Rationale for the Gender series:
The past several millennia have been witness to various kinds of oppressions across histories and communities, and every century unfolds the horrors of oppression in increasingly complex ways than the other. Patriarchy is one such oppressive structure which, because of its complicity with other structures of violence like casteism, class, and colonialism, has strengthened itself in the present context. The reducing of women to a mere subordinate, a statement, and an object is the vital preoccupation of a patriarchal society which has thrived upon normalizing its violent social construct. The society creates these social norms, mores, values, and beliefs to confine the behavior, activities, and thoughts of girls and women in such a way that it does not challenge the status quo, the hegemonic ideology. Who constructs the hegemonic ideology? The powerful, of course. But who is this powerful? The elite, the business owners, the dominant ideological mafia, the owners of the means of production, and the State. The State depends on the elite and the elite depend on the State for their survival, but there is another partner in this model- the media. This associate has been cleverly invisibilized and made to wear the veneer of the “champion of truth” or the “voice of the people”. The secret of their complicity in the rampant crimes against truth and people is seldom made public.
In Kashmir the reality is a little complex. The militarization of the valley, making it the largest militarized zone in the world, has complicated the gendered narrative in Kashmir. The deployment of such overwhelming number of armed personnel’s in a society which is dominated by patriarchal culture has created an environment of insecurity, anxiety and paranoia. In such a society, both men and women are vulnerable to the violence legitimized by the state. Mama & Okazawa-Rey (2012) describe militarism as ‘an extreme variant of patriarchy, a gendered regime characterized by discourses and practices that subordinate and oppress women as well as non-dominant men, reinforcing hierarchies of class, gender, race and ethnicity, and in some contexts, caste, religion and location.’ This hold true for Kashmir as well. While the women are subordinate to men in any patriarchal society, women in Kashmir find themselves in somewhat similar position. However, the position of a Kashmiri woman is comparatively different than from women in other patriarchal societies such that patriarchy in Kashmir is not intrinsic to the culture but rather has been invoked due to the heavy militarization and the undisputed nature of this protracted conflict.
Kashmiri women have not always been forced to remain confined to the four walls of the house, rather the unwanted presence of large number of army men parading in jackboots on the roads of Kashmir have created an atmosphere of fear and mistrust among the people in general. Consequently, the protection myth has been conjured in Kashmir invariably which has made men to believe that it is their responsibility to protect the women of their family, or community and therefore relegating them to the four walls of the house.
Therefore, it is of critical importance while discussing the narratives on women in Kashmir to understand the complexity of the situation of women in Kashmir who have not only been made to suffer at the hands of the patriarchal society but more because of the heavy militarization of the valley and its people.
The women series is an attempt to bring forth the various perspectives on the gendered nature of conflict and it’s repercussion on the women of Kashmir. The following are the individual opinion pieces by various authors, journalists, and independent political writes on their personal experiences as women living in a conflict torn area, Kashmir. – Ain ul Khair