Guns and Roses
Violence can be and is a recurring motif in literature. It is emblematic of disorder and chaos which, jeopardizes thought processes and militate against happening which in turn is reflected in Literature and Art. Violence then it is a means towards attaining a higher end of aesthetics and the subliminal.
Violence can deeply affect sensibility, disturb the psyche and embed a deep seated urge to communicate and share whether in Literature, film or painting. Violence is a demonic myth to be subverted, but in this very process there is communication and urgency to share. It requires a lot of guts to depict violence in a creative manner because it is truth – telling of a high order, dismantling obfuscation with clarity.
Much of the discussion today in the literature of North East India focuses on violence as a thematic interest. The literature of North East India, which has gained a lot of ascendency in the last three decades and especially in the last one and a half decades, has shown a glut of interest in the other parts of the country due to this new ontology and cult of violence. It first happened in the Social Sciences in 1980s when almost all discourses on North East India were veered to ethnicity and violence. Mainstream publishing houses capitalized on such current trends, publishing manuscripts as a spin off of seminars and conferences.
Last year, a Delhi Publishing House held a two to three day meet on violence in North East India and how writers could bring about an exegesis of peace through their writing. There were endless discussions on it, but nothing on Peace. Political issues such as the Assam, Nagaland border dispute were also discussed but lamentably, there were no therapeutic remedies or the feeling that creative writing can actually be an antidote to violence and a restoration of sanity in a world of disorderliness.
Speaker after speaker in the Zubaan Meet used rhetoric to reel off examples of conflict in North East India. But where was the underlying peace that we were feverishly searching for, which is scripted in our inner being? Not one writer mentioned the intercultural interfaces in the Region through literature and poetry. Not one mentioned that many of the established Assamese writers in Assam are from the tribal communities of Assam or say Arunachal Pradesh, such as Rong Bong Terang, Sameer Tanti SanantaTanti. Perhaps few know that there is a cluster of Manipuri poets in the Bengali dominated Barak Valley of Assam.
This is an exemplification that creative writing is an inter-cultural and intra-cultural interface. For over two decades, a Bengali poet, Pijush Dhar in Shillong published a Little Magazine; Paharia (meaning “From the Hills”) where translations of Khasi, Assamese and Bodo poetry etc into Bengali were published. This is an attempt towards ethnic harmony using the ‘weapon’ of literature. Anupama Basumatary, one of the leading contemporary poets of Assam, preferring to write in Assamese, is from the Bodo community, irrespective of the fact that the community has a separate Bodo Sahitya Sabha – as distinct from the Assam Sahitya Sabha, and where in the Kokrajhar district of Assam, the Bodos, who already have an Autonomous District Council – are also asking for independent statehood.
For over three decades now, this part of Assam is occupied by some of the most colourful and vivacious plains tribes who have been ravaged by violence and bloodshed. Political and creative levels operate disparately but what literature can do to heal wounds is never asked. Writers writing in the language of their choice are taken for granted.
I came out of the Zubaan meet a shaken person because most participants emphasized the searing differences within the communities of North East India – which is exactly what politicians want; spoilage and dust. The fact is that writers of North East India use violence to emasculate themselves from it.
Bijoya Sawian, the novelist from Meghalaya, in her perspicuous novel, ‘The Shadow Men’ speaks poetically about violence prone Shillong which at the same time breeds affection and love for the protagonist – a lady who was born and brought up there and now lives in Delhi. She comes to Shillong to meet her old school friend and her family – inveigled by her childhood memory of Shillong, the school et al. But she gets entangled in violence and witness to a brutal killing. Her love for peace and the people is to such an extent that she waits for the events to go to their logical conclusions – one killing after another revealing a world of disaffection, heinous crime and blood lust for money. But when she hears after a few years that the situation has improved considerably, there is suppressed euphoria.
When Thangjam Ibopishak, the Manipuri poet exclaims in one of his poems through an allegorical technique that he wants to be killed by an Indian Bullet, not by the bullet of terrorists, he is only reclaiming identity and the trauma of a desperate soul.
Recurring in contemporary North East India Poetry is the absolutism of violence; phantasmangoria attempted to be overcome by gnomic surrealism in the poetry of Ibopishak, Y. Ibomcha and Saratchand Thiyam.
Violence and art go together in juxtaposed entity and not as disparate, schismatic elements. A great attempt was made by two poet of Shillong, Robin S Ngangom and Kynpham Singh Nongkynrih when they brought out a collection of North East Indian poetry published by Penguin India, a couple of years back including language such as Kok Borok and the Tea Tribes of Tripura and even Bengali poets residing in North East India who animatedly write about the ethos of the region, not identified as ‘mainstream’ Bengali poets. This anthology is an intrepid voice of the community of poets irrespective of their ethnic communities. Some of the poets of Meghalaya and Tripura are bilingual – writing in Khasi and English, Kok Borok and Bengali. Literature and politics of the order of mayhem, loot and arson are distinct entities. They cannot co-exist but rather exist as conflictual currents.
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Ananya S Guha
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