ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Oral Histories beyond a Footnote

Relocating Women Insurgents in Assam

Women’s roles in combat are often overlooked in conflict studies. Their multifaceted work at designated “homes” at different points in time leave them at the crossroads of negotiated identities. Through in-depth interviews with former cadres of the United Liberation Front of Asom across five districts of Assam, the work of these former women combatants within the organisation is highlighted. Their initiation into the organisation, numerous roles undertaken, and their navigation of multiple homes and identities are analysed. These experiences, rooted in their oral narratives, have remained largely unrepresented.

 

The undocumented lives of women members of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) have been called to attention in recent academic works by Rakhee Kalita Moral (2013) and former ULFA member Kaberi Kochari Rajkonwar (2013), which accentuated and challenged the internal democracy of the insurgent organisation. This article takes their writings as the points of departure to unveil the “work” of the women combatants, and is rooted in their oral narratives that have remained unrepresented. The idea is to open up the space for these women cadres beyond their mentions in footnotes of academic pieces and journalistic writings. This secondary literature did prepare me as the researcher to enter the field. However, it was the in-depth, face-to-face interviews with the former cadres of the ULFA and journalists—conducted over five months in 2016 at their homes, office spaces, courts and designated camps in different parts of Assam such as Guwahati, Mangaldai, Tezpur, Lakhimpur and Sivasagar—that introduced me to their hospitality, solely guided by the principle of trust from both sides. Holding this trust factor, I could get access to my respondents on the basis of each other’s reference. At times, there was clear humiliation and rejections by potential respondents who refused to be interviewed, citing the insensitivity of previous researchers and journalists who misrepresented them. This was a major hurdle in convincing other prospective respondents. However, the opportunities to live with the respondents overnight allowed me to observe their everyday lives closely and it was only through these time-consuming but engaging conversations that I was able to enter into their past in the present and bring out their missing voices.

Childhood to Camps

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Updated On : 17th Mar, 2020
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