'Bahar Nikalna’: Muslim women negotiate post-conflict life
Diia RAJAN, Deepa DHANRAJ and K. LALITA
Abstract This paper is based on a three-year research project titled Minority Women Negotiating Citizenship. Conceived of in the aftermath of Gujarat 2002, the project studied 75 life-history narratives of Muslim women survivors of communal violence in Gujarat, Hyderabad and Mumbai, in order to map their everyday experiences of negotiating survival, marginalization and exclusion. While analyzing our material we found that our preliminary organizing or analytic categories – victim, agent, Muslim, woman, class, location – could not contain the negotiations and fluid ‘subjects’ of the narratives. The most useful analytic concepts and tools were those being used by the women themselves in their narratives, such as bahar nikalna and sambhalna. These women negotiate a hostile state, poverty, violences, communalised politics and public spaces, and increasingly belligerent community structures on an everyday basis. The complexity of ‘identity’ and ‘agency’ as they emerge in the narratives, and the syncretic nature of their everyday negotiations, challenge the rigidity of existing frameworks and dominant discourses on issues of Muslim identity and citizenship.
Keywords: Muslim Women, Post-violence life, Negotiating Citizenship, Accountability, Oral Narratives
Diia Rajan is a Research Associate with Yugantar, Hyderabad, where she is currently researching post-conflict trauma and social recovery, specifically with Muslim youth in Hyderabad. For the past five years she has worked on issues of citizenship and development, and recently coordinated a multi-centered research project titled ‘Minority Women Negotiating Citizenship’. Prior to joining Yugantar, she worked with the Women’s Rights and Citizenship initiative of the International Development Research Centre, Canada. Diia holds a B.A in Political Science and an M.A. in Culture Studies from Canada and India. Her areas of interest include post-conflict life, gender, social policy and qualitative methodologies.
Deepa Dhanraj, President Yugantar, is a noted filmmaker and has made over fifty documentaries and training films in the last twenty- five years. Her films have won awards in many International Film Festivals. Deepa has taught video-filming to women activists from South-East Asia, and has extensively lectured in various fora all over the country. She has been actively involved with the women’s movement since 1980 on issues related to women’s status, political participation, health and education. Her areas of interest are education and health, and in the last few years her work focussed on problems faced by children who are first generation learners from disadvantaged communities.
Dr. K. Lalita, Secretary Yugantar, is well known as co-author and editor of classics in women’s studies, such as ‘We were making History,’ ‘Women Writing in India from 600 BC to the 20th Century,’ and ‘Taking Charge of Our Bodies’. She was founder-president of India’s first women’s activist group, the Progressive Organisation of Women, and founder-coordinator and currently the Vice-President of the well-known Anveshi Research Centre of Women’s Studies. She works on issues of gender, social justice, women’s health and education.