Thursday, March 09, 2006

Ordinary Kashmiri Women Created History

Yesterday marked International Women's Day (8 March). This date is also commemorated at the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday. On that day we can look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development. International Women's Day is the story of ordinary women as makers of history and therefore we hereby present contribution by Fozia Lone on the Struggle of Ordinary Women in Kashmir.

Ordinary Kashmiri Women Created History - A Salutation to the Kashmiri Women of APDP & KWIPD

Although started in 1930’s, Kashmir freedom struggle took the aggressive form in 1989. This anger demolished the already rickety State administration and horrified the Kashmiris. The government responded to it primarily by delivering an armed response. Indian Government deployed about 4 hundred thousand Indian security forces in Kashmir to suppress this insurrection. (See, Anthony Davis, ‘The Conflict in Kashmir’, 7 Jane’s Intelligence Review, 1995, p.40). This resulted in the death of thousands of people especially at the hands of Indian army. While following their counterinsurgency operations army resorted to human rights violations, which included Custodial Killings, Extrajudicial Killings, Torture, disappearances and Rape.

During the last 16 years of conflict in Kashmir, Women are the most unfortunate sufferers. They have been physically abused, molested, humiliated, disgraced, raped and traumatized when their husbands and sons were ruthlessly killed and suspiciously disappeared. On 23rd February 1991 women of Kunnan Pushpora Village in Kashmir were victimised by the mass rape at the hands of the Indian security forces. On that fateful day about 60 women were raped. The documentary film, When the Storm Came, available at depicts this. Among all the issues enforced disappearance and Rape were most terrifying and least attention was given to these problem. The required awareness about these issues, both locally and internationally, was generated by the initiatives of the Kashmiri women.

The official findings reveal that in Kashmir so far more than 8000 people are unaccounted for and have disappeared in custody (enforced or involuntary disappearances) over the past 21 years. Indian security force, task force and other government agencies arrested these people and later their fate remains unknown. When large numbers of people were disappeared, initially the parents especially mothers of disappeared persons made individual efforts by filling the habeas corpus petitions in Jammu and Kashmir High Court. In 1994 Parveena Ahangar (mother of a disappeared person, now the chairperson of the APDP) with the help Pervez Imroz, (a human rights lawyer and spearhead of Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society JKCCS) formulated a group called ‘Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons’. At present this group works as the human rights faction with the aim ‘to know the whereabouts of their missing relatives’ and ‘to take the collective political action against it’. They are also pressing the government to form a commission to enquiry into these involuntary disappearances.

Initially these brave women had to face many difficulties but through the efforts of these bold women of Kashmir people’s participation amplified and in 1998 APDP was affiliated to the Asian Federation Against Enforced Disappearances (AFAD). This establishment is a new coalition gathering organization that works for the "disappeared" in several South Asian Countries. Its core members include the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearances from the Philippines, the Organization of Parents and Family Members of the Disappeared (OPFMD) from Sri Lanka, the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in the Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the KONTRAS of Indonesia.

On April 22, 2005, Mothers of missing youth were comforted when they successfully laid the foundation at Lawaypora (Kashmir) for the memorial in the recollection of those who were disappeared after their arrest by the security forces. This was yet another achievement of these valiant women since previous government dismantled the memorial when it was laid at Eidgah (Kashmir) on 18th July 2001. Although nothing can reimburse the sorrow, anguish, mental agony and torment of Kashmiri mothers however, raising the memorial was certainly an audacious act by them in an effort to remember there loved ones.

In 2000 the Kashmir University students initiated the Kashmiri Women’s Initiative for Peace and Disarmament (KWIPD) to wipe the tears of the suffering women of Kashmir and advocated that ‘the rights of women cannot be enforces without restoration of peace in the region’. The women member of this group come from all sects of the society and is the first Kashmiri women group. To guarantee the Kashmiri women their right to be heard all over the world KWIPD start its quarterly newsletter “Voices Unheard” which was edited Aasia Jeelani. (The Newsletter can be accessed on Aasia Jeelani at the age of 29, in extremely regrettable incident was put to sleep forever in the landmine explosion at Lolab on 20th April 2004, while monitoring the Parliamentary elections. In order to increase awareness within the region, KWIPD conducted discussions and debates to advocate the significance of nuclear disarmament.

Recalling the stories of these incredible and remarkable Kashmiri women on International women’s day I take the opportunity to pay homage to Aasia Jeelani who was truly the angel of peace. I also congratulate the brave Kashmiri women of my motherland for initiating the struggle for equality, integrity, justice peace and progress. This collective power of Kashmiri women was perceive by millions of people all over the world. I believe even more is possible if women of world will support each other in their genuine battles. Since, International Women's Day is the universal day to connect all women around the world and motivate them to achieve their full potential, I appeal the conscious women of the world to join Kashmiri women’s amicable struggle and assist women in conflict to restore their dignity.

Miss Fozia Lone
Research Student,
Aberdeen University


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