Guest Post by Arjun Rajkhowa
I read with interest Lawrence Liang and Golan Nauluk’s piece in The Hindu (4 February 2014, ‘Cultural ignorance and prejudice’). They rightly point out the various gaps and fissures in our understanding of racism and its impact on those whose identities are often placed outside the “rubric of Indian nationhood”. They also suggest, insightfully, that the “complicated history of the northeast with its various self-determination movements and armed struggles requires a slightly different imagination of multicultural citizenship”.
Using this as a point of departure, I’d like to discuss another dimension of the “cultural difference” they foreground in their piece – the manner in which Indian nationhood is constructed in the northeast. Manifold exclusionary tendencies manifest themselves in northeastern politics and, for someone who is from the region, it is impossible to disentangle these from current discussions on racism. While it is important to interrogate the existence of prejudicial attitudes towards northeasterners in a city like Delhi, such questioning cannot be extricated from the larger context of the conceptualization of nationhood and identity within the northeast, for the two are closely imbricated issues.
Continue reading Racism and the NE – Exclusion and prejudice: Arjun Rajkhowa
Guest post by NABANIPA BHATTACHARJEE
Surrounded by lush green hills, Shillong, the capital city of Meghalaya is widely known for its salubrious climate and natural beauty. As one of oldest hill stations of the sub-continent, Shillong was chosen – after the failure of the British administrators and soldiers to continue operating out of Cherrapunjee – to house the headquarters of the colonial government including the Sylhet Light Infantry in 1864. Following the creation of Assam as a Chief Commissioner’s province (carved out of the Bengal Presidency) in 1874, Shillong, a small town then, was declared its capital. Shillong scored over others in that part of the empire, among others, due to two important factors. First, its climate and second, the town being best suited to serve the colonial administrative, commercial and strategic interests.
As a result of the reorganised political geography of the region substantial number of European, Assamese and Bengali officers and clerks of the colonial bureaucracy lived and settled in Shillong. And so did a large number of tea planters of Assamese and European origins, Nepali staff of the colonial army, Marwari entrepreneurs and, so forth. Indeed, the quaint hill town, which was essentially populated by the Khasi tribe, acquired by the turn of the twentieth century a vibrant, cosmopolitan character which stood substantively (and perhaps best) reflected in the organisation of its cultural space. Shillong’s spirit of cosmopolitanism, as its socio-cultural history shows, was deeply embedded in the ideology of the recognition (and not mere political management) of cultural difference. Continue reading Climate, Culture, Cosmopolitanism – Notes from Shillong: Nabanipa Bhattacharjee