Stories of women who made a mark during last three decades
Senior columnist, Z G Muhammad’s recent Facebook post inspired me to write about the resistance offered by Kashmiri women. In 1995 when Border Security Force (BSF) personnel laid siege to my locality for a search operation, an officer sought my identity card. He had a curious look at me when I produced it. “So you are a journalist,” he did not say much and took me aside. He wanted to know why Kashmiris were seeking azadi. He also talked about his experiences in Punjab. I explained the reasons to him to the best of my ability but I could feel he was not satisfied. After half an hour, I asked him how was Punjab militancy different than Kashmir insurgency. “The Punjabi women rarely came out of their houses to protest. But, here in Kashmir they are always on the streets protesting arrests, raising pro-freedom slogans, blocking roads to secure release of their men. They give us real tough moments,” he said.
In 90s, the job of registering protest especially when the armed forces were around was always entrusted to women. The `brave’ men would go inside mosques, switch on the mike and urge all women of the locality to come out to register protest. The women never failed them. They always responded positively to the call. The troopers, at times, cane charged them. I know a Muslim Khawateen Markaz (MKM) activist (name withheld) who jumped into a BSF vehicle and managed to drag out a boy who was taken into custody. She was hit on the head and to this day she carries the pain with her.
Another heroic act of a dedicated activist merits mention here. Madam Bakhtawar who founded the MKM in early 90s performed a daring feat on a 1989 evening in Sheher-e-Khas. The JKLF commander, Sheikh Abdul Hamid sustained critical injuries when a police man fired at him. Hamid was lying in a pool of his own blood and nobody dared to take him to hospital. Madam Bakhtawar rushed to the spot, picked him up and took her to a private nursing home in civil lines. The nursing home refused treatment for obvious reasons. Disappointed, she took the injured commander to the hospital and managed escape before the police took Hamid into custody.
Parveena Ahanger who helped noted human rights defender, Advocate Parvez Imroz found the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in 90s has rightly become a symbol of Kashmir resistance. Her son Javed Ahmad Ahanger was arrested by the troops in August 1990. Her fight for justice continues to this day. She was offered a huge amount to stay mum but the resilient lady works tirelessly and has added a new chapter to the resistance movement.
Aasiya Jeelani who was gifted with a special pair of ears to hear the unheard voices achieved martyrdom on April 20, 2004 at Kupwara when an IED hit the vehicle she was travelling in. She could have pursued a career in journalism but preferred to work for the disappeared persons, the half widows and the half orphans. She would travel to remote areas to offered solace to distressed women. Since her martyrdom, the sighs, cries and screams of the victims of violence mostly remained unheard.
Despite being victims, the half widows are reluctant to go for second marriage. “If we re-marry, our struggle for justice may die down. The new husband may not allow us to continue the struggle,” they have made clear.
Zamrooda Habib, the incumbent chief of the MKM spent around 5 years in prison where she was tortured. She has produced Prisoner No 100, a book about her experiences in prison. The book is a rich addition to the resistance material.
The imprisonment has not gone to her nerves. It has strengthened her resolve to fight for the cause. She is seen making the next generation understand the pros and cons of the resistance movement.
Not just the streets, the women have contributed at the intellectual front as well. Scores of women were raped by the troops in 1993 at Kunanpohpora, The case was closed as untraced by the police. But a support group of fifty women filed a petition and got a direction for reinvestigation of the case. The court direction shocked the establishment. The support group did not stop here. Five young women, Essar Batool, Ifrah Butt, Samreen Mushtaq, Munaza and Natasha Rather who form the heart and soul of the support group wrote a book titled Do you remember Kunan Poshpora?
The book has applied the much needed balm on the wounds of the rape survivors. Neglected, ridiculed and abused by the indifferent society for no fault of theirs, the authors are trying their best to play Jesus.
The Dukhtaran-e-Millat chief, Aasiya Andrabi needs no introduction. The sacrifices offered by her and her family are unparalleled. She has been a symbol of resistance since 80s.