[Assam] Khasis should emulate the Mosous. Guard against the pre-Islamic Arabian type.
jaipurschool at yahoo.com
Sat Oct 22 19:30:48 EDT 2005
Interesting! They had ancient communism --and now they are fighting for location for setting up the Meghalaya Board of Education . Why this storm in a tea cup which has taken the lives of 9 people and coerced their MP to resign from Indian Parliament?
The article said:
"Until the last three decades of the 20th century, land and its resources remained a community property in the area now known as Meghalaya. But with the attainment of statehood in 1972 and new development projects, land became a purchasable commodity and was given a monetary value. This was the first onslaught on the practise of community ownership of land. Heated debates are on about how the notion of private property came in and whether this trend can be reversed. "
Bartta Bistar <barttabistar at hotmail.com> wrote:
Khasi parallels By Patricia Mukhim
By Patricia Mukhim
The Second World Congress on Matriarchal Studies at San Marcos, Texas, from 29 September to 2 October was hosted by the University of Texas and saw an interface between researcher-scholars from across the globe with representatives of indigenous peoples who are still practising matriarchy and/or matriliny.
The first Congress was held at Luxembourg in 2003 and the author was to speak on the Khasi matrilineal society of Meghalaya. Matriliny and matriarchy are contentious subjects. Yet because of their controversial nature they have generated intense debate in academic circles. An indirect offshoot of the feminist movement of the 1970s, the different dimensions of matriarchy are today accepted subjects of research. Feminists assert that what is history today is a distortion of matriarchal values which have been cleverly replaced by patriarchy a culture that is inherently linked to capitalism and the destruction of nature.
Researchers in matriarchy contend that the social order in matriarchal societies is based on intelligent principles cultivated over thousands of years of human experience. These are well-balanced and peaceful societies that practise reciprocal equality in which every individual, irrespective of sex/gender and age, is treated with respect.
They claim that matriarchy is a non-violent social order in which all living creatures are respected. This theory is supported by the very nature of matriarchy which means centred around the mother and the mother as the birth-giver, the carer and the nurturer cannot also be violent, destructive and non-egalitarian.
The above argument seems to hold true of the Khasis and Garos of Meghalaya both of which are practising matrilineal societies. In these societies, lineage is derived from the mothers clan line. Ancestral and self-acquired property of parents passes through the youngest daughter or the khatduh. But the khatduh is only the custodian of that property.
Decisions about the use of the ancestral property are taken by the maternal uncle or the mama. Usually the decision is arrived at through consensus. Both these societies have been non-violent as opposed to other tribal societies of the north-eastern region which have engaged in inter and intra-tribal conflicts. There is no visible class system. Land and all other natural resources were community property. In that sense, the societies were egalitarian.
Until the last three decades of the 20th century, land and its resources remained a community property in the area now known as Meghalaya. But with the attainment of statehood in 1972 and new development projects, land became a purchasable commodity and was given a monetary value. This was the first onslaught on the practise of community ownership of land. Heated debates are on about how the notion of private property came in and whether this trend can be reversed.
What surprised me was the existence of at least a dozen or more of matriarchal and matrilineal societies in different parts of the world and that the Khasis and Garos are not so unique after all! Indigenous peoples in the USA, namely, the Bear Clan of the Ohio Seneca commonly known as the Iroquois people practise matriarchy. So also the Syilx peoples of Okanagan, Canada and the Tygh peoples of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the USA.
Other matriarchal societies include the Tauregs of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Juchitan of Mexico, the Sierra Juarez Zapotecs of Oxaca, the Kuna peoples of Panama, the Shipiho of the Upper Amazon, the Samoa people of New Zealand, the Ashante tribes of Ghana, the Khoekhoe people of South Africa, the Mosuo of China and the Minangkabau of Sumatra, Indonesia, to name a few. The purpose of the congress was to initiate and encourage a multi-cultural, scientific discussion, networking and collaboration among scholars occupied with non-ideological research on what can be described as matriarchal societies.
Scholars feel that while matrilineal and matrifocal are clearly defined anthropological terms, the significance of matriarchal as a specific cultural concept needed to be explored because the scientific studies of matriarchal cultures is not commonly known or accessible.
The congress is a culmination of decades of research often at a great cost, particularly for scholars from Germany. Such innovative scholarship was unwelcome in the West at that time and anyone desirous of getting into this area was seen as a challenge to the status quo of patriarchy and hence ostracised by their universities. One scholar whose pioneering effort is widely recognised today is Heide Goettner-Abendroth. She has struggled and researched for close to three decades to draw the attention of the world to values embedded in matriarchal societies which she calls balanced and peaceful societies where domination is unknown and where women are considered equal citizens and their cultural contributions are encouraged and respected.
But Goettner-Abendroth could not have carried on her research without the active support of Genevieve Vaughan, an oil heiress from Texan. For 20 years, Genevieve has supported feminist writers, scholars and activists from different parts of the world. She is the founder of the Foundation for a Compassionate Society and the protagonist of what she calls the Gift Economy.
Speaker after speaker at the congress exposed patriarchy as a system of domination in which war always becomes the main principle of social organisation, the formulation of economic policies and the striving for technological and nuclear advancements all of which pose a threat to life. They see globalisation as the last phase of patriarchy. Another purpose for holding a world congress on matriarchal studies is to knit together people from across the globe who continue to practise matriarchy or matriliny since many of these societies and ethnic groups find themselves marginalised and are under threat from patriarchal societies that surround them.
Patriarchy in a country like India is suggestive of male domination and women have just begun to reclaim their lost spaces. It is ironic indeed that in a nation which venerates all forms of the mother goddess and other female deities, women should be treated so shabbily.
What requires to be researched is at what point in history matriarchy or the mother-centredness of the Indian culture became subsumed by the sub-culture of patriarchy. More and more scholars believe that matriarchy must reassert itself to overcome the culture of violence and economic disparity. A beginning has been made in the West. We can only hope that the effort towards peace-building through societies cradled in peaceful matriarchies moves forward.
(The author is a columnist and social activist based in Shillong.)
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