Kavita Suri

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Koshur Music

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Would Kashmir Go Taliban Way?

Talibanization of Kashmir: Lashkar-e-Jabbar’s Diktats to Kashmiri Women on Dress Code

22 March 1999…..Two young innocent Kashmiri girls, Mehvish, 16 , and Nowsheen , 14 years, are shot in their legs for wearing jeans by the Pakistan –sponsored terrorists. The incident creates national headlines. 

03 August, 2001….. Terrorists enter the house of Habib Dar of village Bulbul, Nowgam and call his daughter Humera out and accuse her of not adhering to the Islamic Dress Code . She is then shot and is critically injured. Though, the young girl is recuperating in the Bone and Joint Hospital at Srinagar but she is in state of shock and traumatized. 

07 August, 2001…..Militants belonging to lesser known Lashkar-e-Jabbar outfit throw acid on the faces of Gazala and  Rubia, two teachers at Nagbal Government High School, Srinagar, while they are returning from the school picnic accusing them of not wearing clothes as prescribed by the Islamic Dress Code issued by their outfit. The incident leaves two young, energetic, beautiful teachers shocked, traumatized and scarred for life.  

08 August, 2001…..Terrorists of Lashkar-e-Toiba enter Government  Girls Higher Secondary School at Kothibagh situated in the high security zone in the heart of Srinagar city and direct the girls to adhere to the dress code . 

………And the list may go on.  

When the Kashmiri firebrand leader Ms Mehbooba Mufti, vice-president of Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Freedom Party (JKPDP) and daughter of former Union Home minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed recently criticised the dress edict issued by the lesser known militant outfit Lashker-e-Jabbar ordering women to wear a full bodied veil (Burqa) and  men to keep beard without moustache (Islamic style) and wear 'salwar kameez' , she was very right in her observation that this threat given by the unknown militant outfit cannot be taken seriously and women will have to defy this threat.  “Today purdah, tomorrow banning the girls entry to schools, then closing down of schools…. They can order one thing after the other. How can we agree to listen to these edicts,” she asked.  Though the LeJ deadline for the enforcement of the dress code has now been expired and its cadres on Tuesday attacked two unveiled women in Kashmir by throwing coloured water on them, fear and panic has gripped women in Kashmir. Initially, the dress code was issued for Kashmiri Muslim women but now the renewed threat has been directed towards the non-Muslim women also who have been asked to wear Bindis on their foreheads and wear saffron coloured dupattas. But everybody in Kashmir is  pondering over one question only. Would Kashmir go Taliban way ? Would history repeat itself? Today, Afghanistan is a faceless country—a country without images, a country where a girl cannot go to schools after 8 years ,woman cannot travel without a male companion, she has now avenues. Most of all, its woman has no face. But Kashmir is no Afghanistan and Kashmiri women are not Afghani women but the spirited ones who had bravely fought the Tribal raiders in 1947 besides facing many wars with the neighbouring country. Examples are galore where they are competing with men in every sphere of life, be it police, medicine, journalism or administration.    

Though there is fear and panic among the masses in Kashmir valley following these edict on dress code, there is also a growing resentment among the Kashmiri women against forcible implementation of dress code. The LeJ’s latest diktat to the non-Kashmiri Muslim women to wear Bindis and saffron coloured dupattas has also come under sharp criticism.   

Lashker-e-Jabbar  which wants the Kashmiri women to “adhere to the complete Islamic dress code” had added a new dimension to the ongoing militancy when its cadres threw acid on two Muslim women government teachers Gazala and Rubia for not wearing veil and wearing make-up on their faces at Rangers Stop near Khanyar in downtown Srinagar in early August last month. Both were attacked while they were returning home around 8 pm after an excursion.    

Interestingly, Kashmiri women have been an empowered lot despite the decade-long militancy in the valley and the ever-extending arc of militancy in the state. Kashmiri women have always found a place for themselves in the society. A state of paradoxes as Kashmir has become for the past ten years, an awareness about the changing global world has been made in the valley which is clearly visible in the in the city.    

A stroll along the Polo View and Residency Road towards  the famous Lal Chowk and one sees hundreds cyber cafes and computer centres opened up and a number of girls thronging the place. In the cyber era, the talk of donning a burqa seems rubbish to them. But at the same time the scare of the lesser known militant group is also there. Latest fashion garments, trendy dresses and the cosmetics – imported things have found a way in the lives of Kashmir women.  

Despite the decade-long militancy, schools have mushroomed in the entire length and breadth of valley thus giving afresh leash of life to the education.With education has come the empowerment for the Kashmiri women.  Though the Kashmiri society has been facing such threats since the inception of militancy only when the  guntotting militants forcibly closed cinema halls and liquor shops in the Valley in January 1990 followed by a similar edict on dress code by the women's militant outfit Dukhtaran-e-Milat, its chief Asiya Andrabi has now again asked Kashmiri women to observe purdah , quit all government jobs and sit at home. “Earning a livelihood is the responsibility of man and thus Kashmiri women should resign from their jobs and thus help in the Islamic reforms,” Asiya has said. Her outfit which had carried a campaign for the burqa in the early 90s by throwing coloured water on the faces of many young girls was fizzled out with her arrest in 1992 . Asiya has now threatened that if the women did not observe purdah, her outfit would take "appropriate steps" to force the Kashmiri women to wear the burqa.    

Interestingly, despite the ban by the militants in Kashmir on beauty parlours, liquor shops and cinema halls , all these things continued throughout the past decade. The entertainment starved people continued watching video and the beauty parlours still function in some areas of Rajbagh and the Burqa campaign of 1990 died its own death.       

And many prominent separatist leaders, social and religious organisation have criticised this ban.    

This move by LeJ on dress code for Kashmiri women has come under  sharp criticism by various militant, separatist and political groups. The Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashker-e-Toiba,All Party Hurriyat Conference(APHC), Jamiet-e-Islami, J&K People Democratic Party, J&K Democratic Freedpom Party and various other women organisations have criticised it. Even the Centre has offered all kind of help to the state including more forces to catch the people or militant groups responsible for it. The most vocal of all voices outside the state who have condemned this move of Talibanisation of Kashmir society is that of Shabana Azmi, Rajya Sabha member and social activist. Braving militants’ threats, several women's groups and NGOs in Kashmir valley have also termed the recent acid attack on women as an attack on humanity.These organisations include the Muslim Khawateen Markaz, Kashmir Mass Movement, Mother Women Welfare Organisation etc.    The minorites who have been living in Kashmir for ages now see a deep rooted conspiracy in the new diktat to its women by the LeJ which has now asked Hindu women to put Bindis on the forehead and Sikh women to wear saffron dupatta. Prominent Sikh leaders who feel that the community has been terrorised by the militants ince last year when 36 Sikh were killed by the militants in Chittsingpora village concinfidng tw with clinton’s visit to India, apprehend that it could be a part of thebigger move to hound them out of the state.     

Even the Millat threat asking women to quit their jobs has evoked wide spread criticism. Today, among hundreds of thousands of working women in Kashmir valley, a significant number is of those women whose fathers, husbands or other relatives have been killed in the 12-year long militancy. Having provided jobs in place of their relatives, they are the sole bread earners for their families. If forced to leave their jobs, they would have to face many difficulties.  

The LeJ threat has forced the police to act. They are leaving nothing to chance and added force has been deployed outside women colleges and other educational institutions where the girls of Kashmir valley study.The tailors and cloth merchants are making a brisk business in valley these days following a sudden increase in demand for the burqas.  Meanwhile, as tailors and cloth merchants have increased rates for stitching and cloth for burqas and the prices of burqas and abhayas have shot up to Rs 1,700-Rs 2,200 each due to their growing demand in the Valley, the poor rural women are finding it very difficult to spend sucha  big amount for getting the burqa stitched.  

Senior separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah who head J&K Democractic fredom Party  is among those various pro-Pakistan separatist and militant outfits who have condemned any such attempt of Talibanisation of Kashmiri society. Shah said that Islam never gave permission for any such cruel act of throwing acid on innocent women. "They(militant groups) would never be able to force their wishes on the people of Kashmir,"said Shah adding that"Zabar" and "Zyadati" are not allowed in Islam and this move would further create differences and distances among the masses. Apprehending the hand of government agencies in it, Shah said such an attempt of Talibanisation of Kahsmir was started in 1991-92 also when Allah Tigers  and Dukhteran-e-Millat had issued such warnings to the women regarding the dress code. But that move had fizzled out. Jamait-e-Islami chief Gulam Mohammad Bhat said no one could force people to adopt purdah. Even Shabir Shah said it would have been better if they could have motivated the women for adopting veil through literature." They should have motivated them through pamphelets", he added. Former chairman of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference Maulvi Umar Farooq said that the forcible imposition of the dress code was un-Islamic and should be condemned in the strongest terms. This could not be a part of the "freedom struggle", he said.  While the  Hizbul Mujahideen spokesman Saleem Hashmi said that their group will not tolerate crimes against women, the Lashkar-e-Toiba(LeT) spokesman had told the local press  over the phone that  his outfit did not believe in coercive measures to implement the dress code but  in motivation than forcible reformation of the society.  

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