Let’s start with the positives – a novel about the Bengali experience in Shillong, especially during the troubles, is always welcome. The novel has some nice passages and some wit at times, for example ‘…..he transformed himself into an amalgam of Devdas and Descartes—a perpetually intoxicated mathematical genius, composed, in equal parts, of alcohol and algebra’, to describe Debu’s tutor, Professor Bose… The novel’s treatment of the Sylhet-Calcutta divide imbibes it with an angle that will be new to Khasi readers while the episodes around the first TV in Upper Jail Road and the Bengali fish embargo during the troubles are well recounted. The loss of home or the lack of it, the longing and sorrow that emerges as a result and the plight of people who have suddenly become outsiders in a place they love can be felt throughout the novel and is movingly rendered in parts. But the novel also fails on many fronts. It surrenders too easily to stereotypes and it miserably fails to overcome the tropes that have become a bit tiresome in novels about Shillong…
Initially, the media attributed this heinous act to the ULFA (I). However in a statement issued by the outfit it has claimed that it has no links to the said act of cold blooded killings. As we are writing this statement fingers are shifting towards the peace-talk faction of the ULFA and the police has detained Jiten Dutta and Mrinal Hazarika on suspicion of instigating/enacting the killings, given the incendiary statements recently given by the said members threatening to target Bengali community if the Citizenship Amendment Bill (2016) was to be rammed in by the government. From the ground, the lone survivor of the killings in Tinsukia last evening, Sahadev Namasudra stated that the gunmen were in military fatigues and spoke in Hindi.
So how is a Foreigner identified in Assam?
The Bengali Bhadrolok class always gets rattled whenever there is even a scratch on its two academic fiefdoms, Presidency and Jadavpur Universities. These are the two primary apparatuses for the reproduction of hegemony of this class in Bengal’s socio-cultural life. Noone has found this extraordinarily parochial class moving petitions or capturing media time and space to express their concern about or outrage against Bengal’s bleak education system. In the last few years, this class has gradually given up on the Presidency, and now, it is more bothered about Jadavpur. In the rising populist tidal water, the island mentality of the Bhadralok class has become acute. Latest is their rage against the decision of the Jadavpur University (JU) administration to scrap entrance examination to a few undergraduate programmes, English being the focal point.
The bill is flawed because of its omissions. One wonders why the bill is selective about providing refuge to religious minorities of three Muslim-majority countries. Is it because that would exclude Muslims? Sri Lanka and Myanmar are India’s neighbours too, where religious minorities including Muslims are persecuted. Mass torture of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar is a case in point. Why not extend the special treatment to them? Is it because that would enable more Muslims to become Indian citizens? In Pakistan Shias, Ahmedis have been persecuted for long. Are they not being considered because they are Muslims? One can also question why consider religion as the ground for giving refuge. People get persecuted for their political views, for their sexual orientation and many other reasons. Are those minorities not the right kind of persecuted minorities? The bill is clearly against the spirit of secularism.
9 poems of Pranabendu Dasgupta in a translation by Brinda Bose
Rice! A mountain of cooked rice lay piled up on the cement floor. And standing by the door was Dhiren Roy, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment. Hot, steaming rice. As he inhaled the aroma, a strange transformation came over him. He began weeping convulsively. “Oh dear ones, look down from heaven, see how much rice I’m master of now! You died for want of a handful of rice, but see me now! I’m the king of rice today!”
I am in Calcutta. At least I think this is Calcutta. I was told that I would be journeying into the heartland of the bhodrolok and the East Bengalis of Shillong coloured my expectations and bias. Upon arrival though I feel as though somethings have been missed. Like the city, the information hardly seems fresh. It is not current.
I don’t like the boring drone of talk about literature. Instead let me now tell the story of a mosquito.
No one threatened Pijush Dhar to leave Shillong in 2009, but he realized that he perhaps overstayed his welcome in the hills, the hills which unbeknownst to him, have become the raison d’etre of his poetry
The entry of refugees in large numbers is never welcomed anywhere. Demographic balances in Northeast India were threatened, even overturned, by the influx. The Bengali refugee, competing for scant jobs in the already impoverished economy, was a threat. The next phase of violence and ethnic cleansing began.
Garga Chatterjee on hindu heterodoxies and the question of meat ban
“We dispute that Bengali is the language of Barak Valley of Assam”
We wish to reiterate and assert the fact that Cachari/Sylheti is a distinct ethnic and linguistic group and not just a sub-group/ dialect within the larger Bengali language as widely perceived. It has its own alphabet written in its own script known as Syloti Nagari…we request you to consider the protection of Sylheti (Cachari) language as an indigenous and independent language to be protected under Section 6 of Assam Accord.
SOCIETY FOR PROTECTION OF SYLHETI (CACHARI) LANGUAGE