By Aamir Qayoom
I suffer from a constipation of imagination when I try to visualize the traumatic dehumanisation of a daughter being raped by her father. The tragic incident was recently reported from north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, where a girl committed suicide after being raped by her father. Glorifying the suicide can be a dangerous act. But what if one finds monsters inside their homes that bring them into paroxysms of meaninglessness and futility of life. While the accused will taste the dark dungeons, the grass growing on the grave of his daughter will slowly poison her father’s soul. However, this tragic incident should not be analysed with Maggie intellectualism, where one enters the phantasmagoria and imagines the normalcy of such incidents in Kashmir. This incident also opens the Pandora’s Box of questions that need to be articulated for larger interests of the subjects of this land.
The double marginalisation of women
The lingering historicity of Kashmir has bolstered conditions that have created ambiance of unfreedom in the land. The normalcy of living in frangible peace and indelible conflict has reduced this place to a political laboratory, where a disappeared son leaves his mother as a half-mother and a disappeared husband leaves his wife as a half-widow. The normalcy of such unconventional tragic vocabulary has become common in the mental geographies of people, because of decades old conflict in Kashmir. However, it is not only political apparatus that nurtures this victimisation. Patriarchy too actively contributes to the double marginalisation of women in Kashmir. Women are seen as the second sex as far as sexual division of labour and active access to the public sphere are concerned.
The question of sexuality
Sexuality has always been a hush-hush affair. The idea of segregation of students for teaching reproduction has been normalised in schools for long. Menstruation as biological essentialism of being a woman (crafted by the creator, if taken spiritually) has also been a taboo. The correction of insensitiveness of a child demanding a hard labour from her menstruating mother has not been in the discourse. The issue of gender sensitisation can invite wrath of ignorant people. The jokes and comedy are full of sexism that gets normalised. The conversations are sexist to an extent that they are invisible to plebeian imagination. The idea of teaching our children about the good touch and bad touch is too immoral and sexual to discuss. The carpeting of these issues has its own repercussions with a cost of its own.
The meta-narrative of conflict
It is a naked truth that conflict in Kashmir remains at the center and shadows the other issues facing the society. The conflict has historically drained most of the creative energies from people. However, as a society in conflict the issues facing the society should not be carpeted and envisioned in isolation. The social tensions are important to be deconstructed in order to reconstruct a positive paradigm for people. It is in such a context that the issue of a Gujjar woman denied access to giving birth in a hospital, the incidents of sexual exploitation of women and other genders in public buses, the marginalisation of transgenders in Kashmir, and other micro-narratives should also be at the center of debate for the public inquiry. The praxis of centrifugal force will allow the rational prognostications to deal with such ideas. Such a vision will allow the imagination to nurture a polished society, where patriarchy will be drowned in the deep ocean of justice, where subaltern and elites together can experience conspicuous consumption, where pains of mind would cease to exist in the time capsules.
Articulating the case of Incest-Rape-Suicide
Whenever the issues facing women become the center of inquiry, it has a tendency to send most men in paroxysms of fear. This fear emanates from the reductionist and simple understanding of feminism. The discourse of feminism has created a negative notion in public imagination that womanism is anti-men, that there are women who are crazy enough to take revenge for the historical wrongs done to them. Such a simple understanding acts as an impediment for a lot of men from joining the cause of women’s rights. The Bandipora incident too was taken from such a perspective, where most men preferred silence because it was either too shameful or too feministic in concern.
Another perspective that tried to mainstream itself is that the Kashmiri society is internally brutal, where women are not safe in their homes. Of course, this incident was tragic. But it was used to paint Kashmiri men as wolves. However, the carpeting of such narratives has its own consequences. Such incidents should open the debate on domestic violence that has been widely reported across the newspapers in Kashmir along with the empirical evidence; the question of sexual harassment that takes places at public or private places; the debate on touch and its understanding; the reporting of harassment; the question of paradoxical honour that sees women as bastions of morality and honour.
The present case also highlights how the daughter had undergone sexual violence for years without speaking out in order to keep the family ‘honour’ intact. She committed suicide after she came to know that people came to know about it. It also questions the farcical idea that such issues will be addressed after the political issues have been resolved. So by that logic should women continue to suffer till that time comes? Can’t discussion on social reforms be also carried out along with debates on political conflict? Is carpeting the best strategy? Is there a possibility of weaving micro and meta-narratives?
Should she wait till you get her aazadi?
Aamir Qayoom is a research scholar at Delhi University. He also works as a research assistant for the University of Western Australia. His broad research area includes gender, politics and film studies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Hatred and Mass Violence: Lessons from History”, edited by Navras J. Aafreedi, Presidency University, Kolkata, India.