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 five sets of e-Essays focused on Indian women’s movements, sexual violence, domestic space and kinship, religion and conflict and state crimes and impunity. This set of e-Essays, published between 2002 and 2016, comes together on the theme of trauma as it affects the lives of individuals and communities in regions of conflict, as well as under patriarchal law. While Pratiksha Baxi interrogates the complicity of law and custom in creating trauma through the political atrocity of stripping and parading (of women), Sahba Husain, through her fieldwork in 1990s Kashmir, points to the debilitating effects of the mass trauma of militancy and militarisation on women’s mental health. Registers of the private and public come together in Sumita Ghose’s powerful monograph on the murder of her husband by ULFA terrorists, which speaks to grief and mourning, and the profoundly personal way in which armed conflict has long-reaching consequences on citizens’ lives.
1. ‘Dealing with Conflict and Violence: The Power of Attitude’ by Sumita Ghose from The Peripheral Centre: Voices from India’s Northeast Gender & Social Inequalities in India (2010)
This piece was written after the abduction (and eventual murder) of the author’s husband by ULFA cadres in Majuli, Assam where the couple worked as social development workers in 1996–97. In this chapter, Ghose explores her experience of learning to cope with the aftermath. Moving from personal reflections to discussing universal aspects of such suffering, she throws light on the far-ranging impact of violence that often goes unacknowledged. Written in the form of a prefaced monograph, Ghose’s insights on responding to events of violence or conflict are embedded in a critique of certain forms of protest as well as what she calls the commonly held ‘victim attitude’. 11 pp.
Sumita Ghose is the founder and managing director of Rangsutra, a social enterprise which seeks to bring about socio economic development and inclusive growth in rural India by engaging both the community and the market. Prior to setting up Rangsutra, Ghose worked in West Rajasthan with URMUL, an organization that works towards the socio-economic development of rural communities.
2. ‘Impunity of Law and Custom: Stripping and Parading of Women in India’ by Pratiksha Baxi from Fault Lines of History: The India Papers II (2016)
In this essay, Pratiksha Baxi explores the modes by which the law addresses stripping and parading as a political ritual of atrocity in India at three registers: the naming of the spectacular violence by law; the naming of sites of such corporeal performances in legally plural settings; and identifying the circuits of power that are activated to immunize communities and institutions from naming these acts of injustice.
Baxi illustrates the history of protests against sexual harassment, starting from the protests by women’s group against the rape of underage tribal girl Mathura in 1979, to nation-wide protests against the Nirbhaya rape case in 2012, and draws on watershed legal judgements and amendments (the Maya Tyagi case Sheo Kumar Gupta v State of UP; Miss M.S. Annaporani v State of UP). The essay examines the context of remnants of colonial law, particularly the laws of “divine displeasure” and “outraging a woman’s modesty” to see how mythic temporalities—like that of Draupadi from the Mahabharta—are evoked. 44pp.
Pratiksha Baxi is an Associate Professor at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her research interests include critical perspectives on medical jurisprudence, the Sociology of violence, gender studies, the politics of judicial reform, judicial iconography and courtroom architecture.
3. ‘Will Peace Return? Trauma and Health-related Work in Kashmir’ by Sahba Husain from Speaking Peace: Women’s Voices from Kashmir (2002)
Sahba Husain is an independent researcher and women’s rights activist. Her involvement in Indian women’s movements began in the late 1970s, and in the 1980s she joined the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS) and the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA).
FREE IN SEPTEMBER, WITH THE PURCHASE OF ANY OTHER ESSAY:
‘Health and Torture‘ by P Ngully from The Peripheral Centre: Voices from India’s Northeast (2010)
This essay traces the detrimental effects on the health of the people of Nagaland due to excessive militarisation in the region. Ngully puts the idea of ‘health’ into perspective and examines the implications of the WHO definition, which cites not just physical, but also mental and social well-being as criteria. This is done with regard to the torture, murder, and rape that the Naga people have been subject to in the past years by the security forces, justified under the cover of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). By placing the psychological trauma that the Naga people have faced within a broader context of disorders resulting from large-scale manufactured disasters, Ngully lays emphasis on the scale of tragedy in his homeland. 34pp.
P. Ngully is a practicing psychiatrist and social activist based in Kohima who has worked on the history of trauma and PTSD in Naga society. He is the Chairman of the Council of Kohima Educational Trust, and has recently also worked on HIV/AIDS sensitisation programmes with the Kripa Foundation.
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