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The North-East Blog

Know what leading academics, writers, poets, musicians, activists and journalists from the region have to say to develop an informed perspective on matters related to this part of India.

The following is a review of "The Desire of Roots", a collection of poems by Robin Ngangom, published by Chandrabhaga Publications, Cuttack, 2006.

There are many ways of exploring belongingness. Some do it by seeking the desire of roots. Others do it by identifying the 'otherness' in the desire. Robin Ngangom's The Desire of Roots still remains just a desire, a longing for the labyrinthine terrain of the 'known' by the same roots. This desire of roots does not find the roots but creates new ones like the auxiliary roots descending from a canopy of branches belonging to an aged banyan tree. The roots in the air seek to unite with the mother roots beneath the earth, their home. These auxiliary roots become trunks which will again sprout roots from the above. Reading Ngangom's collection of 48 poems, I am left thinking about...Read more...


Many people have asked me to write. Among these many, most know that my job involves listening to stories shared by grieving and distressed people. I am a client service professional of Human to Humane, a transcultural centre for torture and trauma.

Torture: According to Article 1 of the 'CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment', torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at...Read more...


Jajabori Mon: Barenaked ladies

by Uddipana Goswami
Saturday , July 21, 2012 at 11 : 41

There is nothing novel about a group of grown men stripping and/or molesting a woman in public, while the said public looked on. Indian mythology tells us about (self?) righteous kings and warriors who also happened to be husbands allowing something like this happen a long time ago. In contemporary times, one hears of women Dalit women especially being similarly humiliated in many parts of India. But then that is mainland India, right? We always do love saying that in the North-East, we women are treated with greater dignity. Apparently, that's a myth as well. The public humiliation of a teenage girl in Guwahati captured on camera recently has everybody talking the media, the activists, the online forums, the person on the street, you name it. With even international TV channels picking up the video that went viral, it has very nearly become the 'event' of the year....Read more...


Can you imagine a paramilitary force camp inside a university campus? If you think it is unbelievable, then come and visit Manipur University. I often wonder how we can have an Assam Rifles camp inside the university. I tried asking many friends the why and the how. But it is Manipur. You can have anything here. We have Irom Sharmila fasting for the last twelve years and at the same time we have the Sangai festival. Every year the festival celebrates incredible Manipur while driving out the poor phumdi dwellers from Loktak Lake.

Some say the camp is there because Canchipur, the location of Manipur University, was once full of PLA (People's Liberation Army). Some even say it is good to have the forces in the campus as many students are involved in underground activities. But I am not satisfied by this explanation....Read more...


The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958, has never been out of focus in any discussion on the problems of the North-East region. Its continuance has indeed become what Georgio Agamben calls a permanent "State of Exception", during which the civil rights of citizens or a section of citizens of a state are wilfully and severely curtailed by the State. The discussion on the issue once again has leapt into the front burner after reports by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, and Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, which derided in the strongest terms the continuance of this Act as a dark blemish on the democratic credentials of India. Following this, the Union home minister, P Chidambaram, has even gone on record that a proposal for reforming he Act is pending with the government. This is welcome.

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A few days ago, there was an article in "The Shillong Times" that made me think of a folk story. The Khasis love folk tales, and like many other folkloric traditions, these attempt to explain natural phenomenon in order to make sense of the world. We have a story for almost everything how the earth was formed, what causes a solar eclipse, how a peacock got its feathers and even on why the rooster crows at dawn. Yet the one I recalled was about words.

Although versions vary (as most stories do in an oral culture), the one I'm familiar with is called 'Ka Kitab ba lah Jah' or 'The Lost Book'. It tells the tale of a Khasi and a foreigner who are summoned by U Blei or God on a certain day to a mountain -...Read more...


I have always loved animals, albeit a little less spicy. Once as I was travelling to Nagaland, I clearly remember, by the time we crossed Assam and entered Mokokchung district, it was already dusky and close to dinner time. I stopped the car near a Naga hamlet to answer the most important call of nature and to my surprise, at that compromising moment, all I could smell in the air was smoked pork and the famous Naga style fermented bamboo shoot.

That moment of course was the most unusual for my mouth to start salivating but it did. Smoked Pork cooked in fermented bamboo shoot is a delicacy in Nagaland and, it won't be an exaggeration if I said, in the entire Northeast India. In this preparation, the pork is smoked for at least a month and very simple herbs and spices...Read more...


What is the best thing about Lai Haraoba? Perhaps its music. Yet there are so many other things that characterise this festival, which is full of traditional and cultural charms.

Around a rivulet in the quiet hilly area, there is always an inimitable natural music coming out of the flowing water, the soft breeze, the rustling of leaves and the chirping of the birds. It is a unique melody that no state-of-the-art recording studio can recreate. Quirte similarly, the Lai Haraoba music is unique and inimitable like that of the brooks.

Essentially, its sound is monochromatic, comprising the euphony from a very few instruments like a dhon (drum), pena (a one-string instrument) and a basi (flute). In its raw sophistication lies the magic of Lai Haraoba music. It...Read more...


Jajabori Mon: Identity in exile

by Uddipana Goswami
Thursday , June 21, 2012 at 16 : 32

I grew up amidst an atmosphere of ultra-nationalism generated by the Assam Movement of the late '70s and the early '80s. And then, there was the romance of insurgency, the fire of idealism that inspired an entire generation of Assamese youth. That fire, though dimmed to a great extent, was still burning when I left home in 1996: 'home' has always been equated with Assam - and Northeast India as a whole - in my vocabulary. And that was my first time away from home, away from everything held fanatically dear.

I was eighteen then and romanticism at age eighteen is permissible. With juvenile simplicity I wrote in a poem how 'after cradling me for nine months in her womb, my mother planted me a tiny seed in the soil of my birth'; very idealistically, I wrote of myself as the tree that...Read more...


This is not a formal review in the straightjacket of literary structures. But as a keen follower and fellow activist in the Manipur literature movement, I feel compelled to give air to what I felt after reading "Manipur Sahitya da Nupeegee Khonjen: An anthology of Womens writing(20th century) in Manipuri", edited by Memchoubi and published by Sahitya Akademi.

Memchoubi, a poet and a critic who emerged in the mid nineteen eighties, could effortlessly map the whole evolution of women's writing in Manipur. Existence of women's writing in Manipur is hardly 50 years old. In the introduction section, Memchoubi's mapping of women writers starts from what Amaibis (Shamans) sing or speak which is an old tradition connected with the celebration of local deities. She sees such songs or words as oral literature. Though this thought has not been brought out...Read more...



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