Kashmir, Militarization, and Women in Conflict: A Study of Curfewed Night
The region of Kashmir once known for its scenic beauty has been caught in a political uncertainty from last two decades. The political strife has made direct and indirect impact on the population living there. Kashmir once a pioneering place for all trades and prized destination for tourists is now off colour due to chaos and confusion. The scene got changed abruptly and it took a different shape which was beyond the imagination of the common folk: the rustic ‘ponnywalla’, (horseman), the “Kashmir ki kali”, [Kashmir ki Kali is the common name used for beauty of Kashmir which embodies flora and fauna of Kashmir. The word “Ki” means the and “Kali” means a flower bud and the entire word means the beauty/ flower bud of Kashmir. Most often the word is associated with the feminine aspect] boatman, all disappeared from the scene and were replaced by the torturing soldiers, crackdowns, frisking and militants… the white land which turned red due to bloodshed (Naseer 127).
The uncertainty made traumatic impact on the families living there especially on those who experienced dreadful events of chaos, conflict, killings, crackdown, beating, frisking, by soldiers, gunfire’s etc. Directly or indirectly all became vulnerable to the considerable emotional anxiety and physical reactions:
It was the age of bloodshed, chaos, confusion, turmoil, crackdowns, frisking, gun battles, mine blasts, improvised explosive devices (IED), mourning, burning of houses, demolition of the mosques and shrines and so on (Naseer 125).
Indian forces initiated the war against innocents in direct contradiction to the goals of Indian democratic policy. The forces were given a free hand to commit any crime against the humanity in Kashmir, which is evident in the report carried out by the organization, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) in October 1992:
In August 1992 Indian government forces stepped up their offensive against militants by launching Operation Tiger, a campaign of surprise raids designed to capture and kill suspected militants and terrorize civilian sympathizers. Summary executions of detainees and indiscriminate attacks on civilians escalated during the operation and during another which followed, called Operation Shiva…, the security forces also engaged in frequent arson attacks, burning house, shops and entire neighborhoods (The Crackdowns in Kashmir 1).
Kashmir once known as the paradise on earth turned red due to the bloodshed. “The picturesque and violet and scarlet Kashmir which turned completely crimson after 1989 and more deadly than other places that surrounded” (Naseer 126). The impact of the suffering is directly seen in the people living there, mostly women folk whether she was playing a role of a daughter, mother, neighbor, daughter-in-law and sister. Everywhere in every respect women folk suffered a lot in the two decades of the unrest and turmoil.
A lot has been written on the issue and its ambiguity but little attention has been so far paid to highlight the sufferings of the victims. The cause for this could be the high militarization in the state which according to many sources and reports is at present more than 4, 00000 to 750,000 Indian military, paramilitary and Indian state police reside there as against the 5oo militants as per official figures. Basharat Peer highlights the sufferings of the Kashmiri women both Hindu and Muslim. The writer highlights the widespread suffering of Kashmiri women either due to state terrorism or in the migrant camps in Jammu.
Peer has used insight narrative technique in order to highlight the plight of the women’s sufferings. He shows the dreadful life of the Kashmiri woman who once was working with her husband, sister, mother, relatives, neighbors etc., in various capacities. Peer’s non-fictional work begins in a rural area in the season of winter. The change in the season means the change in the family life. Winter on one side indicates smoothness. But on the other hand it denotes the suffering of people as everything withers during this season. The spring indicates rejuvenation of life. Spring being the season of flowers and chirping songs:
… grandfather leaving against a cushion in centre of the room,… grandmother would stop puffing her hooka… mother would put aside her knitting kit or the papers of the students and briskly move to arrange the plates and bowls near grandmother’s throne (Curfewed Night 4).
The description of his life of his family is used for a symbolic purpose. The dinner with grandfather highlights the family scenario of Kashmiri family with common traditions and ethos. Kashmiris are not prone to fight they are naturally noble and gentle in character as discussed by Paramanand Parashar in his book Kashmir the Paradise of Asia:
Kashmiris have qualities which one to be interested. They are … not quarrelsome nor are given to fight. They hate bloodshed. In intellect they are superior to their neighbors and are certainly keener than Punjabis and in perfection and clearness of mind and ingenuity, far outlive their masters,… In disposition they are cheerful and harmonious (356).