Kashmiri women community have been a victim of the reinforced rape culture since 1947. With the recent abrogation of Article 370 by the Modi government, the fear of violence among Kashmiri women have increased. As witnessed in the past, Kashmiri women have been a victim of gang rapes, killing and torture by the Indian armed forces. Now, with the recent deployment of thousands of Indian troops in the disputed region, the fear of militarized rape and communally instigated violence has escalated. The article would explore the recent national trend of surge in misogyny and objectification of women, as Kashmir burns in resisting the revocation of Article 370, by the right wing Modi government.
Kashmiri women community have been a victim of the reinforced rape culture since 1947. With the recent abrogation of Article 370 by the Modi government, the fear of violence among Kashmiri women have increased. This fear has its basis in the historical narrative of the region.Since post-colonial era, India has witnessed a history of sexual assault, molestation, rape and violence against its women. On the rise of any communal riot or conflict, the body of a woman is transformed into a semiotic territory, via which a political narrative is communicated. Sexualized violence in Kashmir is neither incidental, nor is matter of sex. It is about establishing hegemony, between the two opposing forces in power- Pakistan and India.This has given birth to a political anatomy of a woman, which has normalized the use and abuse of a female body to communicate the language of regressive nationalism and power.
Soon after the revocation of the Article 370,BJP MLA Vikram Saini from Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district was heard celebrating,“The BJP workers are very excited and those who are bachelors, they can get married to fair Kashmiri women”. In another incident, Haryana BJP Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar shared a similar ideology. He spewed, “Anyone, young and old alike, can understand how this [poor sex ratio] would create a problem in the future. So our minister Dhankharji said we will have to bring girls from Bihar. Now some people are saying Kashmir has been opened, we can bring girls from Kashmir also. Jokes aside, if [sex] ratio is fine, then there would be balance in the society.”These statements reflects a deep rooted sexist and misogynist ideology of the BJP government. The blatant expression of objectification of Kashmiri womenby the BJP ministers, is not only being celebrated by the supporters, but has not been met with any moral or judicial consequences. India has, in the past and present,conveniently distanced itself from the depth of this moral depravity, and has entrenched the body of a woman to evade and invade the sanctity of Kashmiri land.
Post the abrogation of Article 370 on 5thAugust 2019, Google search on ‘Kashmir girl pictures’ have abnormally increased. With social media flooding with conversations on buying property in Kashmir, there has been an inflammation in the sense of entitlement – privatization of Kashmiri land and the body of its women. Although the scrapping off of Article 370 has been done with an intention to promote tourism, corporate and infrastructural development in the region, but the plight of sexism, misogynist and violence against Kashmiri women have become a state of concern ; specially when these ideologies are being advocated by the ruling party in power-BJP.
Rape culture is a normalized reality in the world’s most militarized zone- Kashmir. Euphemisms and diplomatic linguistics will only inflate the trauma of the survivors. On February 23rd 1991, Indian army had invaded two Kashmiri villages, Konan and Poshpora, and were accused of raping around 150 women. Old, young, middle aged, none of the women were spared. Since, the Indian government has implemented an ‘Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act’, that gives unwarranted power to the army in the conflict diagnosed areas, none of the offenders were persecuted for their crimes. Another incident of militarized rape was recorded on July 19,1998 in Doda district, where a fifty year old Muslim woman was gang raped by an unidentified army soldier. The rape survivor had mentioned that the offender said, “You are Muslims, and you will all be treated like this”. The list of communal rape does not end here. Another rape crime that had gained the national attention was in 2009, when a 17year old Asiya Jan, along with her sister-in-law Neelofar, were brutally raped and killed in Kashmir. The medical autopsy report confirmed the rape, but the Indian authorities refuted the accusations, claiming that the death was due to victims drowning in the river. In another incident, Indian army personnel had stripped and brutally gang raped twelve underage Kashmiri girls in near Srinagar, on 13 April 1997. Similarly, a Muslim woman, along with her twelve year old daughter was raped by Indian soldiers at gun point, at ThenoBudapathary, in 1991.
The constant attempt to provide virtual immunity to the Indian Armed forces and its crime against Kashmiri women, have not only devoid them of the justice, but has normalised injustice. This is a classic example of how militarized rape are normalized as ‘national security rape’(Cynthia Enloe), which not only is about marking a hegemonic territory on the bodies of the Other, but also stripping the Other off their agency. Kashmir is burning. With the arrest of former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, along with Omar Abdullah, and a restricted shut of internet and telephone lines, the BJP government is trying best to supress any form of resistance. Thousands of Indian troops have been deployed in the conflict area for civil protection. The irony is, the army personnel responsible for maintaining civil peace in the disputed area, have become a primary source of violence against those it intends to protect.
Author:Parul Verma- A scholar and a political analyst. For feedback or query, reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.