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LETTERS | Dear Mr PM, don’t fool us with your sugar-coated words!

LETTERS

By Lambok Thangkhiew | Jan 16, 2019: 

Editor,

This is an open letter to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government in the wake of the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill, a letter which contains questions which need to be answered and concerns which require immediate attention for the safety and security of the people of the Northeast.

An Open letter to Edu Minister on ‘Education as a booming business’

TNT | LETTERS | March 23, 2019:

This is an ‘Open Letter’ to the Meghalaya Education Minister, Lahkmen Rymbui on the admission fees of students from a concerned citizens of the state, Mayborn Lyngdoh R.

Meghalaya | Agriculture non-bonded graduates also in murky waters over job recruitment

Date: August 7, 2018

Respected Editor,

With reference to the letter to the editor dated July 22, 2018 titled Meghalaya: Agriculture students left in murky waters over job recruitment,it is disheartening to acknowledge that instead of uniting and fighting against the sovereign authority of nepotism and corruption in the system of recruitment in Agriculture as a Unified body of Agricultural students, the Meghalaya Agricultural Students and Graduates Association (MASGA) are showing that till date the British tactic of “divide and rule” still works.

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The MASGA has been successful in dividing the whole agricultural student union. They have continuously shown in various news articles that they alone have a greater right than other agricultural students in getting employment in the State Agricultural Department. Therefore, it can be understood that we the so-called “non-bonded agricultural students” are not entitled to the same rights, according to them.

We the non- MASGA students have studied the same courses alongside with them in similar prestigious universities across India and have also faced similar hardships as them. Is it not an injustice if we are not given the same opportunities as them in securing employment? We do not want any reservation or consideration because we are the ‘other’ students. We do not demand others to lose equal rights for employment. We just want a fair and transparent system of recruitment where every student is equal and not judged of only one examination, that is their Class XII board exam results.

The minimum qualification for working as an Agricultural Development Officer or Horticultural Development officer has always been a bachelors degree. But we fail to understand how the MASGA students take into consideration that their Class XII board exam result as the only important factor for them to be more deserving of recruitment. We know that there have not been any recruitment in the department for the last ten years and all the students are suffering equally. Many seniors are on the brim of being over aged to qualify for those recruitment. Therefore, we feel betrayed that MASGA, this small union of bonded students are trying hard to secure a lifeboat and leave others drowning. We believed that there was always a bond amongst the fraternity of students belonging to agriculture, but it can be seen that it is obsolete in today’s time where a few peoples’ selfish desires are greater than the good of the whole fraternity.

We the non-bonded students will also be raising our voices for our rights to employment, emphasizing on the fact that every agricultural student and not only MASGA should have the same rights and opportunities for recruitment in the State Department of Agriculture of our great Meghalaya.

Yours faithfully,

Non-bonded Agricultural Graduates of Meghalaya


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An aggrieved Shillongite’s rant on sky high petrol prices

 

Date: September 30, 2018 

To

Editor

TNT – The Northeast Today

 

India’s sky high petrol prices | ‘I might as well take a taxi… but for how long?’

Petrol and diesel prices across the country have been on the rise since April and continued rising on Friday with rates hitting new highs as oil marketing companies (OMCs) increased their costs.

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Petrol prices touched Rs 81.63 per litre in New Delhi, Rs 89.01 per litre in Mumbai and 81.05 in our dear Shillong city as on September 15, 2018.

I drive to work from Rynjah to Nongthymmai every day. It is not a very long drive and yet, I feel a burning hole in my pocket as I visit the petrol pump more frequently than I used to. Of course, I run errands for my job and my family too, but it has never sent me to a never-ending spiral of ‘I’m going to take a cab tomorrow instead’ everyday.

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And even if I were to take these cabs, how long until they begin charging us a lot higher? The issue of the difficulties of even getting one is something different altogether. It is only a matter of time until the taxi fares in the city will rise and the drivers cannot be blamed for it.

Most establishments have shied away from the problem. The Delhi High Court said that daily change in fuel prices was an “economic policy decision” of the central government. The central government on the other hand, urged the states to take action.

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Some state governments have decided to take measures to curb the problem. The Rajasthan government had, on Sunday, announced a 4 per cent cut in the state VAT on petrol and diesel. The government of Andhra Pradesh has also announced a similar reduction by Rs. 2 per litre.

Now, I am by no means an expert and I only write as a concerned driver and citizen, but despite the fact that the trimming of excise duty and VAT will strip away government revenue for a while, I firmly believe that it will be worth it in the long run.

Yours truly,

A concerned citizen


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Toxic Masculinity: What the Amendment to Khasi Social Custom of Lineage Act, 1997 is really about

 

By Laetitia Bruce Warjri | July 30, 2018

In a globalised world, the question of identity has become a fundamental one. Who we are, our place in the world, and what sets us apart from others is determined through the concept of ‘identity’. In the national arena, the question of who is ‘Hindu’ is occupying a major part of the space for discourse. For a community that makes up about 80% of our population, it is interesting to note that there is a sense of disquiet amongst certain members of the Hindu community. What happens then when we look at a community that is much smaller? What does living in a 21st-century reality mean for a tribe as small as the Khasis?

ALSO READ | KHADC Bill: A timely Bill handicapped by gender inequality — By Mayborn Lyngdoh R

The recent Bill to amend the Khasi Hill Autonomous District (Khasi Social Custom of Lineage) Act, 1997 has divided the Khasis into two camps: Those who are for it and those against it. It seeks to deprive a Khasi woman who marries a non-Khasi man of her Khasi status. Not only the woman loses Khasi status but the offspring of such a union will not be allowed to avail Khasi status either. This amendment, in one fell swoop, deprives the people falling under it of ST status (under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution) and all the benefits, privileges, and protection that come with it.

This move is not sound in many respects: Legal, customary, and ideological. The first legal challenge to the amendment will come under Article 14 of the Constitution – the right to equality. The right to equality provides for equality amongst equals. It allows for a differentiation between groups of people provided there is a reasonable basis for doing so. For example, the distinction between a juvenile and an adult is on a universally accepted sociological and scientific basis. The reasoning behind the distinction is that those below the age of 18 do not have mental, emotional, and reasoning capabilities that are as developed as those older than 18.  Therefore, expecting the same out of a juvenile as we would out of an adult would result in inequality. They are not equals.

READ | An open letter to KHADC leaders on Khasi Lineage Bill 2018

On what basis has the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) differentiated between Khasi women who marry non-Khasis and Khasi men who do the same? Why have only Khasi women been made to lose their Khasi status should they marry outside the community? The Statement of Objects and Reasons only notes that this amendment is to “strengthen the Khasi social custom of lineage by way of codification.”

Irony just died as the reason the Khasis are celebrated outside their home state of Meghalaya is because of the community’s matrilineal structure. The Khasis trace lineage through the female line, children carry their mother’s surname, a woman is not expected to move out of the family home and move into her husband’s. In fact, Khasis are also matrilocal. It is the man who moves into the woman’s home (especially if he marries the Khatduh, the youngest daughter of the family).

READ | Mr. Shylla won’t approve of this: I, a Khasi woman, oppose the KHADC Amendment of Lineage Act

So the question arises, if lineage is traced through the woman, how can the child of a Khasi woman not be Khasi? For the entire history of the Khasis, it has been the woman’s name that has been passed down to the child making the offspring a part of the maternal clan.

In March this year, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to marry who we choose is a fundamental right that is protected by Article 21 of the Constitution (the right to life and personal liberty). Under what power can the KHADC decide who it is that a Khasi woman marries and what the consequences of such a union will be? That is akin to indirectly coercing women into marrying only those men deemed fit by the KHADC, which is a gross violation of both the rights to equality and personal liberty. Formed under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution that provides for the setting up of Autonomous District Councils for protection of tribal rights in the states of Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura and Mizoram, the KHADC cannot decide who is “Khasi” and who is not. Its job is to promote and protect tribal interests not decide on the eugenics of Khasi identity.

A reading of the original act will give us a better understanding of how this amendment discriminates against Khasi women. The original act has provision for both Khasi men and women who marry non-Khasis. They themselves retain their Khasi status but the children are only given Khasi status if they fulfill the criteria in sub-clauses (i) to (v) of clause (b) of Section 3 of the original act, namely, if they can speak Khasi, they have observed the matrilineal system of the tribe, have not voluntarily renounced their Khasi status, have not adopted the customs of the non-Khasi spouse or parent, or have not been deprived of their Khasi status by a judgment or order or under any provision of the act. There is no distinction between Khasi men and women who marry outside the community. The same criteria applies to both.

In fact, the original act goes even further, and has a sub-section (under Section 2) that exclusively deals with non-Khasi women who marry Khasi men. As per custom that has been in practice by the Khasis, the non-Khasi woman can undergo a ceremony where she is given a ‘jait’, i.e., a clan name. She then becomes a Khasi with her clan name bearing the prefix ‘Dkhar’ or simply ‘Khar’, signifying that she was once a non-Khasi but is now part of the Khasi clan system with her own clan name.

This part of the original act has not been touched and will continue to function and be enforced as before. In practical terms, this means that Khasi men can continue to marry non-Khasi women without losing their Khasi status. The children born of such a union will also not lose their Khasi status. Why then have Khasi women been denied the same privilege, especially since the Khasi clan name is carried through her and not the man? Is it not logical to assume that according to the custom of matriliny, the child of a Khasi woman regardless of who the father is will automatically become a Khasi carrying the mother’s clan name? Why the emphasis on a patrilineal determination of identity when, by custom, the Khasis have a matrilineal system of determination of identity? This move by the KHADC reflects a troubling sense of male domination in a community that has been marked by an ability (in some important areas) to give the woman equal importance.

‘Khasi’ according to the original act is defined as ‘Khasi, Jaintia, Pnar, Synteng, War, Bhoi, and Lyngngam’. All these tribes are recognised by the original act as falling under the Khasi tribe. The trouble arises when a Khasi woman marries a non-Khasi man who is part of an ST community that is not Khasi like the Garos, the Mizos, the Bodos, etc. Does she lose her ST status but the child of such a union gains the ST status of his/her father? Each of these tribes have their own system of marking identity that may or may not be prejudiced against a woman from outside the community and her offspring. Things get even more complicated when the Khasi woman divorces her non-Khasi spouse. Does she get her Khasi status back? Or once married to a non-Khasi, you will be an outcast for life, according to the eyes of the law?

This amendment is not well thought out. It seems to be a knee jerk reaction by male chauvinists who believe that only women should be held accountable for the customs and traditions of the tribe. As is the case in patriarchal societies worldwide, it is the woman who is the vessel that carries symbols like honour, purity, and tradition. Men can do as they please and never have their honour and purity questioned. It is a sad state of affairs that a people that has prided itself on being “better” than others because it provides a semblance of respect for its women is falling into the trap of toxic masculinity that tries to control the choices and actions of its women.

DISCLAIMER The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TNT- The Northeast Today. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of TNT- The Northeast Today


You can also contribute articles and opinions for our website by mailing them to us at web@thenortheasttoday.com and shweta@thenortheasttoday.com

We welcome your comments at web@thenortheasttoday.com

LETTERS | MTET paper leak: A ‘torturous’ crime for genuine candidates

LETTERS | Feb 04, 2019:

Editor,

In respect to the recent report on question paper leak of the ongoing Meghalaya Teachers’ Eligibility Test (MTET), I must say I am sympathetic to the plight of those innocent and genuine candidates have worked tirelessly.

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