“She Goes to War” is an intriguing title for a book. Written by veteran journalist Rashmi Saksena, who is also Associate Director, Society for Policy Studies (SPS), the book on women militants of India was launched at the India International Centre, New Delhi on May 24, 2018. The event facilitated discussion on a topic that is seldom discussed in mainstream media and made one question the dominant narratives.
Speaking at the event Saksena said it is important to look at women as an important segment as no insurgency can thrive without the support of the women. She lamented the fact that women are still not seen at the negotiating tables and stressed on the fact that women take up guns only when they feel that injustice has been done. This was seconded by Avuli Chishi Swu, a former Naga militant whose heart rending story forms part of the book.
Saksena spoke to a number of women militants from militant hotbeds across India and selected 16 of them for the book who were "close to my heart".
"All these 16 were my favourites and so I am telling you their stories," she said. "The reason why they opt out of such organisations is as important as the reason why they join it.
"They were not made part of peace talks, although they played an important role in the move," she added.
Lt. Gen. Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd.), former Indian Army commander who formed part of the panel that discussed and deliberated on the book, brought to light his experiences of having fought women militants especially during the Sri Lankan civil war. “Women are more dismayed about violence than anybody else. Because of this, they become instruments to bring about peace,” he said. However, he also cautioned that there is a huge gap between the expectations of people who come out from the throes of violence and the way society functions.
Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), termed the book “a slim volume that packs a very strong punch”. He said, “Our histories are silent about the forced resettlements in the north-eastern region. Trust is the beginning and end of the relationship we need to build with the north-eastern region.”
C Uday Bhaskar, Director, Society for Policy Studies who moderated the session termed the book a “pioneering study” on women militants in India. He added that the Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) and Internal Security an abiding challenge for the country and called for the need to arrive at an equitable solution.
The book is published by Speaking Tiger.