Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Two Reports on Challenges Facing Women in Kashmir

Professor Hameeda hosts a Seminar jointly organized by the University of Kashmir, Center for Social and Development Studies and the Asian Women's Commission to mark the International Women's Day on March 7

(Dr. Hameeda Banu, 40+, was born in Tral, now in Pulwama district. She received her primary and secondary education in Tral and completed her college education in the Government Women's College, Srinagar. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Kashmir, and has been teaching in the Department of English at the University for the past 17 years. She is an excellent orator and an internationally travelled human rights activist. Her personal interests include campaigning for women's rights, global peace, interfaith dialogue, philosophy, psychology, literature, history and religious studies.)

Need to address powerlessness of Kashmiri women

Srinagar: Deliberating on the various issues facing women in Kashmir, speakers at a seminar organized by Kashmir University on Thursday reiterated the urgent need to acknowledge the role played by women in the society and address the marginalization of their rights.

Welcoming the participants, convenor of the seminar, Prof Hameeda Nayeem said the women have been subjected to systematic injustice in the society, and the initiatives started to free them from the clutches of the patriarchal society have also not been able to bring desirable changes.

”A woman has never been recognized as sovereign individual self,” she said, adding that the seminar aimed at examining whether the women in Kashmir have been liberated from abject subjugation or has her woes only been increased.

Stating that Kashmiri women continue to suffer under various forms of domestic violence, she stressed on the need for “moral renaissance” challenging the maltreatment of women.

The seminar held to mark the 100th Women Day was presided over by former head, department of English and noted columnist, Prof G R Malik.

He termed the lack of awareness among women as one of the main reasons for their exploitation.
Speaking on the occasion, senior journalist, Riyaz Masroor said in Kashmir there is a tendency to connect every issue, howsoever different, with the ongoing conflict. He called for the need to address the powerlessness of women. “It is an absurd trend where women are asked to confront men and imitate them. There is no need to do that since women have their own importance and role,” he said.

Masroor suggested the university can play an important role by arranging student visits to ignored areas of Valley, which have faced the brunt of conflict, to help them understand the issues better. He referred to Gurez valley where, he said, the armed forces outnumber the civilian population.

Stressing on a multi-level approach to solve the issues, Masroor said, “Kashmiri society is not a conservative one, but the problems faced by the women has its roots in political situation.” “An economically weak society is also responsible for the problems faced by women,” he added.

Educationist, Bashir Ahmad Dar stressed on the role of clergy to address the problems faced by women.

Stating that the cases of violence against women in Kashmir are not well-documented, he said, studies should be carried on the issues facing women to understand them better and to help come out with concrete measures to address them.

Dar said that the misinterpretation of religious scriptures further compounds the gender bias.

Karen J Fischer, a women’s activist, shared her experiences of working with women in the rural areas. She said the cultural differences invariably come in the way of women empowerment.
Referring to her visits to far-flung areas of the valley, Fischer said women play an active role in day-to-day life, doing house chores and in some cases even running the household.

“But when they assume a role outside the household, they are criticized by saying they are neglecting their obligations,” she said.

US born Fischer, who has worked as a lawyer earlier, said in Kashmir, the cultural stigma attached with some of the problems faced by the women hinder their alleviation. She also called for attention towards the health problems among women.

About the human rights violations perpetrated by the armed forces against women, Fischer referred to the difficulties in the verification of the statistics.

Gul Muhammad Wani, who teaches at the varsity’s political science department, said women have been in the cross-fire of conflict.

Stating that since 90’s, women empowerment, exclusion, discrimination and other issues have formed the dominant discourse in social sciences, he referred to the plight of women during partition of the subcontinent in 1947.“75,000 women were raped during the period,” Wani said. He added that many families were later on reluctant to accept the victim women of the household.

In his characteristically humorous style, noted poet, Zareef Ahmad Zareef referred to the place of women in the traditional family structure of Kashmir. He pointed the discrepancies in the marriage institution which later on give rise to domestic violence, referring to some of his personnel experiences.

Ezabir Ali, who works with J&K Voluntary Health Association and has a vast experience of working with women, highlighted the psychological problems faced by the women.

She said the health of women is often ignored and the prevalence of serious complications among women often goes unreported.

Noted columnist, Z G Muhammad highlighting the plight of women victims of the conflict stated that while the government works on rehabilitation schemes, widows of militants are not taken care of.

“No census has been done for the number of widows in Kashmir,” he observed.
Speaking on the occasion, a student of Women’s College, Ambreen referred to the impact of militarization on girl education.

She said there are numerous instances where the girl students have been routinely harassed by the troopers.

“They often pass indecent remarks at girl students. Many a time, the girls are even implicated in false cases,” she said.

(Rising Kashmir)

Moving from the esoteric to burning issues of the day, Athar highlights the lack of basic health facilities for women in Kashmir

Women in J&K’s far flung areas distanced from basic health facilities

Athar Parvaiz (Kashmir Times)

SRINAGAR: As the privileged women all across the world brace up for
celebrating the International Women’s Day on March, 7, the underprivileged
continue to suffer even as their sufferings offer varied themes to debaters
annually on this day. Jammu & Kashmir would be no exception to this annual

In our case, there are themes galore. Women; victims of the conflict! Women;
victims of domestic violence! And women; victims of government apathy! The last
one sounds more shocking in the present era. Women, especially those belonging
to economically disadvantaged classes and those residing in far-flung areas, are
yet to enjoy basic facilities like access to proper health care if not quality

There is a terrible lack of maternity care hospitals which creates innumerable
problems for not only those requiring pregnancy and delivery care, but for the
women folk as a whole with hardly any gynecological health care available for
the persons from the female gender especially in far off places – and many
instances; not in so far away places.

The women from affluent families afford quality healthcare elsewhere and thus
escape the agony while those belonging to poor families end up as mute
sufferers. A few days earlier, a qualified female doctor’s account, who had
visited a far off place in district Kupwara in the capacity of a guest, was too
revealing. She narrated a distressing account as to how a 7th class female
student had become awfully anemic since there was no one in her family to take
care of her advancing puberty.

“This was a case, I just stumbled upon. May be there are hundreds or thousands
of such cases in the far off places,” she said. Over the years, the conflict in
Kashmir has already taken a toll of psychological well being of people in
Kashmir, particularly women and children In year 2006, Medicines Sans Frontiers
(MSF), a Holland-based NGO released the report of its study in Kashmir and said
that the interviewees reported witnessing (73.3%) and directly experiencing
themselves (44.1%), physical and psychological mistreatment, such as humiliation
and threats thus causing extensive damage to their psychological health. Almost
two-thirds of the people interviewed (63.9%) by MSF had heard over a similar
period about cases of rape, while one in seven had witnessed rape.

Over the last two decades particularly from 1988-2000, the healthcare system has
witnessed deterioration like the most of the vital sectors. According to the
medical experts in valley, the health awareness among the people is so low that
they are not aware about the health problems which in most of the cases take a
worst turn.

Dr Abdul Hameed Zargar, the Head department of Endocrinology and Director Sher- e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) says that 4.6 percent women in Kashmir suffer from gestational diabetes which often remains undiagnosed, again because of the fact that a desirable health-care system has not evolved in this part of the world; unfortunately 1/3rd of such patients die because of the chronic renal infections.”

Quoting a study conducted by him and his colleagues, Dr Zargar said that 38,000
women across Kashmir valley suffer from Sheehan’s Syndrome - which occurs
because of the poor obstetric care and wherein excessive bleeding during the
delivery causes damage to the pituitary gland. He observes that this is the
consequence of either the non-availability of gynecologists in the hospitals or
the lack of good hospitals.

Official records in the Health department reveal that there are around 100
vacancies of gynecologists in the valley. The records further reveal that only
two gynecologists are catering to the medical needs of lakhs of women in Kupwara
district whereas there is not a single pediatrician in the district. Official records further reveal that there is an acute shortage of gynecologists, anesthetists and pediatricians in the valley.

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