Category: English

April 18, 2021 /

The first record of any European having crossed the Khasi Hills from one valley to the other is that of the journey made in 1824 by David Scott, the Agent to the Governor-General on the North East Frontier with headquarters at Sylhet. In 1826 the Syiem of Nongkhlaw was persuaded by David Scott to allow the construction of a road across the Khasi Hills. In 1833 Cherrapunji was established as the headquarters of the hills districts. For the next twenty years all effort was concentrated on establishing communication between Cherra and Sylhet.

April 3, 2021 /

The documentary flows at walking speed. The grandness comes across in the sound of water and the people will take a viewer more than a few minutes to get accustomed to. Luckily, the music, the voices of the people and the cinematography help. Overall, this documentary is an example of a new kind of love (or devotion) that a new generation of people feels towards their planet. Let’s hope that the world listens.

March 28, 2021 /

#Writing #Fiction #AnuradhaKumar
“I was born in Odisha, a time when it was still called Orissa. My first novel, fifteen years ago, was set there. Since then, I have written two other novels set in that state in India’s east; one in a town whose name I disguised, while my most recent novel is set in a place I have known only through the black and white photos of my father’s albums.”

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.

February 9, 2021 /

Whenever someone talks about
the ‘national unity’ of the entire country
my heart wishes to
deflate their balloons of vanity
and tell them—
the meaning of Bharat
is not related to some Dushyanta*;
rather it lies in the fields
where food grows
and so do robbers.

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 24, 2021 /

Ka Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, ka nongthoh kot ba paw nam ka kynthoh tyngeh halor ka jingma ban ngeit bad ïathuh tang kawei ka khana (The Danger of a Single Story). Kumta ha ka imlang sahlang ki mih ki jingïakynad bad jingïaumsnam lada kawei ka kynhun ka thom da ka bor halor kiwei lane ka kheiñ dewthala ia ka dei riti ne kolshor jong kiwei pat. Ha ka synshar khadar ruh ka mih ka jingeh bad lah ban khie ki thma lada kawei ka kynhun ne bor synshar ka pyntian ne pynngeit ne thep jubor ia ka saiñ pyrkhat jong ka halor kiwei pat. Lyngba ki por ka pyrthei ka la sakhi bad mad ia ki Syiem, ki Kaisar bad ki Patsha ba runar, ka la mad ruh ia ki nongsynshar leh jubor ne “Dictator”. Wat mynta ruh ha ka juk synshar paidbah kaba ngi dang pyrkhat ba ka dei ka aïom kaba pangad bad ba shngaiñ, phewse kam shym la long kumta. Ha kiba bun ki khep ki nongsynshar kiba la jied da ki paidbah ki tan bad kurup lut pynban ia ka bor sha lade bad ki bat ne ïasambynta ia ka bor tang hapdeng jong ki ne kata kaba ki khot mynta ka “elected autocracy”.

January 15, 2021 /

My alma mater, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kharagpur, has created a condensed history of Indian knowledge systems in calendar form. Lavishly produced, it is being widely shared and praised on social media. Sadly, it brims with lies, misleading ideas, and fanciful fictions. Rather than educating to inform and delight, it seeks to inflate cultural pride by taking liberties with the truth. Let me explain.

December 6, 2020 /

Throughout his school and college days Meghnad Saha had often to suffer untouchability and this continued even after he became a teacher and researcher. He had a particularly tough time in Allahabad because of the greater casteism that prevailed there as compared to Bengal. So unlike other Indian scientists he did not remain content to do scientific research only but drawing from his own difficult experience of school and college, began working to popularise teaching and research in science. He said that given the very low level of education right from schools to colleges, India had a very poor scientific base and human power and this could be rectified only by universalising state sponsored free quality education. He believed that the problems of social and economic oppression and the medieval mindset from which they emanated could be eradicated by the spread of science education at all levels even more than by social and political mobilisation. He also believed that modern industrial development would be necessary for removing poverty but cautioned against a total discard of the traditional methods of agriculture and rural cottage industry.  To this end he founded The National Institute of Science in 1935 and began publishing the journal “Science and Culture” to propagate his views.

November 28, 2020 /

Deliriously successful when first released way back in 1996, Lucky Ali’s O Sanam, once again sparked interest when a video-blogger by the name of Saad Khan recently released a video of Lucky Ali singing the song. Within a couple of days Saad Khan’s video went viral and raked in a huge amount of nostalgia for the India of the nineties. Lost in this surge of emotion was the fact that the Lucky Ali we saw in the video was far from the Lucky Ali we first saw in the mid-nineties. The man in Saad Khan’s blog video was older, with a face marked by the passage of time and more importantly marked by a beard and a skull cap, which seemed to suggest that he was a pious Muslim. The fact that this markedly Muslim accoutrement went unremarked upon in a time of general hostility to Muslims in India is surprising. But this silence could also imply apathy, which is a shame since this image does have a message for contemporary India even as the country bathes in the nostalgia for the nineties.

November 22, 2020 /

Earlier this year, I was going through the hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) from the 1960s. HUAC was responsible for investigating suspected Communist activities in the US, and elsewhere. One particular testimonial from New York caught my eye…
Bhashani, treated contemptuously by foes and even friends as ‘illiterate’ and a ‘rustic fool’, was on the editorial board of one the leading Afro-Asian magazines of the 1960s!…
Throughout his political career, Maulana Bhashani had been the founder and publisher of several papers and magazines, notably Ittefaq in 1949 and Haq Katha in 1972. However, this was the first time I was seeing his name on an international editorial board, and what an illustrious one it was as well.

November 9, 2020 /

Thma U Rangli-Juki has been campaigning for THE RIGHT OF CITIZENS FOR GRIEVANCE REDRESS AND SERVICE GUARANTEE IN MEGHALAYA Law, draft of which it had submitted to the government in 2013. Sadly, the law to this effect that was recently tabled, The Meghalaya Right to Public Services Act 2020 (MRPSA2020) is a law fraught with the problems of conception and drafting. A Law which is supposed to bring transparency and accountability of the Public Authorities for the citizens was placed in the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly without any pre-legislative consultation. This lack of consultation is now apparent in the draft bill, which in its drafting is full of legal loopholes and is designed to frustrate citizens in redressing their grievances.

October 5, 2020 /

Not many young people may know now but the Hindi comic book industry was very vibrant during the 1990’s. There were so many titles coming out every month. You had Raj Comics (my favourite), Manoj Comics, Tulsi Comics, Fort Comics, Radha Comics, Diamond Comics and then you had characters like Super Commando Dhruva (my favourite), Najrag, Ram-Rahim, Chacha Choudhary, Abedh, Judo queen Radha, Inspector Crookbond, Hawaldar Bahadur, Bankelal, and many more. And then there were other publications like Rajhans, Chandamama and of course Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle. I can say with pride that I had one of the early issues of Tinkle and a particular story of loan repayment which has always stuck with me. In short, my childhood was filled with comic books.

Kabiranjan Saikia, popularly known as Swadhinata Phukan who was the Assistant Publicity Secretary of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). Although Swadhinata Phukan was a member of the civil wing of the banned outfit, he was gunned down in a fake encounter by the state police on the night of 26 May 2000 at Garumara in the Jorhat district of Assam. He was 26 at that time. These two poems by Kabiranjan Saikia – “Aartonador Enixa” [“A Night of Screams”], written on 29 February 1992 and “Xamprotik” [“Nowadays”], written on 18 February 1993 – are sourced from an anthology of his poems, Moi Kabiranjan Uttopto Hobo Khuja Eta Kobitar Naam [I Am Kabiranjan, the Name of a Poem Wanting to Erupt], published by Aank-Baank in 2011.

It is the season for bambooshoot in Northeast India. Hundreds of women venture into the forests during these months to forage for the tender shoots. Some are consumed fresh, and a large quantity are fermented and preserved. As condiments, fermented bambooshoot (dried or wet) are generously added to meat, fish, and vegetables.

September 11, 2020 /

We, 12 staff of The Shillong Times, stand in solidarity with the three senior journalists—EM Jose (News Editor), Nabamita Mitra (Features Editor) and Dipankar Roy (Executive Editor)— whose services were terminated for “Covid-19 generated reasons” with effect from September 1, when they were in quarantine, although they were served the letters only on September 7; no prior intimation was given to them…

August 30, 2020 /

KA ÏING KHOM IEW HA BARIK
Da lah kyntiew
yn sa ieng kum u mot bah
ka ing tep ba ramhah kynsha
ba mih tyrpeng ba pyiar
ban kajoh ban dem sdien da jingsngewrain
ha ki biar, ki dak thoh kin khih kyrbeit
sha ki kyrteng jong ki paidbah…

A SHOPPING MALL IN BARIK
When it rises
it will stand like a large tomb                     
A monstrous mausoleum
with shoulders stretched
long enough to hang in shame
on its walls, alphabets will assemble
into the names of the people…

August 30, 2020 /

The Whole Family’ is a photo project that portrays the emotional longing of the family members of the missing. It is an artistic intervention in support of them as they continually ask the authorities about the whereabouts of the enforced disappeared people during the 10 years long People’s War in Nepal.
It is a reenactment to create a complete family photo that portrays the vacuum created by the loss of the family member. This photo project focuses on the emotional loss and shows the current socio-economic situation of the remaining family members.

August 27, 2020 /

The construction of popular narratives about a place is sometimes driven by an overuse of popular tropes, which delegitimises and silences the local community’s own interpretations of their history and culture. A Google search on ‘Mayong’ opens results such as ‘India’s Black Magic Capital’, ‘Land of Black Magic’, and so on, where the words ‘black’, ‘occult’, and ‘spooky’ take a connotative precedence. The image search provides a confusing plethora of images ranging from portraits of Naga sadhus smeared in bibhuti (holy ash), neo-Vaishnavite Assamese monks, Amazonian tribes and shamans passed off as practitioners of ‘black magic’ in Mayong. There is a particularly odd image of a collection of globes, a skeleton, and an assortment of objects, ostensibly hosted by the ‘Mayong Central Museum and Emporium of Black Magic and Witchcraft’. The image is definitely not from any museum in Mayong and the words “Black Magic” and “Witchcraft” were never a part of any museum title in Assam. The frontier Kamrupa-Pragjyotishpur has always been associated with magic and myths around magical practices since ancient times, because of the Śākta cult of the Kamakhya temple, and alleged instances of blood sacrifices and associated Tantric practices. This exoticization of Mayong in popular imagery, therefore, has deep historical roots.

August 27, 2020 /

It will be soon two years since the raid of August 28th when five additional persons including Sudha Bharadwaj was arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case.
Sudha Bharadwaj’s health condition is now showing signs of stress. Her daughter, Maaysha, was particularly upset over it. A few friends and those closely acquainted with her work got together to understand and decided to collectively raise the matter.

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.

August 24, 2020 /

When the world was young and when all the animals spoke the language of mankind, the peacock, U Klew, was but an ordinary grey-feathered bird without any pretensions to beauty. But, even in those days, he was much given to pride and vanity, and strutted about with all the majesty of royalty, just because his tuft was more erect than the tuft of other birds and because his tail was longer and was carried with more grace than the tails of any of his companions.

August 20, 2020 /

On August 9, 2020 my colleague, friend and mentor Prof. Ilina Sen passed away in Kolkata, in the presence of her partner Dr. Binayak Sen and their two daughters, Pranhita and Aparajita. She was 69 years old and in the space of the number of years that she was with us, Ilina taught us the value of compassion, courage and determination as weapons of resistance in the face of adversity. I had first heard of her when I first got involved in the human rights movement in the 1990s. She and Binayak had settled in Chattisgarh, where the trade union movement led by Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha had brought together a radical, grassroots platform that included indigenous rights activists, mine workers, women’s rights advocates and others marginalised groups.

August 15, 2020 /

If instead of being hanged by the neck
you’re thrown inside
for not giving up hope
in the world, your country, your people,
if you do ten or fifteen years
apart from the time you have left,
you won’t say,
“Better I had swung from the end of a rope
like a flag” —
You’ll put your foot down and live.
It may not be a pleasure exactly,
but it’s your solemn duty
to live one more day
to spite the enemy.

August 12, 2020 /

A Muslim man identified as Lukeman was brutally thrashed with hammer on the suspicion of smuggling cow meat by an angry mob of cow vigilante’s on the eve of the Eid- al- adha on Friday (July 31) in Gurugram. This  incident comes as one of a series of attacks that has taken place across the country, targeting Muslim since the current ruling populist regime acquired the power with absolute Majority in 2014. Friction between Hindus and Muslims has been a persistent feature of Indian life. But in the last six years a hundreds of Muslims have been lynched, always with the pretext of defending “Hindu values”, which, in some interpretations, considers cow as sacred has revealed the emerging socio- political complexities and schisms in India.

August 7, 2020 /

Sandh Karmari is a village in the Bakawand Block of Bastar district. In the village is the Maulikot, also known as the Bendrakot, one of the largest sacred groves in central India, spreading over about 100 acres. It is a small slice of an old growth forest in the eastern part of the district that borders Odisha. There are more than 400 species of woody plants, terrestrial orchids including the species of Nervilia and Habenaria, large ficus and silk cotton trees that have buttressed with age, and giant lianas that provide a wonderful high-way for the giant squirrels, langurs and civets that make this grove their home. The shrine at one corner of the grove is of Mauli Mata, also known as Kanda-khai, tuber eater. Legend has it that the first signs of her presence came about when three women went out to dig yams and one of them found a figure of the goddess in her basket.

August 6, 2020 /

Will Mr. Conrad Sangma speak up? Will he clarify how the haphazard establishment of multiple coke plants determine a more “liveable place?” Will he explain his double-tongue approach towards environmental policies of the state? Because his outward soft-speaking self seemingly hides his mischievous agenda. Or will he emulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi who doesn’t address hard-hitting questions? If he doesn’t address this issue then I will lend voice to more questions hovering around Meghalaya’s polluted air such as unabated limestone mining, remorseless timber smuggling to dubious factories, issuing of deceitful transport permits, and others that warrant an explanation from the horse’s mouth.

August 5, 2020 /

Faizabad District Judge KM Pandey made the decision to open the gates of the Babri, back in February of 1986, assuring everybody that heavens will not fall if the locks are removed. In his autobiography, he mentions that his decision was validated by a black monkey, who sat holding the flag post on the roof of the court all day long, and despite offerings of groundnuts and fruits from thousands of people of Faizabad and Ayodhya, refused to accept any. The judge spots the black monkey later in the verandah of his bungalow, and salutes him, taking him to be some divine power.

August 4, 2020 /

The tortuous thicket of laws, constitutional provisions, presidential orders, political history and legal mystifications surrounding Article 370 and Article 35A make it difficult to navigate through recent debates about its abrogation in an informed way. This series of three essays by Shrimoyee Nandini Ghosh, lawyer and legal researcher, which we published last year, aimed to be a somewhat eclectic guidebook— at times proffering a no frills step-by-step road map, at others traversing some rather more unfrequented and adventurous legal diversions.

August 3, 2020 /

In death, shaheed articulates both his agency and his suffering. In death, he bears witness to the pain and truth of Kashmir. In death, he makes it clear that the world’s largest democracy is afraid of simple dreams in the eyes of simple men.

“But what do these Kashmiris want,” the world asks.

August 2, 2020 /

A totalitarian control over histories and a calculated manipulation of meanings have been instrumental in India’s narrative warfare. Its armed and administrative forces have actively pursued the destruction of historiographic and material evidence of the Kashmiri past.
However, there exist ‘witnesses’ that reject the Indian imagination, refuse to grant it any legitimacy, and rule out any possibility of submission to its apparatus of regulation. These ‘witnesses’ attest to the multiple struggles of Kashmir’s pasts and preserve the evidence of its demands from the future. They undermine the colonial design by engaging in a negotiation of power where they reimagine the Kashmiri body, Kashmiri history, and the Kashmiri everyday. Subverting the threat of erasure and elimination, the ‘witnesses’ promise life in their sense of continuity, renewal, and resilience.”

July 31, 2020 /

We, the undersigned former and current students of Prof Hany Babu M.T., condemn his arrest by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday and stand in firm solidarity with him. Prof. Babu is a noted academic, a well known anti-caste activist, and a member of the committee formed for the defence of G.N. Saibaba, a former Delhi University professor who is over 90% disabled, and wheelchair bound. Prof. Babu has maintained his innocence since the illegal raid at his Noida apartment last year in September by Pune police. The raid, which was conducted without a warrant, resulted in the Pune Police confiscating Prof. Babu’s laptop, mobile phones, two booklets printed for the G.N. Saibaba defence committee and two books which are publicly available in bookstores and libraries. The nature of his alleged ‘crime’ remains unclear because the NIA’s warrant is, in our opinion, deliberately vague with clearly fabricated accusations. According to news reports, the ‘evidence’ that has apparently led to Prof Babu’s arrest was based off of an e folder on his hard disk. He was, however, not given a hash value for his laptop.

July 28, 2020 /

The opposition to the government’s intention to make Hindi mandatory in schools would have been an ideal moment for India to introspect on what it means to be such a language-rich country. It would have been an opportunity to take stock of the languages we have and those that are threatened, of those that require support in terms of documentation before they disappear, and how to honestly – and not just on paper – promote education in mother tongues. But none of this happened. The moment the “Hindi” issue cropped up, it became a political stand-off, instead of leading to a fruitful debate about what languages and linguistic diversity indicate about our sub-continent, and how such richness can be conserved. And so, once again the issue has been brushed under the carpet, and our ever-present notion of the vote-bank and other populist ideals have taken precedence. The present calm has lulled us to believe that nothing is the matter. The storm of linguistic decline is yet to unfold.

July 27, 2020 /

Swapna Barman became the only Indian so far to have won gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games in the event called heptathlon, an athletic event which, like many of them, most of her own villagers never heard of till she won the medal. Earlier she had also won gold medal in Asian Athletic Championship in 2017 and got silver medal in the SAF Games in 2016. Being the champion of one of the toughest athletic events she soon became well-known all over the country. For her extraordinary sporting achievements, she was also conferred with the coveted Arjuna Award. In the same Asiad the Assamese girl, Hima Das too won the gold medal in the 400 metres mixed and women’s relay. Young Hima Das deservedly became a celebrity in Assm. She has also been offered the job of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) by the state government. In stark contrast to such glorious journey, Swapna Barman received a lukewarm welcome in Kolkata airport, the capital of her home state, moderate cash rewards from the state, a clerical job to her brother, and that’s about it, where it all ended. Swapna belongs to the Koch Rajbanshi community, an indigenous repressed community recognized as Scheduled Caste in the state of West Bengal. In the caste sensitive Bengal society, they have always been considered as paraiahs, the low castes.

July 27, 2020 /

Recently, I came across a statement by 81 intellectuals and activists from Assam spotlighting the ‘disinformation’ published as part of a Call-for-Papers for a journal. Assam is a place with a complex political history and scholars do mix up issues from time to time. Therefore, the writing of the statement is a welcome step in the direction of understanding the state and the multitude of voices that it enkindles. It is in the same spirit of polyphony and dialogue that I write my comment…