Struggle of women in Kashmir

Views from Srinagar

Syed Suhail Yaqoob

STUDENT protests have become a norm in Kashmir now-a-days. There is not a day where newspapers don’t report protests by students. In past Kashmir did saw such trends but subsided overtime. However, they refuse to ebb out.
Protests become, more familiar, after more than fifty students were injured in Government Degree College Pulwama. All the universities, colleges and higher secondary schools erupted in protests against the intrusion in educational institutions.
There was condemnation from every corner; government and forces were forced into apologetic mood. Government could not save itself from this thwack by students.
These protests not only unnerved government agencies but threw surprises as well. Girls clad in school and college uniforms were pictured showering stones at forces with all might without a hint of fear.
Some went dangerously close to forces which was indicative of the resentment these young girls have had against the present government. They were there to create space for themselves and to be heard; the space that is chocked by the present government.
Women are immediately affected by the conflict in any part of the world. The burden that falls on them is immense, but invisible.
Statistics still is not able to comprehend the responsibilities that fall on them in violent regions. Immediately, at the start of any crisis, there is a rise in the number of widows, half widows and sexual exploitation.
The government puts a tab on these very statistics in order to smoothen out the opposition and keep a moral edge for its actions.
Kashmir’s story is no different. Women have been immensely affected. International agencies have documented cases of rape, sexual exploitation and torture against daughters of eve.
Civil society has alleged that rape is used as a weapon of war to humiliate entire community and create insecurity among people. Rape is a statement of power and authority.
In Kashmir, agencies have documented various infamous cases like Kunan-Poshpora, Mubeena Bano case, Shopian double-murder to name a few. There are the allegations of eve teasing constantly by the government forces.
Many more are unheard as society reacts violently not only towards the perpetrator but victim as well.
Using ASFPA as a shield, it is difficult to punish government forces for their crimes against women in Kashmir. Since civil courts are not allowed to intervene in these cases, the resentment and anger towards the forces continues to mount.
Militarisation does inhibit movements of women in every part of the world. In Kashmir, similar trends are seen whereby women are forced to reach their homes as early as possible.
It has affected their education, social relation and led to psychological problems. Many girls have complained that the main reason for dropout.
Also the forces camps in Kashmir are placed very close to educational institutions. It results in fear-psychosis whereby many parents have forced girls to shun their education which has become detrimental to their future.
Social relations have perhaps been the most affected sector. Military and government forces have relentlessly put pressure on the minds of men and this has affected them psychologically.
Recent studies have suggested that there is a rise in family abuses. Men have become more violent in this scenario of conflict. Family institutions are on the verge on destruction. The recent rise domestic violence can all be attributed to overall violence occurring in Kashmir.
There is no doubt that a person will severely get affected by the environment he is born in and in the environment he is put in. Kashmiri men have become severely strained due to cases of torture, insecurity and humiliation. Men have been constantly exposed to violence.
Association of Disappeared Persons has documented thousands of disappearances in Kashmir. Since women don’t know whether their husbands are alive or not, they cannot re-marry.
Kashmiri women now have triple burden; looking for children, working outside homes and searching for husbands. These unfortunate women are exposed to severe sexual and emotional torture.
After the killing of famous rebel commander, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, Kashmir is witnessing 1990s situation again. The situation has also affected economy, restricted social interaction and for women it has become detrimental. They are now asked to return homes as quickly as possible.
Few also move to their relatives due to existing fear. Almost all are confined to their homes. The needs of women have not always been a focal point in conflict management and post-conflict reconstruction. It was not until 2000 when the UN passed Security Council resolution 1325 detailing specific risks women face in conflict and determined to tackle the issue.
From this resolution, activists, academics, and policymakers began to address the specific burden of war women carry and how the international community could protect and empower them.
International community has however got into politics of highest kind. They only pay lip service towards these resolutions. Kashmiri women, particularly, have not received attention neither from government nor from society.
It is important that women be included in the list of stakeholders to establish peace in our war torn country. Without them peace is an illusion.

—Courtesy: RK

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