3, 2017 /

Armoured with a notebook, a lousy phone camera and a few overnight clothes, I nervously left Shillong alone and drove down to Topatoli in the Nagaon District of Assam, in order to re-enter Meghalaya from Raid Nongkhap,which spreads from Ri Bhoi District into Assam. I left with a thirst for narratives, of people, of nature, of existence in this space whose identity as a periphery was intensified and galvanized in the 1970s, post the formation of the Meghalaya statehood. This was when the river Umsiang was identified as a natural boundary between Assam and Meghalaya and when cultures in the region were starting to fracture, at least on paper.

December 14, 2016 /

Tonight, 13th of December 2016, would be the 73nd night that Akhil Gogoi, the maverick 40 years old leader of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) would spend in prison. For the uninitiated – KMMS has been the largest social movement in Assam after the turn of the century – that too a left-leaning social movement. This is not the first time that Gogoi has been in prison since KMSS was launched in 2005, but what sets apart the last 72 nights compared to previous incarcerations is the blatant misuse of the criminal justice system and police by the BJP Government in Assam.

December 13, 2016 /

On 2nd October, Akhil Gogoi, a peasant leader and founder Secretary of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) – a left wing peasant organisation based in Assam was picked up from Gandhibasti, Guwahati and was later handed over to Jakhalabandha police in connection with a case of inciting protestors during an eviction drive against illegal settlers in and around the Kaziranga National Park (KNP). A team of Chandmari police escorted him to Nagaon and later he was sent to Lakhimpur Jail. Akhil Gogoi was remanded to 14 days judicial custody by a court at Golaghat on 2nd November. He was re-arrested in connection with a case of 2006. And He is still in Golaghat Central Jail. Akhil Gogoi wrote an open letter to in Assamese from jail. This is a translation published in The Assam News.

September 22, 2016 /

After the BJP came to power in Assam in May 2016, the state government has unleashed a reign of terror to execute its fascistic agendas. Within 2 months into power, the government opened fire and killed a 25 year old man Mintu Deuri, during a protest organized in Raha against the transfer of the site for a proposed AIIMS in the state on 15th July 2016. Now on 19 September 2016, just 34 days after the Raha incident, the police has again opened fire and killed two people – Anjuma Khatun and Fakhruddin, at a demonstration led by the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) at Banderdubi revenue village near the Kaziranga National Park. The protestors were demanding resettlement and adequate compensation against an eviction drive carried out by the mandate of the Gauhati High Court order dated 9 October 2015 which was supposed to happen two days later, i.e. on 21 September 2016 but had been preponed to avoid protests. The villagers, belonging mainly to the Muslim community of erstwhile East Bengal origin, have been residing in the village for more than half a century.

September 13, 2016 /

On the train coming back to Guwahati I realised that the only certain fact was that 15 dead bodies, including that of the gunman, had been found in the marketplace that day. And yet, my writer’s mind couldn’t stop coming up with further scenarios. Had Islary still been undecided about carrying out an attack when he got down in the market? What if the AK he was carrying under his raincoat had been meant for protection only? Had he counted on the absence of a police outpost at Balajan Tiniali to keep him safe? Was he there to maybe collect money from someone? Or might he have wanted to give himself up? Had he been surprised by the security forces, or had there already been someone at the market waiting for him? One of the things I had kept hearing was the presence of two or three men dressed in black. Might have there been a crossfire? Or was there just a single gunman involved, as claimed by the police, looking to lessen the pressure on his group by a terror strike? And could that claim have then influenced the testimony of the eyewitnesses I had met?

August 5, 2016 /

While village after village was being lost to the mighty Brahmaputra, officials in Delhi were more concerned with the man made flood in Gurugram – a result of just bad unplanned urbanization. Dirty sewage water reaching the affluent and the expatriates are definitely Prime Time news worthy unlike the flood in Assam which is seen as a part of life of the people languishing in tents and relief camps.