Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Class warfare in Shillong

Khasi society as I mentioned in another post is still quite feudal and classist. The entire society is run by a small of group of individuals at the top. This group managed to make it's money early on and remained there.

In theory, I myself should be among that list. But my parents came from a disfavoured line of the clan resulting in them falling into the lower classes before now managing to achieve middle class status. But this loss in status has in affect left me as an outsider to the rest of the family and this society.

Recently I have started working in a field dominated by this elite class. My experiences have been quite traumatic to say the least. My bosses are quite appreciative of my abilities and talents and I have done the best I can to learn and perform any task given to me. But my colleagues on the other hand, have been outright hostile. Any attempt at co-operation has been met with hostility and disdain. Pleasantries may be exchanged but everything else involves acts of hostility. Even asking to borrow a pen is met with outright rejection and even anger.

I have been made to feel like I do not belong. I am an outsider in their world and my talents or skills or courtesy will never be enough for them. I do not think this will change. Not even if I ever do a better job than them. No matter what I do, I'll never be in their circle.

Such is life of all people trying to rise  up I suppose. It's a sad state of affairs. This society of Meghalaya is inherently a toxic one. A land of crabs trapped in a basket would be the best analogy.

This elite of society needs to be over thrown. This "burom" class of privileged fools must be challenged. Acts of subversion can do this. Such acts can be of many things.

Once such way would be subversion of their religious beliefs. This elitist class tends to be quite the "religious" bunch usually of the Judeo-Chirstian variety. To them religion is a means of flaunting their wealth and oppressing the lower classes. One such way, that they use religion to oppress the lower class is  in the form of moral policing on weaker sections of the society. This can be acts such as public shaming or even public punishment of those deemed deviant in their sexuality. This elitist class can then hypocritically engage in the same activities but their wealth however grants them more privacy enabling them to hide their behaviour from society. To subvert this use of religion to oppress the lower classes, one can either make up a religion or religious practice to mock the elitist classes or even abandon it altogether. One can see an example of this in the western world with Pastafarianism and Atheist Churches. This subversion of the tools of oppression will diminish their powers greatly.

I myself am an avowed Atheist, though my reasons for this are on intellectual grounds rather than anything to do with class warfare. But this has enabled me to resist attempts by the elitist class at oppressing me. If I do not share their same sense of self righteousness, morals and shame, they can't use those things against me. They can't make false allegations against my sexuality with the intention of humiliating me if I don't consider having a different form of sexuality as being something to be ashamed about.

Other acts of subversion can be very different and can also be time consuming. But they all help in overwhelming the elitist class and overthrowing their power. A single drop of water barely does anything to a rock but river given time and pressure can grind it down to sand.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

WASP's in Shillong

Shillong's Middle and Upper class lacks culture and it's a problem tied to it's Protestant roots. 

To begin with the Christian population of Shillong are seperated mostly into Catholics and Protestant. As mentioned in another post, there are clear ideological differences between the two denominations. But there's a lot of intermixing between them. However all groups, Christian or non-Christian of Shillong are equally guilty of the problem. A better way would be distinguish them by economic class.

One of the biggest distinguishing marks of the "culture in Shillong" is the presence of WASP or White Anglo Saxon Protestant Culture among the middle and upper class of Shillong. When one talks about WASP's, in Shillong I am not talking about race or religion or ethnicity but rather a culture or the imitation of a culture.

To understand what I mean you must know that the main Protestant sects in Shillong are very orthodox and fundemantalist forms of Christianity. Most of the Protestants sects except perhaps the Unitarians are similar.

WASP was a term coined in North America to describe the descendants of the early English Puritans who colonized the "New World". These Puritans were very conservative, rejecting entertainment and fine arts for simple living and hard work. As a result of the Protestant belief of Sola Fide these people were extremely merchantile and industrious and grew exceedingly rich. They dominated the social, political and economic landscape of the New World into the modern day. However due to their Puritan beliefs, they never developed any real culture for the most part. They had no idea of tradition, sentimentalism or history. They contributed very little to literature, theatre or the arts. They made very few memorable monuments. For a people, they simply lacked any deep or authentic culture that wasn't tied to their religion. Instead they formed shallow traditions or aped them from surrounding cultures to supplement their religious traditions. They were, put simply a very plain people despite all their wealth and power.

To be clear, I am in now way saying everyone is the same but there is a pattern of observable behaviour. There are plenty of exceptions to this vague generalisation.

What does this has to do with Shillong? The Christians of this city in the far corner of India have very deep ties to the Protestants of North America and around the world. American and European Protestants routinely visit and provide charitible donations along with spiritual, moral and intellectual guidance. Thus there is a sharing of ideas and beliefs between the two groups. The locals of the region have for the lack of a better word a primitive or younger culture. When the British arrived the Khasi tribes were still at the stage of pastoralism. They lacked the sophistication of complex urban societies. It's is natural for the less complex society to emulate some the behaviour of the more complex society and this is what happened when the British colonized the land of the Khasis. Missionaries followed suit and they began to convert people.

Fundementalist Protestants were the first to arrive. They promoted a more rigid rejection of other identities other than their brand of Protestant Christianity. What this means, is that, the people who converted to these fundemantalist sects came to accept less of their ethnic culture and accept more of the culture of the Protestant missionaries. This happened over a period of a hundred years. The result is that there is a very robust ideological and spiritual friendship between these people. This in turn gives rise to a culture of WASP's.

WASP culture in Shillong is very prevalent. They may not be ethnically or racially white, but culturally they behave very similar.

Some typical behaviour of these WASP's is the adoption of western accents, infact you could claim that English is their native language. They celebrate superficial holidays like Halloween or most absurdly Thanksgiving. They know very little of their ancestors history but know alot about American or British history. They are obsessed with commerce and money. They wear mostly western style clothing and when they do wear ethnic clothes, it's mostly as a fashion statement. They are very prejudicial. They very rarely mix outside their class or social group. They are very dismissive of lower class and working class culture. There's a competition of keeping appearances.

But beyond this, it can even be seen when WASP's try to partake in the various aspects of culture like the arts. They come with very little originality; often emulating the styles of western commercial artists. Despite living in a country of thousands of cultures with scenic beauty and ancient art and architecture spanning thousands of years; these people still cannot create any style of art or music influenced by any of it. Thus you can see this when people copy western music videos or paintings with themes from the west. To be clear I am not complaining about cover bands covering songs but rather how these bands rarely if ever infuse their own influence in these songs but instead try in near precision to copy the song. This often creates quite a large amount cringe worthy material. It can also seen in the decor of their homes or businesses, one of the most hilarious example of this aping of WASP culture in recent memory was in a cafe where a signed picture of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton hung on the wall of pictures celebrities. There was not one picture of any Indian or Asian or African on that wall, all were British or American. It's one thing to appreciate some western intellectual or celebrity but wholesale rejection of their own icons seems bizzare.

One of the most recent and popular examples that I saw of WASP-ishness was in the song and music video called "Done Talking". Strangely enough it won an award at the MTV European Music Awards in Europe in a category called Best Indian Act. Why does Europe Music Awards have an award for artists from one specific country not in Europe? Especially when there exists an Asian Music Awards? I have no idea but I suspect ratings. Anyways back to the point. The song I admit is very competently made. It has high production values for a video made by locals with a shoestring budget. It's showcases their talent and ingenuity The singers have brilliant voices. But song and video simply have no soul. Looking at the video there's no indication of where the video is shot or of the ethnicity of the singers. The lyrics mention nothing about where the video takes place or who these people are. If you didn't know better you would have thought they were some westerners singing in a European or North American city. To a lot of people this would be something to be proud of. But they shouldn't really. The best analogy to describe watching this music video is that its like eating a KFC burger. It tastes like all KFC burgers made anywhere on the planet. It's alright but compared to a well made burger at boutique cafe it's not that great or unique.

That's the sad part about it, you can see all the good ingredients in there. The talent of the production team and of the artists but they managed to come up with something so generic and shallow that it's culturally insignificant. This is WASP culture.

Shillong's middle and upper class is definitely in need of culture. The sad thing is you can see the vibrant culture underneath. Walking around one can see Graffiti depicting about local themes of corruption, hardship and abuse of power. The working classes celebrate vibrant and joyful traditional festivals with ancient dances and songs.

It shouldn't be that these cultures should remain the same; all cultures after all evolve. But whatever new cultures emerge there should atleast be an attempt by the artists to add to it using their own unique identity and history. One of the ways this can happen is when the people of Shillong abandon WASP culture and come up with something better.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Meghalaya is a mafia state

Meghalaya is a state built on criminal activity. It's would not be a stretch to say that nearly the entire population either is involved in criminal activities or atleast benefitting from it.

Meghalaya was formed in 1971, after Indira Gandhi was attempting to become the Indian Prime Minister,  sought to bypass leadership of the Congress Party and decided to make deals with different tribal political parties to provide them with new states in exchange for their support in her political aspirations. The result was explosively violent. Within 10 years, ethnic violence exploded across the region. In the the new state of Meghalaya, upto 40,000 people of the Bengali, Bihari and Nepali communities were forced to flee from the state as the tribal population began to consolidate power. Civil society and the government could not legally force out the non-tribal  population thus "militancy" emerged that targeted them with the implicit support of the tribal population. However as the tribals gained supremacy of the state this left a number of heavily armed and trained militants with no enemy. Naturally existing outside of civil society these people drifted slowly into criminality. Smuggling, extortion and kidnapping  of fellow tribals became rampant and the very people that had previously supported them now became their victims. Some political opportunists even went so far as use them to settle political scores and eliminate rivals. This is Meghalaya as today.

However corruption long preceded the rise of militancy. To understand why Meghalaya is so lawless, one must understand that there are 5 authorities in the state -

1. The State Government - the biggest authority but not the strongest. The State Police is one of the expressions of this authority. State taxes are collected by them.

2. The Central government - the strongest authority but very limited as it has little or no interest in the state. The Army, the CRPF (Paramilitary Police), the judiciary and the central bureaucracy are it's extension. Central taxes are collected by them.

3. The Autonomous District Councils - they are supposedly supposed to protect the interests of the different tribal communities. There are three ADC's in the state. The Garo, Khasi and Jaintia district councils. They are supposed to be incharge in the administration of tribal lands and have a limited law making ability. They also register who are tribals and who can lease, buy or rent land and issue licenses. Taxes are to be paid to them for the extraction of minerals and use of natural resources or registration of land.

4. The local tribal kings and chieftains - they are the original rulers of the land and technically they own large tracts of land and people have to pay taxes to them. Local markets are held on their land and they collect money from the sellers. Parking tickets, road access and even royalties are included too.

5. Then there are local self government organisations organised at a community or village or locality level who have the ability to fine activities or add fees. In Shillong there is a municipal board but no councillors due to a objections by the local self government organisations called
Dorbar Shnongs, thus making them more or less useless.

These authorities are extensively corrupt and incompetent. There is no clear and proper separation of powers and this means that economic activities through the state are doubled or triple taxed or even quadrupled taxed. No one is incharge basically. The general failure of the Indian  judiciary and  an outdated system of law- enforcement means that people can get away with anything.

The lack of central authority in the state enables criminals and criminal opportunists to take advantage of the unsuspecting.  Here a distinction must be made between criminal gangs and criminal opportunists. A criminal is one whose career is in criminal activities like extortion, murder, rape, drug dealing and smuggling. A criminal opportunists however is someone who is normally an honest and law abiding citizen but due to the lack of consequences and lack of central authority engages in some form of criminal activity. The most common of type is the extortion of land buyers by local "sordars", (village or locality leaders) in the Khasi districts. These men demand a percentage of the price of land being sold with the implied threat of violence or vandalism on the new owners. In essence, a form of protection racket.  This is usually done by whole villages or communities who get a percentage of the cut. The buyer has no recourse as the police are ineffective or at times actually a part of the racket.

Non-Governmental Organisations are another group that thrive in this environment of lawlessness. Criminals tend to group together and form NGO's to actually tax other criminal groups. An example of this is when the National Green Tribunal of the Central Government banned coal mining in the state due to the severe environmental impact. However coal smuggling became widespread and many had to use back roads. Certain NGO's and local village leaders actually began setting up checkpoints in these back roads to extort money from truck drivers smuggling coal. An interview by the author with a low level member of a checkpoint revealed that he was earning ₹2000 per night every day. One can only imagine what the higher level members were making.

The police are the biggest criminal organisation in the state. Extortion of truck drivers driving legal and illegal wares are a huge money maker. The traditional collection of "hafta" rampant. Hafta is the illegal collection of a "fee" from local businesses by the Indian Police across India.  This practice is well established in the state. The lack of accountability also means the police are able to act with impunity. Police brutality, rape, torture and even murder is common.

To understand why such a high level of corruption exists, we must understand what kind of society Meghalaya is and what kind of society India is as a whole. India at its core is a feudal society. Meghalaya is no different. It's is a society built on patronage and vassalage. Everyone has to pay homage to those above them. Only a small portion of the country has risen above its feudal nature. The rest remain in the dark age. An "elite" runs India, derived from the upper castes. The situation is similar in Megahlaya but instead of caste, certain clans and families are the elites. Usually these were the members of the descendants and friends of the ancient aristocracy whose old money enabled them to well placed in society. A few families like Sangma, Lyngdoh, Pariat, etc dominate the civil service and various important positions in the state. However with the advent of democracy these families could no longer rely on old ways of maintenance of power instead. They had to adopt new means. The old form of authority was derived from divine rights but now they had to gain an election mandate to maintain power. Thus they used their old money to purchase votes. However this will never be enough as their old money is limited. Thus they need more money to purchase  votes. This money comes from the government in the form of tax payer money. Thus when these people get into office they need to get as much money as possible to remain in power. Without this money they will not be able to purchase votes and thus not get elected again. Therefore there is perverse system that encourages corruption. A politician who becomes a minister of a government department is more or less reassured of enough funds for the next election. A politician who is elected but does not become a minister however, has to depend on other activities either from lobbying by business interest groups or from criminal activities. An honest politician would not survive. Normally the other branches of government like the judiciary would act as a check to this but the judiciary itself has failed under the weight of the sheer number of cases and other internal reasons.

The system of vassalage comes in here. A politician will have a retinue of followers and supporters. These men and women offer their services to him in the hopes that he wins and gives them something in return. This can be in the form of jobs or money or favours or even seats in colleges or schools.  This is very similar to how a mediaeval Indian society used to work. Lords would give grants of land or money to loyal knights and knights would give share to whoever was following them. Such a system is still followed even today. Without these knights and retainers, politicians are unlikely to win elections. In other societies this happens as well but this tends to be subtle and quieter and less obvious. However in Megahlaya, there is no money. Economic activities are dominated by a few families and everything else is worthless, thus government jobs are the biggest and best reward a political follower can hope for.  Checking through the state bureaucracy, one can find that large numbers of positions are filled by such people or by the children or relatives of such people.

Another lucrative avenue is contracts for government projects. The winning politician rewards his followers and benefactors with contracts for construction, supply,  services, etc. Most often these people have no qualifications or ability to deliver and thus you get your horrible government services or they just corrupt the money for the projects for themselves.

Thus despite its claims of being tourist hub or progressive vision, Meghalaya has not really progressed beyond its feudal roots. Crime is rampant and any crime statistics by the government are not to be trusted. Definitely not a safe place to visit without being alert and taking precautions.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

To be a "Man"

You must be a man. Those are the words everyone has told me since I was a child. Even as a child everyone told me I had to act as a man. If my knee hurt after a fall I had a to suppress the pain and bear it in silence as a man.

A rigid binary of roles exist for male and female. The idea was instilled since childhood. The idea of how I should behave and act and talk was so rigid, most would say it is more than a role it's a way of life.

I have never had an easy relationship with masculinity. In my life all the masculine figures were quite toxic. My male relatives very hyper masculine. They fought a lot, they swore alot, they drank a lot, they did drugs, they never went to a doctor unless they were close to death, they beat their women, they cheated on their spouses, they crashed their cars regularly, I suppose you get the picture.

You would think that the women of their lives would leave or find someone better but they never do. They would deny they got mistreated by their men, they would pretend they didn't get a abused or beaten, they would be hyper feminine as opposed to the men. Even women who would proclaim to all for equality between genders would gladly ignore holding their men to the same standard. It's was strange and weird.

This is what I mean that it's not just a role it's a life style, it's basically a culture. A culture of angry men and submissive women.

Growing up, I knew one thing. I wanted to be nothing like them.

I do not have a particularly masculine personality in the first place. I luckily have never grown addicted to alcohol or drugs, I have sought help for the problems of my life, I try to be open minded and I do my best to treat the women of my life well, I try to resolve conflicts with words rather than violence, though I make provision for self defence but I am not always successful. But it is not easy. Everyday I face, people relatives and friends who challenge me to "prove" my masculinity. Most of the time I brush them off but sometimes my pride or stupidity gets to me and I engage in acts that bring risk to my life and others. Things like reckless driving or even engaging in a physical fight. This was true mostly in my teenage years. My adult life is a substantial improvement, I guess experience does make people wiser.

But like I said it is not easy. Especially when you live in this culture of toxic masculinity. Everyday there's a new insult, there's always someone challenging you to prove yourself. Sometimes you can even engage in toxic behaviour without realising it. I remember once after someone gave me an insult and after a while I began to get angry and suddenly I was speeding down the highway oblivious to how fast I was going or how I was putting myself and other motorists in danger. My mother who was with me in the car had to cry in terror for me to realise I was being a stupid idiot and slow down.

It's all persuasive, this toxic culture. To try to get away from it, risks incurring severe penalties. You risk being distrusted or even getting ostracized from your family. If you don't enjoy getting completely drunk at a party, it becomes difficult to meet people or even form friendships.

For me personally, I would rather turn into a pariah than become my uncles and cousins. I don't want to die of alcoholism or addiction, I don't enjoy hurting people or mistreating them. I am me and I am my own man. I will be a responsible person to the best of my abilities, I will be humane as possible, I will help those who are less fortunate, I will do my best to do what is right rather than what is manly. It's a lifelong fight but I don't mind.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Beware the man who calls himself a "feminist" (Not what you think)

Being in University is not easy. It's a constant slog for meeting assignment deadlines and preparing for tests and exams. But one advantage is that you meet people of a diverse background.

But there is a kind of individual you should be careful of in academia. They can be professors, students, research scholars even a friend. This the "male feminist", within quotation marks. Hence forth shall be identified as MF.

Let's just get this out of the way. Feminism overall is a force for good. Men can be very good feminists too. I fully support feminism and it's objectives. But the problem is there is a certain species of male feminist that I often see in academia and activist groups as being quite a problematic group.

These are the men who run around calling themselves feminists but really behave nothing like one. In fact, their feminism or support of, seems to be a cover to be abusive and chauvinistic towards women. I'd go so far as to label their behaviour as gaslighting the women they befriend or meet while participating in feminist causes.

Let me explain with an example. A student I know called A has been proclaiming to be a feminist for a while now. He pays lip service to ideas of feminism and even gets invited into feminist groups and activities. However he is quite disrespectful and degrading to the women around his life. He frequently insults his female colleagues and friends with chauvinistic rhetoric and a decent conversation reveals that he holds ideas no different from chauvinism and misogyny but simply rapped up in a weird ideas of possessive protection of women. He is openly disrespectful of female guest lecturers often trying to undermine them. In his mind, women are equal to men but they aren't equal to him.

When he does get called out by the women, he simply falls back on his "credentials" as a "male feminist" to claim that he could never be a chauvinist. In fact, he actually tries to make the women believe that it's their fault for getting treated terribly by him. This in my opinion is gaslighting. Gas lighting to quickly sum up, is a deflection technique used to abusers to shift the blame onto their victim.

Such MF are quite common in academia. It is not a pleasant experience to deal with them.

These types of MF, tend to loudly proclaim their support for feminism in public while secretly or even unconsciously they are quite the opposite of what they preach.

Feminism to the MF is not some thing they believe will be beneficial to women but simply a cover to hide their own low confidence and lack of talent or abilities. They make their support to feminism as central to their character, loudly proclaiming it in public to get attention to themselves instead of using their platform to get attention to the feminist objectives. They are narcissistic to the core. They want the attention. They want people to love them and validate them. The feminist activity is secondary to their own wants.

Dealing with such people is difficult. Women feminists must be vigilant of men coming into their space. As with most human traits, the MF lives on a spectrum. Some really are feminists but their own personality is very self promoting and narcissistic, which can be either a benefit or a disadvantage and is upto the female feminist whether she wants to be associated with such a man. But at the other end of the spectrum exists the hypocrite who participates in feminism simply for self gain. These must be avoided entirely. But such men continue to plague academia and activist groups.

We have seen such men for a while now, from the likes of Harvey Weinstein to Mitchell Sunderland. They publically pay lip service to feminism but in private they do the opposite.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Something is wrong in Meghalaya

Meghalaya is often idealized by people from outside the state. People think that just because it is "matrilineal" it's some sort of utopian paradise. It's not. The state is sick, very sick.

People know it too. Especially those from the working and lower class families. They struggle to get two meals a day while around the state rich kids drive around in Mercedes Benz and attend posh schools. The inequality is glaring. The vast majority of the state is poor and in rural areas most are still carrying on subsistence farming. Those that have no land are share croppers or migrant labour. Conditions are pathetic though not as bad as many other parts of India. How did the state end up like this? With a few enclaves of Individual wealth in a sea of poverty?

Meghalaya's sad story started with the arrival of the British in the mid 19th century. Most of the state were pagans following animalistic and nature based religions. Then the Christian missionaries came. The British had been extremely hostile to the locals, treating them inhumanly, but to those families that converted to their masters religion they were given special privileges and powers. They were the traitors who were tasked with preventing future uprisings against the British. They used their new religion to pacify the region turning proud and brave people into willing servants.

Fast forward to World War 2 and then things changed for the worse. The demand for labour and producers for the British war effort meant that those families that were already on the good books of the British were able to open up factories and businesses and sell their products and services to aid their British overlords. These few families became obscenely wealthy. Thus when Independence happened, they were able to take full advantage of the situation. The 6th Schedule which was negotiated by these already wealthy families which gave them even more privileges, wealth and power. Over time other families as a result of patronage by the original families emerged as well. Now ofcourse they have done all they can to ensure that no one else will ever be able to climb out of poverty, atleast not without their approval or without paying of homage or subservience, like some sort of neo-feudal system.

These wealthy families whom in my opinion cannot be differentiated from an oligarchy are a bane of the state. The state can never improve or change without outside interference. The 6th Schedule has more or less decided that. It prevents people from outside the state from coming in and displacing the oligarchy. There are always some wannabe crusader against corruption in the state but they are never successful or succumb to the corruption itself. The reason for this in my opinion is -

1. They are Christians and the oligarchs of the state control the churches here. A Christian's biggest fear is not hell, it's being ostracised and excommunication. They are powerful tools against dissidents and honest men.

2. The crusaders are from the oligarchy families or families beholden to the oligarchs. You can't fight people who control you. I know a woman who calls herself an "activist" against corruption. She claims to be a Marxist too. Ironically she lives and works in New Delhi and has her meals in posh cafe's while hobnobbing with the very people she claims to be against. This is an all common scenario in the state. A husband-wife activist duo who claim to be working for the people also happen to send their kids to the same Catholic school where every minister, politician and beauracrat send their own kids, manage to keep a straight face when talking about income inequality. It's actually quite hilarious. 

3. Lastly, the central government is the biggest contributor. Earlier after Independence, the central government barely paid attention to the region even when famines ravaged and killed thousands. But after numerous civil uprisings they did something even worse, they decided to just throw money at the problems in the region without supervision. No scrutiny is made on how it's spent or its effectiveness. The oligarchs, ofcourse never one to miss a free meal willingly took the money in exchange for keeping people in check and preventing civil strife. Thus the oligarchs take an active role in state politics often contesting in elections with the hope of landing political office.

So you see, Meghalaya is a sick state. No change will ever come from within the state. Outside intervention is needed but unlikely to happen. Who will save my homeland?

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Questions on Ancestry

I have always curious about history. I am an individual of mixed ancestry and I have often wondered where my ancestors came from. Who were they? Where did they come from? What of their culture?
These questions had kept me awake my entire childhood and I never got an answer to them, not even when I earned a Bachelor’s degree in history. My entire life I was taught about the cultural practices and folktales of my mother’s Khasi ancestors but the history of this tribe remained unknown to me. There was a gaping hole in my knowledge that neither school nor college ever attempted to fill.
I was given lessons on Khasi language and folklore in school, but they could hardly be considered rigorous or deep. Instead what was offered to me at my ICSE school was a superficial knowledge, I was taught the Khasi language, poetry and prose and a bit of Folklore but I was never told their significance or historical context. My school history books contained the names of dynasties and rulers of far away and alien lands. No mention was made of the history of the local land.
Even when I joined college, my syllabus of local history began with the arrival of the British with David Scott and ended in the 1970’s. What came before that? Not the professors’ problem. There was an option to teach medieval and ancient North East history but I do believe the professors did not want to touch that with a ten foot pole so we ignored that portion.
My knowledge of Khasi came from an alternative source outside of educational institution, in a library, the State Central Library on a warm summer afternoon. I was perusing through the history section when I happened across a book, “Archaeology of North East Indiaby Jai Prakash Singh and Gautum Sengupta. The book contained the published works of various scholars on the history and archaeological studies done in North East India, the chapter, “Who are the pre-historic dwellers of Meghalaya Plateau?” by Zahid Hussain caught my eye. The theories put out in the chapter quite literally realigned my entire perspective on the Khasi tribe and gave answers to many questions I had of my Khasi ancestors.
In short, the chapter argued that the Khasis were a hybridized ethnicity. According to the author with evidence he had at the time, Khasi were the descendents of Australoids and Mongoloids who had settled on the Meghalaya plateau since Mesolithic and Neolithic times. The theory explained the strange physical features of Khasis which differentiated them from surrounding tribes. Apparently these two distinct groups of people intermingled and intermarried and gave rise to the unique and distinct ethnic group, the Khasis. The Khasis as a result of their mixed ancestry have features of both Australoids and Mongoloids. The author also presents the shared ancestry of the Khasis and Mundas of the Chota Nagpur Plateau as evidenced by shared cultural practices like cremation of the dead and similarities in language and other things.
Overall the chapter was quite eye opening and answered a large number of questions I had. Of course the ideas and theories of one individual may be mistaken but at least someone tried to provide answers. In academia and in history, theories and ideas often get replaced as the evidence changes, but there is at least  an attempt to seek answers. Why were such things never taught to us in our school years? I am sure many would find that much more interesting than memorizing the entire list of Mughal rulers. Surely one measly chapter in a tenth grade history book would not hurt? Perhaps the theory is widely disputed? Perhaps the people who set syllabus did not think it was important?
Whatever the case maybe, people have a right to hear both sides of a controversy, considering the importance of the subject matter. Whatever the case, people need to hear about their history. In the absence of open discussion, it leaves the door open to malevolent people to create pseudo history to fulfill some absolutist political aim. History maybe scorned and ridiculed of all the humanities but humans have always looked to it to form an identity, a sense of self. We have to change how it is taught and discussed.