Shillong | July 26, 2018:
Dear Leaders, Members and Office bearers of Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC),
I am a common Shillong woman in my mid twenties borne out of a Khasi mother and a non Khasi father wedlock. My family members never followed the religion of my father or grandfather rather I have been taught to proudly display the practice of a matrilineal society whenever and wherever I represent myself outside the state of Meghalaya in any platform that I go to.
I have spent most of my time outside the state of Meghalaya and I have always asserted my identity as a Khasi and how my future children will carry my Khasi lineage as a way of making people understand the power of Khasi women and how beautiful this society is as compared to many other societies even if they are progressive and developed.
I have a Scheduled Tribe Certificate but have never used it after I became an adult and that piece of paper is lying somewhere in my cupboard (I don’t look at it because over the years, I have turned into a privileged woman and find it so unfair to take advantage of it). Although I may not use this Scheduled Tribe Certificate but I still keep it because it gives me a sense of my identity which I strongly hold on to, a sense of belongingness and makes me believe that I am a part of a Khasi society regardless of whether I attend clan meetings or communion gatherings.
It gives me a sense of security that no one can take my identity away from me and that my future children too will get a sense of belongingness and identity through this document. In all my past relationships with non Khasi men, I have always told them that no matter who I get married to or where I start living, I will always be a Khasi and that my children will carry my lineage forward and not the identity of whoever I get married to.
I am not sure if this makes me a feminist but I am only making sure that my future off springs too get this sense of pride from being a Khasi and the value this community really holds. I don’t think I am diluting the Khasi population in anyway rather I am carrying it forward! (I am quite aware of the pure scientific bloodline and DNA but who isn’t a part of this mixed race anyway if we are to start digging our ancestral family tree or bloodline) I see myself as a Khasi and that I belong in this society amongst you all.
I deeply understand this sense of insecurity and the threat which comes along with the invasion of people in the society and taking advantage of the benefits which come along with a Scheduled Tribe Certificate and how the right people of the community do not reap such benefits.
For instance, a Khasi woman married to a non Khasi man and the husband uses the document to evade tax or get schemes by doing business under the wife’s name or the children and the rich get richer while the poor tribals are still on the disadvantaged end. I really hope this is what the new bill aims to focus on and that the typist in your office has misconstrued some grammar and lines in the bill which makes it looks regressive and patriarchal!
I also understand English is not our mother tongue; even I end up making errors and somehow I demonstrate a different significance or connotation which I don’t mean to and I assume that your kind office made the same error. It’s never too late to correct some grammatical errors and gender stereotypes here and there. At the end of the day, humans err!
However, if the Khasi Social Customs of Lineage (Second Amendment) Bill 2018 really means to outrage the identity of Khasi women after marriage and her children out of a non Khasi wedlock then Shame On You! It is only defeating the core idea of a matrilineal society displaying signs of patriarchy and it is exactly an amalgamation of a herd of narrow mindedness which can never truly protect the Khasi Society and after few years even the word Khasi will no longer exist (I also believe in the saying ‘love conquers all’ and a woman’s heart will fall in love with whoever they want to without even thinking that they may be stripped from all Khasi privileges). So tell me, are you still sure that you are rightly protecting the people and preventing this ‘silent’ invasion of non khasis?
I also have another apprehension towards this bill! In this progressive world where each human is an equal to one another but this new Bill chose to only target women with a justification that in the future even ‘tangjait’ (khasi men marrying non khasi women and the children out of such marriage can be a Khasi) will also be rejected or denounced. I strongly believe that such deep level of playful patriarchy acts should not exist, at least I don’t expect my leaders to have this ideology.
If we want to develop the society then we should carry forward the people of all gender and type in this movement together towards preserving custom, culture and identity without biasness while introspecting if such amendments in the bill will really uphold the Khasi society because honestly I feel suffocated, vulnerable and insecure of my identity in front of this staunch hindutva-like idea of yours and I may even start shaming the bill amongst my peers, colleagues, friends, family and to the people I often meet outside the state of Meghalaya in personal and professional platforms.
Can you see me as your daughter and think deeply the repercussions this bill will have on me and my future identity?
Lastly, I can carry on telling you what is so wrong with this amendment in the bill but I think if the very idea of Equity doesn’t sit right in our minds then I am only knocking my head on the wall. I also strongly believe in applying this ideology of equity because a domino effect will happen where the right and the disadvantaged people will reap the benefits and not the economically privileged Khasi people in the society. Isn’t KHADC formed to live this idea of uplifting the lives of the tribals?
Nevertheless, I am moving forward after writing this letter with an open heart and mind that you will rethink about this bill again or that there will be no assent to this bill by the Governor too. I am also moving forward equally determined that I will not let a small group of people or Guardians of culture and tradition decide my fate and that of many Khasi women out there. And if ever I marry a non Khasi, I will fearlessly remain a Khasi and my future children too will be Khasi and I will teach them to carry forward the torch of a matrilineal society and I will tell them those stories which my grandmother told me about being a Khasi woman and how a woman’s voice is so important in a family and community because they bring the family together and is a caretaker of ancestral values and material property which is then reaped by the future generation of a society.
And along with this, I will teach my children equity with a value to love and hold each other together in a world where conformity is so rapid while people are losing the identity of uniqueness.
P.S Apologies if I offended you all by not addressing this letter with Sir or Madam, it is because I have given up the idea of Feudalism a long time ago.