“She asked him, if she was under house arrest to which cops used to say No, you are not. Then she asked again whether she can just go outside and buy cigarette? And again the answer was No! What does this even mean- I am not under house arrest and I can’t even go out? She questioned again to meet just silence. This used to continue every day, the cops came every day to monitor house to see if there is change even if that means shifting of chair from one place to another in the same room. So just for this she started changing the position of the things which were there in the house. This was her way of showing resistance, these small acts of dissent which made it clear that she doesn’t accept the authority who in the name of law has taken her independence for granted”
|picture credits : WISCOMP|
The panelists included Rosemary Dzuvichu, who is an advisor to the Naga Mothers Association and has served as the Kohima District Mahilla Congress president. She is also the chair of the department of English at Nagaland University; Sumona Dashgupta who works as an independent researcher and consultant, she had also served as assistant director at WISCOMP and Lubna Sayed Qadri who works on the revival of traditional art and craft forms, and community-based tourism in Kashmir, specifically in the rehabilitation of the Tosa Maidan in Jammu and Kashmir.
The panel was moderated by Dr. Meenakshi Gopinath, Founder and Director of WISCOMP, who initiated the discussion by introducing the panelists and emphasizing on the “need of sharing and hearing more stories” in terms of working on peace in contemporary society especially in conflict ridden zones.
It was an insightful experience to hear Rosemary talk about the politics and women’s rights in the conflict zone Nagaland, where she kept referring to Nagaland as a separate entity not as state of India. She strongly pointed out the patriarchal structure of Naga tribes and communities which are being constantly hostile towards women representatives in spite of getting support from the Government of India and Judiciary. She also spoke about the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the conflict between militants and the Indian government, constant struggles of women residing in the conflict ridden zones and the way they are fighting structural violence in their day today lives to reclaim their rights and negotiate peace. It’s a common stereotype that women from North East are way too independent and they have matrilineal society but on contrary they even lack land rights which also questions their citizenship.
Sumona Dashgupta talked about stories of resistance by victims in post conflict society – particularly three episodes of life restoring acts by women from what she calls “the theatres of conflict” in Guatemala, Palestine, and Northern Islands. She referred to a collaborative research where through art, women who were victims of severe sexual violence narrated their stories of suffering and challenging the violence in the form of paintings. She emphasized that though the narratives of restoration have largely been based on research and documentation are about truth telling, the focus should now move to truth seeking so that we have comprehensive outlook on the role of women in conflict zones and how that can contribute towards peace building.
This was followed by young and vibrant Lubna Sayed Qadri, who spoke about her work on the closure of the Tosa Maidan firing range and minefields, conservation, development of community-based tourism model, provision of (individual and collective) compensation for victims in Jammu and Kashmir high court, and strict implementation of rules for operational firing ranges in the state. She also shared about use of collective RTIs and PILs to fight fearlessly against oppressive state machinery. It was truly inspiring to hear a young woman leading the change in one of the most conflict ridden state of India.
After this, the session was opened to questions and comments; I was really intrigued by the sharing of all the three panelists.
My mind was constantly hammered with the thought that it’s not just conflict zones but also in the most regular spaces women fight for their very existence in their day to day life. Also when we talk about conflict zones, what does “Nation” mean to them especially in the current socio-political framework when there is always a sword called anti nationalist hanging on our head?
|picture credits : WISCOMP|
This actually lead to very interesting discussion where Sumona Dashgupta referred to Rabindranath Tagore’s poem where he says
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls”
She said that the current situations makes us question whether we belong to this nation or not, also we need to reflect on the fact that when we don’t even have land rights and our citizenship is questioned, do women actually have a nation?
|picture credits : WISCOMP|
The discussion came to an end with the thought of finding enabling spaces for women in order to work towards ensuring, restoring and negotiating peace at all levels. This discussion was very crucial, informative, participatory and also very insightful because when we talk about gender based violence we generally don’t talk about the situations of women in conflict zone, also many of us do have an idea of what is going on in Kashmir but we are totally clueless about North east struggles, how women are struggling facing structural violence at each level. These discussions not only broadened the perspective on Feminist discourse but also left us with numerous questions to reflect upon.