• Read World Pulse founder Jensine Larsen's thoughts on Fatima's story.
• Learn more about the complicated history of India and Pakistan's war over Kashmir, and the effects on her people, in this photo-rich presentation.
• Watch clips from Women Between the Frontlines, a documentary detailing the many women fighting for peace in Kashmir.
• Find out how women in the conflict zone engage in politics in IMOW's "A Collage of Her Severally Inspected Parts."
• Listen to Arundhati Roy's recent call to action.
• Read more voices from the conflict at Kashmir Lit.
• World Pulse recommends The Tiger Ladies: A Memoir of Kashmir, the first-ever memoir written by a Kashmiri woman.
My Life, My Kashmir
"Women were a huge part of this movement. Ordinary housewives, mothers of the missing, and even schoolgirls took part in non-violent protests that stretched over many months."
the Kashmiri people speak of it as a move towards peaceful means of resistance, a philosophy to which an entire generation of young Kashmiris who grew up during the tumultuous years subscribe. They are not disenchanted with the struggle for Independence, but are markedly distanced from the violent means of achieving it.
Kashmiris believe in peace. The flare of a Kashmiri indigenous armed movement is often portrayed in the media as alive and active. In truth, this armed movement lasted just long enough to draw world attention. The Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, one of the oldest and widest separatist networks, laid down arms in 1994, technically fighting an armed battle for less than six years. Since then they have been waging an above-ground political battle. Kashmiris see the futility of a protracted low-intensity war, which India’s leaders keenly want to tie with global terrorism in the eyes of the international community.
The conflict in our region is not in the same category as the mayhem in Afghanistan or the disturbances in Pakistan. Ours is not a religious issue or an issue of terrorism, although religious extremists have tried to take ownership of our struggle to advance their own agendas. While there has been tension between Hindu and Muslim communities in recent history, the global media largely inflates the realities of these issues. Ours is a struggle for Independence, not a struggle over warring beliefs.
Just six months ago millions of Kashmiris flooded the streets in peaceful protests against an Indian-backed land-leasing order which violated the special status of Kashmir and created fear of demographic domination from the Indian population. These protests morphed into calls for self-determination and implementation of the promised UN resolution. Women were a huge part of this movement. Ordinary housewives, mothers of the missing, and even schoolgirls took part in non-violent protests that stretched over many months. Even after India revoked its controversial land order, the protests for Independence continued before fading away as the harsh Himalayan winter set in.
Today, the solution for Kashmir’s conflict lies in addressing the long-term implications of conflict. While it is important to address the immediate needs of those who have been maimed, raped, molested, and psychologically impaired, it is equally important to address the political imbroglio that bred this large-scale human rights crisis in the first place. We must go to the heart of the issue and address Kashmir not as the "problem of India and Pakistan," but "Pakistan and India" as the problem of Kashmir.
With Barack Obama elected president of the US, it seems Kashmir’s political upheaval might just come off the backburner. Both Obama himself and Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN, have listed Kashmir amongst a list of other regions of conflict—a big departure from the silence surrounding my homeland’s struggles during Bush’s tenure. And Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband recently wrote in the Guardian that “resolution of the dispute over Kashmir would help deny extremists in the region one of their main calls to arms and allow Pakistani authorities to focus more effectively on tackling the threat on their western borders." Following the changing stance of the US, Miliband’s remarks indicate a long-delayed thaw in the West’s icy negation of the issue.
As the chilly evenings of winter become colder and longer due to frequent power outages in the valley, families sit together clinging to their hot coal braziers. Amidst the political debate that has dominated these Kashmiri living rooms for decades, there is one mind when it comes to thinking of a new future. We look forward to when Kashmiri life amounts to more than a statistic on the late night news; when there is freedom and dignity, and the fear of harassment, frisking, or death does not loom at every corner; when kids can actually read Kashmir history at school and not just the history of neighboring India; when a young boy can follow his friends spontaneously and not have to worry about a forgotten identity card. We all hope for a future when Kashmiris will be free as every people deserves to be, as India and Pakistan deserved to be from British colonial rule.
Fatima Sultan Syed is a journalist, an activist, and a mother. She is just one of the many women from this region vying to tell her story, eager to inform the world of her daily life, and ready for cross-border dialogue to incite solutions.
In a conflict with multiple realities and multiple histories, hers is not the only truth. After you've read Fatima’s words, log on to PulseWire to join Hope in Kashmir: Sharing Our Stories, a discussion among Kashmiri, Indian, and Pakistani women with a vision for a peaceful Kashmir. —Eds.