History & Culture

Kishalay Bhattacharjee brings the Northeast to Delhi

Fillip to languages: Kishalay Bhattacharjee  

Growing up in Shillong and subsequently reporting across the Northeast, Kishalay Bhattacharjee, an Associate Professor and Vice Dean, Jindal School of Journalism and Communications and Director New Imaginations,,O.P. Jindal Global University, had a first-hand- experience witnessing the trials and tribulations of the minorities and the marginlised. He's put his experiences into the nine day long exhibition ArtEast 2020: The Story of Telling. Collecting all the pieces from different regions of the Northeast has been a cathartic experience for him, he says. Kishalay, a former journalist with NDTV, where he covered Northeast for several years, will deliver the curatorial note at the fest that begins at IIC on February 21. .

Excerpts from a conversation.

What was the catalyst for curating this exhibition?

The catalyst for creating this was identity politics, which has become very intense in recent times. We felt that one of the drivers of identity politics is language. The assertion of your nationality is through language. Since this festival focusses on the Northeast, though taking the larger subcontinent in mind, I wanted to go back and see how language politics plays in that region vis a vis other parts of the country. Even within Assam the various ethnicities are divided by language and identity. Rather than homogenise, it is important to celebrate the diversity without the divisiveness.

Earlier, there were divisions within Assam like the Bodos, who have been demanding separate Statehood. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives to armed underground organisations. All this is due to the conflict over language.

Misuse of Citizenship (Amendment) Act, can best be seen in Assam. In that State, the Assamese has hegemony over other languages like Bodo, Karbi, Mishing. Now, the moot question is who is the real Assamese?

How have the anti-CAA protests been brought alive?

Shaheen Bagh has become a metaphor for a new India. We have put up on the wall multiple translations of Hum Dekhege, the anthem of a resurgent youth. The message comes across through Urdu, Metei, Kuki, Lepcha, Rohingya and other scripts. It is titled We Shall Bear Witness. Visitors will be encouraged to share their language with us. Then we have an installation titled Pehchan, where identity is conceived as enmeshed in language. It has been arranged by students of the NID, Haryana.

In the gallery, there will be a video installations of languages of persecuted communities by cinematographer Parasher Baruah. That will include Kashmiris, Adivasi tea tribes, Rohingyas and Tibetans.

So we will have the booming voice of theatre stalwart M. K. Raina speaking in Kashmiri. Qamar Dagar, noted calligrapher, has displayed works on Mizo and Manipuri scripts. A Naga boy will sing in his mother tongue. People in Delhi have never heard a member of the Lotha tribe. Palm leaf manuscripts from Majuli Braj will be on display.

How would you like people to perceive the Northeast?

There are two kind of perceptions. One is that the Northeast is a lively exotic place, with great scenery and enchanting music. Hence, it is a go to place. The second perception is the Northeast is extremist. These stereotypes exist among all communities. But through this festival every year we try to imagine the region through different lens in order to defy the stereotype. However, there is reverse racisim there as well and that must also be recongised and called out.

Art Gallery, Kamaladevi Complex, IIC, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.

This exhibition talks about displacement and migration of people. How are you telling the story of this through your event?

Through stories of displaced people like Kashmiris, Rohingyas, Tibetans, Asivasis in Assam and Miyah. Miyah in Lucknow refers to a Muslim gentleman. In Assam, however, it is seen as a street slur: a Bangladeshi who has taken my land and job. The Bengali-speaking Muslims are trying to reclaim this word. How words and semantics matter will be shown in Witness Us - A Reading of Miyah Poetry Poets. Ashraful Hussain, Mirza Lutful Rahman, Kazi Neel, Rehna Sultana, Nozmul Ali and Marinal Pathak will recite poem and sing songs of homelessness, exile but a refusal to give in.

Art Gallery, Kamaladevi Complex, IIC, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.

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