Women and Violence in Kashmir

The valley of Kashmir has been called the Switzerland of India although people who have travelled across both Europe and Kashmir find Kashmir’s beauty much more captivating than that of Switzerland or anywhere else. So mesmerized was the Moghul Emperor, Jahangir that he came up with the famous quote “Agar Firdaus bar ruye zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast” (If there is a Paradise on Earth-- it is this, it is this, it is this!). 

Kashmiris proudly boast of being home to one of the oldest women poets of India, Lalleshwari or Lal Ded (14th century) whose Vakhs, have become a part of the common Kashmiri tongue. The beautiful land of chinars and saffron fields has also produced the singer Habba Khatoon (16th century) whose songs have influenced the popular imagination of the people.

The land of Kashmir held not only immense physical beauty but also a beautiful character. It should be noted in the beginning itself that Kashmir was one of the rare states where gender discrimination was rarely evident. Though the roles of men and women were fairly divided on the traditional lines of field and hearth, yet women, especially from the working class, were engaged in commercial activities too.
But there were very few cases of violence or atrocities committed against women.
Cause of Oppression: What then happened to this beautiful land? The situation of women in any society is largely dependent on the socio-political conditions of that land. In most Indian societies, it is the religious and the culture practices that determine the position and the treatment of women. These tacit rules undermine the written constitution many times and women themselves seldom question the unjust or biased treatment meted out to them. The women of Kashmir faced unjust treatment after the political turmoil that occurred post-1947. In the entire political game, the women due to their physical vulnerabilities and low education became tools and soft targets in the hands of both the army as well as the separatist militants A look at the table below will reveal that the state of Jammu and Kashmir has had a fair sex ratio but a low literacy rate. This was perhaps because the population of the state consisted of 65% Muslims at the time of Partition and around 15% Hindus. The Kashmiri Pandits, as the Hindus of the Valley were called, were mostly the land owners and the educated ones, while the Muslim population was engaged in agriculture, handicrafts animal husbandry and other such activities. Women of the latter group played an active part in the commercial activities

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