“Me Too” and Kashmir

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BY: Tajamul Maqbool

The  phrase ‘Me Too’ which has made headlines in India over the last few days with women sharing accounts of alleged harassment by several powerful men including a minister, Bollywood filmmakers, news editors and comedians, was founded by Tarana Burke in 2006 to raise awareness regarding the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault in society. In India, ‘Me Too’ became debate of every news channel when actress Tanushree Dutta accused Nana Patekar of harassing her and being sexually aggressive on the sets of 2008 film ‘Horn Ok Pleassss’.

The movement has been instrumental in removing many powerful people from their current positions and it has been an encouragement for many silenced voices to speak out regarding harassments, they have faced, publicly. Crime against women is a crime irrespective of their caste, class, religion, and region and so on and must be addressed without any delay. This movement came as a storm in India as it mostly comprised of an elite class and many of whom are regarded as role model by large number of people. But the proponents of this movement should also come to support for women belonging to different communities and regions and whose voices have never been heard.

It is a well documented fact that women of Kashmir have been, and continue to be; the worst victims of conflict and their voices have, unfortunately never been heard or marginalized to the extreme extent.

Rapes as well as sexual violence committed by security forces against women have been an indispensable element of Indian military strategy in conflict zones like Kashmir and also in northeast. The irony is that those who were legally bound to protect the civilian rights have been the biggest perpetrator of crimes, particularly against women, in Kashmir. For two decades there have been incidents of rapes and sexual violence committed by Indian security forces against Kashmiri women and some of the most debated and documented incidents include the likes of Handwara (2016), Shopian (2009), Handwara (2004), Bihota (2001), Wavoosa (1997), Theno Budapathary Kangan (1994), Haran (1992), Chak Saidpora (1992), Kunan Poshpora (1991) and Chhanpora and Pazipora (1990) and so on.

The targeting of women by the security forces is a political action and thus should be subjected to public accountability. As noted by ‘Asia Watch’ and ‘Human Rights Watch’ in one of their reports on Kashmir “Rape by state forces is not a privately-motivated form of abuse ...but an abuse of power that implicates public responsibility”.

Violence against women is a crime whether it is Delhi gang rape, rape and murder of Manorama Thangjam-a Manipuri woman who was raped and murdered by Indian army in 2004, the Shopian double rape and murder case or Kunan Poshpora mass rape. The accused of Delhi gang rape were brought to justice on fast-track basis but the perpetrators of crimes in conflict zones like Kashmir and northeast were never held accountable. There is much that can be done by ‘Me Too’ pioneers to improve the conditions of these most voiceless and vulnerable women by being accommodative of such cases and by not restricting this movement to a particular class alone.

The writer is a Doctoral Student at Centre for Studies in Society and Development, Central University of Gujarat and can be reached at tajbhat@gmail.com

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