India wasn’t born on August 15, 1947; it was born on the day the Constitution came into existence, says activist Shalin Maria Lawrence

Session on ‘Imaging women nationalists: serving the nation state’ concludes with the common consensus that women must find their spaces, left or right, and be intersectional

January 26, 2024 10:28 pm | Updated 10:28 pm IST - CHENNAI:

Anita Ratnam, in conversation with Shalin Maria Lawrence, at the The Hindu Lit Fest 2024 on Friday.

Anita Ratnam, in conversation with Shalin Maria Lawrence, at the The Hindu Lit Fest 2024 on Friday. | Photo Credit: M. Srinath

Dance performances, stories from the Indian freedom struggle, inspiring women who fiercely fought to drive away the British, the significance of January 26, and more, formed the crux of the session ‘Imaging women nationalists: serving the nation state’, at The Hindu Lit Fest 2024, where dancer Anita Ratnam and Kathak dancer Shovana Narayan were in conversation with activist Shalin Maria Lawrence.

According to Ms. Lawrence, “India wasn’t born on August 15, 1947; it was born on the day the Constitution came into existence for, 565 princely states were brought together after the independence to form a country called India. Hence, India came into being when it was united with multiple princely states, cultures, and ethnicity.” She believes that caste connects India. “Diversity isn’t always good; culturally, caste-wise, it is always a problem,” she adds.

Performance and patriotism

The session veered around to women nationalists who played an instrumental role in India’s freedom struggle. Ms. Ratnam portrayed Captain Lakshmi Sehgal, who went on to head the all-women’s regiment of the Indian National Army set up by Subash Chandra Bose, inspiring several women to join her. The performance is part of a longer production called the “Warrior Women of Bharat”. Ms. Narayan portrayed Begum Hazrat Mahal, the favourite queen of the Nawab of Awadh, who set herself to the task of deconstruction of Awadh, after the British took over on charges of mismanagement. She managed to keep them at bay for 10 years before they retaliated.

The Hindu Lit Fest 2024 LIVE updates

Ms. Ratnam said, “The discovery I made while researching this piece was, as we recuperate these historical figures, we must also ask, ‘whom are we not representing?’”

Ms. Lawrence added that there were women who had been actively involved in the freedom struggle, who didn’t get credit, while many others remained invisible. “Whilst Gandhi and Bose wanted women to fight with them, they didn’t see things through the lens of a woman. The freedom movement only talks about the British and sending them away from us, but it never talks about the civil rights movement. There were women who weren’t allowed to cover their upper bodies on one hand, while on the other, there were women fighting for the nation.”

Ms. Narayan spoke about how the male ego’s perception is often far from reality. “It shows their insecurity in a particular gender who is unable to come to terms that the other gender can contribute.” She also said that while we had achieved freedom eventually, women needed to free themselves from the fear of change.

The session concluded with the common consensus that women must find their spaces, left or right, and be intersectional.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.