Kashmiri Women

Uzma Amin

 “A woman is a blend of tenderness and strength. If the balance fails, she is in danger of losing them both and diminishes herself”.

The above words show, in the true sense the meaning of a woman. Kashmiri women from ancient times have always been associated with home, with no exposure at all to what is happening outside the four walls .Traditionally the status and role of women in the Kashmiri society has been considered lower than that of men. This is closely associated to the kinship and economic system which assigns a subordinate and secondarily role to women in the family and consequently in the society. For the last 16 years Kashmir has been embroiled in a fulminating manifestation of a turmoil that has been simmering since 1947. The issue which is protracted and violent has taken a massive toll on human lives. Women amidst the mayhem have been equal recipients in the suffering.

 Kashmiri women have always been an active component of the society, whether it is at the time of 90’s or even in the recent ongoing struggle of independence. Women in Kashmir have stood shoulder to shoulder with men. They have been seen actively out on the streets protesting for the justice with no fear of their lives. Much of their social, educational and professional growth has seen a steady increase over the years; most of it can also be attributed to the benign patriarchal norms of the Kashmiri society. Barring the elite and clergy classes where the womenfolk lived an orthodox and sheltered life, often because they could afford such “non-visible” life-styles (although there are exceptions); common Kashmiri women from middle-class and the lower strata’s have always been a part of a bustling social and economic scenario. Most of the women across the valley have always been engaged with the historic cottage industry of spinning (Pashmina and other famous yarns). This vocation was pursued within the confines of their homes, in tandem with tending to house and children, never leaving the premises except to procure raw material.

But the scenario in recent times has changed completely. Today women are no longer puppets in the hands of men. In fact they are at par with men in every field of life, be it science commerce, music, fine arts, medicine or even the raucous fields like defiance and piloting. A Kashmiri woman today is a doctor, a scientist, an educationist, a bureaucrat, a politician and what not. In fact Kashmiri women have left men trailing far behind both in academics and sports to an extent. Frankly speaking, many a time women has proved to be more efficient doctor, teacher entrepreneurs, and bureaucrats and this statement of mine cannot be falsified. There is no field worth mentioning which the Kashmiri women of era have left untouched. They have tired their hand at every possible job and success did come to them, not on a small scale but on a larger one. Kashmiri women today have revolutionized society with their advent in field only were supported to specialize.

 Though in the past few decades, political and social circumstances have restricted Kashmiri women’s political participation. 50 years ago Kashmir’s political scenario was more equitably divided between the sexes. There were women like Begum Akbar Jehan, wife of late Sheikh Abdullah, Zenaib Begum, sister of former chief minister, Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq, Zoona, a milkmaid by profession and Muhammad Ali, who played significant role in the Quit Kashmir Movementof1946.Begum Akbar Jehan, popularly known as Madre-Meherban was the first women from state to win any political election in state. In her maiden attempt, she won Srinagar Parliamentary seat in 1977 defeating her nearest candidate by a margin of over 100,000 votes. Two women who made debutant entry into state Assembly were Mehbooba Mufti and Sakina Itoo. Mehbooba entered politics on a Congress ticket in the 1996 assembly elections. But later, she resigned and formed a regional party People’s Democratic Party (PDP), laying strong foundation for the party’s victory in 2002 state elections. The other woman to follow the suit is Sakina Itto, the youngest of whole lot of women politicians, in her late thirties. Her political career also began out of family compulsions.

Women of the likes of Lal Ded , Habba Khaatoon, Begum Akbar Jehan, Mehbooba Mufti and Sakina Itoo have shown us that it is no longer a mans world out there. A woman enjoys equal status and respect as a man would in the same capacity as her. Lal Ded, the mother figure to the common men and women of Kashmir. Lal Ded – The poet who gave a voice to women. A voice which set off a resonance heard with clear tone till today spoke directly to the people and what is more, was heard with all seriousness, recorded in collective memory and later, the words put down on paper. This path – breaking women is the mystic poet Lal Ded, whom the Kashmiri venerate to this day as a prophetess, moral guide and a fount of practical wisdom.
Habba Khaatoon is the first significant name in Kashmiri poetry after Lal Ded and Nunda Ryosh (Sheikh – ul – Alam). She was the first romantic poetess and the most important vatsun writer –a pioneer in this field. Not that she invented this form; she only breathed new life into it. Women inspires as lead in Jammu and Kashmir where women have been worst victims of 17 years of insurgency, over 1400 dead, the women participation in political process has been a rarity and almost negligible.

The state, which till the year 2004 has had sent only two women to Indian Parliament, some young names like Mehbooba Mufti, Sakina Itoo, Kanta Andotra besides some senior names include Suman Bhagat, Zubeda Salaria and others such as Khemlata Wakhloo, Shanti Devi and Vimla Luthra have made forays into Parliament and state assembly either throughelectionsorthroughnominations.It is an old saying that “Behind every successful man there is a woman is it as a mother, a sister or a wife. Now this mind behind the scene is coming to the forefront and that is what has changed the whole scenario. The empowerment of women has given the world a new looked. Women who were silent suffers all the time have now after centuries decided to break their silence. The social position of Kashmiri women has undergone a series of profound changes during the present century. Firstly, women have got admission to a variety of hitherto ‘masculine’ jobs which on the whole provided that women were unencumbered by family ties. Secondly, there is an endeavor of a growing number of women to combine family and employment.

O woman, perfect woman for I cannot think that GOD Almighty ever made them [women] so delicate, so glorious creatures; and furnished them with such charms, so agreeable and so delightful to mankind; with souls capable of the same accomplishments with men .”

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About theparallelpost
The language of words is more heavenly than the language of tongues and lips. The Parallel Post is a forum to offer a space for people who dare to speak through their words. The intention is to create an environment to share in words what we perceive in our minds...

4 Responses to Kashmiri Women

  1. umer says:

    dear friend
    some points are to corrected that you mentioned in old times women were bound to four walls they were not bounded but they were respected the most so they were taken most care in family and its that time which has produced women like LAL DED and HABBA-KHATOON.
    2nd point is that you mentioned of 1400 women’s were martyred in last 17 yrs don’t sell blood 1lac youth have been martyred but v equally respect our sisters sacrifice also.
    3rd point men and women are not equal by nature. so u can’t say you are equal to men.
    lastly let me clear you that v respect women equally to men

  2. Khalid Waleed says:

    UZMA IS AMONG THOUSANDS OF KASHMIRI WOMEN AMONG THE ELITE ONES IN VALLEY WHO ONLY TALK ABOUT THEIR CONTRIBUTION. IN REALITY GIVE A GOVT JOB SHE WOULD RUSH TO VIE FOR IT.
    THE CONTRIBUTION OF ELITE VALLEY WOMEN IN MOVEMENT IS ZERO AS COULD BE GAUGED FROM THEIR PARTICIPATION IN STREET PROTESTS. EVEN RECENTLY I WAS PART OF THREE SEMINARS ORGANISED BY PRO-FREEDOM LEADERS, NONE FROM UZMA’S CLASS ATTENDED THOSE WHILE THE SAME CLASS GOES TO ATTENDED CONVENTIONS OF NC, PDP AND CONGRESS BECAUSE THEIR THE GAINS IN TERMS OF MATERIAL ARE MORE. I WAS TRYING TO GAUGE THE MOOD OF GIRLS DURING LAND UNREST AND FOR MYSELF I SAW HANDFUL OF GIRLS FROM WOMEN’S COLLEGE MA ROAD OUT ON ROADS AFTER THEY DISPERSED FROM THE COLLEGE WHILE LARGE NUMBER OF THEM WERE MOVING ON FOOTPATHS OF RESIDENCY ROAD AND HARDLY EVEN JOINING THEIR PROTESTING COLLEAGUES ON THE MAIN ROAD REFLECTING THE MINDSET OF MAJAORITY THAT THEY ARE CAREER ORIENTED THAN FREEDOM LOVING.

  3. caleb says:

    I don’t agree completely with the writer about the contribution of women to Kashmiri Society and that they have been “active component”.
    But Mr Khalid I don’t see any wrong in being “Career oriented” than “Freedom loving.” Women folk in Kashmir are our sisters and mothers only, so its our(men) failure who are not able to motivate them or make them understand whatever “men think is right”.Why do they go to NC, PDP or congress conventions rather than Pro-freeedom Seminars is a million dollar question and what are we doing for that?
    And I think creating one more faction i.e. “Elite Valley Women” will add to problems rather than solving them.we have enough of them already. we keep on creating them and will end up in being alone(what already happened to Muslims).

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