ISLAMABAD: A unique manner to draw attention to the resilience of Kashmiris in Indian held Kashmir saw a gathering of Kashmiri women this month in Brussels.
Latest Indian reports now speak about the failure of finding a political solution and the rise of “Kashmiri youth’s Islamisation”.An international conference with a difference, ‘Kashmir Through Women’s Eyes’, hosted by Member of European Parliament Dr Sajjad Karim has created waves in Europe where gender specific discrimination was highlighted.
Karim said that the question of women in conflicts and as peace builders is a very complex issue and women should not be seen only as victims but also as key actors promoting peace.A copy of the report on the outcome of the conference was made available to The News which focuses on how a woman’s perspective has been missing from this decades old debate.
Shamila Mahmood, Azad Kashmir’s first woman judge and Qazia, highlighted her concern about the policy of water management vis-a-vis the Himalayan rivers.
“In IOK, implementation of policy and planning is embedded in a militarised context, and in AJK we will soon be confronted with its environmental consequences and how it will affect the people of Kashmir living in the areas concerned,” she said.
Despite the Indus Water Treaty, she pointed out that “India creates dams and that creation of dams by India is not agreed on the treaty: that makes the Kishenganga Hydropower project (to divert water of the Neelum River/Ganga River to Wullar Lake to generate electricity) highly controversial”.
She said the consequences would be ‘dramatic’ for the people in Neelum Valley.“The river will get dry, no water will be available for the people and that will trigger massive migration. Where will people go?” she asked.
Sadia Mir, one of the participants, suggested that the Kashmiris have to use “methods of global governance: platforms as UN and European Parliament to influence policy making that, in the end, will change reality on the ground.”
She advocated that instruments like the UDHR and CEDAW exist but never for the cause of the Kashmiri women.“Kashmiri society is one of fear, and hushed tones, where people are subject to live in a sort of quiet desperation, this is most obvious with Kashmiri women. There are thousands of unreported cases of institutionalised sexual violence in Kashmir. There is a shame and stigma associated with it, since the society is quite patriarchal, so thousands more of these go unreported”, Mir told the conference.
Khaoula Siddiqi recalled, “I would clutch my father in the middle of the night, while the Army searched our house. We had no rights, no say on anything. Anything could happen at any time”.
She questioned what kind of society existed in Kashmir where everyone knows someone who’s been tortured, killed, assaulted, or has disappeared? “If they don’t know anyone, they themselves have probably gone through it. The amount of people the conflict has directly affected is a staggering statistic”, she recalled.
Afsana Rashid points to rape survivors in Kashmir and the appropriation of rape as weapon of war by military in Kashmir.“Such victims are unacceptable to society and they are treated more or less as prostitutes. Society never forgives them, on the contrary, they are victimized by both family and society”, she notes.
Ather Zia writes: “Violence against women is not accidental but a tool used to achieve military objectives such as spreading political terror, breaking the resistance of a community, rewarding soldiers, intimidation, or to extract information. Many forms of violence that women suffer during armed conflict are gender specific in both nature and result”.
Khaoula Siddiqi, daughter of famous Kashmiri activist, Farooq Siddiqi, said: “I remember going to bed listening to the gunshots and grenade blasts. Both of my parents were activists and very often our house would be raided in the middle of night by armed soldiers.”
The voice of the future generation of Kashmiri women was that of Khaoula Siddiqi the co-founder of the Student International League of Kashmir (SILK) in Canada. His father Farooq Siddiqi (‘Farooq Papa’) is president of World Kashmir Diaspora Alliance (WKDA) and former convener and senior-commander of JKLF (Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front).
“I want to encourage the Kashmiri youth internationally to take an active role, to work with one another, to raise awareness, and keep the discourse alive. Kashmir must not be forgotten and as next generation we feel we have to be aware of how to outline our own roadmaps in a changed global context. Our voices will not get tired, and this generation will continue fighting for the cause, and we will wait for justice”, she assured.
AK Minister for Social Affairs Farzana Yaqoob said she did not want an Arab Spring to happen in Kashmir, as she did not want more bloodshed and more suffering.“It needs to be resolved through non-violence. I want summer, yes, an everlasting summer”, she said.