IOK women living under threat of molestation, abuse: Report

New Delhi, October 05 (KMS): A four-member team from Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), which visited occupied Kashmir from September 23-28, has released an alarming report about the situation in the Kashmir valley.

The WSS team travelled in different areas of Srinagar, Shopian, Kupwara and Baramulla, spoke to several women and children to understand the conditions ever since the Indian government blocked communications channels and sent more troops to the territory after repealing its special status.

“There is always a threat of violence by the Indian forces hanging over the heads of Kashmiris. The families are worried even if their sons go out to play as they are not sure their sons will return home. They are living in a constant state of fear as the personnel of the armed forces forcefully enter homes in the wee hours. Imagine what goes through the women in such situations,” highlighted Nandini Rao, an independent feminist activist and member of WSS, in the report.

She said, people in Kashmir are used to shutdowns, so they stock up ration, dry a lot of items including rice and walnuts. She added, “The Indian forces personnel force their way into homes and destroy what is meant to be eaten. They mix rice with chilli powder, take away walnuts. What can you call this intrusion other than aatankh (terrorism)?”

“The armed forces, who take away children and men, often demand bribes. We have met families who have had to pay from Rs 6,000 to Rs 2 lakh to get their family members out of custody. In most of the cases even FIRs are not filed,” said Shivani Taneja, a women’s rights activist, who was also part of the team which went to Kashmir.

The activists said that they had heard that more than 13,000 people had been detained, but it was difficult to pin down the number as official refuse to file cases. “We met a young 10-year-old girl who was pushed around and stamped upon by the armed forces while she was asleep. Women and children are often sent to safer localities by the Kashmiris so that the forces personnel do not abuse them,” they maintained.

“The Kashmiris are saying that the shutdown is self-imposed. If people don’t like the authorities’ policies, they protest for a day or two in the rest of the world, but Kashmiris say they have been oppressed for so many years that now this is all that is left. This is will power in this silent protest,” underscored Shivani Taneja.

She said, the Kashmiris are saying that they are facing troubles because their business establishments are shut, but this has been the final blow. “Earlier there were several people who were in favour of the Indian government and some were confused, but now, everyone is against India,” she added.

Shivani Taneja said, people are furious with the Indian media for disseminating wrong and misleading information about occupied Kashmir. “They all want to project that there is a state of normalcy. But all that they are showing is a lie. The armed forces stop cars near signals under the pretext of checking documents and immediately someone will photograph the scene and it will be shown that cars are on the road. They see all this happening and the Kashmiris are politically aware,” explained Taneja.

“The repression is widespread. It will lead to many mental issues. The Kashmiris have reached a stage where they are willing to undergo losses to ensure that their voices are heard. They are saying that the government can bomb their areas as then they will die only once and not die every day like now,” added Taneja, with a tinge of despondency.

The team members said, they have heard the armed forces speaking derogatorily about Kashmiri women. “The forces also threatened women giving the example of the alleged mass rapes of Kunan Poshpora in 1991. The women are living under a constant threat of molestation and abuse,” added Nandini Rao.

The team met a young 20-year-old girl who had hoped to study further and work outside her home, but she doesn’t think it is possible any longer. Her 12-year-old brother had been picked up by the Indian forces a few days ago and was returned to the family in a state of terror. “In most localities, windows have been broken in almost every home by the forces. Now, people don’t even repair it, they just cover it with cardboard,” said Nandini Rao.

Both Rao and Taneja said, WSS believes that the authorities need to ensure justice by punishing erring personnel of the forces present in swarms across the valley. The fundamental rights of the people of Kashmir need to be restored, they added.

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