August 5, 2019, saw unchecked arrogance of the BJP run government of The Republic of India, when it blatantly abrogated Articles 370 and 35A of its constitution through a Presidential Order, thus stripping Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJ&K) of its special status and nominal autonomy. While it is true that this illegal act has raised geo-political concerns and the spectre of a war between two nuclear neighbours, India and Pakistan, it has also brought about the unfolding of a humanitarian crisis in the occupied valley.
As the world fails to perceive the depth of plight of the Kashmiri people, the valley is under siege with food and medical supplies running out. Students cannot go to their educational institutions because of the military curfew. There is a complete communication blackout and people have no way of getting news about their loved ones as the curfew continues. As if all this was not enough, homes of Kashmiris are randomly raided at night, men and boys picked up, brutally beaten and taken to unknown holding sites, while the women look on helplessly and with fear for the preservation of their own dignity.
The women of Kashmir are not strangers to this kind of merciless and repugnant treatment at the hands of indian occupying forces. Since the time the Hindu Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession, annexing the state to India against the wishes of the majority of its population, it has been in a state of perpetual conflict, violence and state-terrorism by the Indian forces. The recipients of this brutality are not just the freedom fighters striving for their internationally recognized right of self-determination, but also the innocent women and children. Women suffer the disappearances of their fathers, husbands, sons and brothers – most of the time never to return or be heard of again. The half-widows of Kashmir live a life of perennial despair. Not only this, but they live invariably in fear of being violated at the hands of the occupying forces. No girl or woman in Kashmir can live her life without the threat that her dignity will stay intact. Eight-year-old Asifa Bano rape and murder case is the most recent, horrific instance of the insecure life Kashmiri girls and women lead.
This insecurity has become even more entrenched since the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A. Right away the talk of marrying the “fair-skinned” Kashmiri women, even by high-ranking BJP politicians started making rounds. This elucidates that one of the purposes of the Indian government’s action is a well-planned move of systematic ethnic cleansing to change the demographic balance of the region, and women are at the brunt of it.
With such threats looming over their heads, Kashmiris are living their lives under siege, denied not just of the right of self-determination but most other of their basic human rights. However, no matter what cruelty the Indian state brings down upon Kashmiris, they resolve not to give up their struggle for their rights. The Kashmiri women also stand tall and intransigent in the face of brute transgression of the Indian military, iron-minded that they will win their freedom.
The women of Kashmir are a target, so it becomes incumbent upon the women around the world in leadership positions and international organisations that are entrusted with protecting and ensuring women’s rights, to play their role and help the Kashmiri women out of their predicament.
Kashmir looks towards the world to carry out its moral responsibility of helping a brutalised and threatened nation to live their lives in pursuance of their wishes, free from oppression and constant peril to life, dignity and property. They look towards not just the global political elite but also the human rights activists and organisations to speak up for them; they call out to the international conscience.
IOJ&K is a great human tragedy; it is the responsibility of the international community to hold India accountable for its excesses and to ensure that the people of Kashmir get their God-given rights. It is high time that the issue be seen from the humanitarian lens and not just the male dominated geo-political, economic and strategic one that it obviously is. In a report by Adil Bhat in TRT World, the defiant residents of Jenab Sahib, a village near Srinagar, are quoted as saying, “We want international intervention, we want our sleep back.” HH
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