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Journal Articles Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory Year : 2012

'Princesses' among the 'lions': The militant careers of sikh female fighters

Laurent Gayer


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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hal-03579716 , version 1 (18-02-2022)



Laurent Gayer. 'Princesses' among the 'lions': The militant careers of sikh female fighters. Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory, 2012, 8 (1), pp.1 - 19. ⟨10.1080/09639489.2012.671031⟩. ⟨hal-03579716⟩
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