Kavita Suri

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Terror in Rajouri as "burqa diktat" forces women to wear veil

Exactly a week after the appearance of mysterious posters in few villages of militancy-infested border district of Rajouri in Jammu region asking women to wear veil (burqa), when Pakistan-sponsored terrorists killed three young women in village Siote of Thanamandi area of Rajouri district in Jammu division in last fortnight of December, most of the people of this border district linked these killings to the burqa-threats given by a lesser known militant group Lashker- e- Jabbar which had come into lime-light in Kashmir when it had ordered Kashmiri women to adhere to Islamic dress code. However, the top police officials refused to relate this incident to the dress-code threats. Even the Inspector General of Police Jammu Zone Mr Pitamber Lal Gupta believed that this was in no way related to the burqa diktat.

However, with the burqa-threats getting intensified in the troubled border area, the black robe or Veil has again come to haunt women of troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir again. And the killing of these three girls has also sparked off a big rush for Burqas in Rajouri. Panic and tension has gripped the college-going females who have been threatened of dire consequences if they do not wear Burqa. Most of them have bought burqas. Threatened by the terrorists, some of the parents have even forced their girls to drop out of schools and colleges. In the past few days, the sale of burqas or black robes which cover the entire body, has gone up in Rajouri. Shopkeepers selling burqa cloth are doing brisk business and even many of them had to replenish their stock from outside. There has also been a brisk increase in the work of tailors who have suddenly become busy getting overwhelming orders to stitches these robes.

Though there is fear and panic among the people in Rajouri following this edict on dress code, there is also a growing resentment among the women against forcible implementation of dress code. Jabbar has also also asked teachers to wear sherwani and have threatened to take action against those who did not follow their directions.

Lashkar-e-Jabbar, which appeared on the scene in 2001 in Kashmir asking women to cover their bodies in Kashmir, resurfaced again in December when it defined a dress code for Muslim women in Rajouri district. It has extended the deadline for adopting the prescribed dress code to 10 January. 

Though the Kashmiri society has been facing such threats since the inception of militancy only when the  gun-totting 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,” 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. Similar was the 2001 burqa campaign which slowly died after a couple of months. Lashker-e-Jabbar was a forgotten name until few days back when it resurfaced in Rajouri.

Most of the resident of Rajouri got scared after they read hand-written posters pasted at various educational institutions asked the girls to adopt the desired dress code. Girls feel that they have no option but to listen to the diktats of the militants.

"Yes, we are scared as the ultras killed three innocent girls in the past few days. So we are not allowing even our daughters to venture out without wearing veils," said one Abdul Ganai, resident of Siote, the village which witnessed the killing of three young girls. The killing of the girls had caused a lot of resentment among the villagers. 
 
On that fateful night,three militants had entered one house in villager Siote in which a marriage ceremony was taking place in December.The ultras identified one particular girl and slaughtered her by slitting her throat. Then they entered the next house, repeating the procedure. However, when they went to another nearby house and forced the girl to accompany then with the intention to slaughter her too, her mother also followed. Resulting this, they could not slaughter her but fired at her. She died on spot. Two of the women, both aged 21, were thus slaughtered in their houses while the third woman, 22, was shot dead.

Though people of the area said these killings were linked with the diktat on dress code as posters signed by a lesser known group, Lashkar-e-Jabbar, an off-shoot of the Lashker-e-Taiba, had been appearing in educational institutions in Rajouri district for the past one week asking Muslim women and girls to wear burqas and strictly follow the "purdah" system, the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Rajouri Mr Prithvi Raj Manhas denies all such reports.

Mr Manhas told The Statesman that they have recovered a handwritten poster pasted just outside a nearby mosque which read that the girls were killed as they were helping the security forces and were their informers. Such wrong reports that these were killed for not adhering to the dress code, are being spread by media wrongly and this is highly irresponsible on their part, said the SSP Rajouri adding that one of these girls killed by the militants was married and was not even going to college.

However, not only the state Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has strongly condemned the brutal killing of these girls by militants in Thanamandi area of Rajouri, describing it as a ghastly and senseless act , his daughter and Kashmiri firebrand leader Ms Mehbooba Mufti, vice-president of Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Freedom Party (PDP) has also criticized the dress edict issued by Jabbar ordering women to wear a full bodied veil (Burqa). She believes 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.

The renewed LeJ threat has also forced the police to act.Mr Manhas said they had beefed up security outside colleges and school in Rajouri and their men are trying to get clues about the outfit and bring the peerptrators to book.

“We are leaving nothing to chance and added force has been deployed outside women colleges and other educational institutions where the girls of Rajouri study,” he added.Even the Rajouri district Congress president Vinod Kumar Sharma smells a rat in the entire controversy. He feel that is a handiwork of those elements who want to scare women folk and want them to remain at home only.

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.

Meanwhile, close on the heels of militants beheading three to enforce a diktat on wearing burqa, Pakistan based Lashker-e-Taiba which had warned those selling alcohol of "severe action" if they did not stop their "un-Islamic" business immediately, killed a wine dealer in Alchi Bagh area of Srinagar city on Monday night when he was retunring to his home after closing the wine shop.

Lashker had put up posters at a number of places in Kulgam warning of severe action against those in wine business terming it as un-Islamic.

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