Issues and Challenges

The Unshakable Women of Kashmir

August 5th will go down in history as the day when Indian government proved that India is no more a democracy, but an extremist, fascist state. Kashmiri voices have long been muffled by India using the Indian occupation forces and just like the past, this time as well, they had no say in deciding their fate. In this entire episode, the true face of India was unveiled for its deceitfulness.

After abolition of Article 370 Kashmiri women, in particular, felt targeted. They felt insulted and disgusted at the fact that Indians saw them merely as a sexual commodity, undermining their struggles in the false garb of ‘women empowerment’. The misogyny is brimming in the tone of Indian politicians whenever they talk about Kashmiri women. They fail to see beyond their beauty, they fail to see their struggles, their steadfastness and their determination. The brave and resilient Kashmiri women have faced far worse circumstances than any of us could imagine; they have been subjected to torture beyond belief. Their fathers, husbands, sons and brothers have been killed in front of their eyes in cold blood. They had to arrange funerals all by themselves because of the massacre of male Kashmiris in the valley at the hands of Indian occupying forces for years. Imagine a mother holding the coffin of her teenage son, imagine a daughter saying goodbye to her father before he’s taken away forever; these are the brutalities Kashmiris have had to endure for as long as they can remember. 
There has been blatant misuse of power, authority and laws such as Public Safety Act, which allows the security forces to detain anyone without a trial for three to six months, extendable up to two years. By lodging multiple cases against the same person, the Indian authorities have been keeping Kashmiri men behind bars for years, leaving the women to fend for themselves and their families. Despite having restricted movement the responsibility of gathering themselves up for the sake of freedom, feeding their families while having lost loved ones being at the receiving end of the tyranny of Indian occupation forces is far too much to bear. This is the story of every household in the valley, but the test of the strength of Kashmiri women begins from this point.
In a country where sexual assault is common, where women are unsafe, and where Kashmiris have already been dehumanized, the Indian occupation forces have used rape as a weapon of war. Indian security forces committed mass rapes in 1992, when, according to reports, an estimated 900 women were raped. But the actual number is still unknown, since the rapists belong to the Indian occupation forces, backed by the Indian government, which does not reveal the true picture of Indian brutalities. According to Human Rights Watch, “… there are no reliable statistics on the number of rapes committed by Indian security forces in Kashmir.” This is not a one off incident, it is a systematic way of seeding fear in the minds of Kashmiri women to shake off their resoluteness. The 2009 rape and murder of Asiya, 17, and Nilofer January 20, also indicate the use of sexual assault as a weapon of oppression. The list of such brutalities goes on and on. The recent 2018, Kathua gang rape of 8-year-old Asifa Bano in a temple caused outrage among the international community but apparently it was not enough to save Kashmiri women from the beasts.
A study by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) — Doctors Without Borders — in 2005, concluded that “the rate of sexual violence against Kashmiri women was one of the highest among the world’s conflict zones.” Recently, a fact-finding group of Indian journalists went to Kashmir. One of them said, "All is not well there, all is 'hell’." 
Kashmiri women have been facing physical violence along with mental and sexual violence for over seven decades. The Indian security forces have been known to thrash Kashmiri women who take part in peaceful protests against the illegal occupation of their land, causing fractures and broken bones. The pellet guns have left so many blind for life. Insha Mushtaq, a teenage Kashmiri girl, is one of the pellet victims and has lost sight in both of her eyes. The 19-month-old Heeba Jan became the youngest pellet gun victim at the hands of the occupying forces. 
Despite facing the worst kind of atrocities the women of Kashmir, young and old, stand firm on their demand of freedom from the clutches of the Indian state. They have become the face of resistance against the inhumane behaviour of the Indian occupying forces. Their suffering continues but so does their struggle!
It is about time the international community opens its eyes to the grave human rights violations that are taking place in Jammu and Kashmir. Those who keep silent will be as responsible as those who are committing the crimes against the women of Kashmir. HH

The writer is a broadcast journalist.
E-mail:[email protected]

Mourning Maple
Anishka Razzaq

Why do people love me when I am at my zenith?
Why do they like my resplendent, radiant colour?
Why are they impressed by my iridescent and incandescent figure?
Why do they always appreciate my serenity?
Why do they love me at my high time?
When I say farewell to my fellows, 
Why do people neglect my crepuscular?
Why don’t they pay heed to my lullaby?

Why do their feelings change all of a sudden?
Why do they remember me in short shrift?
At this stage,
I feel that I’m fallen from grace
Woe is me at the end … 
Will no one come to assist?

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