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.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

When a Police Station Becomes a Shelter

Pervez finds women seeking safety and solace in a police station catering to women

(Mr. Pervez Majeed Lone, 34, was born in Ashpora, a hamlet located in Handwara Tehsil in the Kupwara District. His primary schooling took place in government schools in his hometown, and he finished his higher secondary education from the Government Higher Secondary School, Kupwara. He graduated from the University of Kashmir as a Continuing Education student with Sociology, Philosophy and English Literature as major subjects. In 2004, he completed his Master's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Kashmir. He has worked in various local Urdu journals (Chattan, Pukar) and the Radio Kashmir (Sheharbeen) before joining the Sahara Time, a weekly national news magazine from the Sahara Group. He is passionate about the Urdu language and poetry, and loves to listen to music, read English literature and traveling. The following article has appeared previously in the Sahara Time, New Delhi.)

Oasis of Hope

In the patriarchal Kashmir society, where males dominate almost every sphere of life, a female in a uniform seems an ‘aberration.’ But as the ruthless manifestations of the political conflict had their bearing mostly on womenfolk, the importance of females in police force began to be felt increasingly. This realisation prompted the establishment of Valley’s first and the only women’s police station in Srinagar in 1998. Though the primary purpose of it was to provide normal police help to women, but lately this police station has turned to be an oasis of hope for traumatized Kashmiri women, who largely face official and societal neglect in the turmoil-ridden Kashmir. During past two decades, Kashmir is witnessing unprecedentedcrimes against women, which many attribute to the ongoing political turmoil. Besides incidents of rape and molestation, domestic violence particularly at the hands of husbands and in-laws has seen a dreadful upsurge. What aggravates the situation is that many such incidents are unreported, thus guilty go unpunished. “In such a dismal scenario,” says Gulshan, station house officer of the women’s police station, “plays a major role in identifying, prosecuting and punishing the guilty.”

Situated in Rambagh locality of Srinagar, the police station is manned by around 28 women constables, who are assisted by six male constables. Almost every day, this two-storey building is visited by womenand their relatives with different complaints ranging from domestic violence to matrimonial disputes. Being the only women’s police station in Kashmir, it remains abuzz with complainants. Since its establishment in 1998 this police station has registered 237 FIRs after being approached by victim women or their guardians. “They mostly pertain to domestic violence,” informed Gulshan. She said that besides registering FIRs, there are many cases which the police station resolves amicably between the parties. “Most of these cases are about matrimonial discords.”

Women rights activists insist that with crimes against women are on rise in Kashmir, the deterrents are few. Birjees Nawab, state director of Human Rights Law Network which provides legal assistance to victimwomen, says that physical violence against women in domestic spheres has increased dangerously . “To address this grave issue, one women’s police station is too insufficient,” she maintains. Nawab, who has worked as a counsellor with State Commission for Women (SCW), stresses that there is need of a vigorous campaign to make women in Kashmir aware about their rights and help them seek police and legal help in need. “For that purpose we need more women police stations,” she said. Shameema Firdous MLA and chairperson of SCW says that the women’s police station in Srinagar has helped many victims to get justice. “The lack of awareness about their rights among women in Kashmir is an issue which needs immediate attention. For that purpose, we need women police stations at each district,” she told Sahara Time. Terming the women’s police station in Srinagar as a “very successful endeavour of police to curb thecrimes against women,”

A G Malik senior superintendent of police crime branch Kashmir said it has done tremendous job of helping the victims. “It serves as a potent deterrent as well because the perpetrators know their victims have convenient access to police in the form of women’s police stations,” he explained. Malik says that the women’s police station in Srinagar has become an ideal model for ensuring protection and justice for women in Kashmir. “So we need more such police stations to ensure police help to womenin times of need,” he stressed. To the demand of more women police stations, Kuldeep Khoda, director-general of J&K Police says it is in the future plans of the police. “We do realise the need because the two women police stations in Kashmir and Jammu have helped us in controlling the crimes against women. So we have plans to have atleast one women’s police station in all the districts,” he said.

Dreadful data

The magnitude of crimes against women can be gauged from the fact that according to an official survey, over 2000 women experience violence every year in Kashmir, with domestic violence being more rampant. Data compiled by police reveals that in past four years, 3944 cases of molestation took place in Kashmir, while as the police has registered 8260 cases of crimes against women. It includes 520 rape cases, 2536 kidnappings, six dowry deaths, 1103 eve teasing and 151 cases of cruelty at the hands of husbands. The State Commission for Women, since its establishment in March 2000, has registered 2072 cases of violence and crimes against women in the state, with around 1500 in Kashmir alone. Some 656 cases have been settled so far.

Fact sheet

The records at the police station suggest that in most of the cases registered, the investigations are completed and accused challaned. As a sample, the details of the cases since 2006 obtained by Sahara Time reveal that out of 113 registered cases, challans were produced against accused in 91 . This year so far, the police station has registered 27 cases, of which 12 have been challaned while as 13 are under investigation.

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