The internet has been banned for 3 days since November 22 in Meghalaya. It was done so abruptly that some people are still asking what happened. There is nothing on the news channels that we have been watching and the news from the newspapers are always a day late. This is the age of information technology; we are so used to and dependent on the internet, so much so that we’d rather read e-paper and follow news channels and newspapers on social media than buy one from Kong’s shop. Yet, we are still in the dark.
There have been many kids handing out black flags and telling people to shut down offices, but when I saw their faces, it looked like they were having fun. There was no remorse, no sadness, not even sympathy for the people who have died. And the situation has now only gotten worse.
So I have a question; is the internet ban intended to curb ‘misuse’ of information and prevent ‘breakdown of law and order’, or has it been done because we are scared of showing our true colours, of the potential of our people to spread hatred and not show any sympathy towards others?
There are always two sides to the story. If there is something good that can come out of something, then there is also a possibility that the worse can come out of it as well. There are people who will use the internet to spread rumours and misinformation, yet there are also others who need the internet for their studies, for their job, and for correct information. We have lost a lot just from a day of no internet.
There is a need to be connected in these trying times, there is a need for information, and we have seen this since the beginning of the pandemic, it can be done only through the internet, which can bring us closer.
Khasi Epistemology and Mythemes
I read with interest Barnes Mawrie’s article on “Khasi Epistemology” in the Shillong Times, Nov 23, 2022. I commend this newspaper for creating a space for intellectual discussions that have societal value and relevance, and the many authors that contribute to such discourses. Intellectual dialogue leads to the formulation of ideas that create progressive mindsets, value-added policies, and a better society.
To paraphrase Dr Barnes’s definition, epistemology is the structured expression of our lived reality (ontology). He takes the view that Khasi and other tribal cultures have a deep relationship with nature and spirits that leads us to an understanding of “ultra-human and supernatural entities”. These concepts are embedded in our beliefs, behaviours and social interactions.
He goes on to say that “The Khasi people, as a tribal community, do not have a scientifically and philosophically formulated epistemology”. This is true, because while tribal peoples have indigenous knowledge and philosophical concepts, these have not been woven into an integrated structure. The tribal people also have moral beliefs and ethical positions. Yet these unstructured tribal themes have underpinned the philosophies, theologies and knowledge systems of so-called more advanced societies.
Folklore has been a useful means of expressing our epistemology. Folk tales show the holistic integration of spirits, man and nature. The personification of animals describes and explains human attitudes and tendencies. Some influential historians have espoused the view that folklore expresses knowledge and history. Folklore is also entering the realm of science.
Scientific American, one of the most prestigious academic journals, carried an article in 2016 on, “The Evolution of Myths”. The author took a taxonomic approach, analysing the origins of various categories of folk tales. He found myths with common themes in different ethnic groups. Because of hunter-gatherer origins, there are many hunter stories, an example is Sier Lapalang. Because our ancestors sometimes lived in caves and fought wild animals and monsters, these led to cave and serpent stories, such as that of the “thlen” in our folklore. These common stories indicate shared ancestries and support the scientifically accepted Out of Africa theory as the origin of Homo sapiens.
The author proposes the concept of “mythemes”, common story units that are present in folklore from various sources. Mythemes are analogues of genes and memes, transmittable through generations, and may be altered or mutated in passage.
Carl Jung, the father of psychoanalysis, studied cultural transmission in tribal societies in Africa and America and concluded that cultural archetypes, were passed on to infants in the uterus. According to him, a prominent example is the archetype of great mother, seen so prominently in the matrilineal Khasi clan structure.
Jung believed that the events of nature were not simply put into fairy tales and myths as a way of explaining them physically. Rather, the outer world was used to make sense of the inner. Folklore should be regarded as a rich expression of our epistemology.
Glenn C. Kharkongor
Love thy neighbors for peace and prosperity
A blatant display of cruelty against the innocent is no small sin. What happened at Mukroh village in Jaintia Hills on November 22 should be condemned by one and all. Just imagine the pain and anguish of each family member of those six people. No amount of monetary or physical help can heal the wounded hearts of the deceased wives, parents and kids. A fair investigation should be initiated so that exemplary punishment is awarded to those trigger-happy police personnel and others who are responsible. Even the Assam Chief minister has said that certain cops have overstepped their authority.
Nevertheless, at this critical juncture, we need to act with utmost caution and discernment. We should ensure that people from either side of the border are not affected in any manner. Yes, any demonstration of ill-feeling will never augur well for our future and for both sides. Needless to say, most of the people, particularly the weaker sections of people on either side, are entirely and mutually “interdependent”. We cannot change our “geography”, nor choose our neighbours. We MUST learn to live with them, else we shall never have peace of mind. We need to take this factor with all seriousness. Moreover, if we analyze objectively, the state of Meghalaya has more things to lose than Assam in case of frequent face-offs.
What if a fleet of vehicles carrying essential goods are blocked by the uncontrollable angry mobs at Khanapara? It is heard that certain labour unions working for petroleum transportation in Assam have already raised the safety concerns. Hope such a posture will not be replicated by others too. Let’s be practical. With WhatsApp at our disposal, the news that strains the relationship spreads in no time. The roars on social media might directly hit the economy and much more. Look at how our poor vendors/farmers/daily wage-earners living at the borders will cope if they are seen with contempt and derision by the communities from the other side? This will adversely impact lakhs of poor families. I totally agree with what senior journalist Patricia Mukhim has discussed in her current article – “Meghalaya’s economic dilemma as a dependent state” (ST November 25).
What the police have done is unpardonable, but that blame should not be shifted to other innocent citizens from Assam. Communal disharmony is the worst thing that is going to eat into our own strengths. Given the rise in “unemployment”, we cannot risk a persistent economic downturn. The sense of warmth and amiability alone can heal wounds and help rejuvenate the economy and vigour of the youth, which hatred can never achieve. It only weakens us.
Of course, we need to have elaborate police outposts at each sensitive border. We need to learn a lesson at least from this incident. The safety and security of the citizens should be the top priority of the state. I believe we need to stand with the government in working out the measures to ameliorate the tense situation as early as possible.