The first live session of An Author’s Afternoon Kolkata hosted Dr Meha Dixit In Taj Bengal. She has a PHD in international politics from Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her thesis, ‘Human Security in Post Conflict Reintegration of Child Soldiers; Disarmament, Demobilisation, Reintegration Programmes in Macamba in Sara Lyon”, is inspired by her expertise in Peace and Conflict Studies and her interest in analysing the process of reintegration. She has worked with MST international and save the Save the Children Organisation and also taught at Kashmir University.
In a conversation with her was Ehsaas Woman of Kolkata, Esha Dutta.
Welcoming them to the conversation was Ehsaas Woman of London, Sangeeta Datta.
The plight of the child soldiers moved Dixit and she was intrigued by the rehabilitation and the integration of the soldiers after the end of the war. She then went to different places and studied how the rehabilitation and integration of the soldiers was carried out. While delving into the study deeper she broadened her research to other war inflicted zones like, Kashmir, Orrisa, Afghanistan.
The persistence of hope and the way that people emitted positivity was something that caught the attention of Dixit. She said that the child soldiers had no skill or training on how to fight and since they were taken to the battle field early on, they did not get a chance to develop any other skill which made the rehabilitation of the soldiers. She went to different parts of the world and talked to the soldiers to know how the process was done and what were the aids that were given to them.
When talking about the difficult areas in which she had to work, she said that most of the areas were difficult, how the most difficult area was Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, she to be accompanied by a local male person all the time. She had to follow all the rules that were there and had to wear a Burkha everywhere she had to go. There were times when she had to not speak a word and portray that she was mute as she could not reveal her identity to the locals there. Sharing an anecdote, she said that there were times when she had to often live in the halls of the NGOs that she was in association with. She had to interview drug addicts in the border areas of the country and the interview had to be sometimes done in gestures where the person who would accompany them would help them.
Women in general have a difficult life and in conflict zones the life there are times when they are used in the war. Women in conflict zones are harassed and sexually abused. There are clear definitive gender roles, however when women take up arms the gender normative roles start to blur.
There is hope in people that live in these conflict areas to overcome the daily the routine of conflict that happens. She said that different people have different ways to cope up with the anxiety in which they live in. There are times when the same people in different situations react in differently. She said that the way people have hope and courage in these areas is commendable. The try to live a life that can be as normal as possible, the courage and determination that they have should be learned by everyone.
The conflict of the ‘Rohingya’ refugees is tricky and something that has many debates going around it. The government of Myanmar terms the refugees as ‘Bengalis’. The ‘Rohingyas’ are divided into two major groups the Muslims and the Hindus. The Hindus are scared of the Muslim militant group ‘Aarsa’. They were not allowed to leave the camp and go anywhere; they could not go to work or live a normal life. Being confined to their camps without proper medical aid resulted in the ‘Rohingyas’ having a poor state of living. There are many NGOs now that have tied up with the refugees and are providing them giving them job opportunities with stipend as a form of payment.
The people of Lebanon are surrounded with war on all sides and have to always have an exit strategy in mind, if when they too become a part of the conflict. The people of Lebanon have accepted the refugees from Syria. Most Lebanese have different nationalities for them ever needing to escape the place during a conflict. Even though the Lebanon currently is not in a conflict, there is always fear and anxiety around it in the minds of the people.
The conversation ended with Datta thanking Dixit and Dutta for an enriching conversation on the state of the conflict areas in different parts of the world.