Bruised, Battered, Bonded and Defended

SAMHITA BAROOAH

Every person goes through personal and political struggles for survival and sustenance. When it comes to socially excluded women such struggles become very challenging. While working with groups and individuals across Assam, I reflect upon the memories of working with Purva Bharati Educational Trust (PBET) since 2011. It was simply documenting some reports and brochures for their organisation. But the issues they have addressed seem to be rights based and urgent in the current reality of inequality and misogyny.

Women in Assam particularly have been either in between the armed and cultural revolutions which shaped the history and current geo-politics of the state. Women within and outside the binary gender formations in marginal fringes of social, economic, political, ethnic and cultural contours remain to be the most vulnerable in this context. PBET tries to address the concerns of bruised women from all ends. They have been consistently raising human rights of women trapped in conflict situations, poverty-stricken peri-urban realities and in violent domestic spaces. As women human rights defenders they hold some crucial ground in addressing the underbelly of human extremes. PBET has stood with working class women across diverse districts of Assam from Tinsukia to Dhubri and from Dima Hasao to Odalguri. Their engagement with the subaltern voices of women in both private and public spheres have landed them in enraging many vested interest groups. Women’s productive years are valued by many but nobody values women’s reproductive and bruised years which are sometimes irreparable. Emotional, sexual and intellectual violations are almost unseen in the panoptic gaze of society for women in insensitive intimate partnerships.

In their pursuit towards empowering women wage earners, farmers, weavers, street vendors, tea garden workers, domestic workers and informal invisible women affected by cross-fires, border disputes, family fights and workplace violence, PBET has created ripples of hope. In Jorhat they have started with an indigenous backyard bio diverse nursery which has a wide range of local and exotic plant varieties for any customer. This nursery is managed and maintained by women from PBET who have faced discrimination within their domestic spheres. It is not just a nursery but in a way a living laboratory which is supplemented by diverse practice learning initiatives with women farmers from the peri-urban communities of Jorhat city. PBET started with educational facilities for young girls after their matriculation affected by situational atrocities in their personal and social lives due to their socio-economic and ecological peripheries. These girls could study different arts and science subjects during this phase of work but somehow that programme could not be continued due to lack of resources.

Institution building requires resources in a steady and sustainable flow which became a problem when PBET raised human rights issues of marginal communities in Assam who were affected by conflict. Any critical thinking group and organisation is paralysed with resource crunch these days when they question the inhuman atrocities on common people around them. PBET also faced the brunt of queering the structures which remains oblivious to the needs of the most marginalised communities in the contemporary realities. Inspite of all odds in institutional resources, sustaining support and funding for building an institution for alternative learning PBET tries to address the interests of women and girls affected by diverse forms of social, economic, political and structural violence. It needs a tremendous amount of struggle and persuasive practices to rebuild the crushed emotions, personalities and skills of women repressed within misogynistic attitudes. PBET has strived to rebuild hopes in many pockets of remote, rural and peri-urban contexts of Assam and strategically connected such issues with regional, national and international platforms.

They have recently formed a women’s hockey team with Adivasi girls living in tea garden areas in Tinsukia district of Assam which remains a threat for conflict for decades. It is indeed a struggle towards a sustainable future for young talents in a post Hima Das sports era in Assam. PBET is connecting talented youth, rekindling an atmosphere of hope, peace and deep ecology where women’s knowledge and existence becomes a pathfinder for sustainable development and social justice. Do connect with the vibrant PBET team at www.pbetassam.org for any information and extending financial support to sustain their efforts. On the occasion of International Women Human Rights Defenders Day this November 29, PBET needs a real salute from all of us whose rights are in place and all those who are still struggling to get their rights in place.

Samhita Barooah

Samhita Barooah

Samhita Barooah is a Researcher and Travel Writer.