Issues and Challenges

Kashmiri Women: An Embodiment of Resistance

The turbulence caused in August 2019, set forth a series of unfortunate circumstances that have put Kashmiris under an inhumane siege. Over the months, Kashmiris have faced a total lockdown at the hands of Indian forces with almost bare minimum day-to-day activities, making it hard to survive. Due to complete communication blackout and strict curfew and crackdown in the valley, along with civilians being thrown in jails under false pretences, Kashmiris are facing a great deal of terror. Since then the senior political leadership and local public are left completely powerless. Moreover, deployment of thousands of Indian security forces in the valley has further worsened the situation on the ground.
Essentially, the residents of Kashmir are used to dealing with everyday encounters and threats, living through a crippling lockdown for more than 160 consecutive days, they have suffered torture and beatings by the Indian security forces. Facing abuse, pellets and tear gas while encountering clashes with the militants has become a norm. Women are equally engaged in the fight for their existence. Likewise, they face violence and a great deal of injuries while helping their men to protect their neighbourhood. Indian forces launched an assault in Anchar on August 30, 2019. An old grandmother living in the area, named Fazi reported, “Others have only heard the word doomsday, we have lived a doomsday …  It was like rain. There were pellets everywhere, smoke everywhere.” She said, “We have no weapons. We have only God’s name and God will do justice with us.” Saima and two of her sister’s 14-year-old Maysara and 12-year-old Qurat, were wounded by the pellets during an assault. Saima, hit on the neck and arms recalls the nightmare during an interview with The Guardian; “First I felt like hot sand was thrown on me and then I felt my neck is burning.” The women of Kashmir are compelled to fight and resist the violence against them and their families. 
For Kashmiri women it is a miserable reality as they have to protect their integrity as well. They have been subjected to molestation and harassment countless times. Moreover, the harsh treatment against women is not just glorified but is carried out as a way to punish other members of the family, which are suspected to be informants against the militants. For years, Indian security forces have been using rape as a weapon against Kashmiri women. In other cases, abducting women and raping them as means to silence or threaten them after occupational forces have enslaved or murdered other family members is also common. Nonetheless, in these past months female objectification has only increased. According to a report titled Kashmir Caged, “Hundreds of boys and teens are being picked up from their beds in midnight raids.” Moreover, during these raids women and young girls are reportedly molested by Indian forces. 
Predominantly, women in Kashmir have suffered immensely as the conflict in the region continues to develop. Terror has been so deeply inflicted with every day challenges that many women, young and old, suffer from psychological trauma. The humiliation and torture, they have been experiencing for the past 70 years has reached a point where they can see no hope. Watching their sons, husbands, and fathers being kidnapped, murdered, or imprisoned have left many silenced forever. In September 2019, a team of 5 females visited Kashmir to witness how the current lockdown has affected the lives of the residents, especially women and children. According to the report titled Women’s Voice: Fact Finding Report on Kashmir, the first impression they got on reaching the valley was of an iron siege. Shops, schools, hotels, universities and streets closed down and deserted streets made them feel as if they were imprisoned while everyone else was heard chanting: “We have been caged.” Moreover, the report stated that the women living in Kashmir are in a constant state of waiting, “Waiting and waiting for their 14, 15, 17, 19-year-old sons … they dare not give up hope but they know it will be a long wait before they see their tortured bodies or their corpses … if they do.” 
The women of Kashmir feel more threatened as politicians of the ruling Indian political party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have started making improper and indecent comments towards Kashmiri women. The Hindu nationalists are asserting and urging their members to marry the ‘white-skinned women of Kashmir’ after the abrogation of Article 370. Furthermore, this misogyny has gained popularity on social media sites as well, increasing the despair for the Kashmiri women.
In actuality, more than 70 thousand people have lost their lives in IOJ&K. Everyone has a haunting story, which they can relate to. The people living in Kashmir are inadvertently tortured by not only the militants, but by the dead, their past, present or what future has to bring. Primarily, the iron curtain that has fallen upon the valley has confined the lives of 8 million Kashmiris. They are relentlessly fighting and resisting India’s on-going lockdown of the region. The Kashmiri women have become a symbol of struggle with their iconic pheran the most traditional form of Kashmiri clothing. Today, a woman in red pheran — has become a symbol of resistance around the globe. The question still remains: Will 2020 bring an end to the misery of the Kashmiris or will their resistance keep on being tested? HH

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