Our e-Essays project is now LIVE! Previously-released essays are available here, and each month a new essay is available for free with any other purchase.
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The first three sets of e-Essays focused on Indian women's movements, sexual violence and domestic space and kinship. Our fourth collection of essays is on the theme of religion and conflict. The deep-rooted association between religion and patriarchy has continued to hinder women from realising their rights. This has been further exacerbated by the politicisation of religion. Situations of conflict triggered by the desire for dominance through communal assertions place demands on women to fulfil different, seemingly contradictory, roles. The essays that we bring to you this month, on the theme of religion and conflict, explore women’s roles as victims, survivors, peacekeepers and as actors who have been denied any active participation/role in peacebuilding efforts.
1. 'Surviving Violence, Making Peace: Women in Communal Conflict in Mumbai'
by Kalpana Sharma from The Violence of Development: The Politics of Identity, Gender & Social Inequalities in India, 2002
Kalpana Sharma's essay explores the multiple roles that women came to occupy in the riots that took place in Mumbai post the Babri Masjid demolition. As the news of this destruction – carried out on 6th December 1992 – was broadcast across the country, it triggered communal violence, resulting in two phases of riots between the Muslim and the Hindu communities. The essay looks at the people who were some of the most affected by the carnage in the city, the urban poor, and highlights how their specific spatial and economic locations had a great bearing on their lives in this period. Sharma argues in her essay that the role of the women during these riots was not defined by their gender identity alone, or even their religious affiliation, but also by their class and their location in the metropolis. 24pp.
Kalpana Sharma is an independent journalist and author, currently a Consulting Editor with Economic & Political Weekly. She specializes in gender, developmental, and environmental issues, and has worked as a journalist for over 40 years.
2. 'Personal Law and Communal Identities'
by Radha Kumar from The History of Doing, 2002
Kumar then traces the opposition by various women’s groups to the 1986 Bill, which was introduced in parliament with an aim to exclude divorced Muslim women from the purview of the hotly debated Section 125. She explores the ‘bitter lessons’ that Indian feminists learnt from the public and state responses to Shah Bano’s case, which then posed certain questions that would become increasingly important to feminists in the years to follow 12 pp.
3. 'Crab Theology: Women, Christianity and Conflict in the 'NorthEast''
by V Sawmveli and Ashley Tellis from The Peripheral Centre: Voices from India's Northeast, 2010
In this essay, Sawmveli and Tellis address the role that religion plays in sociopolitical processes in Mizoram by attempting to gauge the impact that churches have had in mediating conflicts and brokering peace in the state since the 1960s. The authors also examine the role of women (and lack thereof) in peace-building processes and explores gendered critiques of the same.
Sawmveli and Tellis explain this lack of women in political processes as an affect of entrenched patriarchy and misogyny in Mizo society. They further state that since most political parties in the region are aligned with churches, patriarchy in politics overlaps with patriarchal church culture to marginalize women. However, they also discuss the many women’s organizations that have come up over the years to facilitate women’s entry into the public sphere. 13pp.
Free in August, with the purchase of any other essay:
'The Everyday and the Exceptional: Sexual Violence and Impunity in Our Times (Introduction)'
by Uma Chakravarti from Fault Lines of History: The India Papers II, 2016
Dr. Uma Chakravarti is a feminist historian who taught at Miranda House, Delhi University. She writes on Buddhism, early Indian history, the 19th century and on contemporary issues.
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