This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Juri Baruah. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

From Personal To Political: Memories Of Insurgency Among The Youth In Assam

More from Juri Baruah

Enekoiye Kenekoi Kotau

(How do I thrive, thus and thus)

Dedicated to the women who were raped by Indian Army at Ghumtigaon and Tegheria, by slain ULFA leader Kobironjon Phukon.

Oh my mother dear beloved!
On your bosom let me build
my poem’s edifice, my spry poem of war.
Have I, here, written your life’s struggle;
the soil and its toil – a poem.

Poems, I script here, only for you
at the break of noon, in the midnight dread,
my tortured youth of dismal days.
Shame is the name of a sun, give
me the dark, I need no light.

Enekoiye Kenekoiye Kotau Uretu Jibon? (Through my life, how do I thrive, thus and thus?)

Oh, my dear bosom friends!
On her chest let us keep our greens, our grains,
the enemies had what of my beloved’s defiled,
my land’s chastity.

The midday sun to my kernel’s core – poetry.

Translated from Assamese by Arunabh Debendranath Konwar

The recent killings of two ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam) combatants and one Assam Police at Kujupathar, close to the Arunachal Pradesh border brings us back to the memory of insurgency and its post effects. During the popular chai addas as well as in Facebook posts, I try to figure out the reasons behind the romance towards ULFA even though there are some dominant comments which criticise ULFA and their activities that indirectly helps the state. The memory of insurgency is thus not a single memory of a person but it is inscribed in our past and present as a public metaphor.

I met Raabi during my college days who wrote poems against ULFA  and was very vocal against the insurgency of the ’90s in Assam. Raabi as a close junior of mine, later described the story of her father and uncle’s death when her mother was pregnant with her. The narratives her childhood carries always blamed ULFA as the killer of her father. She says, “I have never seen my father, but I can feel him as a bold person against the innocent killings in my locality because of which he lost his life.”

While preparing the narikol ladoo (coconut sweet) during the preparation for Bihu, her mother expressed that people used to write about the families who belong to the ULFA combatant. “But no one is there who can draw my sorrow and struggle during a time of insecurity as a single mother.” The narratives of Raabi and her mother justify how their personal life becomes a public interpretation after the death of her father. “The most difficult task for me is saying goodbye to maa while returning to Guwahati,” Raabi says. The 26 years of Raabi’s mother’s Nisangata (loneliness) show me another dimension of memory which linked to the demand of ‘Swadhin Axom’ (independent Assam) by ULFA.

“‘Swadhin Axom’ becomes a myth for my family,” Suranjana says. I met her during a conference when we shared a room in the girls’ hostel at Dibrugarh University. Suranjana carries the memory of her maternal uncle who was a ULFA combatant. “Mama, (uncle) never came back, he disappears just like wind, a wind of an untitled forest,” she says. “But not only Mama, I have also seen many of the young boys during my childhood whose dead bodies came back to the village. My village carries lots of unfinished love stories which are still a memory of many elder sisters.” Suranjana, who calls herself a leftist and frequently criticises Assamese nationalism in social media, blamed the ULFA movement as a source of utopia which gave birth to a frustrated younger generation in the state.

During my MPhil fieldwork, I accidentally visited a designated camp (though my MPhil work did not cover this area but my field sites include the camp geographically) of ex-ULFA combatants near Lakowa, Sivasagar where I encountered the widows, the single mothers, the pregnant wives of the combatants who sat together watching a serial on Star Plus in the dining hall. The guy who inspired me to visit the camp asked the women if they wanted to go back to their previous life. It was an obvious answer from the women when they talked about how they became depressed by staying there without any productive work. One of them replied,“Only reproduction is not the ultimate dream of a woman. When I declared my decision in front of my family that I wanted to join ULFA, my mother was so happy!” Her mother packed her bag with a gamusa and sadar mekhela (Traditional Assamese attire) and said, “Mur suali dekhar babe jujiboloi haju hoise’ (my daughter is ready to fight for her land).”

The younger generation belonging to the remote areas in the state have many such memories which become contested in later political phases. The common element of these memories is revisiting and re-interpreting the discourse of gender as a source of multiple narratives. These narratives, however politically ignored, are personally audacious. The different documentation of the struggle for ‘Swadhin Axom’ by ULFA is thus not only about the combatants who belonged to the organisation. It is also about the other memories which are still alive through gendered spaces and realities. The discourse of the patriarchal definition of ‘Swadhin Axom’ is indeed consistently criticised by the younger generation from the perspective of gender.

Featured image: By Saibal Das/The India Today Group/Getty Images
You must be to comment.

More from Juri Baruah

Similar Posts

By Ritwik Trivedi

By Vivek Verma

By Tulika Dixit

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below