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.
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.
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.
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.
Today is “Rev. Thomas Jones Day”, gazetted as a Special Holiday for all State Government Offices and all revenue and Magisterial Courts and Educational Institutions across the Khasi and Jaintia Hills and the Ri-Bhoi District. What might this 22 June holiday mean, individually or collectively, for Christian or non-Christian, in that shape-shifting ground between the past and the present?
There is a kind of myth making going on in the media that migrant workers are leaving cities for their love of home. The question is what choice these migrant workers had. They did not start their journey from the cities out of love for their homeland and relatives. They had to leave their homes in the cities. We conveniently/unconsciously switch this compulsion to leave cities for a phrase ‘love for the home’. Those who had some means to stay deferred their journey.
To say that migrant workers are leaving cities for their love of home/natives is to absolve ourselves from looking at harsh conditions which forced them out of city boundaries and left them walking in extreme conditions or undertaking arduous train journey.
Dierhekolie Iralu, known as Kaka, impulsive and straightforward, sentimental, domineering at times but innocent like a child, foaming at the mouth when voicing convictions, but with an attentive ear to the views of others. He is the man who revealed the history and truth of the Naga people that no one before him had dared to divulge.
Nineteen fifty six – the year Kaka was born, India launched a full-fledged military invasion of Nagaland. Naga villages were burned to ashes one after another, and the helpless people were driven into the jungle. Shortly after his birth, Kaka wandered the jungles with his mother, and was detained as a political prisoner at the age of 8 months. During his boyhood, scenes of blood and gore were etched into his memory as he spent time with his grandfather, who was a doctor.
THE NINETEENTH CENTURY SAW THE emergence of many ideas related to meaningfully transforming the Brahmaputra to serve the government and the country. Experts toyed with ideas on how to tame the river. If other rivers of the world could serve the cause of the governments of the countries through which they flowed, why should the Brahmaputra not be trained in similar ways? It was only a matter of the appropriate calculations and necessary engineering works. What was called for was a plan for the river’s regulation to achieve the desired goals. The river, despite its erratic temperament, was bound to behave according to the rules thus framed. After two centuries of political, economic, intellectual, and bureaucratic negotiation, the river has become part of India’s national imagination. India’s stake in the Brahmaputra is now firmly established. The genealogy of this belief in the expertise, knowledge, and governance of the river goes back to the mid-nineteenth century as the example of the Kalang, a distributary of the Brahmaputra, shows. The Kalang is the river on the banks of which I have partly grown up.
Kuki Rebellion has been has been usually portrayed as a heroic act of fighting the Colonial force but this particular ‘anti-colonial’ narrative ignores the sufferings meted out to Zeliangrong people (a conglomeration of Naga tribes (Zeme, Liangmai, Rongmei and Inpui). How a significant part of historical event has been obscured so far requires a retelling/rewriting experiences of Zeliangrong people from Kuki Rebellion, 1917-1919.
Jelle J. P. Wouters traces the early beginnings of the Indo-Naga conflict, which erupts in the 1950s and continues into the present-day. Focussing on the period roughly between the Battle of Kohima in 1944, which ended Japanese expansionism in the east, and the enactment of Nagaland state in 1963 as an envisaged (but failed) political compromise to the demand by the Naga National Council (NNC) for complete Naga sovereignty. Using, hitherto scantily used tour and personal diaries, government reports, private correspondence, memoires, and recorded memories to interrogate the master-narrative of the Naga struggle that reconstructs a relatively straight and uncomplicated historical trajectory that sees the genuine awakening and NNC-led political mobilization of an upland community situated off the beaten track of both Indian civilization and colonial domination, and of Nagas’ collective resolve to take up arms to fight for a place on the table of nation-states. Alternatively, if the story is told from the vantage of the Indian state, the dominant narrative apportions blame to a ‘misguided’ Naga elite that seeks to undermine the territorial and national integrity of the Indian state. These prevailing views, attractive for their absence of complexity, however, ignore the anguished debates, interpersonal and intertribal differences, contingent histories and events, dissenting voices, political assassinations, and sharp divisions within the rank-and-file of the NNC, and whose inner dynamics and sentiments could as well have produced outcomes other than war.
Two hundred years ago, an Austrian priest teamed up with a schoolteacher to perform the first rendition of ‘Silent Night.’ Little did they know that it would one day be sung in over 300 languages.
Is it a mere coincidence that the colour of the Ashokan wheel in the Indian national flag, navy blue, remains uncounted when we talk about the “tricolour flag”? Or does this gesture perhaps reveal a deep grudge against dalit politics and subaltern voices?
Citizenship lists are not like census data collection, population transfers are not like displacements of development projects, dislocations, and relocations and statelessness such demographic engineering projects, basically the fantasies-turned-policies “cumulatively radicalize”, until the point of no return when the only rational solution to the mess created is to dispose of the people off the horizon.
The recent speech in Hindi by the Chief Minister of Manipur on 28th March at Madhavpur fair held at Porbandar, Gujarat claiming Manipur and the entire Northeast region as a part of the Brahmanical cosmological universe dragged out from obscurity and obsoleteness, an old debate which have been dumped in the darkest abyss by generations of historians so that it does not find light again. The Indian state has not been very successful in nationalizing this recalcitrant region and its population, and successive governments have used different strategies to bring the region under their firm control. With successive electoral gains in the region, the ruling party has been emboldened to go ahead their master plan of submerging the entire country under one national identity. The Madhavpur Mela, organized by Ministry of culture in Gujarat to celebrate another mythical claim that Lord Krishna married an Arunachali princess, is a grand and a very expensive affair to bring the region and its population under the hegemonic Hindu nation.
African rhythms, ideas of sin and the Hammond organ
I am an individual of mixed ancestry and I have often wondered where my ancestors came from. Who were they? Where did they come from? What of their culture?
This desire for freedom will constantly strengthen the demands for a state. A state might be formed in this way, but would the problems be solved? When the Pandora’s box of organized demands is finally opened in front of the state, how will the problem be solved? Would a state, A Gorkha Hill Council or a Lepcha Development Council provide ultimate solutions? Those who seek (or show others) the ultimate solutions in this way, might look at the previous instances of Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh or Jharkhand. Are the people liberated there? The liberation of workers and the poor is a distant dream, but were even the aims of nationalist liberation achieved here?
For years, a needless ideological battle has been fought in India. The root of the debate is a seemingly irrelevant question – Did the ancient Indian “Vedic” civilisation originate in India or did it come to India from outside?
Each and every opening line of the songs featured in this book ‘Ka Marynthing Rupa’ by L. Gilbert Shullai takes me back to the time when western music took root in the flesh and blood of Khasi musicians and when it seemed like the music itself was going to be an integral part of Khasi culture. Perhaps, this was possible because there hadn’t emerged at the time Khasi musicians who were skilled enough to understand the intricacies of songwriting. In those days, Khasi songs had a very strong mainland Indian influence and they were performed mainly in theatrical shows in places like Jowai, Mawphlang, Mawngap, Marbisu, Sohra, Mawsynram and among the Seng Khasis in Mawkhar.
This article was first published in Sunday Vol. 10 Issue 33, 6 -12 March 1983. Sunday, was a political weekly published from Kolkata by Ananda Bazaar Patrika group and M J Akbar was its founding editor. Dr. Hiren Gohain’s essay is reproduced here for educational purpose from the private collection of Guwahati based senior journalist and commentator Haidar Hussain.
Zygmunt Bauman was emeritus professor of Sociology at the University of Leeds and had developed key concepts for the understanding of fundamental issues of today’s world, such as liquid modernity, time, space and disorder, individualism versus community, globalization and consumer’s culture, love and identity
Independence Day in India – a day of celebrating our national sovereignty and saluting the anti-colonial freedom struggle. The triumph of Indian independence, however, is inseparable from the trauma of the Partition experience. Hence, in mainstream culture in India, August 15 becomes a day of bashing Jinnah left, right and centre. It makes one suspect that the ideals of populist nationalism and inclusive democracy have been long forgotten under a sea of symbolism, antipathy and myth making– of what a successful nation we could have had, had there not been an evil separatist at work whose legacy sabotages us even today.
What do tourists visiting these hills look at, how do they represent the people and the places, and what traces do they leave behind?
Long before the grubby fingers of the mainstream grabbed hold of the Shillong scene, there was something called Shillong Poetry Circle.
Ia ka History ngi pule ym tang kum ka jingiathuh khana, hynrei ngi dei ruh ban pynshai shynna (interpret) ia ki jingjia history na kawei ka pateng sha kawei pat. Ki jingjia ha ka history ym dei ba ki iathuh ne kdew tang shaphang ka mynnor, khamtam eh ka History ka don ruh ban hikai bad pyrsad mynsiem thymmai ia ka mynta. Ka Raiot ka kynmaw burom ia U Kiang Nangbah kum u riewpaidbah bad u riewiakhun na ka bynta ki khun ki hajar bad ki nongshong shnong jong ka Hima Sutnga
Ha ka 35 snem ka sngi iap u khlur ka RI, Ka RAIOT ka kynmaw sngewieid ia U Bah Shlur Nongbri, uwei na ki khlur kynjat bol (Football star) uba don nam jong ka Wahingdoh Sports Club bad ka Shillong, u la khlad noh na ka pyrthei ha ka 3 tarik November 1980. U long U Captain ba wanrah jingjop ym tang ha ka kynjat ball hynrei U la dei uwei na kiba la wanrah ka jingpawnam ka jaitbynriew hi baroh kawei.
Celebration at Khyndai Lad. 10 years of Right to Information Act in Meghalaya