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.
Tag: Khasi Hills
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.
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.
Autonomous District Councils are frequently blamed for failures of governance in Meghalaya. Their inefficiency, however, is a feature of the system rather than an anomaly. In seeking to preserve traditional institutions by transforming them, the Sixth Schedule only further entrenched the colonial paradox it inherited. The ADCs it invented—simultaneously accountable to everybody and responsible for nobody— were practically designed for endemic corruption and abuse. Sometimes, as in the case that opened this essay, the legal system works. The RTI infrastructure helps citizens uncover specific illegalities and then the judiciary provides a remedy. More often it does not, because structural inequity cannot be meaningfully addressed in this piecemeal fashion. The eternal liminality of the ADCs also indicates just how indebted our institutional imagination remains to condescending colonial assumptions about tribal peoples and the need to “gently assimilate” them into modernity. The Constituent Assembly’s recognition of indigenous sovereignty was a landmark moment in world history, but it was only half the task. It falls to us now to build institutions that can live up to that sweeping democratic vision.
“Curiously apart from Khasi Jaintia Hills and Karbi Anglong in North East India, Unitarianism world wide has not been a mass movement. This intellectual, liberal mode of understanding faith has made up for its numerical insignificance by having many famous individuals subscribing to its ideas, Charles Darwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Kurt Vonnegut, Tim Berners Lee, Sylvia Plath, Thomas Jefferson. How did this most liberal of Anglo American elite faith tradition find a deep root in these faraway hills with more than 45 churches? Khasi-Pnar people encountered various different faiths which arrived in these hills, not as thankful passive recipients of good word but as argumentative, sceptical, questioning people. Hajom Kissor Singh was one such Presbyterian convert, who not only rejected puritanical notions of Christianity but also on his own developed a liberal ecumenical version of faith which was sensitive both to traditional Khasi conceptions of divine as well as new theological innovations in the west. The puritanical Khasi Presbyterians abused him as “an Atheist”, and called him an “enemy of the Lord,” or the Bengali Brahmos wanted to patronise him and take over the task of interpreting Khasi Pnar ideas, Hajom Kissor Singh remained committed to his own culturally rooted journey of faith.
This account of the early days of Khasi-Pnar Unitarianism and the life and struggles of Hajom Kissor Singh was done by Rev M C Ratter of British and Foreign Unitarian Association in 1930, as part of his book To Nagroi. As a postscript H. H. Mohrmen, pastor of the historic Jowai Unitarian church, and one of the intellectual stalwarts of contemporary Khasi-Pnar community, writes about the creative ways in which Hajom Kissor Singh and others interpreted the notion of God.”
PhotoEssay by one of the most important photographers from Khasi Hills
Land in Meghalaya, India, was traditionally agricultural/forest land, owned by the community. With increasing privatization and rising commercial value of land for non-agricultural use, many owners have sold the land for mining operations. So-called rat-hole coal mining has resulted in environmental degradation as well as in the loss of lives of miners, most of whom are from outside the state. The National Green Tribunal has banned coal mining until safer, more environmentally sound policies and practices are in place. Critics in Meghalaya claim that the ban encroaches on the tribal way of life and point to constitutional provisions exempting Meghalaya from the purview of national mining laws. However, the courts are clear: Meghalaya’s exemptions do not allow them to violate the constitutional right to life of all Indian citizens. The traditional institutions are not strong enough to mitigate the rising inequality among citizens following from mining and other commercial operations.
I was in Cherrapunji for three years. It was in my 2nd or 3rd year there that I was taken to a camp in Bamundi, Kamrup, Assam. It was winter and we had to get up at 4 in the morning and practice various exercises, with a bamboo pole (lathi), big knife (chaku) and other such weapons. We were trained to attack and also to defend. The camp must have been for about a week, I vaguely remember. But one thing I remember for sure was the salute with the right hand on the chest singing, “Namaste sada vatsale matribhumi…” So I definitely think it was a RSS camp, though I was not aware of it then. Was I scared? Did I enjoy it? Well… I don’t remember.
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?
The 22 June holiday commemorates Thomas Jones as a founder, a father, a first. The idea of historical “firsts” often drives a popular understanding of the past— and more pertinently, the political use of the past in the present—but is not always helpful in really getting to grips with complex and interconnected historical processes. There’s not necessarily a ground zero moment when it comes to cultural change. Hero worship, furthermore — though it comes with a feel-good factor— can be rather unhelpful.
Hasmukh P. Modi and his wife came with their young daughter to Shillong in 1979. A Gujarati family from Rajkot, they had settled in Africa, but were forced to leave during the civil war in Ethiopia. Their quest for a suitable school for their daughter, a place where they could strike roots and establish means of livelihood ended during a holiday in Shillong. In Ethiopia, Hasmukhbhai had worked in the marketing department of French and British firms selling everything from pins to jet planes. In Shillong he decided to take up the business of his grandfather— grocery—and deal in spices imported from Kerala—cardamom, cinnamon, cloves—and from Gujarat—coriander, cumin, fenugreek and fennel seeds (jeera, methi, sauf ).
This is the best time to read Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih’s poem Sundori, while we sit amidst angers, rumours and curfews in Shillong. Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih is the key Khasi modern poet whose rooted yet critical verses uncover the unsaid of Khasi society. Sundori was written during the troubles of 1990s when the local nationalist anger and resentment was at its peak.
With grief in her usual frail voice she utters, “I saw the poverty with my own eyes; my Mother’s gold and silver ornaments had to be traded to make ends meet. I remember running from pillar to post for loans and to collect pending money. What other alternative we had? None! All of us left Wahlong for Shillong in the next few months after partition for the better or worse, while Dad persisted to stay back and supervise the remaining lands (certain portions of our land is in Bangladesh today). Our journey to Shillong was treacherous! We walked from Wahlong to Mawbang and then we finally took a bus to Shillong.”
Published in 1864 ‘Papers relating to the Disturbances in the Cossyah and Jynteeah-Hills’ is a classic colonial administrative report on the indigenous insurrections in Khasi Jaintia Hills. Model for all the contemporary Sarkari reports on people’s resistances. Long buried in the libraries, this text has made careers of many a historians. If you are interested in insurrection Kiang Nangbah, you have trawl through this text to know the colonial version of the events. Raiot will be putting in public domain many of the key archival historical document relating to the history of our hills. Download – it goes without saying.
3 Khasi Hills poems by Hoshang Merchant from his collection My Sunset Marriage An Old Bearded Poet Walks the City Causing consternation Among grown bachelors…
I would have missed its existence had I not seen her crawling along, pulling a wooden box on wheels loaded with lumps of coal. She was harnessed to the cart by means of a patch of linen strapped across her forehead. She was fair in complexion, wearing a short skirt, and her knees were heavily padded. I slowed down my car and turned to look. She was not alone! They were coming out of a hole in the side of the hill to my right. I noticed a thin outcrop of a coal seam running parallel to the road.
I was an Inspector of Mines, with the Department of Mines, Dhanbad, returning from Cherrapunji on my way to Shillong after an inspection of a limestone mine. It was in the year 1956.
It was early July 2013 that we descended to a village in Raid Tyrso, looking for the remaining fragments of the Lakympong Dance in individual and collective memories of people.
Hashwa ban tih ia u uranium ha u snem 1967, ka UCIL ka la wan ban pynbiej iaki Adivasi ba lada ki ailad ban tih uranium yn sa ai iaki iaka kam ka jam, yn sa wanrah iaka roi ka par ( development) bad ruh wat ban ai Pisa ( bribe) phewse hadien ba la tih pat, ki trai ri trai muluk ki la jan duh wat ka thliew jingtep na bynta ialade ruh.
Buddha Weeps in Jadugoda kadei ka film ba paw Nam ba la shna da U Sriprakash. Kane ka phlim ha ka sein ba nyngkong eh ka pynpaw paidbah ia ki jingshisha halor ka jingtih uranium ha jadugoda da ka UCIL ka ba dei ka company ba kwah ban rih uranium ha jylla jong ngi ruh. Ka headquarter jong ka UCIL ka don ha Jadugoda, Kat ta ruh pat ka shim da lah ban khmih ba yn ym don jingktah ia ka koit ka khiah Na ka radiation ba mih Na ka jingtih Uranium ha Jadugoda.
Avner Pariat of Raiot Collective talks to Patrick Rogers about various lives of Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya
‘Kicking from the Corner’ (2015), a documentary exploring the football culture in Shillong, Meghalaya.
An article surfaced that related to the contents of the book “Ki Dienjat ki Longshwa” by Fr. Bacchiarello by Seng Khasi Mawsynram. This looked interesting. The article said that the book should be discontinued from the Meghalaya Board of Secondary Education MBOSE for “allegedly showing in poor light the culture and beliefs of the Khasis”.
You may have heard of Gwalia in Khasia, the book by Nigel Jenkins but had heard of the film? Watch this classic BBC documentary on the history and politics of Khasi Hills
The missionaries gave us the written word though it could have easily been Bengali rather than Roman. It is in this process that a complex history of battling calligraphies contrived to sort out an oral tradition that they considered to be uncivilized.
Resisting the cliches which pass off as photographs of #Shillong and #Meghalaya – जिम माउलांग plods on with his low pixel mobile vision.
Ki nongthoh histori bad ki nongthoh komentari ki ong ba Hyndai ka Hima Rom ka dei ka pyrthei, kaba mut haba ngi iakren shaphang ka…