A spectre is haunting women in Kashmir

Will the Kashmiri women be saved when the curfew is lifted? That’s a million dollar question.

For decades, women in Kashmir have suffered not only the separation from their brothers, sons and husbands who had either been killed, abducted or imprisoned, but have also borne the scar left behind from rape by the Indian military forces and Hindu fanatic. To make rape more atrocious, the Kashmiri women have been raped in front of their male family members. The victim’s age has not been a bar; from 18 to 80, women of all age brackets have been put through this inhumane act.

Professor William Baker, Director of Christians and Muslims for Peace (CAMP) and a human rights activist, wrote in his book, Kashmir: Happy Valley, Valley of Death Kashmir, “The use of rape by the occupation forces in Kashmir is not merely an isolated case or two of wayward soldiers but rather a well-orchestrated and contrived part of the overall plan to break the spirit and if possible, the soul of the Kashmiri people and their will to resist.”

Rape as a warfare crime is committed to destroy communities, terrorise populations, and in some cases, change the ethnic makeup of the next generation.

In April 2018, protests were held in India to support three rapists who had raped an eight-year girl, Asifa Bano, in the course of three days in a temple in India-occupied Jammu. The girl was subsequently killed and her body was thrown in the bushes. Investigation into the crime revealed the incident to be pre-planned and inspired by religious hatred against the Muslim nomadic community in Kathua. The plan was to stoke fear among the Muslims so that they would leave the area to the Hindus who were in majority there.

The perpetrators of the crime belonged to a dominant Hindu community and had bureaucratic and political support. Hindu nationalists from the BJP and other political parties joined ranks to threaten violence if the accused were punished. When interrogated the accused called themselves the custodians of Hindu nationalism.

In the archives of history, the worst incident reported on the rape of Kashmiri women is about the one committed against more than 30 women by Indian soldiers during a large military operation on February 23, 1991, in two villages, Kunan and Poshpura in the Kupwara district.

Marginalisation of women in Kashmir could increase further with the rising tendency among the Hindu nationalists to revert India to the period when the Aryans first stepped into the subcontinent and laid the foundation of the Hindu religion.

An ancient Indian treatise according to American Indologist, Wendy Doniger, “legitimised rape as a form of marriage and gave some degree of legal sanction, retroactively, to women who had been raped”.

The harassment of Kashmiri women has increased since the elimination of the autonomous status of Kashmir, belying the Indian government’s announcement that the step will lead to gender equality and emancipation of women in the Muslim-majority region.

Vikram Saini, a BJP member of the Legislative Assembly, has been quoted as saying, “Muslim party workers should rejoice in the new provisions. They can now marry the white-skinned women of Kashmir.”

Rape in occupied Kashmir is not only glorified — as was seen in Asifa Bano’s case — it is also carried out with impunity to enslave Kashmiris. The overarching power given to the Indian military in the region has made objectifying women in Kashmir easier. This practice has had the support of the BJP and other nationalists.

In 1993, the Statutes of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia called rape a crime against humanity when committed on a civilian population in an armed conflict.
Hence, it becomes obligatory for the UN, armed with a handful of treaties and resolutions, to come forward and save the dignity of Kashmiri women threatened by Hindu nationalists.