Through the eyes of the women


I recently got my hands on a unique collection of essays that seeks to provide a general overview of the problems and issues confronting the Northeast through their daily experiences of the people, especially the womenfolk. Published by Zubaan and edited by Preeti Gill, the book, The Peripheral Centre: Voices from India’s Northeast, fills an important gap by depicting the general response of people residing in the Northeast, as well as outside, to the region, its people and the issues plaguing them.

The editor of the book says the decision to publish this compilation was fuelled by a desire to provide space for people in the region to narrate their daily experiences. “When Thangjam Manorama was arrested and killed by the Assam Rifles in July 2004 in Manipur, it unleashed a protest the likes of which no one had witnessed before. In some ways, this was one of the triggers for the collection – to provide a space to women and men from the ‘Northeast’ to tell us about the issues that confront them daily, to talk about the pressures, the insecurities, the uncertainties confronting them in an area that has been witnessing low intensity warfare for many decades now. It is now many years since the Th Manorama incident but it is an image that has stayed in the mind, transformed into an icon of protest in the popular imagination,” says Gill.

The act of protest of the Manipuri women, their anger and frustration, is what every contributor points out to in their essays. The act of the Manipuri women becomes the focal point around which the contributors puts forth questions about a host of associated issues like identity, the feeling of alienation, and the like. The best part of the whole collection is that while many of the contributors are writers, academics and activists from the region, many of them are also so-called outsiders. “All the articles are intensely personal responses to what is happening in the region, the changes, the growing asymmetries, the fault lines that are causing rifts,” says Gill.

As feminist publishers, Zubaan has done a wonderful job by depicting the stories through the eyes of the women. As Gill says, “The conflicts, which have been given voice to in this book, have been intense and have had devastating and long term effects on local communities. The impact has been particularly complex for women who have faced greater violations against their persons at the hands of the State’s armed forces as well as exploitation by non state actors. Women have to cope with the realities of daily life – they are responsible as mothers of the children, the hurt and the wounded, who are innocent victims to conflicts not of their creation. They suffer as civilians with their freedoms curtailed and shackled. The loss that women face in conflicts is not just emotional, or physical in terms of losing a loved one, but also transfers into the economic and social sphere.”

The list of contributors include the likes of Dr. Temsula Ao, Monica Banerjee, Sanjib Barua, Rahul Goswami, Rupa Chinai, Mamang Dai, Lal Dena, Sumita Ghose, Tilottoma Mishr, Mitra Phukan, V Sawmveli, Shyamala Shiveshwarkar, Esther Syiem, Ashley Tellis, Nandini Thockchom, N Vijaylakshmi Brara, MK Binodini, CS Lakshmi, Freny Manecksha. The book has been edited by Preeti Gill who is an editor with Zubaan. Gill, who had earlier co-edited Shadow lives: writings on widowhood, has presented papers and contributed chapters in various publications on women and conflict in the Northeast. She has also researched and scripted three documentaries on the Brahmaputra and the north-eastern States.

A refreshing compilation.

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Posted on August 16, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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