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The violence on the streets comes home in Kashmir

by Qurat Masoodi
Thursday , February 14, 2013 at 14 : 34

Women in Kashmir have become victims of violence over the last few decades now. She has faced violence as a daughter, as a wife, as a daughter-in-law and last but not the least, as a girl who was just passing by and fell prey to hooligans. An analysis of the pre-conflict societal set up of Kashmir will reveal that there was little chance then that a woman would get exploited or become a victim of violence. But after the outburst of conflict, lots of ugly changes took place. In other words, the societal set up got distorted and nothing remained the same. People changed and so did the behaviour of Kashmiris towards women.

Kashmiri people have always been known for their hospitality and kindness. It never was a violent society violence against anyone, be it man or woman. But times changed and violence became the order of the day in Kashmir. Men were directly affected by this turmoil. But though women have been indirectly affected, they have become the worst victim. For me, violence against women is when somebody's husband or a brother or a son, i.e. a civilian, is picked up by armed forces for none of his fault and killed in a fake encounter. She has to mourn all her life and has to take care of a family, a task she is hardly capable of. That's what I call violence against a woman in Kashmir.

Conflict gave birth to unemployment. Where there is unemployment, there is helplessness, there are pessimism and lots and lots of frustration. An idle mind is the devil's workshop. That is what has happened to the youth of Kashmir. When a guy has nothing to do even after having decent qualification, he gets involved in stuff like drugs and all other devilish activities. Now if this unemployed youth is married and is somebody's husband, it is so obvious that this woman will be affected. She will become the sink of his frustration and here emerges domestic violence against women in Kashmir.

J&K is a Muslim majority state with over 90 per cent Muslim population. Islam guarantees certain rights to protect women but the same has not been realised over the years. However, much of the violence has revolved around the conflict and some draconian laws like AFSPA. Over the years, many cases of rape have emerged which have been directly linked to Indian troops. The most disturbing fact about these incidents has been the lack of action taken against the culprits and the resulting deteriorating confidence in government, judiciary and other institutions.

The incident of Shopian, where two ladies of the same family were raped and killed by soldiers, led to mass protests throughout Kashmir and led to the death of many Kashmiris. But no action was taken against the erring soldiers. The most gruesome case in the history of Kashmir happened at Kunan Poshpora where almost all ladies were brutually raped. The trauma of that incident still lingers in the minds of Kashmiri people in general and women in particular. Again, no one was punished for this gruesome act. Also there are many instances when women were used by the militants and were forced to fulfill their desire.

Kashmir is thus an enormously affected society that has seen too much of bloodshed and has experienced unprecedented trauma. The society has become highly insensitive. Conscience has died and people have become adamant and harsh. God has given man a dominating nature which he tries to exercise in whatever way he can .It is unfortunate but our men don't really applaud and encourage women who are doing something extraordinary. Maybe the reason is that as our society has seen such less growth for the past so many years that we are kind of living in past. Men in Kashmir cannot digest women doing some real good praiseworthy job and, yes, she is criticised and at times even forced to give up her passion in a society like ours. Trust me, this is actually the worst form of violence against women. I am myself an example who dared to do something that most Kashmiri people could not fathom initially. But I am glad that I survived and did not give up my passion, my work.

Apart from conflict, there are other factors behind this violence but none of them are dominating reasons. We don't actually see a lot of cases of dowry, etc but nevertheless, there have been cases where women have been tortured for dowry .

In the very beginning of this article, I mentioned about "violence against a daughter". I meant gender bias i.e. preferring a boy over a girl .We came across cases in the recent past where many girl children were abandoned and left in the hospitals by their parents just because they did not want to take a girl home. How ruthless and inhuman is that?

Another very important example of violence against a daughter that we come across is when she gets married and is not treated well by her in-laws or her husband. She is still forced by her own people to go back to her in-laws and live life with someone who she can never be happy with. She is asked to compromise; she is not allowed to part ways even if she is on the verge of committing suicide. In such cases I find the family more responsible for devastating the girl's life rather than her in-laws.

However, the issue of women's rights is different when it comes to Kashmir. In Kashmir, people don't even feel secure. There is the perennial insecurity due to the ongoing conflict. They believe they have bigger issues to take care of like safety of their lives and basic livelihood. Unless we guarantee safety of lives and employment in the Valley, we cannot safeguard any rights - even if it concerns women.



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More about Qurat Masoodi

Qurat Masoodi is a researcher & social activist based in Kashmir.

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