Thursday, April 25, 2024
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What does being Khasi mean?

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Editor,
It’s always good to have someone respond to one’s article because it gives one an opportunity to take the discussion forward. Wallambiang Rani has alleged that in my previous article, “Why the CAA is Still a Danger for Everyone in the North East,” I have accused traditional faith practitioners of breaking the community, i.e., the Khasi community, thus attempting to create animosity within the community. I would agree with him that, unless I had explained the sentence, “Personally, I believe such Christians are more Khasi than those traditional faith practitioners who want to break the community,” in greater detail, that impression would not be unjustified. However, I am here to explain that I am not making a blanket statement about the traditional faith practitioners but only about those who believe that they are more Khasi than those who are not following the indigenous faith. That this kind of thinking exists is in fact very evident from his own words, where he says, “So, I believe we are far more Khasi, and we love our community, and we love to do good for our community.”
I have no doubts that Wallambiang Rani has great love for his community and will always want its good. But I have an issue with the statement, “I believe we are far more Khasi,” which suggests that there are others who are less Khasi. For me, when I said “more Khasi,” it was with the intention of saying that religious affiliation is not the distinguishing mark of a person claiming to belong to the Khasi community. So, whether you are a Christian, Muslim (yes, there are Khasi Muslims), indigenous faith practitioner, or atheist (yes, there are Khasi atheists as well), if you follow the matrilineal customs and belong to a Kur, you are Khasi. Religion is not the criterion for identifying the community. Did Wallambiang Rani also mean that all of the above are Khasi, and his use of the term “more Khasi” was a response to my use of the term? If that’s the case, I am alright with it, but if he actually meant that those who don’t follow the indigenous faith are less Khasi, the observation I made in my article was about such people.
Perhaps in the future I will write a piece on the indigenous faith itself and discuss some of its practices and beliefs to understand how indigenous some of those actually are. The indigenous faith practiced today is most certainly different from what must have been practiced around 6,000 years ago, when our ancestors came from the East to this land and beyond. I believe our ancestors must have interacted with the inhabitants of the Late Harappan phase and could very well have been one of the groups residing within the boundaries of that ancient civilization. There is no strong evidence right now, but the dates and the presence of the Munda point to such a possibility. Is the indigenous faith practiced today in that original version? I doubt so, and some of the practices hint towards that. However, I am not going to make the case that, therefore, it should be discarded. Belief systems like any other component of the culture change with time, taking in new information and new ideas from surrounding cultures. In the same way, people also change and adopt different faiths based on their personal tastes. In a few cases, some may decide that all faiths are nothing but a feeble attempt rife with inconsistencies to explain existence, and therefore they decide to leave it all. Faith or lack of faith is a personal choice. So, when and if we write the piece on indigenous faith, it will be to show that they cannot lay claim to being “more Khasi,” or what we call Khasi paka. But maybe that is not what Wallambiang Rani meant, and therefore it will not be necessary for me to write a counter response. Anyway, people can always do their own research, as all information on the subject is available in the public domain, and they can come to their own conclusions. Hence, I thank Wallambiang Rani for the opportunity to clarify my statement.
Yours etc.,
Bhogtoram Mawroh,
Via email

Repressive use of the law

Editor,
Apropos of the editorial, “Selective amnesia” (ST March 25, 2024) in today’s India, democratically elected leaders and other leaders in different fields are being frequently taken into interrogational custody, without valid allegations against them being established first, before any judicial forum, through evidences and proofs. The logic behind doing so is that such leaders cannot be given any special treatment different from the ones meted out to ordinary citizens.
In this respect, the pertinent question is whether the deprivation of a citizen’s personal liberty in the guise of interrogational custody, even before an iota of evidence is brought against him before any judicial forum, is in absolute contradiction of basic tenets of civilized behaviour in a progressive polity which India aspires to be? The question becomes more relevant in view of the facts that interrogation can be successfully conducted without taking a person into full custody; that powers to take persons in custody is often misused; that the rate of securing convictions with the system in vogue is abysmally low, and that this practice of custodial interrogation during investigations is essentially a continuation of the suppressive techniques of the erstwhile British colonial regime here.
Last but not least, it can never be conclusively made clear that citizens are not being taken into custody with ulterior motives like political considerations or other selfish objectives.
In recent times we have seen the criminal procedural laws being revisited, but the lawmakers totally ignored these very crucial aspects thereof. The only way for a suitable answer to emerge to these questions pertaining to the very essence of civilized existence in this country, seem to be through increasing levels of social consciousness through academic research and independent media interventions.
Yours etc.,
Subhasis Chakrawarty,
Senior Advocate,
Shillong.

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