It has certain set ‘social causation’ which we explain here in terms of ‘sociological features’ of the present political movement. The nature of women’s participation in this movement was voluntary and it was on their self-collective initiative that they came out for active support.
The women in this movement belonged to all urban, rural and hilly areas and all classes, castes and groups. They composed of all age groups. While the elder and married women came on streets for demonstrations, the younger ones concentrated on internet and other IT sources to highlight the Kashmir cause and Indian soldiers’ atrocious behaviour on Srinagar streets. Their participation was deep and intense reflecting their anger and agony over the death of youth and children by the ‘security forces’. Moreover, they were clear about the political objective of this movement revolving around the ideal of ‘Azaadi’.
This dynamic role of women in the on-going movement can be explained in terms of three major factors. First, social context. It refers to equal and egalitarian social ethos in Kashmiri society which ensured equal-participatory role for women in economic, social, cultural, domestic, political and other affairs. Even in the field of religion, they play a dynamic-participatory role which makes them different from their sisters in communities in the entire Indian sub-continent. This gender-equality in Kashmir was seen both in rights as well as responsibilities perspective.
Second, historical legacy: It has been observed that women in Kashmir have played an active, more or less, role in all political uprisings against the domination of Indian state. Their participation rate reflects in the details given in the table:
The details glaringly reveal the active role of women in political movements in Kashmir, though the degree of participation have varied from highest, high, moderate, and low. This was determined mainly by time factor and longevity of the movement. In totality, we can deduce the proposition that women have played a very positive role vis-a-vis these uprisings at different historical times.
Third, local tradition. In the context of above-mentioned political developments in Kashmir, a local tradition was established strongly according to which women in general and in significant strength supported major political, social, cultural, educational and religious movements voluntarily and openly. It happened this time again. After listening to this type of dynamic role of Kashmiri women in socio-political movement, a BBC correspondent broadcast a special programme on its on-line international channel on ‘angry women in Kashmir demonstrations’. Thus women in Kashmir have always shared all negative experiences of life with their family members.
The role of women in the present uprising for ‘Azaadi’ has some unique features which include: [i] Taking in to consideration their role in the past, their role in the present uprising has proved unprecedented in nature and content. The degree of participation, even with their children, was high in street demonstrations and that continued for months. [ii] A new dimension of this role was introduced by younger women by waging the ‘IT struggle’ on Facebook and other media for Kashmir independence and against Indian oppression and human rights violations in Kashmir.
They succeeded in convincing the world about the horrible treatment of Kashmiris at the hands of Indian state. The government could not stop them in this struggle. [iii] The anger and agony of women this time was extremely deep. In fact, they could not tolerate inhuman killings of kids in streets through bullets or by physical beating. Even a 9-year-old kid was crushed to death by the jackboots of Indian soldiers. This anger reflected in their ferocity in the streets. [iv] They played a multifarious role in the ongoing uprising. They played as ‘nurses’ for injured youth and others till they were taken to the nearby hospital.
They also played as ‘emergency workers’ in the situation of crisis and disturbances. They became ‘cooks’ for preparing food for patients and their attendants in hospitals. They played as ‘domestic care takers’ to look after children, elders and other women in the family when the male members were out engaged in protests. [v] They became shield for Kashmiri youth against the Indian terror. They saved some youth by shielding them behind themselves against the barbarous treatment of ‘security forces’.
[vi] When the emotions, sentiments and anger against the inhuman treatment of children and youth could not be controlled, some of them came on the streets and hurled stones on Indian forces. This represented a new phenomenon in the modern history of Kashmir. [VII] With all these features in their behaviour, the women of Kashmir have ensured their role and status in future Kashmiri society.
The writer teaches Sociology at the University of Kashmir