Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Face of Kashmiri Women

The freedom movement in Indian Held Kashmir has received fresh impetus with its women taking up the cause of freedom. The situation in Kashmir has greatly deteriorated since the death of a 17-year-old student, who succumbed to his injuries after being hit by a teargas shell. Protest rallies have been baton charged, teargassed and brutally fired upon, with more than 50 lives being lost. However, just as the freedom struggle seemed to be stagnating, the women emerged on the streets, beating on their utensils, throwing stones at the Indian forces and chanting slogans for freedom.

Over the years, Kashmiri women have played an important role in the struggle for freedom. Names like Asiya Andrabi, who led protest rallies comprising Kashmiri women, have filled volumes. However, the image of Kashmiri women in the liberation struggle has been mostly of wives, mothers, sisters or daughters mourning over the dead body of a relative, who embraced shahadat as a result of the atrocities of the Indian army. The new face of the Kashmiri women is unparalleled. Hundreds of women and girls, many in shalwar kameez, have since been regularly out on the streets chanting “we want freedom!” and “blood for blood!” Indeed, their message is loud and clear. Although the Indian army has not refrained from targeting the unarmed women, dealing with female protesters is a fraught challenge for the police and paramilitary troops. Many women who do not directly take part in rallies carry drinking water to the protesters and also direct youths down escape routes as they flee from baton charges, teargas and gunfire.

Exasperated by the deteriorating situation in Kashmir, India’s Interior Minister P. Chidambaram has alleged that Pakistan may have instigated these protests. This is the first time New Delhi has linked Pakistan to the recent spate of violence in the Kashmir Valley that began on June 11. Earlier, India had said Pakistan-based militants were inciting trouble in the region. “Pakistan appears to have altered its strategy in influencing events in Jammu and Kashmir,” Chidambaram told the Indian Parliament during a debate on the protests. India, however, remains confident that it can foil Pakistan’s “evil designs” if it is able to win the hearts and minds of the people.

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