WOMEN FREEDOM FIGHTERS IN ASSAM: NEGOTIATING A HISTORICAL DISCONNECT ?>

WOMEN FREEDOM FIGHTERS IN ASSAM: NEGOTIATING A HISTORICAL DISCONNECT

Jahangir Alom

Abstract:
Women Freedom Fighters in Assam: Hare basically discussed about the women participation in the mainstream freedom movement has never seemed to be a bottom-to-top approach because the contribution of women to the freedom struggle remains grossly understudied the Historical analytical method which involves interpretation of Historical facts in all the three major national movements in 1921,1930 and 1942 quite a few women like Nalinibala Devi, Malati Phookan etc of all are analysis in this paper.

The history of India’s freedom movement in the remote areas of North East has not been adequately reflected in empirical research. It has either been inadequately mentioned or deliberately ignored. As a result, sixty two years after independence, several pages of history of india’s freedom movement have remained unwritten. The contributions of many sections of the Indian society still remain unaccounted for due to lack of proper study and evidence. How freedom movement underwent metamorphosis in the remote areas of India, particularly in the north east, has remained largely in the domain of oblivion. What concerns the role of students, women, worker, farmers, businessmen, tribal communities.

Women’s participation in the mainstream freedom movement has never seemed to be a bottom-to-top approach because the contribution of women to the freedom struggle remains grossly under studied. A fair deal to fair sex has remained as much nightmarish as a daydream in all societies, including in India. Three factors are responsible for this lurking apathy in narrative history. Firstly, while a gyeanocentric analysis is largely absent. Secondly, focus of history writing has not blended well with the wealth of oral history from across the country in general and from north eastern India in particular. Thirdly, the urban centric focus on history of freedom movement has effectively filtered out the genuine role of various segment of society, including that of women.

However, unfortunately, in annals of a patriarchal Indian society, one discovers a vast contour of endocentric activities, where voices of women largely ingnored. The role of gender, particularly of women within the household, the division of labour in the production spheres of activities, and in other political and cultural arenas often reinforces two aspects. First, women are made to confine themselves to the household and remain busy in child bearing, offspring rearing and nursing. The maximum they could stretch is unto the realm of music, dance and literature; thus uplifting the cultural level of the family and the society at large. Secod, their role in the realm of politics and economy is normally perceived through the prism of men, who act as assessor and appraiser of the role played by women. This asymmetric, gender based perception has been defined through the heroic deeds of few valorous women, whose contribution to the freedom struggle of India in remote parts of North East remains indelible.

From 1915 onwards, the women of Assam began to organize themselves. The women of Dibrugarh were the first to organize a samiti of their own. By 1926 their organizational network had spread to the provincial level. They contributed tremendously to the freedom movement either individually or through their local associations. In all the three major national movements in 1921, 1930 and 1942, quite a few women like Nalinibala Devi, Malati Phookan, Sumita Vhattacharya, Snehlata Banta, Chandraprabha Saikiani, Shrijuta Rajbala Das, Suwaranlata Barua, Rohini Gohain, Basantlata Hazarika, Sarhi Prabha Sazarika, Muktabala Baishnavi, Mohini Gohain, Darild Kachari, Mangri , Smt. Suwaranlata Banta, Amol Prova Das, Kanakiata Phuleshwari Davi, Bhogeswari Phukanani and many others had participated in the freedom struggle. These women had contributed through various acts like picketing in front of wine and opium shops, forming barricade in front of government institutions, setting up squads and the ilk; they struck terror in the hearts of the British imperialist rulers. Despite warning, threats, fines, lathi charges, faring, short or long terms of imprisonment etc. their spirit of revolt did not die down; instead their articipation increased. There were many illiterate or semi-literate women from rural areas imprisoned during the freedom struggle movement. Their role was either totally neglected or ignored.

The role of these women at the micro level has not been studied properly. Although some efforts at assessing the feminine role have been made at macro level, a lot more remains to be done, particularly when it comes to undertaking an in-depth study of women freedom fighters at the provincial level and down below with special reference to their role in the rear of the movement. The proposed work would make an attempt to highlight the role of few women freedom fighters of Assam – then a unified territory of which half a dozen states have been carved out in independent India. Bordering with one of the pioneering states of the Indian National liberation movement like undivided Bengal and motivated by the inherent inclination of patriotism, these women had fought for women empowerment, gender equality and human rights in patriarchal India to free it from the shackles of age-old bondage.

The history of evaluation of the Indian society doesn’t recognize the efforts put in by women folk, yet much can be said about the crucial role played by women freedom fighters in Assam during the most significant chapter in Indian history. During the freedom struggle, when there was need of too many people, the patriarchal society included women in order to swell the rank, but forgot to record their role, thus relegating them to the background. Violence, criminalization and character assassination- all outcomes of gender bias, curtailed their participation in all spheres of activities in the freedom struggle. History has always been written from endocentric point of view, focusing on male and their role in building and moulding the society. This lop sided focus needs to strike a balance with gaenocentric analyasis, or rather provide its due place to the deserving females, whose role history preserves as memorabilia.

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Secondary Sources:
Books:

1. Satish Chandra kakati, (1954): Discovery of Assam Guwahati.
2. Extracted from Guwahati University Journal, 1988.
3. Martmohart Kaur, (1998): Women in India’s Freedom Struggle, Guwahati.
4. Dipti Sharma and Anuradha Dutta, (1998): Women’s Role in Freedom Struggle in Assam, Guwahati.
5. Dr. H.K. Borpujari, (ed.) (1999): Political History of Assam, Govt. of Assam, Vols. 1. 0, III. Guwahati.
6. Journal and News Paper ect.

The writer is the Asstt. Professor, Mr. Jahangir Alom, Dept. of History, Mahatma Gandhi College, Chalantapara, Bongaigaon (India)

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