Women as Perpetrators, Planners, and Patrons of Militancy in Kashmir

Swati Parishar, in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 2011, vol. 34, pp. 295-317.

Abstract: The Kashmir case is a conundrum in the study of women’s roles in religio-political militancy. While traditional social structure and gendered hierarchies have been retained,
public spaces have also been available to women to don more political and militant roles. This article looks at the multiple roles of women in the militancy in Kashmir and the discourses around them. Women’s participation in the militancy has not found any mention in the nationalist narratives and Kashmiri women struggle to claim their share in the contemporary political discourse. Ambiguities remain about how the male dominated Kashmiri nationalist and conflict discourse may have influenced inclusions and exclusions. Through a case study based on interviews conducted in Kashmir, this article argues that women’s violent activities or their support to the militancy is altogether excluded or maneuvered to preserve existing gender norms and patriarchal traditions. This has dangerous implications as it tends to exclude women’s voices in the peace processes.Conclusion: Any discussion of women’s roles in the militancy may be silenced but as one former militant woman told the author in an interview, “Can any armed militancy succeed without women’s support and participation?” The fortunes of the armed militancy in Kashmir changed as drastically after the women withdrew their popular support towards the end of
the 1990s, as it had in the hey days when women were at the forefront of it. Privileging narratives of the victim Kashmiri woman (raped always by the Indian security forces),
is a political conspiracy by the “patriarchs of the azaadi struggle . . . using women for propaganda”106 whose sole purpose is to exercise control over women’s lives and bodies in
the cultural and religious nationalism they wish to enforce in Kashmir. YasinMalik (former militant of the JKLF and now a Hurriyat Leader) told the author in an interview that it is
on account of their “sacrifices” in the militant struggle that men like him deserve to be and are legitimate voices at the negotiating table. By denying women any role in the militancy and thereby legitimacy and credibility as political actors, it is being ensured that women are kept out of political negotiations and peace talks, when and if they take place. Cynthia
Enloe may have asked several years ago, “Where are the women?” but it never loses its significance even today as feminists struggle to make sense of war, conflict and militancy
in several local contexts.

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Filed under female empowerment, gender norms, historical interpretation, life stories, military strategy, politIcal discourse, religious nationalism, terrorism, women in ethnic conflcits, world events & processes

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