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Muslim Women In Kashmir: Family, Separatism And Militarization

By Ms. Inshah Malik

12 April, 2010

Conflict complicates lives, reverence is due, to all the peace keepers and humanity and Justice Upholders who when fought did so with some objectivity. The prophet of Islam made special references to populations such as women, old aged and the children during a calamity such as war. The special instructions were given to the fighters to be sure they protect such people and maintain dignity of the war for a just cause. In today’s world these populations are referred to as the civilians. In Modern day war civilians are the worst sufferers of the strife during the conflicts (Bhutalia, 2002) and ofcourse women particularly bear the brunt of been caught between the warring parties. In Kashmir the conflict has become stinging and protracted. The resolution process is the most cumbersome and involvement of so many stakeholders has made it nearly impossible to see a solution soon. This ongoing conflict from the feminist lenses actually ceizes to be a war for women, the idea of Azadi has always been a hijacked masculine concept. Women have definitely participated in the uproar but when it comes to construction of an enemy, women in Kashmir are percieved as a property of the enemy by the Masculine Indian security forces. The security forces are to the dismay and disadvantage of the Muslim women in Kashmir which is quite an established fact by now. It raises considerable questions about the roles of a Nationalist army, which has ethinic dimensions also. Hindu masculine army versus Muslim women, disclosed is the hate spewed by the so called security forces during their search corden and stringent operation in North Kashmir’s Kupwara district. Indian army is also the part of the universal hate against Muslims across the world. Now it looks irefutable at this junture.

The incidence of sexual violence against the women by the army is widespread and enrages the men in the community including the militants (those who fight against the Indian occupation). However rape was something unheard of before the inception of militarization it makes women stigmatized. This stigma within the family and also within the society challenges the patriarchal roles of a protector of the man within the family and such challenges culminate into violence against women within the family. Conflict has also challenged the traditional roles of women and has not socialized them into their new roles.

The rise in domestic violence is also seen as the repurcussion of the extented political failure in conflict areas (Scanlon, 2008). The conflict has two important long term implications on the women who suffer violence from either contestant groups of the conflict, one is on their health and the other is on the economic status of the family. Sexual violence against the women ruptures their ties with their immediate family, mostly the men. Men struggle to support the family during turbulent conditions at the work place, and leads to violent confrontations at home. Women in Kashmir after surviving sexual violence lead a stigmatized life which further affects their societal positioning and which affects their men leading to further violence at home. There are two essential ways in which the relationships are affected. The condition generated by the on-going conflict push men to get stricter with the mobility of their women.

Women during an armed struggle always remain a second priority for the militants. In Muslim societies it has been seen such as in Afghanistan where women’s rights have always been denied and even curbed till the objective of the struggle is achieved (Khattak, 1998). Women in Kashmir witnessed checks on their mobility from the militants, stringent dictums like pardah are imposed so as to protect them. These dictums were inforced by the militants to safeguard women from the Indian army who frequently raped them. While (Khattak, 1998) calls such practices as the manifestation of patriarchy and the mobility of women is also curbed to protect larger nationalist or ethnic interests. Women have reported this phenomenon in various ways and the study reveals that the women suffer doubly not just from the army but also from the armed strugglers.

Sexual violence against the women further fracture emotional relationship that women share with their men. In the turbulent times in order to support their family men go out, it is intricate outside the house they leave behind their women and are always worried about they are worried of their protection all the time. This chaotic situation leads men to vent out their irritation against the women and they operate various kinds of control on their women which may lead to further violence. The patriarchal role of a man as a protector is severely challenged. The conflict began and is apparent in the village life in Kashmir; army has entered their domestic life in huge numbers affecting women who usually in a traditional Kashmiri society stay at home. Men also have to confront direct violence while they move out of their home for the purpose of livelihood. In this confused state when men are dealing with two different challenges they are reminded of the moral obligations that they have towards their women who they perceive to be in danger, this leads men to inflict stricter laws of security around women, especially around the issues of her mobility. The dictums such as veil or Burkha are often issued under these circumstances. Hence the challenging of the patriarchal roles which is the repercussion of their outside influences starts showing on the women in terms of physical abuse or mental harassment. In such conditions when women face unacceptability both from family and society, even the family members affiliated to militant movement may abhor such women. In case of women who have lost their son’s, their complicated health demands treatment and hence economic support which the dependent women feel deprived of after the loss of the son. They always feel that loosing their sons has complicated their life. The son who could have taken care of the mother, his death impacts the mental health of the women. It can lead to turbulent family relations as the family might not know how the women should be kept or consoled. Women reported various mental and physical ailments and side by side how it was further influenced by the economic condition of the household.

Muslim women in Kashmir are silenty playing their roles without being sufficiently trained as to how to deal with the complicated situations outside. It is these silent deaths that they are living and in reaction to that government is ready to send more and more army as and when required to fight a war against its own people and the biggest demon of security threat from Pakistan that seems to be satifying the ego of the larger government system.

Note: This article is drawn from the research conducted in the North of Indian administered Kashmir.

Ms. Inshah Malik is a PhD Scholar at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai India Inshah.malik@tiss.edu




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