In response to Oscar B. Marwein’s article, “Heads they win, Tails we lose” (ST Jan 28, 2016) I must begin by saying that like Marwein, I am also a Khasi (Khasi/ Pnar) by birth and blood. While my father is a Khasi by identity and a Christian by religion, my mother is a Pnar by identity and a Niamtre by religion. And mind you they both enjoy Scheduled Tribe status. Like Marwein, my identity too “springs from matrilinythe practice where I derive my name from my mother’s side” and yes “[i]t is the fountainhead of my identity and culture as a Khasi.” If we go by what is actually happening now then truly my father would then be a ST as well as a Minority since he is a Christian while my mother is not. Therefore Marwein’s fear about any kind of confusion that may arise in the future is unfounded and uncalled for as there are numerous households like mine amongst us.
The point one wishes to drive home is that if the Niam Khasi-Niamtre do fulfill the criteria of Minority status then why should we be denied that? Why should Minority benefits be enjoyed only by some of our Khasi/Pnar brethrens who are Christians? We do not have any qualms about our Khasi/ Pnar brethren who have converted to Christianity, enjoying the benefits of Minority Status in spite of being a majority in the state and Marbianglang Rymbai’s letter “Where is Justice here” (ST Jan 22, 2016) has vividly brought to light the piece of evidence statistically. What is upsetting and disturbing is the kind of objection that has arisen when we the Niam Khasi-Niamtre are putting forth our demands. Why not let the authorities concerned do their duties and decide? One agrees that faith is indeed a personal matter but if a believer of one faith enjoys a right which a believer of another faith also deserves but is not yet acknowledged then it is baseless accusation to term and brand the former as a binder of the community and the latter as “the main threat to our Tribal society.” To argue that the demand for a Minority Status has evolved through “the narrow perspective of religion” is facetious.
It must also be understood that benefits attached to a Minority Status has its requirements in terms of faith and religion alike. To avail this benefit one has to either be a Christian, a Sikh, a Muslim, etc (differing from state to state) and not just simply a Khasi? There is no denying the fact that the preservation of culture and identity lies not simply on dances and faith but also on literature, music, research, documentation and publication of tribal culture and practices but it cannot also be denied that the Niam Khasi-Niamtre do have their share on Tribal faith, culture and practices. Believe it or not religious rites and practices do play a vital role in inculcating the same. Granted that the Niam Khasi-Niamtre are no different from other Khasis and other Khasis are no different from them in terms of script, language and culture then why are Minority Status benefits enjoyed only by our Khasi/Pnar brethren who are Christians? Isn’t this “rationality and cold logic”?