As a writing instructor and professor of rhetoric, I came to appreciate the immutable power of words. Once articulated, they travel the world, get transformed,…
Border disputes among the states in the Northeast has become a recurring thing. To resolve it we must view it in its historical perspective and colonial legacy. We must also be sympathetic and considerate to all the sides affected by it.
You sir, are a plague to the northeast region.
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.
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.
The discourse on indigeneity has been a bone of contention in the social and political life in Assam. This discourse should be discarded. It is…
11 May 2021: For more than a year Karbi and Adivasi farmers of Mikir Bamuni Grant village in Nagaon district have been fighting to protect their lands, forcibly taken over by Azure Power Forty Private Limited for building a solar power plant. The land in question was cleared and cultivated by the ancestors of these farmers for generations.
Last April 22nd, the burnt body of twelve year old Sumila Ronghangpi was recovered from one Prakash Borthakur’s home in Raha. Prakash Borthakur and his…
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.
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.
Tanmoy Sharma on Sanjib Baruah’s new book In the Name of the Nation: India and Its Northeast; Stanford University Press, 2020
Writing the northeast, often leads to misrepresentation, distortion, misinformation of the places, peoples and resources. These are not merely floating around in popular mentality, these stereotypes are consciously constructed and maintained in films and also in academic discourses. This particular Call for Paper (CFP) for a journal issue, entitled “Assam: A Citizenship Battleground” (Cached link)to be published under University of York project entitled Rethinking Civil Society: History, Society, Critique caught our attention and quite a few of us discussed it and decided to address the issue.
The result was a statement of concern, which is not about a closed academic discussion but more about placing the northeast of India, Assam in particular in a more complex frame of reference for a global readership. This was also making people of the region aware of the developments taking place in academic circles in the West. The NRC and CAA has captured a lot of global press and as it happens, the margins get distorted in the generalised narrative.
Since the days of the colonial takeover of this part of the country by the British Administration the native people of Assam as well as North East India have been facing indiscriminate land aggression by outsiders. From the very days of the colonial administration and even after independence, the land has become the central issue of conflict between subject versus subject and also the subject versus state. The legal changes that began in the colonial age that do not recognize the difference between the tribal tradition and the formal law are basic to all forms of land alienation.
In these series of photographs, Akash Basumatari, a film-maker, and photographer based out of Assam captures this lived reality of the people in Matia and Simlitola areas of the Goalpara district.
In Assam, indigenous communities are living under constant threat of eviction. Even after living for generations they are still not getting settlement for their land. Landless farmers are demanding land. But this government which stormed to power by promising to protect indigenous interests are now becoming the major threat to the indigenous people. From bringing in the CAA to the Ordinance for Automatic Reclassification of Land, we are witnessing a series of decisions by the present regime which will ultimately destroy our collective existence.
Torrential rains, this monsoon like every other has worsened the flood situation in Assam. This year already around 1.1 million people have been affected in 23 districts and the fatalities due to flood this year has gone up to 24 and counting. While the state administration is doing its best to tackle the situation, locals of villages near the rivers are being moved to safer places as their villages are being inundated by flood waters. Soon the public cry will be about the ineffectual bureaucracy and aid programs on the ground as lakhs of rupees will be once again spent and pocketed.
māti is a short documentary film (22 minutes) that attempts to understand this annual cycle. This film is in Assamese and English (with subtitles in English) and remains institutionally unfunded, made in partnership with the local communities by the river.
On June 29, 2020; the Minister of Industries and Commerce of Assam released a series of tweets announcing that the Council of Ministers had approved an ordinance by which industries could be set up in Assam by just “one self-declaration” and land would be deemed converted for industrial purpose. The Ordinance presently awaits the approval of the Governor of Assam.
In law, land as a natural resource is considered to be held in public trust by the State. The State holds land for the enjoyment by the citizen at large. This essentially means that there is an embargo on the State transferring public properties such as Government held land to private parties if such transfers affect the public interest.
In the evening of 25 May 2020, George Floyd, a 46 years old African-American man was choked to death by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer of the Minneapolis Police Department, an incident that sparked massive outrage and protest demonstrations against police brutality and lack of police accountability and racism, in the United States of America and around the world.
At around 00:30 AM on 15 June 2020, a team of Indian Army personnel under Major Sachin Sinha of 244 Field Regiment based in Charaideo assisted by a team of Assam Police under Amit Kumar Hojai, Sub-Divisional Police Officer, Titabor and Mintu Kumar Handique, Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Borholla Police Station (PS) picked up Jayanta Borah, 25 years old son of late Hem Borah who had served in the Indian Army, from his home at Balijan Gabhoru Ali, Kakodonga Habi Gaon, Borholla in Jorhat district in Assam where he lived with his old mother, Lila Borah.
Greetings like “Comrade” or “Lal Salam” can land one in jail under the UAPA as per NIA’s chargesheet against Bittu Sonowal. When greetings start triggering anti-terror laws, it becomes important to revisit the definition of ‘anti-terror’. Every right guaranteed to citizen comes with a caveat taking away the absoluteness of such laws. For example, Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution guarantees the freedom of speech and expression and at the same time Article 19(2) allows for reasonable restrictions to be imposed on the same freedom to speech and expression. While in principle, exceptions might not be problematic, yet exceptions are usually used to quell voices of the opposition.
What does it take to build a nation? Hiren Gohain and Sanjib Baruah once had a prolonged debate on the stakes of nationalism during the Assam Movement in the 1980s. Professor Gohain, broadly skeptical of the Assam Movement, argued that it was a bourgeois reaction to the consolidation of communist organizing in the region. Professor Baruah, more sympathetic, suggested that it was a strategic mobilization responding to India’s continued treatment of Assam as a colony. Revisiting that debate, one is struck less by their disagreements— which were many and profound—but by the impossibility of that argument today. This is partly because of the intervening forty years, of course, especially the collapse of the organized Left, the rise (and betrayal) of ULFA, and the saffronization of nationalism, such that even imagining it could be an emancipatory vision seems ludicrous these days. It is also because, as both Professors Gohain and Baruah emphasize in their recent books, the rest of the country never grasped the sheer novelty of the Assam Movement. Most of us today remember the Assam Movement only insofar as it led to the Assam Accord, which we in turn blame for the NRC and the CAA. Read together, Professors Gohain and Baruah offer us an important corrective to that narrow and self-serving narrative, even as they highlight different aspects of the complex history and consequences of that moment in Indian history.
How Oil India Limited (OIL) is trying to spin Baghjan oil spill disaster?
As Baghjan burns I find myself (almost like everyone of us) entangled in heap of anxieties that comes from my association and experience with societies and institutions across the region. As Baghjan is not a case in isolation I find myself compelled to inform what cause my anxiousness. I should add, reliving and writing the self is not always a happy exercise even when one knows one is politically and morally obliged to do so. Yet, I write because much about Baghjan will be determined by what we choose to see in the sufferings and loss. What we see determines how we respond, how we care and for how long. It will decide what we will fight for in the various phases of its healing/curing. It will tell us when we will choose to withdraw our love and responsibilities.
The malicious act of re-opening and construction toll gates while a national lockdown in times of a global pandemic is in progress, when people cannot voice their disagreements or lodge their protest, is a backdoor fascist attack on the very idea of democracy and citizenry. It is a clear signal that the Indian state will, by hook or crook, relegate it’s citizenry to the status of a consumer bereft of any quality service and rights that is enshrined in the constitution.
Recently, three incidents have rocked Assam: a coal mining concession in a part of Dehing-Patkai Elephant Reserve, an oil blowout in Baghjaan, and the extra-judicial killing of an Assamese youth in Jorhat by security forces and police. While the state narrative regarding Jayanta Bora, the deceased youth, seems to connect him with the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) without any conclusive proof, multiple local media outlets have reported a different version of his death. This version states that Bora was seen taking photographs of trucks carrying illegal coal from the adjacent Naga hills, which might have had a role in his death. Meanwhile, different narratives have emerged from Baghjaan oil blowout as well. While one calls for a relook at the extractive economy and its power relations in Assam vis-a-vis the Indian state, another emphasize on reading it as an industrial disaster. In an interview with The Wire a few years ago economic commentator Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar said, “Assamese chauvinism has long come in the way of oil exploration. The government must dismiss it for the narrow-minded silliness that it is,” suggesting how the Baghjaan oil blowout can be plotted in extractive relations of competing groups and nationalist aspirations. This essay seeks to reflect on the extractive economy, the historical and the contemporary, that has been at the centre of the development narrative in Assam.
Now you are locked down, where can you go? An abuser threatened his wife in a remote village in Assam. The violence escalated and was aggravated by the lockdown which is in force now to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic. The woman waited for night to set in. She did not want to be seen by anyone. But would anyone see the violence she was going through? With a five month old infant wrapped in her sador/clothing, she fled. She crossed two paddy fields and reached her natal home.
In this time of crisis, the government of Assam must rise to the occasion and abide by its duty to the people. Alongside the restrictions on movement and public gathering, the government must also fulfil its responsibilities towards the economically vulnerable sections of society by safeguarding their health and economic wellbeing.
the idea of Assamese nation is not homogenous—it is riven with contradictions, which make it a social form that is in process. In other words, the historical development of the Assamese nationality is an ongoing process of democratisation of social life, which is being obstructed by the Indian state under the class rule of the all-India Anglophone upper-caste elite. Now, while the metropolitan left-liberals, representatives of this latter class, devote their singular attention to the dominant upper-caste Assamese nationalism, they are oblivious to other voices that have engaged with the idea of an Assamese nation. In the process, they also miss the conjuncture in which this chauvinism (and its critiques) have emerged. Consequently, one must ask why this narrative of ‘the chauvinist Assamese’ has such currency amongst the liberals. We believe there are two reasons for it. First, it helps them in overlooking their own complicity as the upper-caste Indian elite in the emergence of this very chauvinist Assamese nationalism. And second, they can happily remain oblivious to the non-Brahminical articulations of Assamese nationality and thus deny political assertions of such articulations.
In India, we are witnessing the psychopathological connection between the prison and the nation state in its entirety at the moment, in the context of both the Kashmir Valley and the creation of our latest architectural wonder, the detention center in Assam.
As a nation, we are being bound on principles of these two, I would argue, architecturally similar ideas , of silencing a space and of containing a people (within a space).
The unrelenting movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA) reveals that the wounds of the past remain unhealed. While the CAA is an attempt at settling, to quote Sanjib Baruah, the “unfinished business” of partition, it has flared up what the indigenous people of the Northeast dread the most- the fear of being reduced to a minority. That fear is often labelled as a mere myth by some and the persistence of that myth is often ascribed to the Assamese middle class’s political agenda. However, in the case of the CAA protests, the spontaneity and intensity and consistency of the current movement signal a contrary view. It is in this light that Assam’s politics can be explained in terms of a ‘politics of resentment’, a term given by the political scientist Francis Fukuyama, in his own analyses of identity politics.This resentment is against the Centre which continues to belittle the identity concerns of the indigenous people…
The Manikut Utsav, celebrated at Hajo, the Temple City of Assam is bright example of Hindu-Muslim unity which the entire country should take note of.
Translation of Akhil Gogoi’s open letter he handed over to his comrades when he was presented before a special National Investigation Agency court in Guwahati on 24 January 2020. Akhil Gogoi, mass peasant leader and RTI activist from Assam, was arrested on 12 December 2019 by Assam Police and later handed over to the NIA. He has been booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and a case was registered against him under section 120(B), 124(A), 153(A), 153(B) of the IPC and section 18, 39 of the UAPA.
Since the past couple of months I have been thinking a lot about home and ways in which it archives the passage of time. In one such afternoon of sluggish enquiry, I learnt about my great-aunt for the first time some forty years after her death when I discovered an old trunk in my house. The trunk was brought by her when she migrated from Sylhet to India (Assam) because of the partition of 1947. Coincidentally, the day I discovered this relic of the inglorious history turned out to be the anniversary of the country’s independence. It was on the 15th August 2018.
Even if for a moment we keep aside the fresh universal humiliation of Kashmiri peoples demand of self-determination, we still have other, less heard about, mostly ignored state sponsored persecution of people and their right to self-determination by the Brahmanical Indian state.
One such marginalized story is from Assam and its demand for self-determination which again has been gaining fresh momentum in and through the ‘Brahmanical’ Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019.
The extraordinary mass awakening erupted in Assam after the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 had been introduced in the Lok Sabha on 9 December 2019 is hitherto unseen in the history of the state. We are at a loss whether to term it a mass movement or a mass protest! It is certain that it is a phenomenon that would shake Assam’s social life. Everyone would agree that it is a historic eruption in the life of the Assamese nationality. But no matter how massive this mass protest is, this mass movement by the people would not be able to achieve its goal unless it is given a rational direction. Therefore we are trying to propose a blueprint to carry forward this movement, so that the biggest political phenomenon that we have ever seen in our lifetime does not become a nine day wonder.
My first personal introduction to the flurry of activities that would be associated with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam was in June 2015. My partner and I were in Australia for a conference, when my father left several text messages for us to call him. He wanted the exact spelling of my deceased father-in-law’s name, as well as the name of his village in Nagaland. “Where have you both kept your school and college certificates?” he asked when I called. Thus it began, a scramble for documents that would prove that I was indeed a citizen of India, who was from Assam and had a formidable array of evidence as proof. My father explained that my partner’s details would be sent to Nagaland and once the administration there verified the details sent to them, she too would be included in the NRC.”
Over the last few days, I’ve found myself repeatedly on the defensive—from accusations flying around about the xenophobic Northeast, that people there “just want to kick everybody out”.
Other “mainlanders” confess they are torn, wanting to understand and extend support but struggling to because they can’t align the protest there with their fight against anti-secularism.
For those of you who may still be confused, yes “mainland” India and Assam are protesting the CAA but not for the same reasons. The former are rightfully enraged over its dire implications for the Muslim community. The Assamese (not a monolithic ethnic block btw but an intricate, precarious web of over 200 tribes) are angered over how they feel it threatens their indigenous existences.
By relegating the cries of the North-East region to fringes, a strong and powerful ‘liberal’ discourse on ‘secularism’ has emerged in India’s ‘heartland’. One can clearly observe the immorality of this discourse; news reports, opinion pieces announce the new Citizen Act as “islamophobic” and “anti-secular” while using images from the protesting ‘North-East’. One will also find news reports where images are used from the current Assam protest and the news item never mentions the protest in Assam and its reason but talks of passing an “Anti Secular Bill”. Deaths of protesters in Assam is cited in making their ‘liberal’ ‘secularist’ arguments in news rooms and opinion pieces.
Despite massive protests against the CAB, the BJP formed government in Assam in 2016 with a vast majority. Our apprehension that Hindu nationalism has devoured Assamese nationalism has been proved true over and over again. We may have raised certain demands at the level of parliamentary politics which are against Hindu nationalism, but culturally we are gradually stepping inside the deep and dark tunnel of Hindu nationalism. Hegemony of neoliberal and Hindutva ideology has been gradually established in our society. We have witnessed many people becoming euphoric at the news of the four rape-accused being shot dead in an encounter by the Hyderabad Police, including people who are nationalists, who are known as progressive-democratic. How could Assamese people support encounters? The blood-soaked history of Assamese nationalism makes it impossible. But now it has also become easy in Assam. This change is easily recognisable if one looks at the reactions to the various incidents happening in Jammu and Kashmir, including the abrogation of Article 370. This is just one example. Does it mean that although we vocally oppose Indian national aggression, we are gradually embracing the ideology of Hindu nationalism? We will have to find out a rational answer to it from the protest movements happening at this moment. As of now, these protests are characteristically different from the earlier protests—firstly, these are much more aggressive than the earlier protests and inclusive of people from all sections of society; and secondly, the people of Assam have firsthand had a good taste of the BJP’s rule and their ideology during the period since the earlier protests. That is why we hope that these protests shall not be like the earlier protests—unlike earlier protests, these protests should not go back to the point of their origin where the protests need to be restarted from again. These protests must take us a step forward, engender a qualitative transformation in us.
The tenor of the anti-CAB mobilization in Assam has been somewhat different from elsewhere in the country—here, the CAB debate is inseparable from the debate on the National Register of Citizens (NRC). With an eye on how the terrain of the CAB-NRC debate has shifted in the last few months, it would be the right time to turn our attention to the second half of this notorious CAB-NRC combine. In fact, the way in which CAB has been pushed through reveals much about how the NRC process may be expected to play out, and how Hindutva fascism actually intends to deal with the demands and aspirations of the many nationalities that fall within the borders of its imagined Hindu empire.
There were many in Assam who were cautiously optimistic about the NRC process—they had hoped this would end, once and for all, the discrimination against Bengali-speaking Hindus and Muslims as Bangladeshis. But not anymore.
In the morning of December 12, 2019 most people around the Uzan Bazar, Ambari area of Guwahati had come out to see who had assembled at the Latasil field and hear some of the speakers they were sure would come: Zubeen, Samujjal and others who had been vocal in their opposition to to the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). Before mobile internet services were shut down at 1900 hours on December 11, 2019, many citizens of Guwahati had updated their status to ask people to come to Latasil grounds at 1100 hours the following day. The messages had a ring of defiance to them. In an age that demands distraction via the world wide web, the status updates managed to help individuals focus on the event that they were coming out to participate in.
As the National Media has decided on silence – this death list (just from Guwahati) is from the reports on local TV networks. Chalk up these murders on the head of RSS/BJP/Hindutva Fascist Indian state
Indian Liberals must understand that the CAB and the NRC are truly pernicious and evil, not simply because they are against Indian Muslims. By and large (outside Assam) they are not. So let’s stop pretending that this is the case. If you happen to be a non-Muslim Indian liberal, then you need to understand that stating that you will now ‘register’ yourself as a ‘Muslim’ because of the CAB and the NRC, is not something that will affect your citizenship status by even one jot. This is not and cannot be ‘civil disobedience’ because an Indian citizen registering as a Muslim ‘disobeys’ nothing and nobody insofar as citizenship is concerned. That is a matter under the ambit of the law pertaining to conversion, not citizenship. We need more than token gestures of this kind.
“Run for your lives, you cannot save your precious belongings, your houses from the raging floods! The ‘run of the river’ is faster and far more destructive than your own governments in New Delhi and Dispur, and the ‘hydro madmen’ keep offering false assurances about, all the time! Run, because public hearings are of no value and environmental impact assessments are mere token gestures!”
Civil Society of #Assam writes to the Chief Justice of India on the humanitarian crisis unleashed by Suspicious and Mischievous Re-Verification Notices by #NRC Authority of Assam
The problem of flood in Assam is heading towards a change in character, making the problem much graver and insoluble. This is not sudden but we have been noticing flashes of this change for the last decade. The fact that many rivers in Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts have been shallowed by sand, that the paddy fields have been entombed in sand, that there is deposition of sand instead of alluvium during flood, that there is no fish and wood in the flood waters meaning that the graveness of the problem is heading towards a cataclysm. Flood in Assam is no longer a problem, it has become a catastrophe instead.
Miya poetry is not a tool for division – it should be a bridge of unity between the mainstream Assamese society and the Miya people. But in order for that to happen, both the progressive sections of the mainstream Assamese society and the practitioners of Miya poetry should play their responsible roles.
Colonial politics of labelling communities have had disastrous consequences which continue to impact the lives of the colonized. Identities were created and circulated through this act which in turn had categorised, included and excluded the communities living in the colonial fringe. Karbis were labelled ‘heathen’, ‘worshippers of malignant demons’, ‘unwarlike’, ‘timid’, ‘coward’ ‘bloodthirsty’ and such other colonial vocabularies which continue to haunt them. Colonial authorities persisted with the misnomer, ‘Mikir’, over the ancient indigenous nomenclature Karbi and the label remained in force for centuries. Colonial categorisation of Karbis into Hills and Plains simply because of geographical locations continues to divide and distance the tribe psychologically, socially, culturally and politically. The colonizers however saw in the Karbis their ‘industriousness’ as it served the colonial enterprise.
The contested citizenship question in Assam has real human costs. This is a list of NRC/D-Voter suicides based mostly on the deaths that got publicly reported.
Kulsuma Begum’s son was evicted even before he was born. On 2nd, 4th and 8th March Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council carried an eviction drive at Sarkebasti at the border of East Karbi Anglong and Hojai districts. Eviction was carried out at Sarkebasti’s Bahadur Bazaar, Islampur, Choudhury School Block, Ambari etc. Almost 580 families were evicted and 2700 people rendered homeless. And Kulsuma Begum was one of them.Heavily pregnant, Kulsuma was dragged out of her home and physically assaulted. She was left out in the open bleeding. Kulsuma Begum went into labour after being hit by police and gave birth to her son in an open field.
Politics in Assam had a turning point when a dismembered leg of an adult human was found on a dead stream in the village of Hudumpur at the outskirts of Guwahati by two journalists in June 1999. This discovery brought in the discourse of mystery and secrecy surrounding many killings and disappearances in Assam.