By Taj Nabi Khan
ISLAMABAD, Aug 05 (APP): The women of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) have been faced with an unending ordeal of terror and trauma due to frequent abductions, sexual violence, illegal detentions and molestations at the hands of Indian security forces on the pretext of ‘Cordon and Search Operations”.
The Modi’s Hindutva supremacist government continues to use rape and molestation as a ‘weapon of war’ and ‘collective punishment’ in the occupied territory to suppress the legitimate right of freedom of the innocent Kashmiri people.
It is a sheer violation of the international humanitarian and human rights law and UN Security Council resolutions. The horrific acts of violence, mental torture, aggressions and ruthless brutalities against women had turned life into a worse nightmare in the valley.
According to a local Human Rights Watch group known as the Committee of Concerned Scientists, the IIOJK is one of the most policed and militarized areas. The group underlined the two main scenarios during which the Kashmiri women were subjected to rape by the Indian forces, either during search operations or during reprisal attacks after military ambushes. The act of rape is deplorable while its trauma destroys the soul of victims forever.
Therefore, the world must take immediate notice of the barbaric actions of the Indian security forces to safeguard the dignity of women in the disputed territory. Since 1947, the bodies of innocent Kashmiri women have been turned into battlegrounds in the heavily militarized area of disputed territory by the Indian forces.
According to the Human Rights Watch, Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) “allows any soldiers or officer to fire upon groups of five or more people or anyone suspected of having weapons, arrest anyone without a warrant, and conduct home invasions.”
This act shields the Indian security forces from prosecution from their crimes of sexual violence. The draconian nature of the act has been described as breach of the international human rights law by members of the international community. After the horrific episode of mass rape of Kashmiri women in Kunan, Poshpura villages on February 23, 1991, rape was systematically and frequently used by the security forces to terrorize the entire population of the disputed valley.
After the abrogation of Article 370, an increasing trend of rape was recorded in remote and poor villages of the occupied territory by the Human Rights Watch.
According to the report titled ‘Kashmir Caged: A Fact-Finding Report, “Hundreds of boys and teens are being picked up from their beds in the midnight raids. The purpose of these raids is to create fear. Women and girls told us of molestation by armed forces during these raids.” However, such cases were under reported due to social stigma and imposed restrictions in the valley.
The India’s resort to sexual violence in the IIOJK has been documented by the two reports of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and global media and society organizations. But lack of accountability of perpetrators and absence of justice for victims of rape in the region continue to define the deliberate disregard of India for rule of law and human rights.
The International Humanitarian, Human Rights Law and UN Security Council Resolutions are being violated in the territory.
The world must wake up from deep slumber to contain sexual violence being used as war tactics in the occupied territory. The violence against women is not limited to the Indian security forces alone. After revocation of Article 370 by India have raised a number of challenges for Kashmiri women as social media was flooded with posts of Indian men showing excitement about getting the “white-skinned Kashmiri brides” in the occupied territory.
Talking to APP, Ms Mushaal Malick, Human Rights Activist and wife of Chairman Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Yasin Malick said, “Women and children as the vulnerable segments of society were suffering the most in the IIOJK due to rape, torture and mental trauma.” She said the valley had numerous victims of rape and the highest ratio of widows which were under reported.
The human rights activist said that men folk were not getting job opportunities in the occupied territory, therefore, due socioeconomic pressure; women have to struggle to go outside for jobs. She, however, said that women were harassed, followed, stared, abused and tortured who were working for their livelihood. Brutal force was being used against the unarmed civilians in the valley, she added.
Dr Maria Sultan, President and Chairperson, South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) University while talking to the agency said that the legal paradigms of IIOJK were entirely changed due to the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 last year while people outside the occupied territory were not aware about the gravity of the situation. She said that Kashmiri women had turned stateless, human-less and selfless after the new Act passed by the Indian legislators regarding the disputed territory.
Mushaal Malick said, “The jungle law was imposed in the IIOJK as the new law is nothing but a death warrant for Kashmiri people.” She said the COVID-19 has diverted the attention of the global community from the ongoing violence.
Maria Sultan said, “Women of IIOJK were legally disempowered as they have lost their identity and security while they were neither represented nor their issues were reported.” Therefore, targeting young girls in the occupied territory had become very easy for the occupation forces and Indian citizens, she added.
Ms Sophia Siddique, Islamabad-based working journalist said that Kashmiri women were vulnerable due to the fact that they don’t have access to any platform or organization to lodge complaints or register protest.
She said that the women of the occupied territory were forced to live in their houses and concentration camps who had neither access to information, livelihood, markets, nor access to health services.
Mushaal Malick said that large scale genocide was carried out in the occupied territory, adding that giving citizenship to thirty thousand Indians and constructing two hundred thousand houses for them was an effort of the Indian government to convert majority of Muslims into minority in the valley.
Sophia said, “The Kashmiri women were faced with an alarming situation and multiple challenges as they were forced to marry Indian citizens.”
Therefore, it was the moral responsibility of each and every individual across the globe to raise voice against the plight of women who lost their rights of freedom, identity and choices in life, she added.