Politics, Human Rights & Social Justice

In Nagaland, Despite An Act To Protect Street Vendors, Women Vendors Struggle For Basic Amenities

Kohima/Chümoukedima/Dimapur/Guwahati: Every morning, 42-year-old Loni Yalie neatly places vegetables, fruits, dry fish and a variety of edible worms at a spot in the Local Ground area in Nagaland's capital Kohima. After the death of her husband, Yalie has been the sole breadwinner for her three school-going children. "I don't know how to read and write," Yalie, who belongs to the indigenous Lotha tribe, told IndiaSpend. "So, I couldn't have done any other job apart from street vending even if I

Meet The Lawyers Helping Poor, Bengali-Speaking Muslims Accused Of Being Foreigners Prove Citizenship

Mangaldai & Barpeta (Assam): On a humid September day, dressed in a loose, white shirt and worn trousers, 48-year-old Asmat Ali waited for the 3 pm boat to take him on a 45-km, two-hour journey home here in India’s far east. Standing on the banks of the Dhansiri, a branch of the Brahmaputra river, Ali pointed to the faint, shimmering view of shanties on the other bank. “If you can see the houses that seem like ants right now, there is Nangli Char No. 5,” he said. “That’s where my house is.” Al

Another BJP State, Another Demolition: In Assam, Kin Of Muslim Man Who Died In Custody Face Terror Case

Salonabari, Nagaon: “Aami basibo parim ne? (Will we be able to stay alive?)” the woman asked, visibly afraid. It was five days since the lean and soft-spoken woman, in her forties, and her teenage daughter had been picked up by the local police, on suspicion of being part of a mob that set fire to a police station. The woman spoke to Article 14 on the condition that her name not be used. A day after the Batadrava police station, 123 km east of Assam’s capital Guwahati, was set on fire on

“No development for us here”: Workers distraught as Assam government clears tea garden to build airport

“Aami korbo toh korbo ki?”—What can I even do?—a 45-year-old worker asked. She had been working in the Doloo tea estate, situated in the Cachar district of Assam, for close to six years. Like her late husband, who had died a few years earlier, she had been a permanent employee. On 12 May, her future, as well as that of at least two thousand other workers, was thrown into peril when the Assam government began demolishing the Doloo estate, despite stiff opposition and swelling protests by its work

Assam's Hasina Bhanu Won A 20-Year Legal Battle To Prove She Was Indian. It Came At A Cost

Dalgaon (Assam): On a sunny winter afternoon, Hasina Bhanu, 55, lay on her bed with a blank stare, in her tiny, one-room thatched mud house in Shyampur village near Dalgaon town in Assam’s northwestern district of Darrang. It had been seven days since a court ordered her release from a two-month long incarceration at a detention centre in Tezpur town, but she found it hard to get up because the incarceration, she said, had aggravated her high blood pressure. A frail, hunched woman with a diffi

After Tripura Muslims Faced Mob Attacks, Muslim Twitter Handles Nationwide Face Police Action

Panisagar (Tripura): In the bright mid-morning sunlight, Mohammad Sanohar Ali was distraught as he stared at the remnants of his shop that was partially burnt down by a Hindu mob on 26 October. “My Hindu bhai from the nearby shop would come over every day, we would chit-chat,” said the 40-year-old whose footwear and garment store in the Rowa Bazaar area of Panisagar, a town in North Tripura district, now lay in shambles. Charred clothes were strewn among broken display shelves, and the roof was

Assam-Mizoram border clash: Why their police fired at each other

Rare clash last week over longstanding border dispute between Assam and Mizoram leaves six police officers and a civilian dead. Guwahati, India – Bullets, tear gas canisters and grenades were fired on July 26 at a contentious border point between the states of Assam and Mizoram in India’s northeast. Six police officers and a civilian from Assam were killed and more than 60 people wounded in the rare incident at the village of Vairengte in Mizoram’s Kolasib district. Assam’s Chief Minister Him

Women’s Political Representation In Assam Slips To Its Lowest In 20 Years

Gauhati:Fewer women will now occupy seats in the newly elected Vidhan Sabha (state legislative assembly) in Assam in 2021. Six women were elected in the recently held three phase elections between March 27 and April 6, 2021, making up a mere 5% of all members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) in the state. This is a decline from 6% women MLAs in the last Vidhan Sabha elected in 2016. In fact, the new legislative assembly in Assam will have the lowest proportion of women MLAs since 2001. Of th

Health & Environment

A hope for climate-focused urban planning in Assam’s cities reeling from severe floods

“There was water till my waist,” recalls Tarun Rajkhowa, a 70-year-old resident of Guwahati city’s Rukminigaon area. In mid-June this year, when incessant rains inundated parts of the city, Rajkhowa and his wife were stranded in their first-floor apartment for nearly a week. “It was impossible for us to get out. Relief material was delivered to us through boats. Vehicles parked on the ground floor of our building were completely underwater,” Rajkhowa said. Only weeks after a severe wave of flood

India Lifts Most COVID Restrictions As Omicron Wave Subsides

GUWAHATI – Amid sharply falling COVID-19 cases, the streets in the largest city in north eastern India have started to resemble pre-pandemic days, crowded with pedestrians, vehicles, roadside vendors and hawkers jostling for space with scarcely anyone wearing masks. This follows the decision by Assam state to lift all restrictions from 15 February, removing curfews and restrictions on public gathering of people, and even mandatory testing for passengers at airports and railway stations, accordi

Two young women in Nagaland are leading a crusade against e-waste

When Sowete-ü K. Letro was growing up in Dimapur, a town in the northeast Indian state of Nagaland, she had a habit of collecting things. The 27-year-old Letro recalls how she was obsessed with not throwing away any of her things including electronic waste (e-waste). Even when a few items would become useless, she would fondly keep them with herself believing she might use them again in the future. “I have been a hoarder all my life,” Letro said. She is now channelising those habits into doing

No Ordinary House

India is a country of high cancer mortality rates and limited accessible resources, where many travel miles and miles to expensive cities for late-stage treatment, becoming houseless in the process. Wanting to help, one government official offered up his state house. Now, it’s a beacon of hope for cancer patients. Sometime in 2003, Devashish Sharma moved from Assam—a small state in India’s far northeastern region—to Mumbai, a bustling financial center and the country’s most densely populated ci

In Assam’s tea gardens, a silent water crisis is making workers ill

A year ago, Mohan Tanti realised that the intense pain he had been suffering from for a while was due to kidney stones. Tanti lives and works at Letekujan, a tea plantation in Jorhat district in Assam, northeast India. To get treatment, he travelled to Jorhat city – about 23 kilometres away from Letekujan. At the public hospital, doctors told Tanti that they couldn’t do much about his disease. The 35-year-old, who owns a small grocery shop in Letekujan, then spent more than 100,000 Indian rupee

In Assam’s Tea Gardens, Low-Wage Women Workers Struggle to Access Maternity Care

On a sunny afternoon in February 2021, Bohagi Tanti Karmakar sat on the ground outside a small thatched mud house in Letekujan, a remote tea garden in Jorhat district of India’s far northeastern Assam state. Karmakar is a temporary worker at the garden, brought in when her labor is needed. There are more than 500 women workers who live on the grounds of this garden. The frail 20-year-old, clad in a printed maxi dress, was recalling the painful experience of delivering her first child, a son, ab

Cancer Treatment Is Free In Govt Hospitals, Yet Poor Patients Drop Out

Guwahati: On an overcast afternoon in October, 22-year-old Surabhi Arandhara stood holding her two-year-old son, Arshik Jyoti, as he cried uncontrollably. Arshik was diagnosed with lymphoma in September. Arandhara, a soft-voiced widow clad in an orange saree, choked back tears while telling us her story. Living in a remote village in Assam's Jorhat district seven hours away, Arandhara and her in-laws barely have any money for the child's treatment. With the help of a woman she fondly refers t

Culture, Travel & Food

Who’s Behind These Giant Stone Carvings?

These magnificent sculptures are shrouded in mystery. Under British rule in India, Tripura was a princely state ruled by the kings of the Manikya dynasty. Following India’s independence in 1947, Tripura merged with the country in 1949 and became a full-fledged state in 1971. Today, India’s third smallest state borders Bangladesh to its north, south, and west, and the Indian states of Assam and Mizoram to the east. As a vacation destination, Tripura has not quite picked up or is pretty far off

How oranges and adventure sports lifted an island in Arunachal

GUWAHATI : As the sun sets on a pleasant March evening in Dambuk–34km from Roing, the last major township in the northeastern frontier of India–Toni Borang, a robust 49-year-old man, stands tall in a floppy sun hat, scanning his 10-acre orange orchard. For farmers in Dambuk, a hilly valley in the eastern Himalayan foothills of Arunachal Pradesh, cultivating oranges has been a way of life for years. Borang is one such farmer whose orchard has earned him a small fortune. If the fruits are good, B

Where Tangy Means Ou Tenga — Whetstone Magazine

Sundays meant elaborate lunches at my home in Guwahati, the capital of the northeastern Indian state of Assam. My father would buy fresh green leaves, fruits, vegetables, meat and fish from the nearest bojaar or marketplace. He would come home and announce the name of each item. Later, my mother would spend a large part of her day in the kitchen, skillfully preparing a traditional meal featuring these ingredients. Among other things, I was fascinated by a large, round, greenish-yellow fruit know

Guwahati’s rise as a tea auction hotspot

Post lunchtime on a crisp winter afternoon, Rupesh Khakholia settled into a black leather chair at his tea shop in Fancy Bazaar, a bustling market in Guwahati. His tiny office was lined by posters and boxes for various kinds of tea—CTC, green and orthodox, and numerous speciality varieties. Outside, a few employees worked frantically to package teas and keep pace as new crates arrived from nearby warehouses. Last October, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Khakholia bought a batch of Manohari Gold tea

‘Caste gets into every nook and corner of relationships’

Besides making innovations in Carnatic music, vocalist, writer and activist TM Krishna has also spoken about causes concerning the environment, caste system, communalism, religious reform and so on. In 2016, he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award. In his new book — Sebastian and Sons: A Brief History of Mrdangam Makers, Krishna takes a deep dive into the lives of the men who are instrumental in engineering the mridangam, thereby telling us a dark tale of systematic caste discrimination and opp

Anyone can wear a phanek: lessons from the canvas of a Manipuri artist

‘Wedding of my BFF’ by artist Thokchom Sony depicts a Manipuri bride and her two friends. The artist received some criticism because the bride seemed ‘too loud’ and not ‘demure enough’. Of the many learnings within Tea Break, a painting by Manipuri artist Thokchom Sony, is a sartorial one: “that anyone can wear a phanek.” The phanek, a traditional loin cloth worn by women in Manipur, especially of the Meitei community, is wrapped around like a sarong — an item of daily clothing for the older g

A Bengaluru couple wants to save India’s tribal music – with a little help from urban artists

In early 2017, Piyush Goswami and Akshatha Shetty were travelling through the remote parts of Assam’s Dima Hasao district, when they came across Epa Lallura. An elderly member of the Biate tribe, with an honest, near-circular face, Lallura had a heartfelt lament: the music and language of his people are dying out. According to Lallura, the younger Biates can speak in the Biate language as well as bits of the pidgin Haflong Hindi, Bengali, Assamese, Dimasa and a few Naga dialects. But the Biate

In Shillong, hip-hop artists are singing tales of poverty, unemployment and a fading language

On a windy and grey afternoon, the hip Mellow Mood Café located on the first floor of a somewhat rundown building in Laitumkhrah – a bustling neighbourhood in Shillong – slowly started filling up with regulars. The audience comprised a mix of ages. Enthusiastic high school children and 20-year-olds had gathered at the café as part of a friendship jam organised in aid of victims of the Kerala floods. Besides a deep sense of empathy, there was another strand though that bound them: a shared love f

How a Naga professor’s handle filters tradition on to Instagram

On October 5, 2017, 37-year-old Theyie Keditsu from Kohima posted her first photograph on Instagram. In it, she is seen wearing an elegant emerald Mekhala—a traditional Naga sarong—intricately woven in turquoise thread. However, neither hearts nor hits followed. The next month, at a local beauty pageant where she was a judge, Keditsu wore her mother’s “flashy black and gold Mekhala from the 1980s.” It grabbed eyeballs, but also spurred on a request. “Make your profile public, please?” someone h

In manga-crazy Nagaland, a young woman’s comic series has made her a minor star

When Thejakhrienuo Yhome was growing up in Kohima, the capital of Nagaland, she was infamous at her school for sketching under the desk during class. “I found out later that all the teachers knew about it,” she said, “but [they] never bothered to stop me probably because they could tell it was important to me.” Those small acts of kindness on the part of the teachers helped. Yhome, now a 24-year-old self-taught artist, is the creator of Carnaby Black, a digital manga comic series about “whimsic

In Tripura, a musician’s bid to preserve the language of the tribes

For many youngsters in the Northeast, who go to various Indian cities to study and work, the move back home, if it happens at all, is usually a period of rediscovery. The winter Rumio Debbarma, 33, returned to his hometown Agartala, he learnt that his mother would write poems in Kokborok — their native tongue, also the language spoken by the indigenous population of Tripura. Today, mother and son collaborate to write lyrics for Koloma—a five-membered contemporary folk fusion band founded by Rum