Recently met Smita (name changed) yet another time in ashram this time she had come for North East AMC with other rural folks from interiors of Assam. This petite, unassuming and shy, quiet woman had always intrigued me. Since our past few meetings we had developed a comfort level of interaction.  I was vaguely aware of her background but this time we chatted a lot about being a woman, happenings around and of course our common binding ground Art of Living.

She hails from a remote village in the Shiv Sagar district, Assam and like others she joined ULFA, an outlawed armed outfit after being inspired by their propaganda to save Assamese culture and call of the motherland.  She was barely 16 then and now when she looks back she admits it was an emotional decision. Thus began a very different life, dedicated to a cause full of incredible hardships, social isolation and instability.  Life in the forest was difficult but she was full of enthusiasm, fighting to preserve culture and tradition of Assam hardly aware of the politics and vested interests. She got her armed training in the camps in Bhutan. As time progressed she was well versed in warfare. Since, her mission was her life she married a fellow ULFA member who was one of top cadre commander. Later they had a kid also, in the camp itself.

Life took an unforeseen turn after 2004, when Bhutan encounter took place. Overnight the camp was attacked they all ran sundry. She was also caught while escaping by Bhutanese army and later handed over to their Indian counterpart.  She spent three years in jails. (After being released also she still has few cases pending.) Her husband who belonged to high cadre in ULFA is untraceable till date.

Frustration, stress, took over. She was really depressed when in 2007 she did the Art of Living course with inspiration from former members of ULFA who themselves had experienced peace with the techniques taught. The spiritual path came as a wave of release. She re-mustered her strength to carry on and look meaning in already scattered life. Service gave her life an entirely new dimension. Some sympathize others give her a look of admiration when they see sindoor (vermillion) on her forehead. She has a strong hope that her husband is alive and would come back some day. She is providing good education to her kid.

Today Smita is full of inspiration and enthusiasm but for a different cause that of peace and harmony. She is full of zeal to serve society as she guides others like her. And since then she has been instrumental to help many more to find a direction in life enthused them to the path of peace and experience real inner transformation. Many ex members of ULFA have undergone Art of Living programs by her inspiration. They all have great respect for her basically because of her courage.

Looking back she has a strong affirmation that her mission was good but means were violent today her mission and means both are peaceful as she dreams of a violence free society.

Though in her 40’s today, Smita has not been fully accepted by society back home but in Art of Living she is the source of inspiration and is welcomed by open arms. The shift in goal happened here only. If u ask her one wish of hers and she replies with mist in her eyes ‘kaash mere husband ko bhi Guru mile hote”(I wish my husband also have had the good fortune of having a Guru in life) She nurtures a strong urge to make her husband meet her Guru.

International Women conference<(an annual gathering at the Art of Living International Centre, and a strong platform for women to share) welcomes such women who have seen both sides, of violence and peace and since know the value of peace much more than others. They can truly be ambassadors of peace for they know the toll violence takes on life and society.

A really strong woman accepts the war she went through and is ennobled by her scars.

 Neelam Kochar


Watch a video where Guruji talks on developing a Violence Free and Prejudice Free Society

Full time Art of Living Faculty, Currently associated with Volunteer For a Better India,
Twitter: @NeelamKochar

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