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Stealth theocracy: Selective condemnation in Kashmir brings its own problems

Arshia Malik | Updated on: 7 May 2017, 16:16 IST
(Yawar Nazir/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

It is admirable to read about young Kashmiri Muslim women (not all of them believers) stepping forward and making it their life's work to speak out for the female victims of injustice, rape with impunity by the Indian Armed forces, mental health issues due to the Enforced Disappearances of their sons, husbands and brothers, and the general effect of the ongoing conflict of 27 years. 

I know for a fact personally how difficult it is to raise one's voice in a patriarchal setup, in a Muslim culture, especially against incest, sexual assault and sexual harassment at the workplace.

It is heartening to read about how their activism is changing their families, their circle of influence into using a taboo word such as rape to create awareness about the trauma that our women suffered long before social media and access to rural areas in the Valley. It is commendable that they are giving voice to those who neither have the articulation to give voice to the violation of their bodies and souls nor have the necessary support and rehabilitation mechanism in place. 

However, it would have made all their activism much more credible and morally superior if they had an equal fervour for the atrocities committed in the same time period among those they never mention, and sometimes brush away as propaganda or hoax. 

I do not necessarily mean the activists currently doing the rounds on various Indian outlets, especially if they are Left-leaning. They could have mentioned or spoken for the Kashmiri Pandit women for all I know.

But the same zeal, space, energy, assertiveness seems to be missing when it comes to the Pandit women who underwent the same trauma, atrocities, violations as the one whom they hold in front of the largest democracy in the world as a mirror. 

I am going to state the obvious yet again - that acknowledging the Pandit women underwent atrocities will expose the "struggle for self-determination" that they keep reiterating is for Kashmiri nationalism and a secular separate country as a stealth theocracy under the garb of Freedom Movement.

That recognising the Kashmiri militants had been capable of behaviour they accuse the Indian forces of doing inhumanly would bring them face to face with what their brothers, sons, and husbands could do if anarchy were to prevail with a lot of help from "our friendly neighbouring country".

That the impunity they keep shoving in the Geneva conferences, on Amnesty's pages, even in the UN meetings is also something their "beloved mujahideen" enjoy since not much testimony exists about these atrocities apart from the victims'own families and certain Right-wing groups. They can find a kinship with these right-wingers as they too do not acknowledge that a Kunan Poshpora occurred or that "rape is being used as a weapon of war by the Armed forces". 

This is why it is important to step back and see things for what they are and where they stem from, especially if they keep occurring on a daily basis. I keep getting asked on forums how I cannot condemn what the security forces are doing in the Valley and I keep answering I do everywhere I can, only I am not selective when it comes to the beastly nature of man.

It is dishonest if one only talks about the Armed Forces and their use of the AFSPA, and various sexual crimes against Kashmiri women and not about the women abducted by militants, or killed simply on the allegation of being informers, or forcibly married to militants under the threat of the "gun" (a common mafioso practice in the Indian subcontinent).

It is equally dishonest if they are silent on the rampant incest, and other pervert practices going on in their homes especially marital rape which their beloved religion does not recognise nor does the law of the country from which they want to separate. 

Selective condemnation brings its own problems with it. Apart from putting a question mark on your objective, it also does a disservice to the very women you are fighting for, and whose stories of assault are lost in the whataboutery, revenge policies, and dismissal theories (the same that you come up with like the Jagmohan Theory) of the other side/camp. In the Far Left-Far Right/ majoritarianism in the Valley/majoritarianism in the country polarisation, the victims become pawns and a mere statistics instead of the faces, names and people whose stories need to be told to bring closure and justice. 

I was 15 when I witnessed the Gowkadal Massacre of 21 January 1990. My late husband (also 15 at the time) witnessed it separately and he acquired double the trauma having had to pick up bodies and help in their burial and seeing/cleaning those gunshot wounds. 

Of course, it brought us girls/women out on the streets pelting stones at the CRPF/BSF stationed near the various schools and colleges hastily in sand bag bunkers. Yes, we marched with memorandums to the UNMOGIP (United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan) at Gupkar, Srinagar in wave after wave of processions with Azadi slogans.

But on 7 November, a few months later when a resident of our locality Pitti Koul was gunned down in front of our eyes, just for the fact she had come to retrieve her luggage along with her daughter made us step back. At least I did pause. The killer's name whispered in gatherings, the upright elders of my community hanging their heads, the young brats rejoicing, the security personnel who had to take her away for cremation was a trauma of a different kind, bringing me stark face to face to the fact brutality doesn't have borders or religion. 

I do not expect these young activist women travelling the length and breadth of the country and the world on Scholarships; attending Literary Festivals and gaining support from Left-leaning bastions of free speech to speak for Pitti Koul or Sarla Bhat or Girija Tickoo, for the simple fact that they were not born at the time. It would be silly of my generation to let our blood boil when these women parrot the Intifada Script circulated on social media, penned down by the various journalists and activists of Press Enclave, Srinagar with permission from their Mirpuri sponsors in the UK and US. They were not there and they grew up in a Valley "siege" with concertina wires, curfews and every imaginable prison of the body and the mind.

"Stepping Out" to speak about the regressiveness in your culture and regressive practices in your religion is a as important as "stepping back" to understand what was going on, what are we demanding, is it the right aspiration, can we build a free country on the blood of innocents who genetically, ethnically, linguistically were our very own. The typical retort of "... but the Sikhs haven't migrated" also underlines your majoritarian bigotry, for the sheer fact Sikhs as a group have learnt their lessons well from the Partition, the brutal repression of the Khalistan movement and developed what is called "survival tactics" of minority groups when faced with annihilation and ethnic cleansing. They keep quiet and form alliances with the Hurriyat groups to ensure that they are not harmed, as in reverse the neighbouring Khalistan movement in the 80s redeems them in the eyes of the Kashmiri Muslims who see them as kinsmen rejecting the "Hindu Endia".

I reiterate the bold, daring and courageous work of the young Kashmiri Muslim women speaking out for their sisters are in my book already Nobel Prize winners of Peace and deserving of the Medal of Honour as Righteous Citizens for upholding the principles of justice, truth and equality. It would take them to a whole new level if they speak out for those whom no one wants to fight for because they do not fit the parameters of their Azadi Dream - the Pandit women killed in the 1990s, the Muslim widow whose husband was a cop killed while fighting their beloved Mujahideen, the father whose daughter was abducted or forced to marry a militant, or seculars, agnostics, atheists who live under constant threat to their lives in case a Mashal Khan lynching like mob descends upon them and who are dying everyday due to mental and physical health issues - committing physical and mental suicide.

I am hoping that day will come.

First published: 7 May 2017, 16:16 IST
Arshia Malik

Arshia Malik is a Delhi-based writer, blogger and social commentator with focus on women issues and conflicts in societies.