Psychological Reverberations [Women and Violence in Kashmir]

In a 1999, an unpublished report of Prabal Mahatao, Impact of Terrorism on Women and Children in Jammu and Kashmir, Post-traumatic stress disorder cases rose from 1700 in 1990 to 17000 in 1993 to 30000 in 1998 due to the continued exposure to violence. The half-widows continuously faced the trauma of dangling between hope and doubt regarding the return of their husbands, sons, and fathers. They had to live with the harsh realities of forced widowhood, absentee husband or father or brothers.

There were estrangements from in-laws and other members or the family who were not ready to bear the added economic responsibility of these new dependents as they were probably themselves over-strained.
The continued atmosphere of violence, random killings and abductions forced women to stay indoors after sunset. They were always worried about their security and would not venture out without male company. The veiling was an added woe, though the Kashmiri women long resisted it, yet a midway was found and one can still see the heads of Kashmiri women covered with a scarf if they are not donning the burqa.

Women as Tools: By the middle of the nineties, there was a mushrooming of new religion-political groups that were fighting for the independence of Kashmir and wanted it to be an Islamic State. (Many of these had the backing of Pakistan) These new groups were more radicalized than the initial JKLF, had more pressing demands, and were more violent in their methods. The local men had almost disappeared from the scene as they were either killed or were themselves preparing to kill others. The women then, became an agency of communication between the militants and the State police/army. While some identified with the ideals of the separatist leaders who were mostly their own fathers or husbands, others felt that their secure future lay in a healthy relationship with India. These two categories chose their roles accordingly. However, in either case, when found out, invariably there was torture, rape or killing. The mukhbirs (informants) of both the army and the militants were treated ruthlessly.

Women Militants: While women were killed and raped from the start of the insurgency because they were seen as weak points of the militants or as refuge-providers of the militants, some women started active arms training with the militants to participate in the war for independence. The Dukhtaran-eMillat president Asiya Andarabi is a household name as head of women jihadi in Kashmir. She was arrested in 1993 along with her husband, accused of having links with Pakistan’s Intelligence Agency, the ISI. She however denied ever picking up a gun. In 1992, Mehbooba was picked up by Indian military from Hyderapora, Sringar and accused of being a Pakistan-trained militant. Again in 1996, the Indian intelligence came up with Farida Dhar as one of the accused in Lajpat Nagar, Delhi blast. In 2002, there were again many high-profile arrests of several women accused of carrying Pakistani funds, and having affiliations to the banned terrorist out-fit Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Mukhbirs: Sarla Butt, a nurse was gang-raped and killed in 1990 by the JKLF militants as she was thought to be an informer of the Indian army. The issue gained religious coloring and was the main trigger that spread panic among the Kashmiri Pandits that their women were no longer safe in the Valley. Later, a Muslim girl Shahina was abducted, raped and lashed for the same reason. These were the initial incidents of women accused of being informers. Many more such incidents followed-- to the extent that the burqa-clad women if frequenting police stations became synonymous with informers.
Many women no longer had sympathy with the local militants who they found were more of goons than heroes. A woman reportedly refused a militant food and shelter at night. The angry militant gunned down the ‘traitor’ at her own doorstep sided with the Indian army and became an informant.

Political dimensions: There were several organizations of women which aimed at mobilizing them for the separatist war.
Forums such as Dukhtaran-e-Millat, (Daughters of the Faith), Muslim Khawateen Markaz (Council of Muslim Women) and Association of Parents of the Disappeared came up to help women victims of torture killings, rapes and with disappeared sons and husbands. However they could not become very effective in the long run.
The Dukhtaran-e-Millat, in fact came under the government scanner as involved in arms training of the Kashmiri women militants, with its President Asiya Andrabi imprisoned on the charge of inciting violence and promoting separatist politics.
In her essay “Kashmiri Women and the Conflict: From Icon to Agency” (2004), Rita Manchanda writes: “Women have been used in the propaganda battle of the movement but not empowered with respect as contributing to the struggle beyond their traditional roles as self-sacrificing mothers and wives and as victims of rape”.
There has been no political voice given to the Kashmiri women victims of the independence struggle even though they had been indispensable in the entire battle, especially to their own Kashmiri brethren, the militants, the rebels and the politicians. The most important political parties of the Valley, the Hurriyat, the National Conference and even the BJP, hardly have any active women participants and rarely include women in mainstream politics. There is no visible woman’s face in the Executive council of the Hurriyat. The only exception is that of Mehbooba Mufti, the president of People’s Democratic Party and the daughter of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, the sixth Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir (2015- ) The MKM has been relegated into a secondary body even when the Hurriyat makes sexual assault of women one of its major political agenda. The top members of all the parties have been dismissive about the issue of inclusion of female voices in active politics.
Those abducted, raped or tortured by either militants or in army camps face continued social ostracism; they have no suitors for marriage, are divorced or simply abandoned by their husbands and their families as they are considered ‘spoilt’. These women victims are only used as propaganda tools to achieve political gains.

Interesting facts
· Kashmir is well known for its cuisine and though Pandits from other parts of the country are vegetarians, meat, with the exception of beef, forms an important part of the food of the Kashmiri Pandits. The Rig Veda also makes a reference to this.
· The most expensive shawls, called Shatoosh, are made from the beard of the wild ibex. They are so fine that a whole shawl can be pulled through a small finger ring.
· Legend has it that if a raw egg is wrapped up in an authentic shatoosh it will be cooked by the morning!
· The popular paisley motif used in the designs of Kashmiri textiles originated from the Mughals
· The shape of the paisley is based on the mango and is a symbol of fertility.


Oppression--- is the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner. It can also be defined as an act or instance of oppressing, the state of being oppressed, and the feeling of being heavily burdened, mentally or physically, by troubles, adverse conditions or people, and anxiety.
Terrorism- the unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.
Biased- unfairly prejudiced for or against someone or something.
Militant- a militant person. "Militants became increasingly impatient of parliamentary manoeuvres"
Suppression- the action of suppressing something such as an activity or publication.
"Red tape- is an idiom that refers to excessive regulation or rigid conformity to formal rules that is considered redundant or bureaucratic and hinders or prevents action or decision-making. the practice of requiring excessive paperwork and tedious procedures before official action can be considered or completed.
Dukhtaran-e-Millat- (Daughters of the Nation) is an all-woman outfit that advocates jihad to establish Islamic law in Kashmir and to establish a separate state from India. The group was founded in 1987, and is headed by Asiya Andrabi, a self-described "Islamic feminist”.

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