Terrorist and secessionist violence in Jammu and Kashmir has been sponsored and supported by Pakistan for more than three decades now and has claimed thousands of lives. The precarious situation of Kashmir has cast a heavy toll upon the local populace. How tragic it is for a region that killing has been normalized. Whether innocent civilians or security personnel or even militants – it is Kashmiris who are dying. It is Kashmiri blood that has been split. The annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs for the year 2019-2020 provides the following chilling statistics for Kashmir.
The report also reveals that the Central government contributed Rs 8192.29 crore to the Government of Jammu and Kashmir (including 786.64 crore in 2019-20 through December 31, 2019) in Kashmir under Security Related expenditure.
WE SUFFERED THE WRONG REVOLUTION
Talking among peers, we have often dwelt upon the words of Noam Chomsky: A revolution that may turn out to be worse than the regime it replaces. This is what we Kashmiris have suffered. We have suffered the wrong revolution. On every side, our brothers, sisters and children were the casualties. Those who were dying and suffering, and those who continue to die and suffer are Kashmiris. They may be innocent passers-by, policemen, the unfortunate parents whose indoctrinated boys became militants and others like them. We have been at the receiving end of it all.
The worst of the sufferers of this mindless conflict have been women and the children. This is no secret. Wherever there is conflict, the brunt of it is always borne by the most vulnerable class – the women and children. The United Nations has noted that higher levels of gender-based violence against women and girls such as arbitrary executions, torture, sexual abuse and forced marriage can result from conflict. Sexual violence is predominantly and increasingly directed at women and girls, though sometimes men and boys also emerge as victims of sexual abuse. Due to widespread breakdown of the rule of law, the availability of small guns and the dissolution of social and family institutions, there is normalization of gender-based violence in conflict societies. Trafficking is intensified during and after conflict due to the breakdown of political, economic and social structures, and also high levels of violence.
As a result of conflict-related sexual violence, women and girls are at a higher risk of unplanned pregnancy, maternal mortality and morbidity, severe sexual and reproductive injuries, and contracting sexually transmitted infections. To make matters worse, access to essential services such as health care, including sexual and reproductive health services, is disrupted. According to data from India’s National Crime Records Bureau, the number of cases of violence against women in Jammu and Kashmir grew by 11% in 2020. The figures stood at 3,069 in 2019 to 3,414 the following year. This was despite the fact that the national average fell by 8.3%.
There were 1,744 cases of “attack on women with the intent to violate her modesty” registered in 2020, as well as 243 occurrences of rape. Given the low reporting rate and the cloak of violent shame and social boycott that surrounds rape – particularly in a community as conservative and patriarchal as Kashmir – the correct figures are likely to be much higher.
Sexual Exploitation Of Women And Girls By Militants
Marriages aren’t always made in heaven. As many women and young girls in Jammu and Kashmir will tell you, some are solemnized at the barrel of the gun. There have been multiple reports of young women in Kashmir who were forcibly married to militants. Many newspapers reported how women from far-flung areas were often kidnapped and tortured by the militants and their associates until they would agree to marry them. In the insurgency-hit state, forced marriage to militants has wreaked havoc on their lives. The recently report in The Diplomat about how militants sexually exploited young women became a talking point in Kashmir. This is a known fact that we do not like to dwell upon or discuss. We do not want to acknowledge that in hundreds of cases, militants have raped Kashmiri women at gunpoint. Women and girls have been brutalized for years, many times with the knowledge of the family.
These militants called themselves the “upholders of justice”. But many among them did not spare girls as young as 12 years. For decades, these girls and women were not able to tell anyone about their ordeal. They remained silent, fearing that if they spoke up, their loved ones would be killed. A large percentage of women who were married to militants were left widowed after their husbands got killed in encounters. Many had to live a destitute life after their husbands crossed into Pakistan and never returned. The women were left with children but no one to feed these families.
Facing Social Stigma, Ignorance
Because of the stigma and even ignorance, the widows of militants or the women deserted by them don’t even apply for government welfare schemes. This leaves them poor and helpless. Their kids face a dark future ahead. These women are many times forced to adopt drastic measures like selling their bodies to make ends meet. Then they are judged by society and regarded as bad women. Many such accounts have been reported where women who were deserted by their militant husbands are judged by people. Their children live as orphans. They do not have any documents which can enable them to avail government schemes. There were more ways in which women suffered, and continue to suffer. Even now, women associated with militants and pro-liberty advocates face government and state disinterest, antagonism and hatred. Those who are linked to counter-insurgents or renegades are regarded as social outcasts. While many schemes have been provided by the Centre and also the state, wives, and children of dead or run-away militants are not able to benefit from these schemes. There is social stigma attached with these women which makes them vulnerable. The state departments fail to help them because of their association with militants. This stigma is there for both the widows or deserted wives of militants and their children. The society by and large ignores them.
Courtesy : KZINE