Photo: Nitin Sethi

Cycles of Sovereignty

Cycles of Sovereignty was a project with writer/artist Parismita Singh that focussed on the role of women’s collective in the right to self-determination in Northeast India against state violence from the late 1990s to 2005. It celebrated women activism and their engagement in politics including the human rights movement.

The Tinsukia District Mohilla Committee was a collective of activists who created a women-only commune in Dirak-Xoonjaan, Kakopathar in the late 1990s during a turbulent period in the Assam’s recent past. They took on an important role in their adopted village and the larger community with their activism against human rights violations by the state, mobilising and organising for peace. Their activism was fraught with tensions as the authorities sought to implicate them in political conspiracies that were not of their making. Making women were incarcerated during this period.

The cycle and weaving became important symbols of their political activism: the cycle made them mobile and allowed them to travel to markets to sell the cloth they wove in the collective, as well as organise political meetings all over Tinsukia and its adjoining districts. The weaving helped them finance the daily needs of the collective and their political activism.

Much has changed in the political world since then. As ceasefire negotiations and peace processes take place, there are new challenges and political questions the collective has taken up. The women’s collective in Dirak-Xoonjaan continues to engage in questions about the right to self-determination and the meaning of sovereignty. This exhibition sought to capture the immersive politics and the spirit of communitarian of a women’s commune in Northeast India.