Gender issues cut across all sectors of the societyregardless of the social, political and economic context.
Their articulation insituations of armed conflict and political violence are often particularlymarked.in the democracy of India, reinforcement of local perceptions oflegitimacy of use of military for domestic repression is emerging as animportant question in the complex understanding of nationhood, especially instates who have undergone or are undergoing AFSPA (Armed Forces (SpecialPowers) Act). Consequently, the impact of ‘armed intervention’ on genderrelations and gender equality has become a key issue.
As previous researches have already begin toexplore what local legitimacy entails to those involved in and affected byarmed intervention and the growing dichotomy of identities, I would like toshift the lens to women who form a large part of the population that is oftenneglected in understanding of local legitimacy under constant armed vigilanceand violence as a perception-based, relational phenomenon. Through this lens,the focus would be on Kashmir while examining armed intervention in statesunder AFSPA, i.e., Assam and Manipur in 1958, Amritsar and Chandigarh in 1983and Jammu and Kashmir in 1990.In particular, I would like to study therelationship between locals, especially the women in Kashmir and interveningarmed forces they interacts with in the valley, and how it shapes theidentities and create perspectives on local legitimacy held by the main’interveners’ and those ‘intervened upon’.The term new war’s coined by Mary Kaldor (2006), isdistinctly different from past wars in terms of its goals, fighting methods andfinancial sources.
The 21st century wars are about identity politics she saysusing the term gruesome to describe violence. They are more decentralized thanwar in the era of world wars between state actors. They are, instead of purelyinterstate conflicts, “a mixture of war, organized crime, and massiveviolations of human rights. The actors are global and local, public andprivate”.
According to the Uppsala university conflict data program an armedconflict is defined as a ‘contested incompatibility that concerns governmentand/or territory where the use of armed force between two parties, of which atleast one is the government of a state, results in at least 25 battle-relateddeaths in one calendar year’1.As Sumit Ganguly (2002) writes, with the possibleexception of Arab-Israeli dispute, Kashmir conflict remains an intractableissue in the post-World War II era. India and Pakistan continue to be animpasse regarding Kashmir, each stating their territorial as legitimate. Thislegitimation process, which Goddard calls, ‘legitimation strategies’, hascontinued for well over three decade now with little hope of reaching acompromise. There has been anexclusion of women and gender issues in political conflict from the arena ofinternational politics which has been explained through the reference to publicand private dichotomy. The dichotomy rises from the assumption that ‘power’belongs to the public political domain, which is considered a malemonopoly where women have no role to play. Though the views that women have nopower or political agency and they are only dependent on the existing socialand political structures have been challenged, the dichotomy continues to existin the fringes.
In the context of Northern Ireland, Begonia Aretxaga (1997) haspoint out that internment and the widespread raids of people’s homes haveblurred the boundaries between household and communal space and at certainmoments practically erased them. This erasure of boundaries has hadimplications for the transformation of gender roles and identities in bothcontexts. Militarization presupposes a close relation between political andmilitary elites. As Cynthia Enloe, a pioneer in the study of militarizationthrough gendered lenses, notes that a community’s politicized sense becomesentangled with circumstances and pressures for its men to take up arms andchoose side, the women are needed to support the familial relations in theirquest to become ‘soldiers’, there is a burning need to answer questions likewhat does militarization mean for women’s and men’s relationship to each otherwithin and outside the familial context; what happens when some women resistthat pressure; arises.When a conflictbetween or among parties involves a core sense of identity, the conflict tendsto be intractable. Under the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act and theArmed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Indian security forces haveextraordinary powers which include the authority to shoot suspected lawbreakersand those disturbing peace. The AFSPA also grants the Indian military widepowers of arrest, the right to shoot to kill, and to occupy or destroy propertyin counter-insurgency operations1.Deep-rooted conflicts have developed under such over-arching powers of Indiansecurity forces where there are underlying needs that cannot be compromised,and interests and positions are deemed non-negotiable, existing tensions haveevolved into a reign of unrest in conflict-ridden states of India like Kashmir.
Chenoy and Chenoy have spoken about the denial of rights and justice whichleads to a sense of collective victimhood and narratives of oppressionidentified with a community. This collective victimization heightens identityconsciousness2.Yuval Nira Davis, points out that, the burden of representation on women of thecollective identity and future destiny has also brought about the constructionof women as the bearers of the collective honour.
She goes on to talk about the construction of womanhood has a property of’otherness’. Strict cultural codes of what is to be a ‘proper woman’ are oftendeveloped to keep woman in this inferior power position. Women living in conflictsituations have been subjected to range of human rights violations like rape, molestation,physical and sexual violence.
Women being considered as appendages of men havebeen given differential treatment. Women are also indirectly affected in termsof killing, torture, disappearance of their family members. There has beenincrease in female headed households, stressing women with additional burden ofmaintaining the household.
Because of the vulnerable nature of adolescentgirls, their movement has been restricted affecting their education. The sexualappropriation of Kashmiri Muslim women by the military functions not just as anespecially potent political weapon, but also a cultural weapon to inflict collectivehumiliation on Muslim Kashmiri men (Kazi, 2010).The 1990’s crisis of insurgency of Kashmir improvedpartially with commencement of peace talks between India and Pakistan anddialogues between the Centre and stakeholders in Kashmir in the early 2000’s.
As the talks died down, abuse of human rights and increase of power of the militaryin around 2007 set a tone for the emergence of a stronger militant power inKashmir. 2016 saw a complete breakdown of law and order post killing and abuseof locals in the area. In this situation, the question of identity remainsparamount and has gained further importance in the past two decades as the tugand tussle of identities – ethnic, linguistic, religious, class, and especiallynational continues to dominate political life throughout the region. Every timethese aspects of identity are perceived to be denied or threatened tensionsbetween different identity groups have escalated and the threat of conflict hasemerged. Possibly nowhere else in the world are the contours of identity, bothwithin and across nations, so complicated. The way in which conflicts ofidentity and legitimacy are resolved will not only affect peace and stabilityin the states but may also have greater implications for nationalist andreligious movements in other regions of the country. Identities are created,ascribed, exploited negotiated in relation to the state where resistance anddialogue are cogs in the governmental mechanism.As Sangri writes,that everyday gendered violence serves to reinforce all other forms of violencein our society, and is a connective tissue between patriarchal systems andsocial structures, the node at which the social inequalities represented byeach of these dominant agencies meet and interact1.
Women are not bound by homogenous experience, with emphasis on the importanceof their subjective experiences of militarisation cannot be clubbed withgeneral understanding of gender vis-à-vis militarisation. To state simply, womenin Kashmir experience conflict ‘differently’. My research would focus on thecrisis of identity in face of questions of legitimacy posed women of Kashmirand children to some extent. There is an embodiment of violence in the localidentities where question about local legitimacy of military forces has becomeincreasingly contested among Kashmiris thus leading to questions of the kind ofidentities that are emerging and their impact on the legitimacy of the violencepropagated by the state.
This has further increased largely due to theperceived intensification of foreign intrusion on ‘everyday’ life.The study will be a sociological and a feministstudy, which will use both qualitative and quantitative approach. The studywill use in-depth interviews as the primary method. Semi-structured interviewswill be conducted with selected respondents. The interviews will focus on their everyday experiences and interactionwith the military and government officials present in the Valley. The otherstakeholders with whom short interviews will be conducted include family orfriends of the respondents, military and police personnel and local governmentofficials. The study intends to be a narrative ethnographic study as it elucidatesthe “storying of experience in everyday life” (Gubrium and Holstein, 2008).
Standpoint epistemology approach will benefit the study during analysis andinterpretation of these narratives because the distinction of ‘facts’ or ‘data’and experiences is blurred. This is important to understand and translate thesewomen’s knowledge into practise and apply them towards social change and worktowards elimination of oppression of the marginalized.Being aware that this is sensitive topic tobroach to the stakeholders in this region and in a time where the Indiangovernment and local population is trying to navigate through their differencesto reach a common ground, it is important be to be aware of the power elationbetween the researcher and the researched where the representation constitutesof women’s political opposition to the dominant. Non-disclosure of respondent’sidentities is crucial to protect their well and views. None of the interviewswill be conducted without explicit consent and any action that can threaten therespondent’s safety will emphatically avoided. Patience, sensitivity and trustare crucial when accessing in university spaces and the respondents about theirexperiences.India has seen a steady growth of feministscholarship through several detailed, well researched and documented studies onthe position of women in the country since Independence and prior to 1947 inpast few decades.
Though there has been several studies on Kashmir, the womenof the valley and their issues have not received due attention. My primaryobjective therefore is to fulfil this lacuna and study the changing position ofwomen and gender relation since last decade. Indian citizens, outside the regionof Kashmir have diverse options on this issue and often these voices arecoloured in religious and communal colours. The awareness about the situationhas seen a shift in media representation where words chosen, images portrayedstoke the national patriotism and deepen the sense of ethnic belonging inopposition to ‘other’ from ‘we’, which in turn threatens the multiculturalsociety we are striving to create.
Thus, it is important for me that through mywork, along with contributing to a more comprehensive global understanding ofthe complex role, responsibilities whether as victims, perpetrators or actorsin a military controlled conflict region, this study also intends to bring acertain degree of awareness.