Guwahati, Tuesday, March 20, 2012
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Life and works of Chandraprabha Saikiani recalled
Shambhu Boro
 NAPAM (TEZPUR), March 19 – The lecture on the topic ‘Life and times of Chandraprabha Saikiani’, organised by the Chandraprabha Saikiani Centre for Women’s Studies of Tezpur University in connection with the birth and the death anniversary of the great woman, was delivered here at the Chandraprabha Saikiani memorial auditorium by retired professor of Gauhati University and Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development, Prof Anuradha Dutta, on March 16.

Addressing an august gathering as chief speaker, Dutta stated that in the 19th century most women were confined to their homes, with multiple invisible inner thresholds regulating their mobility even within it. In India, in spite of all these restrictions some women in each State ventured beyond the confines, literally or metaphorically, and in their own distinctive way made their mark in public life. It is in this period that there was redefinition of custom and tradition, a renegotiation of individual freedom and constraints and an attempt to recast the Indian society, she said.

“These women struggled to make various compromises between conformity and convention and an emergent feminism. Some of them were not only women achievers of their time but they were the individuals who embodied socio-cultural tension and its resolution during an era of rapid transition. They carved out an emancipated place for themselves and their sisters.”

“Women’s history is the history of a struggle through various stages,” Prof Dutta said adding that in Assam the struggle started with the leadership of Chandraprabha Saikiani supported by a group of women and liberal men. The women’s movements in India, like most social movements, were made up of strands that differ on the relative primacy of issues, strategies of mobilisation and forms of collective action, while specific issues took precedence in different movements, and more often than not there have been a broad consensus within the movement over what constitutes transformatory changes for women, she said.

Prof Dutta, an activist for women suffering from witch hunting, domestic violence, etc, presenting a picture of Chandraprabha Saikiani’s life said that Saikiani, popularly called ‘Agni Kanya’ was particularly sensitive towards injustice and lack of fairness. In Nowgong Mission School where she studied, she protested against the action of the school authority in not allowing a student to stay in the hostel when she refused to be converted to Christianity. On Saikiani’s leadership qualities, Dutta added that the great woman’s life was representative of the struggle of Assamese women for education, for political rights, fight against social injustice and against discrimination. Saikiani started her movement when she was only a teenager. She had immense organizational capacity and inspired by the Gandhian ideology joined the non-cooperation movement in 1921 and beckoned the womenfolk to do the same. She went around interior villages to mobilise the rural women. Under the leadership of Saikiani, the Assam Pradeshik Mahila Samiti was came into being in 1926, Dutta added.

Earlier, social worker Mina Agarwala of Tezpur, releasing a book Chandraprabha Saikiani – a tribute , spoke on the social contributions of the great woman and said that she was closely associated with the Tezpur Mahila Samiti and cultural icon Jyotiprashad Agarwala during which she motivated the womenfolk of the Sonitpur district.

The event started with poem recitation on ‘Chandraprabha Saikiani’ by a group of research scholars of the university, including Jaysree Saikia, Dipjyoti Gogoi, Kunal Bora, Himjyoti Dutta, Jamini Gogoi, Sangita Bora, Debojit Bora and Kankana. it was attended by Prof Chandan Sharma, Prof Papori Bora and others.

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