[ Sense of fear deepens as Indian politicians stoke misogyny with
talk of freedom to marry white-skinned Kashmiri women. At present
everyone in Kashmir is being immensely subjugated. But women are the
biggest victims of this inhumane siege. ] [https://portside.org/]
KASHMIR WOMEN ARE THE BIGGEST VICTIMS OF THIS INHUMANE SIEGE
August 21, 2019
_ Sense of fear deepens as Indian politicians stoke misogyny with
talk of freedom to marry 'white-skinned' Kashmiri women. At present
everyone in Kashmir is being immensely subjugated. But women are the
biggest victims of this inhumane siege. _
Women shout slogans during a protest following restrictions after the
government scrapped the special constitutional status for Kashmir, in
Srinagar August 14, 2019, Danish Ismail/Reuters // Al Jazeera
SRINAGAR, INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR - After August 5, when India
revoked Kashmir's special status and followed the move with a military
lockdown, Uzma Javed did not leave her house for days.
Every few hours, she looked out of the window from her family's
two-storey house in Srinagar, the largest city in Indian-Administered
A 20-year-old student who usually lives in Kerala, Javed had returned
home to spend Eid with her relatives.
But instead of celebrating, she found herself caged in while outside,
armed Indian paramilitary forces manned largely empty streets.
A few civilians negotiated with troops to allow them to cross razor
wire coils laid across the road.
"At present everyone in Kashmir is being immensely subjugated. But
women are the biggest victims of this inhumane siege," she told Al
Javed was particularly worried about a female friend who lives close
by, who she had not heard from in over a week.
"I don't know how Munaza is doing. The men somehow manage to sneak out
for prayers … We can't even do that."
The sight of armed forces "petrifies me", she said, adding: "I don't
even want my brother and father to go out at all but there is no
option. They need to go to get bread and other daily necessities."
Recently, a large protest, which turned violent as demonstrators
clashed with Indian forces, passed outside Javed's home.
She was alone with her mother, concerned that her brother and father
were among the protesters.
When they returned home later that night, Javed had to go to hospital
- her blood pressure had shot up.
We feel persecuted, even more than the men of the valley today.
- Samreen, 22-year-old make-up artist from Srinagar
Article 370 of the Indian constitution had granted autonomy to the
region. After it was revoked, India put Kashmir under a complete
Phone and internet lines were shut off, leaving more than seven
million people in the region unable to contact the outside world.
India has said that communications have now been partially restored.
Before announcing the decision, one of the government's arguments for
scrapping Article 370 was that it would lead to gender equality and
the "emancipation" of women in the Muslim-majority region.
But days later, a number of the politicians with India's ruling Hindu
nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made sexist comments directed
towards Kashmiri women.
On August 10, Manohar Lal Khattar, chief minister of Haryana, was
quoted as saying: "Some people are now saying that as Kashmir is open,
brides will be brought from there. But jokes apart, if [the gender]
ratio is improved, then there will be a right balance in society."
Earlier, the BJP's Vikram Saini, a Member of the Legislative
"Muslim party workers should rejoice in the new provisions. They can
now marry the white-skinned women of Kashmir."
Nivedita Menon, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New
Delhi, said: "These are proclamations of conquest and plunder, and
reveal the real intention behind the abrogation of 370."
Kashmiri women walk past an Indian security personnel in Srinagar on
August 11, 2019.
Danish Ismail/Reuters // Al Jazeera
The misogyny also spread online, with posts on social media networks
carrying a similar theme.
And according to reports, "How to marry Kashmir women" was
increasingly Googled after August 5.
"The way women of Kashmir are exoticised and objectified on a daily
basis in India, the way their bodies are portrayed as vulnerable and
used to create fear and intimidation, has heightened the sense of
being preyed upon," said Samreen, a 22-year-old make-up artist from
"We feel persecuted, even more than the men of the valley today."
With communications lines shut off, Samreen was unable to contact her
sister in New Delhi.
"I wanted to book a ticket to just see if she is okay. We can't even
do that," she said.
To book a flight, she would have to go to the airport, some 20
"My mother has been worried sick," she said, adding she had attempted
to get to the airport on a scooter with her father but the presence of
Indian security forces prevented her.
Misbah Rehsi, a 22-year-old Srinagar resident, was unsurprised at the
growing sexism, explaining that the BJP's attempt to position itself
as a "saviour" for Muslim women is not genuine.
"I hope the people of India are able to comprehend the misogyny that
runs in the party and see how there isn't actually any intention of
protecting and saving Kashmiri women," she said.
It's of course communal and hate-filled. But in the larger context, it
plays with the ideas of taking vengeance of what happened 500 years
ago under Muslim rule in India, irrespective of the fact that half of
it is just lies.
-Irfan Habib, Historian
Systematic sexual abuse and other forms of gender-based violence are
often deployed as weapons in war.
Kavita Krishnan, a member of the Communist Party of India (CPIM), took
activists from India to Kashmir after August 5.
She said women and girls were anxious given the increased paramilitary
and military presence.
"They told us they had found it extremely difficult between August 5
and 9 to even get milk and vegetables for their kids, due to the total
curfew. They were also deeply distressed at the widespread illegal
detention of children as young as nine or 10 years old, and
Krishnan added that some of the women and girls also spoke of their
fears of "being molested during such raids".
Previous allegations of mass rape
Indian forces have previously been accused of sexual assault in
On February 23, 1991, as India carried out a large military operation,
soldiers allegedly raped more than 30 women in two villages, Kunan and
Poshpora, in the Kupwara district The Indian Army has always denied
But in a July report
the UN said: "There has been no progress in the Kunan Poshpora
mass-rape case from 1991, and authorities continue to thwart attempts
of the survivors to get justice."
It also called on India to "investigate and prosecute all cases of
sexual violence allegedly perpetrated by state and non-state actors,
and provide reparations to victims".
Indian Kashmiri women travel in a Shikara boat at Dal Lake in Srinagar
on August 18, 2019.
Punit Paranjpe/AFP // Al Jazeera
As tensions prevailed in Kashmir, with continued protests and
wide-scale arrests amid the clampdown, Janees Lanker, a 22-year-old
Masters student from Srinagar, reflected on the roots of misogyny.
As well as blaming the political class for encouraging sexist
attitudes, she also pointed to the portrayal of Kashmiri women in
"Kashmiri women are shown as these innocent, naive, dolled up beings,"
she said, "which is nothing less than objectifying them."
Her social media feeds, she said, are peppered with memes showing
"fair girls with a hijab" as objects of sexual desire, "and it's
Delhi-based historian Irfan Habib believes the language emanating from
some sections of the BJP is being used to whip up support among the
party's majority Hindu base.
"It's of course communal and hate-filled," he told Al Jazeera. "But in
the larger context, it plays with the ideas of taking vengeance of
what happened 500 years ago under Muslim rule in India, irrespective
of the fact that half of it is just lies."
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