Category: Commentary

October 13, 2021 /

Traffic had snarled up a little before Rainawari and, as I turned my head up I sighted the flag. A 100-ft high Tricolour that had been hoisted just the day before atop Hari Parbat, the hill that dominates many parts of the Srinagar skyline.

October 12, 2021 /

After learning that the broker Jokhim had arranged a “signal clear” for the transport of six bulls across the India-Bangladesh border, the cattle transporter Alibaba had no time to speak to anyone. Indian border commanders who had accepted Jokhim’s bribes had verbally granted a signal, which Jokhim relayed to Alibaba by rushing to his house. A signal clear comprises a precious two-to-three-hour window of opportunity during which Indian cattle workers such as Alibaba can cross the border to Bangladesh with their animals.“Signal clear,” Alibaba said to me, tying his cotton gamosa (towel) around his head as protection against the heat and the rain.

September 27, 2021 /

When I began reading anthropological literature I felt uneasy and troubled by the way in which it was written. It was greatly problematic and I stated to think how one should do it differently. One of the problems with tribal studies is the concept itself and how tribes are looked at in a colonial social structure. The idea of a tribe was represented as primitive, savages and inferior beings which continues even today. Anthropologists did try to do away with this idea but still categorised tribes as a type of society which has very little division of labour, absence of complexities and reading and writing. Anthropology looked at the kind of transformation taking place as if they are becoming peasants, caste or socially heterogeneous. In that whole process the erosion of identity occurred.

September 7, 2021 /

A lot of people have been calling me since yesterday to understand the Western Uttar Pradesh churning, specially in the context of Mahapanchayat at Muzaffarnagar on Fifth September. Given the absolute paucity of time in my life nowadays, I may not be able to to write a very detailed note.
However, here are some very quick observations:

August 26, 2021 /

Gail Omvedt’s journey in politics and thought was undertaken in and through several historical conjunctures, but she retained aspects of all her stopovers: in her view, these various sites of sojourn, whether feminist, Marxist, Phule-Ambedkarism, were united in their vision of utopia: a world that ought to be rendered real, in times to come, but for which one needs to labour in the present. While reason and analysis were central to divining the nature of this world-to-be, it yet had to be desired, longed for, and in this passionate wanting, lay the potential for political comradeship. And this is where the struggle against caste and patriarchy came together: for it was in the remaking of caste and gendered selves that the promise of utopia stood to be redeemed.

August 4, 2021 /

What connects the murder of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis to the imprisoning of Nodeep Kaur in New Delhi to the detaining of Ahed Tamimi by Israeli authorities to the house arrest of Syed Ali Shah Geelani in Kashmir? How do race, caste, policing and occupation interconnect across borders?

July 22, 2021 /

A student trained in economics and political economy knows what to read on a reasonable and good budget. First, one needs to understand how best a government plans to use its resources and generate revenue. Secondly, what are the plans of the government for the expenditure of this revenue and resources? Thirdly, what are the long term projects and policies which can fundamentally infuse dynamism into the economy and general well-being of the people? Finally, if there is a gap between the government’s earnings and expenditure and which leads to borrowing, is the government in a position to pay back this loan in a reasonable manner.

July 19, 2021 /

Corona is both devastatingly resilient and deeply egalitarian. There is only one way out of this – beat it at its own game. We have to be more resilient and more egalitarian. More resilience will require more than vaccines; it will necessitate massive investment in healthcare where there is no paucity of drugs or oxygen or beds.

July 15, 2021 /

In the piece “How Hindi helped to build a bridge to Manipur language and culture” published on 12th July in The Hindu, the author of the said article/Op Ed piece Kuldeep Kumar, attempts to make a case for the prominence and historical importance of the Hindi and Devanagari script in Manipuri history and literature. The piece however is littered with factual and historical inaccuracies and worse, an extremely selective and distortive history masquerading as profound discovery.

In his recent opinion piece, Apoorvanand writes, in fact teaches, recently UAPA acquitted MLA Akhil Gogoi the meaning of justice, of law, of togetherness, of compassion, of equality with special emphasis on the preciousness and moral responsibility of freedom. Apoorvanand celebrates the release of Assamese activist Akhil Gogoi with his colleagues on June 17 and reiterates his conviction for support to any wrongfully punished opponents of the state saying ‘one who is at the receiving end must get ‘our’ support, irrespective of ‘their’ ideology. When Apoorvanand sanctions this moral support towards Akhil Gogoi and his comrades, probably one could not resist but to ponder- what moral ideological high ground is it anyway from where such bogus and idiosyncratic support in the name of preaching values can easily be unleashed?

June 28, 2021 /

Colonial sovereignty travelled into the frontier hills of the north east frontier through law. Frontier law or its absence and frontier space or its elusiveness tell us a different story about the history of Khasi, Jaintiah, and Garo hills of north east India. This story is one of unfinished borders, and malleability of landscapes. What does belonging and land based identity show us when we begin to uncover the processes through which modern boundaries were established during the colonial period? Is the history of law the history of boundary making? What lies underneath landscapes and in between divided spaces that we encounter today as normalized in law ? And very broadly what does place based identity mean in view of spatial processes of law? This historically based essay will explore these questions and invites readers to critically rethink identities and boundaries.

June 23, 2021 /

Ki nongdiemadan wat la ki long ka kynhun kaba don ha trai duh jong ka pyrnon, pynban ki long ka kynhun kaba laitluid tam bad ki bun kiwei pat ki para nongshong shnong kiba kwah ban їoh lem ia ka kajuh ka jinglaitluid ban long kynrad bad long shakri hi da lade їalade. Kum kane ka jinglaitluid mano bym kwah? Ha kajuh ka por pat ka jingim ki nongdiemadan ka dap da ka jingїakhun lynter, khamtam ha kane ka Nongbah bad ka Jylla Meghalaya ha kaba ka aiῆjong ka Sorkar India kam pat shym la treikam satia bad kane ka buh ia ka jingim bad ka kamai kajih jong ki nongdiemadan ha ka jingeh bakhraw. Hynrei ym tang ia ki nongdiemadan, ki paidbah nongshong shnong ruh ki shem jingeh namar katba ym pat pyntreikam pura ia ka aiῆ kan long kaba kaba shitom ban wanrah ia ka jingkylluid bad ka jingitynnad jong ka Sor Shillong.

June 17, 2021 /

The 2’nd wave of the Pandemic swept through the country leaving a trail of destruction everywhere; it was evident even in our tiny state, how the wave has ravaged through many unfortunate households. Yet here we are, still having to deal with people who think the virus isn’t real; and worse yet, people who know the virus is real but are spreading misinformation to the public, creating more confusion, and making it more difficult for people to come to the right conclusions.

June 9, 2021 /

It all started off with a supposed published writer (hooray!) Going off on a rant about how anyone can sing and make money while writers suffer in silence and abject poverty because they are unappreciated. Fortunately for me, I have very little published to boast as a writer so I’m good with being a rambler. That needled me though, since I have a problem with halo forging angels of light who use people as footstools to get a better view of greener pastures they cannot reach but can cry foul about. But I controlled myself.

June 6, 2021 /

On June 2, while the country continued to struggle, barely making sense of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, a tiny, fantastical incident gave Indians a moment of respite. The Delhi High Court was hearing the suit filed by Actor Juhi Chawla, where she argued that installing 5G technology would seriously damage humans and all of Earth’s ecosystem. All was going well, till the hearing was disrupted by a man singing songs from her movies, ranging from – “meri banno ki aayegi baraat” to “ghoonghat ki aad se.” Many users took to Twitter to express the comedy just enacted out on the stage of the Court.

June 5, 2021 /

Assam has six detention centres housed within six different jails of the state. There is no dedicated detention centre yet and a new detention centre with a capacity of holding 3000 persons is coming up at Matia in Goalpara district of the state. The construction of such a nature and the exclusion of millions from the National Register of Citizens in Assam brings with it the possibility of a rapid increase in the number of persons who will get detained in the state.

May 25, 2021 /

When the Tejpal “progressive” veneer slips to display a Brahminical choti, accompanied by Brahminical angst at being oh so “up-pressed” by a young woman’s rape complaint, and that unique Brahminical monopoly over HURT.
TT’s brother MT whines that TT’s being charged with rape inside lift, traumatised him (MT) so much he doesn’t use lifts; go on dates etc, AND that he (MT) started keeping a ponytail. Puzzled? Don’t be, it’s good old brahmanism.

May 21, 2021 /

In an unprecedented move, the CPI (M) decided that all its ministers would be freshers. But, reminiscent of the Orwellian quote about Napoleon being more equal – this wasn’t to apply to the Chief Minister, himself. Effectively this meant that K. K. Shailaja – irrespective of her merits or demerits – was to be excluded and has been demoted to party whip.

May 5, 2021 /

Ka jingpang ka long kaba shyrkhei, sngew kumban pluh ka shadem. Ngim dei ban kheiñ sting ia une u virus. Nga thoh ia kane ka artikl ryngkat ka oxygen mask ha khmut, artylli ki drip ha kti bad ka jingdap shadem (la shah mai ha i nurse ruh). Ngam lah ban thoh stet, kumta nga hap pynlut baroh shi sngi ban type ha ka mobile phone ia kane ka jingkyrpad ia ka jaitbynriew baieit jong nga: To da sumar, to iada ialade na une U COVID 19.

Positioning beyond the opposition politics of Congress led front, do Akhil’s Raijor Dal carry the potential to herald a new era of politics in Assam? It is perhaps contingent upon several factors, the immediate of course rests on its electoral outcome but beyond, rests more on its ability to negotiate the structural contradictions that lay embedded in the politics of the Brahmaputra valley. Looking back at the KMSS, the organisation from which Raijor Dal was formed may generate interesting insights.

April 20, 2021 /

While I was still in school, the Oil India Limited conducted a survey in Rahmoria, following which they started digging out crude oil from Rahmoria. Just after a few years, it was shut down after protests by the people of Rahmaria. The people of Rahmoria were seeking for a permanent solution for river erosion. The state came digging for oil, but the decades-long problem of the area was not under its purview. Rather, as many local agitations would show, such ventures of resource extractions bring new risks and hazards. Callousness towards the local people and ecology is, indeed, inherent in the very model of extracting the resources. Sometimes the risks turn into disasters of unmanageable proportion. In the last decade, the fire in the Dikol oil field was one such disaster. The inferno that happened in Baghjan area – an ecologically very sensitive area, situated next to Dibru Saikhowa National Park – was even bigger than the inferno in Dikom oil field. I went to Baghjan the very next day of the incident, and several times thereafter. The village was reduced to ashes. The first thought that came into my mind was that the after-effects would linger on, as the state would shrug off its responsibility.

March 16, 2021 /

Hareswar Barman is currently a candidate from Raijor Dol from lower Assam constituency of Rangia. He has been an important political organizer in Assam for many decades, jumping into active political life since he was in school in standard eight. He has been a living part of dealing with the questions of community/class dialectic as it played out in Assam over time.

He has been associated earlier with the erstwhile URMCA (United Revolutionary Movement Council of Assam, formed with the initiative of CPI-ML-PCC Vaskar Nandy group), when the question of ethnic community assertion, autonomy, federalism, class-based mobilizations and so on, were particularly stark in the 1970s and 80s. Being part thus, he has principally opposed dominant Assamese subnationalism’s chauvinistic strains of the time. Later on, he has been one of the architects of the Abodo Suraksha Samiti (Committee for protection of non-Bodo communities), which wielded its own set of experiences. It is one of the healthy signs in the current political juncture in Assam, that is re-energizing experienced committed political organizers like Hareswar Barman to enter active politics again.

March 3, 2021 /

Kyrham was a professor of sociology at my alma mater, North Eastern Hill University (NEHU). The department was his second home. He had joined it as a young student in the 1980s, learning the mysteries, myths and methods of the discipline from an array of energetic scholars like Virginius Xaxa, M.N. Karna, A.C. Sinha, Nikhilesh Kumar and others. For him, the department epitomised cosmopolitanism and the free exchange of ideas among equals. He was enthusiastic about every pedagogic aspect that it undertook, first while it was located in the Nongthymmai campus and then when it moved to Umshing Mawkynroh where NEHU is currently located. The department reciprocated this affection and respect, awarding him with a PhD in 1990 and then inducting him as a member of the faculty soon after.

February 26, 2021 /

Due to the historical traditions of peasant struggles in Punjab, in the current farmers’ revolt against agro-business capitalism articulated through three farms laws brought by Modi’s Hindu nationalist regime, the leaders of farmers organisations in Punjab played the leading role. It inspired first the Haryana peasantry and later the peasantry in UP, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and other states to join the struggle. It is now progressing to become a country wide struggle going even beyond farmers. To understand the role leadership plays in any struggle, it is important to understand the significance of the concept of the ‘vanguard’. In every egalitarian movement, there is one sector which is the most advanced and provides leadership. This sector is the vanguard. It articulates the interests, aspirations and even emotions of other rebellious sections of society.

January 31, 2021 /

While many raise apprehensions about Rakesh Tikait even now, and perhaps rightly so, I also appeal to the same set to be patient in the way they approach this situation. It’s a difficult time, and such churnings are crucial. The damage that BJP has done to India will take very long to amend. Sometimes even fraught with contradictions. Impulsive reactions won’t help anyone.
Many fault lines still exist in West UP. Unlike Punjab where militant Farmers Unions have been active for many decades, Haryana and even West UP (including BKU) rely on Khaps to mobilize farmers. Feudal attitudes will take time to break down. But the Mahapanchayat on the 29th was a sure, small but significant, step towards the democratization of that society.

January 31, 2021 /

Perhaps here in this city where Ambedkar was literally blackmailed into signing the Poona Pact, and where Jotiba and Savitribai Phule did their revolutionary work we can give our struggle a name. Perhaps it should be the Satya Shodhak Resistance – SSR to the RSS.
The battle of Love against Hate. A battle for Love. It must be militantly waged and beautifully won.
“Text of Arundhati Roy’s speech at the Elgar Parishad 2021”

January 26, 2021 /

Once the peasants are in Delhi, it is either collective redemption or collective ruin. Nazists rarely allow for a middle ground…
This is first time in history we are seeing a revolutionary uprising in a fascist society while fascists still have state power. It was impossible until today, but the impossible happened today.

October 25, 2020 /

Ha ka jingmut tynrai ka kyntien Hima ka iasnoh bad thew ia ka synshar-ka bishar, ka sainpyrthei, ka khaii-ka pateng, ka kamai-kajih bad ka ioh ka kot. Katkum ka histori, u khun bynriew u la tyllun bad san na ka synshar syiem sha ka synshar paidbah. Ki don ruh ki thymmei pyrkhat kiba pynksan ba ki Syiem ki dei ki nongmihkhmat jong u Blei nongbuh nongthaw bad ki dang don ki iing longsyiem kiba dang sah khyrdong haduh mynta, wat la kim don shuh ka bor synshar kumba ki don ha ki por hyndai.Niuma,  ki paidbah nongshong shnong ha kine ki Ri ki dang ai hi khyndiat khynsoit ka bor ka sor ia ki, kumba ka long ha Ri Bilat bad ha ka Bri u Hynniewtrep ha kaba ki iing longsyiem ki dang ia don bynta hi ha kaba korbar ia ka iit- ka hima. Ka histori ka iathuh ruh ba na kawei ka spah snem sha kawei pat la mih ki nongsynshar kiba runar, ki nongsynshar kiba klun lut ka bor synshar ha lade bad kiba khnoit bein ia ki briew bad kiba nud ruh ban pyniap ia kito kiba ieng pyrshah ia ki.

September 6, 2020 /

Ka khlam ka la pynjulor bad ki samla kynthei, shynrang bad kiwei pat, ki shaiong bad sheptieng ban pyrkhat ia ka jingpynjot jong ka. Ha kajuh ka por kane kam pat dei kaba kut jong ka jingim bad barabor ka jingshai ka ap ha ba kut ka lynti iaid ba dum tliw tliw. Ha ka almanac jong ka Balang Presbyterian kane ka dei ka taiew jong ki samla bad kane ka sermon ka mih na ka jingiakren-iatai bad ki katto katne ngut ki samla kiba phohsniew bad saindur ia ka lawei.

August 26, 2020 /

On 5th August 2020 the Bhartiya Janta Party lived up to its promise of  ‘Mandir Vahin Banega’ as India’s Prime Minister laid the foundation stone of a temple at the place of a historical mosque demolished by the same party in 1992 in Ayodhya. While preparations of a grand temple in Ayodhya are on, it must be remembered that just a couple of years back in 2017, the Sardar Sarovar dam was inaugurated by the same Prime Minister with great fanfare in which large number of religious places of the Adivasis, Hindus, Jains and Muslims were drowned in the dam waters permanently.