'Princesses' Among the 'Lions': The Militant Careers of Sikh Female Fighters

by Laurent Gayer
Citation
Title:
'Princesses' Among the 'Lions': The Militant Careers of Sikh Female Fighters
Author:
Laurent Gayer
Year: 
2012
Publication: 
Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory
Volume: 
8
Issue: 
1
Start Page: 
1
End Page: 
19
Publisher: 
Language: 
English
URL: 
Select license: 
Select License
DOI: 
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Abstract:

 

Most Sikh militants who picked up the gun against the Indian state in the aftermath of Operation

Bluestar (June 1984) were male, but a handful of women also took part in the armed

struggle for an independent Sikh state, Khalistan, between 1984 and 1995. Throughout the

insurrection, possibly a few hundreds of women guerrillas (compared to thousands of male

recruits) enrolled in the militancy. Although most of these women did not directly participate

to the military operations of the insurgents, they all received a military training and took part

in encounters with the security forces. This study relies upon a series of extensive interviews

with ten former female Sikh fighters, who joined the militancy after Operation Bluestar.

The life stories uncovered through these interviews focused on the family antecedents of

these women combatants, their socialisation and politicisation process, as well as their concrete

experience of the armed struggle and later on of decommissioning. This study of women

recruits’ militant careers tends to downplay the role of individual beliefs and motivations

in the dynamics of women’s activism, as these motivating factors were neither sufficient

nor even necessary to sustain such high risk activism. Rather than in these women’s

‘agency’, it is paradoxically in their subjection to the movement’s male leadership and patriarchal

values that the source of their (relative) empowerment should be looked for.

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