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By Samreen Tak, Edited By Adam Rizvi, The India Observer, TIO, NJ: Kashmir’s struggle for freedom from India is no new. Kashmir freedom struggle is almost 70 years old. Until now thousands of innocent people, children, and women have faced the wrath of occupational groups in the valley. Women being the equal shareholders of the tyranny have always stood tall of the strong political voice whether it be the year of 1990s or 2016 uprising after killing of the popular militant leader Burhan Wani. In this struggle for freedom the price women have payed and still are paying often goes undebated.
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Women lost their husbands, sons, breadwinners but their resilience never died. Coming out of the patriarchal structured society and having their own say has its owns pros and cons. Post 2016 unrest, when valley was engulfed in protests and killings, women were seen leading protests, processions, in collective expression for freedom. The protests continued for almost 6 months and women were seen at forefront regardless of their age. Women have always been portrayed by media as victims of sexual harassment, domestic violence but there is no talk about their courage to fight, resilience to occupation and their intrinsic attitude to survive with quagmire.
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Talking about the resistance of Kashmiri women, it has always been there. Bygone their roles have only be changed from passive to active. In recent years of turmoil, Kashmir has witnessed more women on streets unlike early phase of the movement. From leading the protests outside their college premises to receiving pellet injuries women of valley saw it all. Hiba Nisar, 20 months old is the youngest pellet victim in Kashmir. These protests were sometimes spontaneous and other times organised by pro-freedom women’s groups like Dukhtaran e Millat (daughters of the land) founded by Asiya Andrabi in 1987.
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Losing their loved ones has given rise to new sub-category of women called ‘Half-Widows’. These women are the wives of those men who never returned back to their homes and their wives are alive in hope of knowing the whereabouts of their spouses. Parveena Ahangar, who founded the Association of Parents of Disappeared People in Jammu Kashmir (APDP) also known as Iron lady of Kashmir. Founded this association after the disappearance of his 17 year old son. She was also nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. Recently she was nominated by media channel CNN IBN for an award which she robustly rejected on account of the deceitful approach by Indian media over the pain and tragedies of Kashmiris. 50 year old Parveena Ahangar with her associates held a sit-in protest against forced disappearances of their relatives in Srinagar’s Pratap Park every year. Women’s role in Kashmir has never been submissive rather it is combative.
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The list of women leaders, activists, and social workers goes on. Some made it to international recognition others remained unknown. But like nothing comes easy in the way of doing well, women often bore the consequences of their ferocious participation. The cost is often too heavy to pay in conflict zone like Kashmir. Women in valley have always been used as an instrument to smash the resilience of community as a whole. Women have been at the receiving end of conflict. They have been the recipients of humiliation, rapes and what not. Their physical presence in pro-freedom marches often seems neglected and undebated. Unfortunately our society has always been male dominated in every aspect of it.
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Women breaking the preconceived notions and narratives have always been disdained. At this juncture women in general could be seen using art and literature as a medium of expressing their struggles whilst living in one of the densely militarized zones. Young emerging poets and simultaneously young girls could be seen excelling in fields which were deemed fit only for men by the society. Many artists are evolving in valley expressing their desire for freedom in the form of music and paintings.
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Writing as such can be seen as a usual thing to do among millennials unlike the youngsters living in other parts of the country. Numerous books debating precisely of freedom and oppression are being published. All this can be seen as testament to the fact that revolution is near. Such initiatives encourage more women to talk freely through art and literature. Women no longer need the back of their counter gender to stand for them, they have their own say and create endless opportunities for their fellow beings to shatter the doors of darkness. Kashmiri women have made immense sacrifices and are still paying heavy price in the hands of decade long fight. They have long forgotten how normal life really looks. For mothers live in constant fear of their sons getting picked up by army personnel, living in this environment of growing uncertainty and trauma has only strengthened their courage.
This continuous act of defiance is lighting up the candle of hope among natives. Mankind has witnessed many such women-led uprisings which eventually turned the tables in the world History as women are contemplated as backbone of every society. It is pertinent to add that women in this New Kashmir are vocal, fierce, bold but nowhere close to malleable. Valiant women of Kashmir bear tens of thousands untold stories holding back all these years of suffering and misery in this part of land. Nevertheless living in Kashmir has never been an easy as paradise on earth has got its own demons.
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“The realm of knowledge we shall explore,
We shall not lag behind men,
Knowledge shall be ours as well,
We shall join in the making of the laws,
We shall grow food for the world,
We shall beget God for the world.”
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