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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.

Ever since childhood I remember being in highly homogeneous groups of friends and familial circles. Such circles have the tendency to numb us to differences, an easy sedate living insulated from those different from us. It was not a shock though considering the direction the country and the state is heading when a friend narrated to me in a series of conversations, the travails any Muslim girl growing up in Manipur would have most probably undergone.

"'Amina Begum' is one such verbal harassment thrown at anyone wearing the hijab or wrapped up in a scarf or chaddar," she explained.

People like us who are not subject to such particular harassment and targeting based on religious affiliation might even state that such harassment is to be taken lightly. Harassment of such kind is mildly called...Read more...

Masquerading as the Left

by Soibam Haripriya
Saturday , September 21, 2013 at 17 : 33

On the 13th of September 2013 an IED device was planted at a make-shift shanty next to the drain of a river in Naga Nullah, Khuyathong, Imphal. As reported in the newspapers, nine labourers killed in the explosion belonged to Assam.. They were working for a Kolkata based construction company Simplex. All of them being members of a religious minorities and migrant labourers, and therefore thought of as non-indigenous to the valley, their death has mostly been a silent affair. Up to the point of this write-up, no organisation had claimed responsibility for the act. The state as usual claims to investigate the matter, but as usual again, the politics of awarding compensation takes precedence and therefore ex-gratia for all the victims, both dead and injured, has been promptly announced. As reported in the newspapers, the state government has announced ex-gratia of Rs. 4, 00,000 for those killed...Read more...

'The only reason to learn a language is to be able to read its poetry' - Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

What prompted this write up is a two-year old photograph of the banner of the North East Theatre Festival 2011 organised by NT Theatre, Manipur. Sophocles' 'Antigone' was performed by Theatre Mirror (directed by Wareppa Naba), Dr I R Babu's name stated as the translator in the banner. It is daunting to write a tribute to him, especially when one is not conversant with his oeuvre and this piece should not be treated as a tribute but rather an attempt to revisit part of his work and part of his life.

His resume is formidable, so was his demeanour. It is interesting to observe that Dr Irom Babu's (more well known as Dr I R Babu) training was in...Read more...

The wrong note: women in Manipur

by Soibam Haripriya
Monday , March 04, 2013 at 10 : 39

The year had started on a wrong note. The month of January saw a newspaper based in Imphal, Manipur, reporting on a disastrous marriage between a meitei woman and a non-meitei man which ended with the man deserting the woman. Apart from the extremely insensitive coverage, the title "Mayang Nupigi Phijetta Ngaoduna Lamchat kangba Mayangda mayum palluba meitei nupi awaba tare", literally translated, means "Fascinated with the dress of mayang women, a meitei woman marries an immoral mayang man and has to face trouble." With as mild a translation as possible, what the title evokes along with the content is anyone's guess.

Reams and reams of any written narrative and stereotypical view of what people broadly call northeast India speaks about the freedom that the women from these societies are used to. That cannot be further from the truth. Most 'khunai kanba'...Read more...

Raping the Other

by Soibam Haripriya
Friday , January 04, 2013 at 17 : 36

Articles in local newspapers in Manipur for the past few months have been bordering on a misogynist strain of thought. Many of the articles expectedly commented on women opting out of the traditional phanek, some pointedly on the loosening of morals (of women); some even came up with a thesis of sorts, a strange hypothesis of a conjunction of mobile phones and young wives leading to the latter eloping from marital homes. This would have been laughable if not for the endorsement by many. The idea that whatever women do can be commented upon and be given undue space in the name of promoting a debate (actually too one sided to fall within the purview of a debate) is frightening. A person (I refrain from calling him a writer) bemoaned the Manipuri women choice of clothing which to him does not indicate her as an exotic being. Do...Read more...

Why did you give me

this irreparable world to inherit

Tainted with stains of history

the world is lost to my kind

Your gallant invoking of mere two battles

fought by women

amuses me to no end

for you know not

I live and die fighting

innumerable ones everyday

It is claimed that women in the Northeast of India in general and Manipur is particular have a significantly higher status as compared to her counterpart in the rest of the country. This is rather a strange comparison as one assumes it will be natural to compare the women of the society to the men of the same society to come to any sort of a conclusion of the status that each occupy. The myth...Read more...

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water - W.H. Auden

One has often been bemused by the elusive ethno-philosophy that guides the conception of the landscape covering the panoramic Loktak Lake. A recent article in The Hindu (24-08-12), "Evicted from lake, Manipur fishermen left high and dry" highlighted the state of affairs of the fishermen who had for generations lived in the floating huts (Phumdis) in Loktak, now the huts are being razed to the ground, the reason given: development of the dying lake. This language as seen in many such incidents in resource rich areas of the country does not include people in their definition of development. A precursor to this is the Manipur Loktak Lake (Protection) Act 2006 (MLLPA). Vociferous argument for the protection of the Loktak Lake had in the summer of 2011 emerged with two simultaneous campaigns....Read more...

Nambul Turel: Irom Sharmila, the poet

by Soibam Haripriya
Tuesday , August 14, 2012 at 15 : 48

Let me stretch out my hands

Beloved friends

Welcome me in your midst

So unquenched that I am

Unable to voice in words

I desire to tear open my chest

and show the bland empty smile within

I desire a voice of that laughter

be struck by shrapnel of bombs

for the aftermath cheap tears

to reduce all filth to cinders

Let every face be radiant

with the hope of a new era!

This one weak step

Wants to leave a hundred footprints

And become chants of courage

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...

More about Soibam Haripriya

Soibam Haripriya is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. She holds an M.Phil degree from the same department. Her writings have appeared in East Wind - The North East Journal (2006), The Telegraph [Kolkata] (2007), Alternative Perspective (2007), Indian Currents (2009), The Sangai Express (2010), Eastern Quarterly (2010), Imphal Free Press (2011) etc. As a scholar of Sociology, she is currently engaged with documenting and analysing changing meaning of "sites" in the cultural landscape of Manipur. She has special interest in reading and writing poetry besides translation of Manipuri literary work to English. Her poems have been published in The Sangai Express (2009-2010) and Our Private Literature (2009-2010). Soibam Haripriya’s poems has been included in an anthology of poems called “Tattooed with Taboos” published by Loktakleima Publications (2011), Imphal, Manipur.

Her blog is titled Nambul Turel. Nambul is a proper noun and the name of a river which flows through the heart of Imphal. Turel means river.

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