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Too Militant, Not Militant Enough: Sandip Kaur’s Autobiography, Bikhra Painda, and Politics of Translation.


· Maria Puri Independent Scholar (New Delhi, India)


07/27 | 11:20-11:40 UTC+2/CEST


Indian State has a history of military interventions at numerous, mainly peripheral locations. Most of the interventions are protracted and can be viewed as virtual civil wars. This paper would like to focus on the fallout of the Punjab insurgency (1970s – 1990s), and its decisive point, the military operation codenamed Operation Blue Star (June 1984), as viewed by a former militant, Sandip Kaur. Her Punjabi autobiography, Bikhra Painda/Broken Road (2008), written by somebody who is not a writer, represents a sub-category which ‘inhabits (…) margins of literary and autobiographical writing’ (Butalia 2017:20). Because of this, it offers a unique glimpse into the process of identity construction, both on the personal and the communal level, enacted against the larger backdrop of national games played out on the regional scene. With pan-national, official narrative superseding the regional in public discourse and history writing, the local, Punjabi and Sikh, narratives were censured else played down. If penned in Punjabi, they had no readership beyond narrowly defined linguistic boundries unless translated into English or other vernacular language. This paper proposes to look at certain general issues attending the publication of autobiographical writings in translations: acknowledged/unacknowledged abridgements (Bachchan/Snell 1998/2017, Pritam/Gorowara 2015, Khaitan/Pande 2013), treatment of paratexts present in the original, public reaction to dissenting voices from the periphery, etc. while examining publisher’s expectations vis a vis a book like Sandip Kaur’s, a book viewed as a titillating market product authored by a genuine, one-time arms-bearing, female militant.