KP woman who stayed put to become voice of Muslims rues over lost spaces
When Asha, a Kashmiri Pandit woman from Wussan, Kunzer area of north Kashmir’s Tangmarg area met a group of Kashmiri Muslim women at a Samanbal meeting, there was instant bonding.
Asha, who along with her family took a conscious decision not to migrate from Kashmir valley in the early nineties when Kashmiri Pandits were leaving in droves at the outbreak of militancy, was all praise for Kashmiri Muslims.
“My heart did not allow me to leave the Muslim community and the Muslim community did not allow me and my family to leave the Valley,” she said.
Asha, who went on to be elected as a Sarpanch, the village head, of her area comprising Muslim electorate rued over the fact that the social spaces that existed in Kashmir had been lost.
“We all, Kashmir Pandit women and Kashmir Muslim women, used to meet at Yarbals (river banks) and discuss various issues but now those social spaces have shrunk - Those social spaces need to be reclaimed” she said, while applauding the setting up of Samanbal for becoming an alternate to such social spaces.
Samanbal is a meeting space, set up by Ehsaas, a local policy group in all the three divisions of the State for women to meet and discuss issues of common interest and concern.
Ehsaas has been working on building interfaith relations and have tried to bridge the gap between the two communities by organising various meetings and interactions between Kashmiri Muslim women with Kashmiri Pandit women from time to time at Ichgam, Vessu, Wussan, Kunzer, Sheikhpora, various other parts of the Valley and in Jammu migrant camps.
While Asha narrated why she chose living with Kashmiri Muslims instead of migrating with Kashmiri Pandits, the participants at the Samanbal meeting paid tributes to her resilience.
This resilience of the Kashmiri Pandit community that stayed back with their Muslim brethren has been celebrated byEhsaas from time to time by organising various events that highlighted the bonhomie that exists between the two communities.
One such programme held some time back, was of young Kashmiri youth often seen as “stone pelters”, came forward, to sanitise the temples of the Kashmiri Pandit community, to send across a positive message of brotherhood and unity.
In other interactions, organised by Ehsaas earlier, a Kashmiri Muslim woman, Parveena Ahanger, who heads the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), met Kashmiri Pandit women and talked about the pain they had been suffering. During the sharing’s, both forgot their own miseries and started consoling one another and wiping other’s tears.
Various other participants at the Samanbal meeting talked about the issues Kashmiri Muslim women had been facing.
Former Principal District and Sessions Judge, and former Chairperson of State Vigilance Commission, Gousia-ul-Nisa Jeelani, who was the first woman judge of Jammu and Kashmir, said judiciary in the State was male-dominated, which was creating problems a galore for the women.
Gulika Reddy, a lawyer from Chennai, who works on cases of rape, child sex-abuse and domestic violence, a special invitee to the meeting, said judiciary in south India, like in Jammu & Kashmir, too was male-dominated.
Various other participants spoke and shared their experiences of having lived in Kashmir and the changing times.
Lubna Rafeeqi felt survival was a threat in Kashmir and it was difficult for the inhabitants to keep themselves sane, while Sadia Qureshi, University scholar, working on issues of women, health and nutrition, said women have become vulnerable both inside their home and outside. Arifa, Senior broadcaster Radio Kashmir said every woman does not get an opportunity to study in Kashmir. She narrated an incident of how she had tried to do her bit for the womenfolk by providing an opportunity for a blind woman who was a poet to participate in poetry events on radio.
Ruksana Jabeen, a poet and writer, shared her experience of having attended an all-woman international conference in Iran, where she read out Persian poems which was well received, whereas Munisa Aslam, a PhD scholar narrated her experience of working as an environmentalist in Kashmir.
Various other speakers, Raziya, Rihana Maqbool, Baseera Rafiqui, shared various stories of conflict that they have been covering specifically on women and their plight due to the prolonged conflict. Secretary Ehsaas, Ezabir Ali thanked all the participants of the Samanbal meeting for helping reclaim the lost social space at Samanbal and shared the importance of recognising the need for peaceful coexistence and communal harmony.
She said, “There are many positive examples of this that exist on ground- these are beyond religious divides, it’s important to highlight these for they restore our faith in humanity and Kashmiriyat.”