Kashmir’s women have been called the steel magnolias, the bravest in the world. Brave for having taken every suffering, endured pain and stood up in the height of odds. They have tolerated being widowed, left with no son, ravaged off their chastity and left alone in conditions, which are unbearable for others. But what have we done for them? Apart from mentioning them in the rhetorical talks of their sufferings and praising them with beautiful sobriquets and then “the world moves on”.
Once I was travelling from Lal Chowk to home in my car. While I crossed an intersection, I saw a veiled woman, walking barefooted with the shoes in her hand. I felt empathy and rage for the people that were passing by, giving sympathetic looks. I stopped the car and asked her, “Asalaam-u-alaykum, Mouji, toi kothaz tsuv gasun?” (Greetings Mother, where are you going?) “Gobrah, mei tsum Dargah gasun, thachmich tsas, mya travakh Na?” (Son, I have to go to the Hazratbal Shrine, I am tired. Would you drop me?). Even though it was seven kilometres away from there, I didn’t think for a moment. She sat at the back seat.
She started praising me. She was crying in the car. My heart started beating fast. I couldn’t resist asking her, what was wrong. “It’s been three days, since my three kids have had a proper meal. Whatever I earned for a month, all went in their school fee. Orphans were to be taken care of, but nobody here cares. I am going to the shrine, to pray, for Allah is my only hope. I have been castigated and incarcerated by the society who thinks they are Muslim.”
I asked her, if she ever asked help from leaders (read separatists). “I have gone everywhere, but they only help with their sympathies. Their promises are hollow, like them. I stopped going to them, when I felt like a beggar. The last thing I wanted to lose was my self-respect”.
We reached Hazratbal. I offered her some money. I persuaded her to take it but she said, “You gave me a hope that people still have mercy on poor. I can’t take money from you my son. May Allah bless you for your deeds. Leave, Allah shall be with you”.
These are the poor, of how we live off in luxuries and them in hope of meals, education for their children and mercy from the rich. While we spent thousands on invitation cards, the Wazwaan and fancy clothes, we seldom think of them. Our so called Zakat goes into Dar-ul-Ulooms (Religious schools) and beggars but still there are people with almost nothing.
Whenever we talk of Kashmir, we have always used terms like thousands of women raped, widowed and left with sons’ dead in graveyards. Kunanposhpora is always there, it’s by default in our rhetoric. Women there have been left in lurch by our stigmatised society. The not-raped and not-victim people have been cursing and cussing them, as if it was their fault. They have been mentally harassed by people like us, every day. Don’t they deserve a normal life, or should we keep reminding them that they were raped. For last twenty years, we have raped them every single day.
In Basharat Peer’s book, Curfewed Night, one of the most harrowing incidents is of Mubeena Gani, a bride who was gang-raped by the monsters of the night along with her bridesmaid and killing her in-laws in the bus which was travelling back to the groom’s house, where the women were singing welcome songs. When they heard it, the singing turned into wailing, the songs of mourning.
After sympathizing for a month or so, her in-laws and neighbours tortured her every day. She was called the killer of her in-laws, a curse on them. She was forced to flee to another village with her husband and her daughter. They now, live far-off from the village, in a dilapidated condition house. Her little daughter dreams of becoming a doctor while her mother dreams of being treated normal.
Next are our victims of domestic violence. One of the atrocities, perpetrated every day in homes. Beaten and battered for the want of dowry, for not bearing the preferred gender (boys) and for the silence of the victims. The silent shrieks and cries for help silenced for living a normal marital life and for their kids. Shazia Majeed, a victim of domestic violence, lies dead. Harassed and hounded by her money thirsty husband was beaten and abused in her husband’s home. With the silent approval of her in-laws, she was oppressed in the sanctity of her home. She was forced to abandon her house. She came back to seek her right, her rightful place in her home with her three year-old-girl. She was mysteriously found hanging from a ceiling fan in her room, hours after her mother left for home.
Who has asked questions?
This is a society that has been living in the slumber of their comforts. “Assi Kyah” mentality will have to change if such atrocities and murders aren’t stopped. Our traditions weren’t meant to deprive women of their rights; we were not a sadistic society. Azaadi has to begin at our homes and in our societies.
Muhammad Faysal is a student of Bachelors in Human Sciences from IIU, Malaysia. He is an ardent blogger since 2004.
Photo: Fahad Shah