International women’s day: Oppressed women of IIOJK
EVERY year UN and the international community observes 8th March as International Women’s Day (IWD) with new slogans and commitments but in IIOJK every passing day increases the miseries of Kashmiri women. When these movements for the rights of women had started in the rest of the world at that time women in Kashmir were playing a considerable role in society. Now women in the rest of the world are enjoying all basic human rights but women in IIOJK are under oppression and suppression. Their lives, security, dignity and honour have been snatched by Indian occupation forces.
From 958 A.D to 1003 A.D. Kashmir valley was ruled by Queen Didda a daughter of Simha Raja, who was then the king of the Lohara Dynasty. Lala Ded was born in 1320 in Pandre than in Kashmir and was the creator of mystic poetry in Kashmir. Her verses are the earliest compositions in the Kashmiri language and are an important part of the history of the valley’s literature. Nightingale of Kashmir, the Habba Khatoon was born in 1554and is a legendary figure of Kashmiri poetry. Kota Rani was the last Hindu ruler of Kashmir ruling until 1339.
After the tragic incident of July 13, 1931 women in Kashmir protested against the Dogra ruler. On 6 September, a crowd of women agitators was lathi-charged and their modesty was outraged; 10 women received injuries. In this movement many women including Fazli, Sajida Bano, Jan Ded, Begum Bohru and Fatima embraced martyrdom. Shaheed Mujahida Hussain Bibi of Thorar, District Poonch embraced martyrdom on October 7, 1947, and became the first female recipient of Sitara-e-Jurat in the history of Pakistan.
Women in IIOJK are playing a significant and leading role in the freedom movement. Mrs Aasiya Andrabi, founder of Dukhtaran-e-Millat (Daughters of the Nation), a peaceful Women’s resistance group in Occupied Kashmir. She is currently lodged in the notorious Tihar Jail in Delhi, along with her two close associates, Naheeda Nasreen and Fehmeeda Sufi. Anjum Zamarud Habib is the founder of the ‘Muslim Khawateen Markaz’, an organization established in 1990 to lend a voice to native Kashmiri women. Falsely implicated under POTA in 2003, jailed and released in the winter of 2007, the years of appalling torture at the Tihar Jail and her tryst with the other inmates led to the book — “Prisoner No.100: The Story of My Ordeal in an Indian Prison.” The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, Kashmir (APDP) was co-founded in 1994 by Parveena Ahangar with the support of legal professionals and activists as well as the victim families of enforced disappearances.
For the last 34 years, the women of India-occupied Kashmir are facing systematic and widespread human rights violations including sexual assault, rape, disappearance, torture, abductions, killing and humiliation by the Indian army, police, security agencies and Indian-sponsored terrorist groups. The women in Kashmir are still struggling for justice and rights. India forces in IIOJK are using rape as a weapon of war and a tool to suppress the peaceful struggle for the right to self-determination.
After the abrogation of the special status of IIOJK in 2019, a number of the politicians with India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made sexist comments directed towards Kashmiri women. On 10 August, Manohar Lal Khattar, Chief Minister of Haryana, was quoted as saying: “Some people are now saying that as Kashmir is open, brides will be brought from there. But jokes apart, if [the gender] ratio is improved, then there will be a right balance in society.” Earlier, the BJP’s Vikram Saini, a Member of the Legislative Assembly, said: “Muslim party workers should rejoice in the new provisions. They can now marry the white-skinned women of Kashmir.”
Women are labelled ‘half widows’ when their husbands have disappeared but have not yet been declared dead. Such disappearances have been carried out by police, paramilitary, or military forces and there are more than 2500 half-widows. A survey published by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in 2016, recorded that 45 percent of the Kashmiri population (nearly 1.8 million adults) experienced some form of mental distress. According to MSF’s “Kashmir Mental Health Survey 2015,” 50 percent of women (compared to 37 percent of men) suffered from probable depression; 36 percent of women (compared to 21 percent of men) had a probable anxiety disorder; and 22 percent of women (compared to 18 percent of men) suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
There are more than 400 stateless women in IIOJK, these women are from Azad Kashmir and Pakistan. These women are the wives of those migrants of IIOJK, who return from Pakistan. Now the Indian government is not providing them with any identity or travel documents. In 2014, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed particular concern about “the Provisions of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act requiring prior authorization by the Government to prosecute a member of the security forces and the reportedly high risk of reprisals against women who complain about the conduct of the security forces; and, the lack of centres providing medical, psychological, legal and socioeconomic support to women and girls who are victims of sexual violence in conflict-affected areas,” including Kashmir and the North-East.