Category: Commentary

June 1, 2022 /

Often accounts that appear as ‘small’ like strawberry in comparison to the ‘big’ stories of development such as dams sit uncomfortably in the grand scheme of intellectual pursuits. We feel that it is precisely such distinctions that lead to erasure of ‘small’ developments that stem from what appears as trivial initiatives. Social sciences is often attracted to big stories where there is comprehensive literature and research materials. Thereby, reinforcing dominant epistemological frameworks. After all, development models of centre-periphery in relation to studying Northeast India reduce everything else as marginal. Unless relationships and networks are incorporated into the development, remoteness, and progress model for the region, our research risks being dismissed.

February 2, 2022 /

It has now become a truism of modern secular historiography on India that there was an ‘early’ Savarkar and a ‘late’ Savarkar (much in the same way as intellectuals refer to early and late Marx!), and that the early Savarkar was secular, humanist, and a nationalist revolutionary who, only in his later years became the theoretician of Hindutva. His nationalist, secular credentials are based on his activities in Europe and his escape from a ship mid-sea, and more and more frequently now on his book, First War of National Independence, 1857’, written by him in 1907. That we happen to be celebrating the 150th anniversary of 1857 will doubtless add to Savarkar’s glory, particularly as it is easy to prove that the Indian National Congress to begin with, did not uphold 1857.

January 26, 2022 /

Rural India faces many calamities be it natural disasters, corporate acquisition of forests, lands and village commons, or migrant workers walking back hundreds of kilometres from hostile cities due to pandemic lockdowns.  In Odisha on the eastern coast, the macabre theatre of capital’s insidious appropriation of agricultural land and village commons is being resisted bravely once again by villagers of Dhinkia of Jagatsinghpur district in collective barricading from the clutches of state-supported Jindal Steel Works Utkal Limited.

January 21, 2022 /

Ki don bun kum ma nga kiba la kha bun bnai hadien ba la plie ia ka Jylla Meghalaya ha ka 21 January 1972. Ngam shym kynmaw ban kylli na i mei (bam kwai ha dwar u Blei), kaei kaba i sngew ne pyrkhat shaphang ka Jylla ba pura. Nga wan na ka longїing kaba don ha trai jong ka kyrdan pdeng ha ka imlang sahlang (Lower middleclass) bad ngam artatien ba i mei bad i pa ki dap da ka jingkmen namar ba ki la їoh ban treikam Sorkar, wat la ka long ha ki kyrdan ba rit, hynrei ki sngewskhem ba ka jingim jong ngi ki khun ka la shngaiῆ bad kim don jingartatien ba kin lah ban bsa, ban pynheh pynsan bad phah shong skul ia ngi.

January 9, 2022 /

U Blei Janus u dei uwei na ki blei jong ki nongshong shnong jong ka Nongbah Rome hyndai bad u dei u ‘Lei ar khlieh, kawei ka khlieh ka phai shadien bad kawei pat ka peit shakhmat. Ka dur jong u Blei Janus ka long thik kumba la batai ba u don ki khmat na shadien bad na shakhmat bad katkum ka jingngeit ka long ba ki khmat kiba na shadien ki peit ia ka mynnor bad kiba shakhmat pat ki їohi ia ka lawei. Ha u Blei Janus ka mynnor ka bteng sha ka lawei, ka lawei kan ym lah їeng khlem ka mynnor bad ka mynnor ruh kam don jingmut khlem ka lawei. U Blei Janus u dei u Blei uba kongsan ha ka nongbah Rom namar ba u kdew bad pun lynti hapdeng ka mynnor bad ka lawei bad ha ka kti kamon u bat ia u diengduh bad kdew ia ki nongїaid lynti ba kin їaid ha ka lynti kaba beit.

December 25, 2021 /

Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus were Palestinians whose land was under the foreign Roman Empire and were considered second class citizens with no rights. During the birth of Jesus, the Roman Government was highly exploitative and heavy taxes were levied on the subjects, especially on unorganized laborers like the fisher folks, masons and daily wage earners. The Government Officials, including the Jews et al, in Palestine would care less about the wellbeing of the “aam admi” or common people, rather they were self-centered and only served the need and greed of the Roman Rulers in order to promote and protect their own powers, positions and interests.

December 24, 2021 /

Ha kine ki ar tyli ki snem, kata ka snem 2020 bad 2021 ki la long ki por kiba eh ban pyrkhat shaphang ka jingkmen. Ka khlam covid19 ka la pynkordit bad pynsuhjer ia ka jingim bad kan dang shim por slem ba ngin khyllie pat ia ka jingim la ha ka liang ka їoh ka kot, ka їohkam їohjam, ka koit ka khiah, ka pule-dangle bad kumta ter ter.

December 6, 2021 /

Indian armed forces ambushed and killed 17 coal miners in Nagaland Mon’s district. An official report stated the killings as a case of mistaken identity during a counter-insurgency operation. The Home Minister of India, Mr. Amit Shah described it as an unfortunate incident, while the Chief Minister of Nagaland offered his condolences to the bereaved families and assured justice according to the law of the land. What do the inhumane extra judicial killings of civilians followed by apologies tell us about the state of India democracy? 

October 28, 2021 /

On the night of the twenty-third of October I was woken up by a rather agitated message which read: “I hear that Modi is meeting the Pope…It legitimises what is being done to minorities – Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs, and Dalits and women.” “The Holy Father should not meet him” a second message continued. These messages were referring to Prime Minister Modi’s now confirmed meeting with the Pope in Rome on the thirtieth of October, prior to the former’s participation at the G-20 meet in the same city.

October 24, 2021 /

Indian Constitution, one of the most sensitive in the world to the rights of its minorities, ensures that tribal communities in Northeast states like Nagaland and Mizoram are the sole owners of their land and resources. No act of the Indian Parliament can undo this right. There are however two ways in which that right can be undone: Their own State Assembly can pass legislation abdicating this right. The other alternative is communities or individual land owners can be persuaded to voluntarily sell or hand over their land to government, private companies or corporations for projects that come in the name of their ‘development’.

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.