Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Why harass citizens unnecessarily?


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Through this letter I wish to draw the attention of the government authorities and also to sensitise the general public at large on the double taxation imposed on us citizens, especially those of us residing in urban localities like Laitumkhrah, Laban and others. Being from a municipal administered area, house owners and tenants indirectly are paying taxes for services like solid waste management, sanitation, property tax etc. to the Shillong Municipal Board (SMB) although we are deprived of an elected body for municipal administration. Secondly, there are also the dorbars within these areas that collect monthly fees for the same civic purposes and whenever an attempt is made to question their authority in such collections the only answer we get is that it has been decided by the dorbar. But citizens are left to self-manage when water supply is inadequate or when any government services become ineffective.
I would like to reiterate my point and ask the district administration to come clean on its notification on illegal collection of money by unregistered organisations; doesn’t the dorbar shnong or dorbar dong fall under the same ambit? Who authorises the dorbar in a municipal area to collect monthly fees for purpose of civic services in the name of ‘u synniang’ shnong? It is also learnt that receipts are being issued for such collections. Don’t they also come under the ambit of GST? Moreover there are also fees for sale of land or when an NOC is issued for certain requirements. So much for a voluntary office!
Knowing those who were born and brought up in and around the areas and personally belonging to a family that had resided in one of the localities in Laitumkhrah for the last many decades this new diktat of monthly collection was seldom heard before. Therefore it is expected from the state government and the district administration to stop this broad day light extortion in the name of locality administration by certain dorbars, especially in municipal areas which is illegal and not at all mandated by law. Since those who refuse to pay such monthly fees especially the tenants face unnecessary harassment when a residential certificate is required, for which fees for such are also charged separately. Is there anyone even taking note of such happenings? Or are we citizens without rights and privileges in our own state.
Yours etc.,
Ibalamon Kharnaior,

Responses to letters

Homnath Gautam’s response to my assertion that the origin of Hinduism lay outside the subcontinent clearly shows that it is a very emotional topic for many, especially Hindus. This, of course, will be true for followers of any religion who will ardently defend their preconceived positions. He also brings in the Aryan invasion or Aryan migration theory, questioning its validity. I would like to inform all that the Aryan invasion theory is actually a red herring, having been discarded a long time ago in favour of the Aryan migration theory, which differs in detail regarding the decline of Harappan/Indus Valley civilization. Instead of being destroyed by Indo-Aryan invaders, the civilization most probably declined due to climate change (the intense drought conditions which led to the start of the Meghalayan Age), which was followed by the migration of pastoral groups from Central Asia. That was always known from archaeological and linguistic studies, which have now been confirmed by genetic studies as well. Unless there is new research published in peer-reviewed journals that can prove otherwise, the Central Asian origin of the Indo-Aryan speaking group and their arrival in the subcontinent after 2000 BCE cannot be denied.
The Indo-Aryan speaking group, like I had mentioned earlier, based on research done by other scholars, brought early forms of Sanskrit, Hinduism, and social order, which later became the caste system. Of course, these early forms evolved, and the language, religion, and culture observed today have changed a lot from when they were first brought from Central Asia. But their foreign origin cannot be denied without proving that there was no migration, which, as evidence stands now, is still the case. To take Homnath Gautam’s own example, it was in the council of Nicea held at Constantinople in 325 CE that the divinity of Jesus was affirmed, and later on, it was European missionaries who played a great role in spreading Christianity all over the world, in many ways, as part of the colonial process. However, just because Europe has been strongly associated with Christianity, it does not mean that the religion originated in that continent. Whether we accept the historical accuracy of the events described in the Bible or not, it cannot be denied that Christianity had its origin in undivided Palestine. That’s where the first ideas about the religion evolved. In the same way, the early gods and cultural practices associated with Hinduism had their origins outside the subcontinent, and therefore there is much similarity with other Indo-European gods elsewhere. Those are not coincidences but inform of a connection when such ideas were prevalent in the original homeland, which is in Central Asia.
The cases of Buddha and Mahavira, on the other hand, are quite interesting. These individuals and their ideas that gave birth to Buddhism and Jainism originated in the subcontinent. In fact, the impact of Buddha has been much greater, and its influence can still be felt today, ironically within Hinduism. The Indo-Aryans were an oral people, and it was only much later, during the 1st and 4th centuries CE, that writing first appeared. But two of the greatest Hindu epics, viz., the Mahabharat and Ramayana, were already known and were most probably composed between 400 BCE and 400 CE. The important thing to remember is that this was after the life and death of Buddha, 500–400 BCE, who, during his lifetime, had already spread his ideas throughout the Indo-Gangetic plain. After his death, his ideas continued to gain followers, especially among the nobility, with the Maurya emperor Ashoka being the most famous, who helped spread Buddhism outside the subcontinent. In her 2017 book ‘Political Violence in Ancient India’, Upinder Singh has noted that the Mahabharata can be seen as a Brahmnical response presented by Buddhism and Ashoka. Dharma and kingship were the topics of intense discussion and debate in the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The Buddhists also had their own ideas on kingship. But while Buddhism emphasizes the centrality of the Buddha’s dhamma, righteous and extensive victories, and the wheel, the Mahabharata emphasizes the role of the gods and sages.
There was much churning going on in the religious traditions of the time, i.e., Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism, and there were a lot of borrowings from each other. Upinder Singh wonders whether there were Brahmanical borrowings from Buddhism and Jainism or whether all these traditions were absorbing elements from a common pool of circulating ideas. Hinduism emerged and has attained its current shape after reacting to the other cultural movements around it that were taking place on the subcontinent. But its beginning lay elsewhere. Another analogy will suffice in this case. Today, Christianity is divided into two groups: Catholics and Protestants, the latter having originated during the 16th century in northern Europe. But that does not, again, mean that Christianity had its origins in Europe.
So what is to be done now? All of us in the subcontinent came from somewhere at some point in time. Some came early (like the Khasis), but some came later (Indo-Aryan-speaking people, the Mughals, etc.). Irrespective of our personal beliefs, these are well-established facts. As more research is done, we will get a clearer picture of our heritage. They will make the picture clearer, but they will not change it substantially. But now that we are all here, it is important that we think about how to build a more inclusive society where the rights of all religions, cultures, and traditions should be respected. After all, we cannot ask the Khasis to go back to East Asia or the Indo-Aryans to go back to Central Asia. That is not going to happen. But what can happen is to accept our past and try to build a better future.
Yours etc.,
Bhogtoram Mawroh,
Via email

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