It has been 25 days since Kashmir has been saddled with a lockdown by the Indian state, which abrogated Article 370 and Article 35A from J&K and Ladakh on August 5. Among all the stories emerging from the state about the situation under the lockdown, stories about how women are suffering have been grabbing headlines in recent days.
- Hameeda Nayeem is a champion of the cause of women in conflict in Kashmir. She has been fighting for equal punishment to perpetrators of violence in security forces for several years.
- Fehmeeda’s family is seeking answers from Indian authorities for the deaths unaccounted for.
- Insha had to travel six km on foot and when it became clear that she might have to give birth to her child on the roadside.
- This destruction of affairs also includes a young schoolgirl who broke down mentally, unable to continue her studies in the midst of the clampdown.
The women who have found themselves being part of the collateral damage in the valley include a Kashmiri professor-Hameeda Nayeem, who has been arrested. It also includes the issues of pregnant women like Insha Ashraf, who had to walk miles only to be stopped at every 500metres, before she could give birth. A woman who succumbed to suffocation due to tear gas thrown by the security forces to curb protest. This destruction of affairs also includes a young schoolgirl who broke down mentally, unable to continue her studies in the midst of the clampdown. These stories are only the crux of so many stories of several young and old women suffering without any mistake of theirs.
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Hameeda Nayeem, 65
Apart from the political dignitaries, commoners detained include professor Nayeem, who heads the Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS). She has reportedly been detained for a speech she gave last year which went viral recently. Nayeem has been a champion of the rights of women in conflict areas. In 2013, when the government amended rape laws, she demonstrated to have the same punishments for perpetrators in security forces like AFSPA—an issue deeply rooted in the Kashmir soils.
Police reportedly rounded up around 400 people in the latest crackdown in the valley on August 8. Officials claim that Nayeem is the wife of a separatist leader who is already in jail.
“They are making it a point to raid houses in the night and take away young boys in the night. It creates immense fear, especially among women. The women have whispered to us that they have been molested during such raids. This was the story in every village that we visited,” Kavita Krishnan told Huff Post about the security forces in the valley after she visited the valley in a fact-finding mission (when).
In the last few days of the curfew, authorities tried to ease the communication access in some parts of the valley. However, it led to sporadic stone-pelting incidents with the authorities using tear gas to handle protests. Amidst the protests, a 35-year-old woman in uptown Srinagar died of suffocation caused by tear gas shelling by security forces, her family claimed.
“We couldn’t see each other in the room as the smoke was so dense. There were three huge thuds when the canisters burst,”
“They (the police) are not ready to take responsibility for the death. We want answers but I don’t know where to seek justice,” Rafiq Shagu, the husband said. It was on August 9, he recalls that his wife, Fehmeeda, was teaching her two children at their home in Srinagar when the clashes broke between the forces and protestors nearby.
“We couldn’t see each other in the room as the smoke was so dense. There were three huge thuds when the canisters burst,” Shagu said.
“We somehow removed the children from the room and as she tried to run out amid the chaos, she fell. By the time we moved her out of the room she was unconscious and frothing.”
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Insha Ashraf, 26
Meanwhile, a 26-year-old pregnant woman, Insha Ashraf’s water broke on August 8 when she had come to live with her mother in Bemina. The mother tried to rush her to the hospital which was seven kilometers away but they were stopped at security checkpoints every 500 meters and were asked to take detours. “As we started walking, we encountered checkpoints every 500 meters and we were told to keep taking different detours every time,” she said, The Wire reported.
Insha had to travel six km on foot and when it became clear that she might have to give birth to her child on the roadside, her mother took her to a private hospital where she gave birth within 15 minutes. Her child was reportedly taken out of the delivery room naked as because of the curfew, the hospital did not have any infant clothes.
“I came to Delhi because I couldn’t take the current situation in my city. I got extremely stressed and wasn’t able to concentrate on my studies as there is no way to attend schools and the environment at home is also not favourable. I carried my books along with me to Delhi but I don’t know what to do with them anymore. My studies are terribly affected.”
Fiza Shaukat, 15
A teenage girl from Srinagar, Fiza Shaukat, came to Delhi on August 11 to live with her uncle as she couldn’t bear the tension back home. Tying a dupatta around her face and holding a poster that contained a scripture from the Quran, the 11th grader told SheThePeople.TV, “I came to Delhi because I couldn’t take the current situation in my city. I got extremely stressed and wasn’t able to concentrate on my studies as there is no way to attend schools and the environment at home is also not favourable. I carried my books along with me to Delhi but I don’t know what to do with them anymore. My studies are terribly affected.”
While communication has been opened up in certain areas, there is a long way to go until normalcy returns. Until then the people of Kashmir, including the women and children, can only wait. With all the menace in the valley, even the hospitals have started to send back patients as they are facing an unprecedented shortage of supplies. Nearly 3,000 Srinagar capital-based distributors are unable to supply drugs to chemists in Kashmir because of the blockade, reported Independent.