In a time when people from northeastern states of India are subjected to racism in the wake of Coronavirus fear, there is epistemic racism in academia against a Rongmei Naga scholar, Richard Kamei for writing an email to Prof. Noam Chomsky to update him about the discourse of citizenship unfolding in India and the discontents it has generated within indigenous tribal peoples of the northeastern region due to the precarity of their position. An open letter written by Suraj Gogoi and Angshuman Choudhury on 20th February 2020 to Prof. Chomsky in objection and as a counter to Kamei’s letter can only be considered as petty and callous as much as it is misleading.
Tag: North East India
Richard Kamei, Sira Kharay & Dolly Kikon on culinary worlds beyond Chicken Neck
The students fraternity of the North Eastern Universities along with various other organisations gathered today at Bhupen Hazarika Kalabhumi, Tezpur to stage a massive protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019.
The main objective of the meet was to create a common platform among the universities across Northeast who are actively protesting against Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. The meeting highlighted the peculiarity of the north-eastern region in relation to the draconian Act. The narrative which has emerged in the region focuses on different ground of discrimination faced by the indigenous people in the eight states in the periphery. That the continuous influx of ‘illegal immigrants’ have rendered us hopeless had been addressed. Not only does the Act pose a threat to the indigenous cultures of the Northeast, it also seeks curb our right to actively dissent and express our fear. The student representatives came to an agreement that although they stand in solidarity with the protests going on in the mainland India they demand solidarity of the nation to understand the concern of the Northeast and the valid concerns of the many communities. They condemned the police atrocities on the students, both inside and outside the college and university campuses.
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.
Why is it so hard for Indian Liberals to understand that CAB is both anti indigenous people, and anti secular? To label the protests in northeast as a call for “everyone kicked out” and xenophobic is simplistic and historically ignorant when there are ways to seek solutions without the need of inconveniencing, traumatising, and harassing people who do not belong to indigenous people.
There was a time when people from the Northeast, settled and studying in different cities of the country would call home for one reason only, to talk about their cravings for home food. Home was then, a place tucked very far away, and a chance of visiting home was awfully hard to come by. However, things have been slightly different in the past few years with the growth of the Northeast stores in Delhi.
We who come from the north-east of India to feel a sense of guilt for reading English books, watching Hollywood movies and soaps and not regional cinema, let alone popular Hindi movies and for hearing and singing English songs. I also found myself sometimes, defending the fact that cinema halls in Darjeeling and Sikkim did screen Hindi movies, which were widely watched and that south Indian movies were much awaited and enjoyed as well. But to much dismay, this still did not alter the attempts at fitting in well to engage in the cultural dialogue that existed among the lower classes in mainland India.
On 28th of March during the Madhavpur Fair held at Porbandar, Gujarat, the Chief Minister of Manipur, Nongthombam Biren unabashedly accepted the distorted lies about Manipur, its people and its history which has been long propagated by the Indian colonial discourse of dissolving Manipur in the Caste-Hindu fold forcefully. In an act of repeating the signing off of Manipur in 1949, Nongthombam Biren gave the above statements on the said day conflating facts with fiction, myths with history and thereby paving the way for Manipur’s fall and the loss of its identity.
It was the fifth day of the new year. In the afternoon, Yakku looked out of the window of his taxi and shouted, “Mr Writer, happy new year has happened in Dhankheti!” A little joy was also mixed in his voice.
Northeast India is littered with concrete. From winding flyovers to towering churches on village hillsides to surveillance towers housing paramilitary forces, concrete is an integral to the region’s urban and rural landscapes and everything in in between. What can all this concrete tell us? What stories does it open up? What can questions about politics, power, development, and culture concrete rais
Fly your flags
Where you have walked proudly
With your boots on.
Let your nation sing the Anthem
Not me, not this chinky guy
I hate it
I hate things being imposed on me
I have heard your gunshots preaching
About what can this nation do to us
The issue of trafficking in Northeast India is symptomatic of many economic, social and political factors that exist in the region, the primary ones being underdevelopment, political isolation and inefficient governance. Education and the failure of the job market to offer and successfully integrate employment opportunities, especially outside urban centres has played a huge role in paving the way for trafficking, because many of the victims of child-trafficking come from economically underprivileged, mostly rural backgrounds. Therefore, political economy becomes one of the driving forces behind the vulnerability of children and women.
The reason most of the people in North East do not want to admit the Ronghiya Muslims because they understand the repercussion of what might happen if someday the immigrants grow in population. Right now we have the authority to oppress but if we allow outsiders to grow in number we will then become the oppressed. We understand this very well because this is exactly what we have been doing to our minorities in our own territories.
States in North east of India- Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland share border with Myanmar. Looking into geography in relation to present situation, Mizoram is closer to Rakhine state of Myanmar than other states in the northeast of India. A Christian dominated state- Mizoram which takes pride in being a beacon of helping the needy and imparting teachings of Christianity, is silent when it comes to fleeing refugees at its backyards. It throws a question on how faith can be blinding in this hour of crisis. The porous Indo Myanmar border along Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram have cases of people crossing from one side to other side of the border from the past.
Almost seven years ago, to the week, I had sent off instructions to Gauri Lankesh about who would receive her at Imphal airport and then take her up to Ukhrul. She was part of a team of women writers from different parts of India who had been invited to travel across the Northeast and write stories about their experiences
Food as cultural identity in regards to dog meat is an under researched area in South Asia or places where dog meat is consumed; in the case of Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram- consumption of dog meat is very much in their cultures (for some it is a choice) and can be counted as an expression of their cultural identity. When practice like this happens in places like Delhi, it is meted with sneering and disgust from the pedestal of high moral ground.
Dog meat is not a taboo. Dog meat is exotic. It is one of the costliest culinary traditions of the Nagas and in parts of the Northeast. A kilo of dog meat costsRs. 350/- or more. Mutton is not even half the taste of it. I bet.
Young men and women mainly from rural Nagaland come in for short-term training courses to learn basic soft skills: to present themselves, stand, sit, communicate, dress and apply make-up, all essential requirements for a job in the service sector. Many of them find placements in hotels, spas, restaurants, airlines or security companies.
“So where does your son work?” I asked; ‘Hajirabad’, replied Ghanshyam Thapa, a Nepali elder from Bhutankhuti village falling under Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). Confused initially, I said that it’s Hyderabad, in vain though. “Yes, that place – Hajirabad” replied Ghanshyam. Later it dawned in my mind that the apparent linguistic travesty of Ghanshyam Thapa inadvertently represented the stark reality of Bhutankhuti along with most of the villages of the region falling under Baksa district in Western Assam. Hajira in Assamese roughly translates in English as labour, hence as Hyderabad hosts a large number of migrants from northeast India, it becomes ‘Hajirabad’ to Ghyansam Thapa. Bhutankhuti is the last village in India before the Bhutan border; lying 21 km north of the National highway 31. A random interview in the households of the nearby villages, across the different communities would provide similar narratives of out migration.
Anthropologists Dolly Kikon and Bengt G. Karlsson collaborated with photographer Andrzej Markiewicz to trace the lives and lifeworlds of indigenous migrants who have travelled from the Northeastern frontier of India to the expanding cities of South India.
Various incidents of racism against people of African origin in India from the past are not isolated incidents, they stemmed from the deep rooted prejudice mindset of the majority of Indians. We condemn racial discrimination against anyone (particularly people of African origin) and caricatures people make by creating stereotypes like cannibalism and drug users/peddlers. These stereotypes are reflection of racist mindset which we, people from North East India are also at receiving end over and over again.
popular discourses on the north-east often project the region as a homogenous socio-political entity undermining the internal contestations of the region. Some hold the State as the main reference point of the socio-political churnings that plague the region. However, a look at contemporary history of these states and the unrest therein shows the dynamic nature of the region which abounds with contestations, namely between tribes, tribes and non-tribes, and over religious identities. Along with the more visible ethnic dimension, conflicting interests over resources like land, and political and economic power are also present in these contestations.
Racism in the Time of Corona
Ever since COVID-19, or more commonly Coronavirus, first appeared or came to be public knowledge we have witnessed a racialisation of the viral outbreak. Once the origin of the outbreak was determined to be in Wuhan province of China and speculations spread about the virus strain having jumped to humans from bats or pangolins a barrage of attacks ensued towards people of China and other South-Asian countries. The President of United States went on to term COVID-19 as the “Chinese disease”…
When it comes to racial prejudices we find similar notions operating in India as well towards certain tribal and ethnic minority groups. In fact we have recently witnessed a spike in cases of racial targeting and harassment in the country over Coronavirus fear. On the receiving end of this racism are the natives of Northeastern states, and also those from Darjeeling and Ladakh.