Displaced Kashmiri women
Kashmiri women then and now?
I am a Kashmiri Hindu. My name is renu. I was born in Anantnaag. My mother tells me that being the first child her family members wanted me to born in a good hospital and so they took her to Anantnaag, to this hospital, run by Christian nuns. Unfortunately my mother does not tell me much about the time in Anantnaag. we had a huge multi-storied house in Karannagar. My father had already left for Mumbai for further training. So my memory of the initial years is limited. Later my mother joined my father, who got a job in Delhi. I studied and lived in Delhi for the next 21 years. We used to come to my grandparents in Srinagar nearly in all summer vacations. I have very nice memories from my childhood and later youth days in Srinagar , in Karannagar and Habbakadal, where my grandparents and my aunt used to live.
My three brothers and myself had a number of cousins to play with in Srinagar. My mother had 3 brothers and 2 sisters. Her mother having died at a young stage and my grandfather having retired as a school headmaster, we used to stay in the house the eldest brother of my mother stayed in. It was a huge house with a big garden with fruit trees and a vegetable garden. They had a couple of servants. Mohammed used to do the menial jobs, Somnath used to cook for us. I remember all of children of the aunts and uncles used to sit in a round in the dojji, the room next to the kitchen, and Somnath would serve us just rice and Hakh and a bit of zamdod. It used to taste heavenly. Then we girls used to play under the big tree in the garden, with our little utensils, cooking and serving all kinds of play eatables in them.
Once i remember we all climbed one of the two Cherry trees. The soil was somehow soft and wet and so the tree gave in and slowly started bowing. My grandfather used to stay all day in a room on the first floor and he saw the tree bowing and started shouting. The servants came running and we were so frightened that we ran in all directions and hid us. My grandfather in his days after retirement had become very spiritual and would just stay in his room praying and meditating all day. He was also very short tempered and would shout at us. This used to scare us. Once it so happened, that my younger brother threw tomatoes at him from behind, from the vegetable garden, while he was sitting under the tree in the garden and relaxing. He used to do so in the evenings.
My mother tells me that he was very generous towards our Muslim neighbours. He got a tap installed in the courtyard so that the Muslim women did not have to go out to fetch water. Also the Muslim neighbours were very protective towards the young sisters of my mother. When during the partition the infiltrator Afghans and Pakistanis came to our house, it is them who shouted at the intruding men, threatening them with dire consequences, if they dare touch the young women in our family.
I remember my cousin and myself, both around 13 years, we used to go out on the road and visit the shop around the corner and buy some nuts and beans for e mere 25 paisa and it used to taste so well, sweet and soft. We had no fear of any sorts on the roadside and nobody told us not to go there. We would also visit my mother’s elder sister, who was married to someone in a house app a kilometre away. I remember well how carefree we used to walk down that road in Karannagar to my aunt’s place. There too it was fun. We would sit on the dabba and have food, monji-gaad and the like, which my aunt could prepare so well.
The other sister of my mother used to live in Habbakadal. She was so very loving to me. I used to like to eat walnuts very much. So she would keep a whole bag full with walnuts extra by side for me and as soon as I would arrive at her place, i would sit on the dab and finish those walnuts before i started communicating with my cousin, who was nearly my age. She would take me to her college in the later days and show off with me, as her cousin from Delhi. We would walk around free. There was no talk of any extra measures we had to take being young women in Kashmir. But i also remember that we women and girls were allowed to go to the ghat of the nearby Jhelum river only when it got dark, to wash ourselves and/or our clothes. My male cousins could jump into the waters also during the day and learn swimming, which i could’nt.
We would visit different places in Kashmir region, like Verinag, Kokkernag, Sopore, Tungmarg, Gulmarg, Pahalgam etc, sometimes to my uncle, younger brother of my mom. He was a civil engineer and had a great influence. We were quite privileged. The villagers used to bring fresh fish and dried cheese, the name I am forgetting. Trakur?
I remember asking my family elders uncomfortable questions such as why the Muslims were poor. They were doing labourers, workers, handicrafts and sometimes trader’s jobs. We Kashmiri Hindus were generally educated and had good jobs. My cousins were all either doctors or engineers, even the young women were educated, they were sent to Gwalior or Delhi for further education.
I was studying pure maths in the university of Delhi and got an exchange scholarship to Germany. So i spent my next 22 years in Germany, before I returned to my home country, where I am now again living since the last 20 years. I am old now, but i don’t feel so. I sometimes think it is because my genes are from Kashmir. My parents, both of them lived above 90 years of age.
I remember well that even as young college students, I did not have to feel unsafe while walking around in Kashmir. Of course the segregation existed in Hindu families too to a smaller extent than in Muslim families. We were more free to dress as we wanted and to go out of our homes. Of course we too never had the same freedom as our brothers.
The generation of my mother were still mostly traditionally brought up. However my generation was already different. It is thus we find many Hindu Kashmiri women of my age group who are well educated and have different responsibilities as teachers, professors, doctors, civil servants etc.
When I think of the days after I returned from in 1987 and visited Kashmir, it is a different story to narrate. I remember well when in 1988 I wanted to go to a touristic place outside Srinagar, where my son could do fishing and I could meditate and just relax and we wanted our cousin from my mansi’s family to join us, her father first said yes and at the last moment refused to send his daughter with us two. She was young and unmarried and he felt he could not be sure of her safety in the hut suggested to us by the tourism dept of Kashmir. I spent those 3 days meditating on the isle between the high mountains and my son fished trout everyday, which we would fry and eat every day. It is a heavenly remembrance. Unfortunately i did not dare to go to Kashmir again till 2010.
I must admit that every time I visited Kashmir valley and surroundings in 2010,, 2011 and 2012, all on my own, I never felt eve-teased or harassed by anybody. In fact I made friends with a number of Muslim men (and a few women), whom I contacted on my own initiative. Whether it could be a result of the fact that I am an elderly woman, I don’t know.
However what I feel sad about a couple of experiences I also made during these visits:
· I was surprised to find a huge area in the university campus being occupied by a religious institution and the loud noises on the microphone made by them.
· I was not able to get even one person to let me use his or her phone to contact my people, as I arrived in the valley and my phone and laptop being pre-paid one, were not useful. The people seem to have lost trust due to the bad things happening due to militancy.
· In the Internet and STD shops the people did not show the warmth towards tourists I had known from earlier times. People are just as much as in other states, if not more, running after earning money.
· I found the Dalgate totally overloaded with foreigners as well as with local people. I even saw them paying Namaz on the roadside next to the lake.The sound of the Namaz readings on the microphones, even in and near touristic places like the Nishat and Shalimar gardens, is very disturbing, particularly for a person like me who believes religion is a private matter. When I was ill and suffering, lying alone for days in my room, the repeated loud noise from the mosques around was disturbing.
Lastly I want to share my experience on Facebook with young Kashmiri Muslim men and about the “respect for women” they say they have.
My feeling is that always when we talk about justice, we should talk about justice for all. So when someone belonging to one community keeps talking about the injustices members of his community suffered from, then i say please “lets stop it here. we wont get far. no use . so much bad has happened from both sides for both sides.” And I suggest “can we discuss it in a different way?”
I was aghast at the reactions of a few young KM’s, so different than what I knew from earlier times. “Who are you to ask me these petty questions, I talk with the person who is rational, and sound, you are not among them....better leave this thread, because we (Kashmiris) respect women. Bye”
“we don't need your shallow sympathy, you better keep it yourself, may be in future you will avail something from it. Itold you in my early comment that you better leave this discussion unto us, we better know how to deal with it, you are mocking above in the comments and call fundamentalist/ Salafi and other things without knowing the basics and that is reason I assert that you are no one to pronounce your verdicts onto us. Thank you. And for the respect whole India is fighting for the it nowadays to respect the women and stop misogynistic thought about the women. You may be watching TV or reading newspaper, you will better understand from there as well. Keep it up”
“You have a age factor, you better stop bawling and brawling on this thread, you have accused much to the Kashmiri women and leaders, by the way, why you are talking about the Kashmiri women and KPs women? We love our religion, women everything, and remember, if I will talk about your state DELHi where after every 40min crime against women occur, you will be shocked, but I respect you and your age factor, I won't hurt you, you better stop this mud sling game here.”
“May be you are using some other English dictionary where Respect women is given or defined in a different way. I don't have proper definition to define you respect about the women, so you in lieu of your age SEVENTY which you assert stop it here to discuss further. TRUTH IS BY THE WAY ALWAYS BITTER>”
One of them said I am yet another panun kashmir product who mudslings on behalf of aditya raj koul and “Let her spill the venom it will only engulf her.”
These remarks were made by young men, there was not one woman from their community taking part in the exchange. I had said that if the liberals and progressive members did not come out in the open and defied the fundamentalists amongst them , then the Salafist groups will only increase, and no wonder the acid attack took place in the valley recently. Another thing I observe amongst the Kashmiri valley youth is that their idea of respect for women is not what we autonomous women want. They think that keeping their women in burqua, hijab and at home, protecting them from the ups and downs of life and work outside, is a service to women, for which they should be thankful to them.
They don’t treat women as equals, they don’t realise. Women too have other talents and interests than just being a good housewife and mother. Some of the present generation girls are becoming Rock Band creators, some are too intelligent as well as beautiful. The girls who talked to me, whose parents were moderate and allowed them freedom of expression and movement, were just marvellous and I was really thankful to their parents. Even the young female Human Rights lawyers in Srinagar were telling me stories of rural women they visited, who thought it is their fate and they have to live with the domestic violence they face from their husbands.
Lastly I want to mention the negative role of Pakistani state in this process of different Kashmiri communities getting back to their earlier lifestyles. Unfortunately the youth is too much misled by some politicians and power-mongers in the state, who promote an anti-India and a pro Pakistani mindset, even a religious mindset in a very self centered way, lowering the tolerance level for other ways of living and being.
Some experts on Indo-Pakistan issues have recently made following statements:
· Terrorism is the only tool left for Pakistan to have its say in J&K, while Indian security forces are defending Kashmiris at the border, risking quite often their lives
• There still are 36000 terrorist training centers in POK, the public there doesn’t want it, but Pakistani rulers do
• Pakistan supported Taliban and they have talibani leadership. Recently they released 6 taliban prisoners.
• Taliban wants the Sharia law. (Benazir and other Pakistani leader too).
• now they the Pakistanis are themselves the most negatively affected due to Talibani presence.
• The Talibani groups killed a group of young women workers engaged in immunisation programms, because they think immunisation is a Western phenomenon.
In Kashmir valley there are 6 lakh unemployed youth and of the 15 million tourists who visit the valley every year, app. 11 mio are visitors of Amarnath cave and Vaishnodevi temple. Hence the govt is suggesting skill training in hospitality and tourism for the kashmiri youth. Is this a bad idea?
Also the many programms for women and children that the NC-Congress govt is introducing investing crores of rupees from central budget, is it harming the kashmiri people? Even the newly introduced Panchayat Raj is a well meant policy for more democracy but even that is being disturbed by the Pakistan supported terrorist forces.
How can one dislike India and like Pakistan?
I am a Kashmiri woman and I don’t want Kashmir to be divided on communal lines.