Women activists call for AFSPA revocation,demilitarization

‘Kashmiris Not Allowed To Breathe Freely’


Srinagar, Oct 30: At a daylong seminar here on Tuesday, women from different walks of life including prominent civil society activists from outside the state, demanded demilitarization and repeal of controversial laws, including Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA) in Jammu and Kashmir. Besides, they were unanimous in seeking independent investigation into the incidents of violence against the fair sex during the past 23 years of armed conflict.
The daylong convention on “Peace and Justice for Kashmiri Women” was organized by the civil society group - Centre for Policy Analysis at Kashmir University.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Director CPA Seema Mustafa said that today’s meeting called for demilitarization and withdrawal of AFSPA, PSA and all other draconian laws from the State.
“We have also made recommendations like immediate punishment to security personnel and all others accused of rape and molestation, rehabilitation of widows and half widows and compilation of detailed records of missing persons,” she said.
Seema said the group has also sought establishment of a Commission of inquiry to be headed by an impartial judge to probe the present condition of women and make recommendations thereafter in a time-bound manner.
“There should be employment schemes and opportunities for the widows and half widows of Kashmiris as well as resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits,” she said.
Seema said that Kashmiris are not being allowed to express their views feely by the authorities and even curbs are put on the new media to crush the dissent. “You have Facebook, but they ban it; you have SMS, but they say militants use it and subsequently put curbs on its usage,” she said adding that “Kashmiris are not being allowed to breathe freely”.
She said Kashmiris need support of Indian civil society to highlight their sufferings as well as cause but at the same time “you should distinguish between Indian people and Indian state.”
“We are aware that the kind of oppression inflicted upon the people of Kashmir during the past two decades is unbelievable and it is a fact that there has been no justice for you,” she added.
Former member parliament and president of All India Democratic Women’s Association, Subhashini Ali said women activists from different parts of the country would take up the cause of Kashmiri women.
“We admit that we did not raise the issue of Kashmiri women at the level it deserved but we will ensure that the perpetrators of atrocities against Valley women are punished,” she said.
The women activist said Centre and State is duty bound to punish the culprits who had committed the crimes against Kashmiri women.
“We will raise the issue of prosecution of force personnel involved with Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Defence,” she added.
Noted academician and chairperson of Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS), Dr Hameeda Nayeem said since 1990 Kashmir was subjected to a range of legislative provisions like AFSPA, NSA, PSA, TADA etc in effect suspending all human rights.
“This has resulted in gross violation of human and democratic rights of citizens. This has produced a huge army of victims of physical and sexual abuse particularly women besides killing thousands of people and destroying homes and hearth of millions of people in the state,” she said.
Hameeda said Kashmir slipped into virtual military rule in 1989-90, when the simmering resentment transformed into “mass rebellion”.
“Normally the term militarization refers to the external behavior of the state but in Kashmir it connotes the replacement of civil government by a variant of military rule where the enemies are fellow citizens,” she said.
Prominent women activist from New Delhi, Sabeha Farooqi said the trauma and sufferings of womenfolk in JK are a slur on the face of New Delhi.
“After listening to tragic tales of Kashmiri women, we feel that democracy is under threat in our country and from now onwards civil society wouldn’t behave as a mute spectator towards the sufferings of Kashmiri women,” she said.
Chairperson of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, Praveena Ahangar on the occasion drew the attention towards the plight of Kashmiri women whose kith and kin have been subjected to "enforced disappearance" since 1990.
She said successive regimes in JK since 1996 have made hoax promises with the families of disappeared persons.
“We approached Farooq Abdullah but he expressed his helplessness and after PDP government came to power, Mehbooba Mufti too failed to do anything for us. The present government headed by Omar Abdullah is also indifferent towards our sufferings,” she added.
Columnist and faculty member of Kashmir University, Syeda Afshana demanded setting up of an independent commission to probe the disappearances in Kashmir as well as clearing the contradictions over figures of disappeared persons.
“Let Government set up a neutral commission to investigate into all these cases (disappearances) and it will be first and foremost step towards providing justice to the families of victims,” she said.
“There is also huge contradiction in statistics about the disappeared persons. Some regime says it is 3000, some claim it is around 2300,” she said.
“How can State Government claim that around 800 disappeared persons have crossed LoC for arms training. It should substantiate its claims with evidence,” she added.
Former president of Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) Syed Shakeel Qalandar said that Kashmir has undergone through hell during past two decades and women were worst affected by the turbulent situation.
“Our mothers and daughters spent whatever they had in search of their loved ones who were subjected to enforced disappearance during the last two decades. They have been running from pillar to post in search of their kith and kin but to no avail,” he said.
President of Jammu and Kashmir Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mubeen Shah asked the Bollywood to come forward for highlighting the pain of Kashmiris.
“Hollywood drew the attention of world towards sufferings of African people and Bollywood can also do the same for Kashmiris,” he said.
Noted psychiatric Dr Arshad Hussain said that conflict of last 22 years has severely affected the mental health of Valleyites.
“In 1980s, the lone psychiatric facility had few hundred patients visiting the hospital per year but today the number is already exceeding a lakh,” he said, adding that depression is undoubtedly the commonest disorder in Kashmir.
Other women activists including Annie Raje said Kashmir women shouldn’t feel isolated and their sisters from other parts of the country would fight battle for their rights.
Among others who spoke on the occasion included vice- chancellor of Kashmir University, Prof Talat Ahmed, Prof Siddiq Wahid, Dr Altaf Hussain, Dr Gul Muhammad Wani,  Syed Shujat Bukhari, Qurat-ul-ain and Muslim Jan.

Lastupdate on : Tue, 30 Oct 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 30 Oct 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 31 Oct 2012 00:00:00 IST

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