The Blog of Cafe Dissensus Magazine – we DISSENT

Do Kashmiri women have a voice of their own?

Photo: Hindustan Times

By Javeed Bin Nabi

Kashmir today has become a space where one section is being applauded and celebrated while the other one is labeled as collaborators and renegades. They celebrate and praise the successes, which suit them and their ideologies. Indeed, the charm and glory of our nation is being muddled and jeopardized by a handful with the support of a large number of people, who only want to impose their own Ideology and political discourses on all. But they must know that it is impossible to direct everyone into one idea, one ideology, and one politics.

Ostensibly, in this part of the world, people are becoming intolerant and malignant and vicious with the success of others. This is the unfortunate and woeful season of darkness, hopelessness, and despair in Kashmir. With each passing day, the height of ferocity increases and more miseries prevail. A section of people are sowing the seeds of viciousness, sectarianism, and regional divisions among majority of the people. They have created the new terminologies of bigotry and misogyny in Kashmir, be it on ground or on social media. Unfortunately, abuses and taunts have become the social and moral norm in Kashmir. A particular community in the society is being targeted, abused, and trolled for the same reasons, which the abusing section is doing day in and day out.

In a recent controversy, Zaira Wasim was abused, trolled and snubbed by a handful people, who call themselves the ‘real’ owners of this unfortunate vale. Indeed, it was a condemnable incident in which the girl was abused, called names, and what not. Was the controversy a result of Zaira meeting Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti or was there a religious undertone behind the entire issue?

Let us, for the sake of argument, condemn Zaira for meeting with the Chief Minister. Then the question arises, where were these people, when Kashmiri boys were applauded by the same CM for their good performance in different fields? However, if it has any religious linkages, why are only women of Kashmir being targeted and why not men who too work in various films and TV serials in India? If music is prohibited in Islam, why impose ban and fatwas only on an all-girls band Pragaash and why not impose the same ban on MC Kash and others?

It clearly shows the selective approach of Kashmir society, which uses religion and offer interpretations, according to their own convenience. Whether Zaira is doing right or wrong is a different debate. She still would be a role model for many. A section of our society might not agree with what Zaira is doing but issuing threats to her is not the way dissent works in democratic societies.

Why are we unable to give due opportunities and space to women in Kashmir? Once outside the Valley, Kashmiris from our society claim that Kashmiri women are more liberated and freer than women in Pakistan and India. But the truth remains that women in Kashmir remain a soft target for both the gun-wielding soldiers and the vicious and intolerant men of our society, who with each passing day infringe the freedom of women.

Unfortunately, people here created divisions between “Good Kashmiris” and “Bad Kashmiris”, based on religious interpretations and social morals. Kashmir has already been made hell by Indian paramilitaries through their daily arbitrary arrests and killings. Today a handful people from our society, too, are making the situation worse. If we do not talk about this, it will lead us to such a hell where no Azadi can liberate us.

I remember the day when Bollywood superstar Salman Khan selected a boy from the Anantnag area of South Kashmir for his film, Bajrangi Bhaijaan. At that time, people from the valley were applauding and praising Salman Khan for this noble cause, along with sending best wishes to the little boy. Let me ask the Kashmiri society a simple question. If we can condemn and imposed fatwas on Kashmiri women who are working in Bollywood, how do we justify the selection of this boy in the same Bollywood industry? Isn’t it a violation of basic human rights that a particular community of our society is being targeted, abused, and trolled?

To take another example, the Sadbhavana tours are organized and conducted by the Indian army for both boys and girls. I am not endorsing the Indian army tours. Rather I would like to know why only girls were abused and labeled anti-Islamic/anti-Kashmir on social media but not the boys, who also went on Sadbhavana tour.

I think we are interested in anti-women narratives in Kashmir. It’s unfortunate that when we judge the women in Kashmir, we see them through a religious prism. However, in the case of men, we tend to celebrate their successes.

Kashmiris must know that the prolonged conflict, which has derailed and muzzled our daily lives, needs people to send a message around the globe that despite the clouds of conflict, daily din of bullets, and carnages in Kashmir, we are still shining. Yes, we need all kinds of people who can represent our oppressed nation and suppressed voices one way or the other.

On one hand, we the people of Kashmir frequently raise voices and protest against the human rights violations in Kashmir by Indian security forces; on the other hand, we are forgetting that we too are expunging and degrading the individual and human rights of a particular section that have played the same role as men in the prolonged Kashmir conflict. Indeed, they are the primary stakeholders of the Kashmir conflict. Moreover, it’s pertinent to note here that it is impossible to have peace and prosperity in Kashmir till our women get their basic rights, liberty, and freedom of expression in every field of life.

Thus, if we really want to create a salubrious and progressive society, then the rights of women must be respected and they must not be targeted for the benefits of few malignant people of our society. We have seen how hapless ‘Half-Widows’ are easily manipulated by security persons and militants, how their economic position deteriorates with every passing day, and eventually they choose menial work and sometimes even begging. It is evident that the brutal and merciless reign of occupation in Kashmir has torn apart the lives of women. Now there is a need to think critically why only women in our society are targeted and subjugated. There is a need to end the religious fanaticism and social stigmas, which confine the lives of women in Kashmir.

To usher in a developed, civilized, and prosperous society, we the people of Kashmir need to change our minds, which are full of malice, selectiveness, bigotry, and viciousness. It is high time to stand up collectively against the selective celebrations and the prevailing culture of intolerance, which is flourishing and widening its roots in every cranny of the valley. It is high time that we as a nation live by the fundamentals of human rights, where everyone, irrespective of ideology, caste, religion and region, can live without any kind of threat; where the rights of a particular community would not be choked and infringed upon.

An individual has full rights and liberties to decide what s/he wants to do in life. Nobody has any moral superiority to judge anyone and to constrain his/her existence in this conflict-torn Valley. We must support the liberty, freedom of expression, and the basic human rights of Kashmiri women. They should not remain subordinate to men in every field of life; men should stop making a choice for them. They are also a part and equal stakeholder of this land. Let us stand by them.

Javeed Bin Nabi studying International Relations at Islamic University of Science and Technology, Awantipora.


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Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.


Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘Unmasking the Conflict: Making sense of the recent uprisings in Kashmir’, edited by Idrees Kanth, Leiden University, The Netherlands and Muhammad Tahir, Dublin City University, Ireland.

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