KWC slams ‘unilateral’ scrapping of Art 370

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 9/24/2019 1:03:56 AM

Says women worst sufferers

JAMMU, Sep 22: A prominent Kashmir based women’s group, Kashmir Women's Collective (KWC), has condemned the decision taken by the Government of India on abrogation of Article 370. The group in a statement slammed the government for what it called a “unilateral political move” and said that the Article 370 bore witness to Kashmir being a political conflict. The forum also condemned the manner in which it was executed, calling it “repressive and autocratic”.
The group has urged India, Pakistan and the international community to engage with Kashmiris with a sincere attempt to resolve Kashmir's political matter once for all.
In a lengthy statement said that Kashmir continues to bear the weight of this decision. “It is the 47th day of communication blockade. There's a heavy presence of armed personnel on the ground. Political activists, party workers, who believed in India and those who had differences with it, both are incarcerated, along with a number of civilians. The atmosphere of scare is being created so that the demand for rights is repressed,” it added.
Giving a detailed account of the over month-long situation in Kashmir, the Women’s Collective said that “On 4th August 2019, amidst the chaos, confusion, and speculations, the people were urged by the Governor not to believe any rumours. The rumours turned true, and the words of consolation proved to be empty.”
The statement added that “uncertainty marks the daily lives as well as the future of Kashmiri people. We worry for the future of Kashmiri youth”. It said that if the Indian government had taken peoples aspirations and their future into account, “this unilateral move to abrogate article 370 and 35A and downgrading that status of the state to a UT would not have been taken”.
The forum also slammed the government for the prolonged communication blockade. It said, “Landlines, which were restored after a few weeks of absolute communication blockade, are not available to all. People are queuing up in makeshift telephone booths to make calls to loved ones who are away with international calling still not available on landlines.”
It also expressed concern over the reports about detentions and torture and described them as “disturbing and grave”. “We are especially concerned about the children being detained and the conditions they are being put in, which includes lodging them in jails outside of Kashmir.
Kashmiris are paying a heavy price; many households are starving, the economy is hitting the bottom, access to health care is getting hard, the justice systems are not functioning and above all, it is also affecting the psychological well-being of people. We want to reiterate, that all these are not signs of normalcy, not even close to normalcy. People have no other way to register their protest on such draconian move.”
The statement of the Women’s Collective said that “desperate attempts of some people to prove that everything is normal in Kashmir because a few vehicles are seen plying in some videos or some people are seen selling merchandise is only a misrepresentation of people's pain and need. Even when life will limp back to people attending offices or phone-lines resuming, how can that be interpreted as 'acceptance’ of this humiliating move?”
It averred that “majority people are angry, dejected and aghast as a feeling of being robbed of the last remnants of an identity runs deep”. It added that normal life isn't being resumed also because phone and internet isn't in place, thousands of people are incarcerated and hundreds detained, armed forces are visible and repression is real. “The situation is far complex than what is portrayed to benefit the narrative binary of 'generous state and terrible terrorists',” the statement added.
The women’s group said that apart from violating basic human rights of Kashmiris, such clampdown is also against many international conventions ratified by India including International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and particularly about women and children, Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Convention on the Rights of the Child etc. The prevailing situation in the valley visa-via human rights including alleged arbitrary detentions, torture, shortage of supplies etc is being well documented by activists and some media outlets too - national and international with local media operating in a limited capacity, it said.
The group stated that it is a non-political, humanitarian network of women and wants to register its protest and anger against this move being Kashmiris and at the same time being women.
Every situation, it emphasized, has a gender component which may or may not be visible or recognized. The situation of clampdown is additionally challenging for women who have to face multiple layers of discrimination in terms of access, it said. Giving one instance, it said, “One of our members got a call from a woman victim who was calling from an SHO's number, saying that her husband, a cheater and an abuser, was flying abroad and she has no means to stop him. And if he flies out, her and her two children will be left uncared for, economically and emotionally. Also, this man has secretly married abroad. The woman had frantically tried every KWC member's number and got through one who was not in Kashmir. Our member could not do much from far and requested the SHO to intervene whose phone was being used to make the call.”
“The woman had been pushed to an extreme level of desperation wherein she had to navigate her way to reach us out, facing violations at the hands of her partner as well as the state. Under normal circumstances, her struggles would not have been so gruelling and agonizing,” the KWC further said.
It added that women have a “very tricky relationship with state institutions in conflict”. Many a time, these institutions are violators yet they are also the only systems in place that have any redressal for women.
Giving yet another example, the women’s group said that “another victim of violence who has been receiving assistance from KWC for the past few months was beaten in the dead of night and thrown out of her home. She went to one of our member's home, passing through militarized roads in the night, being stopped, every minute. Living there for a week, she's now housed at our two-room office in Rajbagh. Her husband while beating her had said, ‘how will you call your women's group now, who will come to your rescue?’”
Not having access to phone, public transport and public institutions is only multiplying horrors of women who are already living in abusive marriages, the KWC statement added.
It also cited the instance of a woman with 90% burns from Kupwara has been brought to SMHS hospital, with her parental family emphasizing that her in-laws burnt her down for dowry, informed a fellow activist who asked us for Women's commission chairperson's phone number - which wasn't working, like all other numbers.
These examples, it said, only highlight how the current situation is further exacerbating the existing violence against women, not to mention the reports of rapes, molestations, and torture of women by armed forces, during cordons, searches and repressive crackdowns which are rampant in such situation.
The KWC also expressed concern over the plight of young girls and women who may have no access to sanitary napkins in these weeks. “Firstly, the shops are closed and secondly, the stigma attached to periods won't let girls ask men of the family about their personal needs like such as was highlighted by a Kashmir woman in her tweet while recollecting her experiences of living in Kashmir during 90s. The cases of infection and disease would certainly go up. Various news reports have highlighted instances of expecting mothers having to go through extreme hardships in reaching hospitals, having to walk several kilometres on foot. At least one death of a new born was reported because the doctor could not be contacted. If this does not signify the breakdown of healthcare, what else does? We refuse to accept these cases as collaterals,” the group added.
“Locked down like cattle at homes, oscillating between a possibility of war between India and Pakistan and an increased militant movement, people in the positions of power seem unbothered about the physical, emotional and mental health of Kashmiris,” the statement added.
The group said that it is making all possible attempts to support women at its office in Rajbagh. “We may not be able to reach out as actively as we have been doing in the past but we can try our best to intervene in case wherever required. We reiterate that ours is a humanitarian work and we are not associated with any interest group,” it added.



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