With women hitting the street in Srinagar, another phase of civil disobedience unfolding

Protesting women carrying placards that read “resist to exist”, “Kashmiri brides are not for sale”, “our voice is our future”, “respect our fundamental rights” were taken into custody

With women hitting the street in Srinagar, another phase of civil disobedience unfolding

Majid Maqbool

With women hitting the street in Srinagar, a new phase in the civil disobedience in the Valley appears to have started. On Tuesday, as many as 13 women, accomplished and from well-off families, got together to protest the abrogation of Article 370, bifurcation of the state into two union territories and the prolonged lockdown.

Besides NC leader farooq Abdullah’s sister and daughter Suraya and Safiya Abdullah, the eleven other women detained and arrested following the public protest in Srinagar on Tuesday have been identified as Saleema Begum, Muslim Jan, Shameema, Hawa Bashir, Qurat-ul-Ain, Sushoba Bharve, Zahida Rahim, Ruqaya Saeed,Shamshada, Fareeda Naqshbandi, and Bashra Khan.

They were shifted to Central Jail in Srinagar after their medical check-up.

Wearing black bands, the all-women group was led by Suraya Abdullah and Safiya Abdullah, the sister and daughter of incarcerated NC president Farooq Abdullah. They were holding a peaceful protest at Lal Chowk against the unilateral decision of BJP government in New Delhi to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5.

Farooq Abdullah and his son, former chief minister Omar Abdullah remain in detention since August 5 following the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the state into two union territories by the BJP government in New Delhi..

After assembling in Lal Chowk area at around 11am, the women tried to stage a protest in the Press Enclave that houses offices of all the media houses. However, they were prevented by the police from reaching the Press Enclave and forcibly bundled away in police vehicles.

The protesting women were carrying placards that read “resist to exist”, “Kashmiri brides are not for sale”, “our voice is our future”, “respect our fundamental rights”, among other messages in protest against the removal of the special status of the state. Calling for the immediate release of all detainees, the group of women also called for the demilitarization of rural and urban areas.

“Whatever is happening in Kashmir in the past more than two months can in no way be described as normal,” Suraya told reporters before she was taken away in the police vehicle. “We demand restoration of our civil liberties and political rights,” said the daughter of Farooq Abdullah.

One of the protesting women, social activist Hawa Bashir told reporters that they had assembled there to express their anger against the decision taken by the centre on August 5.

“India is projecting that Kashmir is happy with the decision. We are here to tell the entire world that we are angry against this unilateral decision,” said Bashir.

Educationist Muslim Jan asked about the whereabouts of the detained youth. “We demand an immediate release of all detainees,” said Jan.

According to another group member Gurat-ul-Ain, the protest was organized to “express feelings of common Kashmiri.”

“We want to make it loud and clear that we are not happy with scrapping of special status of Jammu and Kashmir,” said Qurat.

A statement released by the group of women said that they feel “betrayed, humiliated and violated” as people.

“We the women of Kashmir disapprove unilateral decision taken by the government of India to revoke Article 370, Article 35A and downgrade and split the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” the statement read.

The statement also called out the national media for its misleading coverage of happenings in Kashmir. “We express our outrage against the national media for their false/misleading coverage of ground realities in Kashmir,” the statement said.

In a statement issued from its Jammu office, National Conference strongly condemned the detention of sister and daughter of party president Farooq Abdullah, calling the detention as “unprecedented and against people’s right to peaceful protest.”

“Being kin of the former chief ministers should not entail political victimization, leading to curtailment of liberty and freedom of movement and speech,” the statement read.

“The situation has now touched such lowest depths that even the liberties of those in public life is under severe threat,” the statement said. “The detention of Suraya Mattoo and Safiya Abdullah Khan reflect the sad state of affairs the state is in for the past nearly seventy days.”

Abdullah’s niece and daughter of Suraya Abdullah, Dr. Nayla Ali Khan, who’s a US based academic, took to Facebook to condemn the arrest of her mother and cousin among other women.

“My mother and rest of women with her, most of whom are highly educated and professionalized, were first taken to Kothi Bagh Police Station and then to Central Jail, Srinagar. The entire group of women was accused of violating Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973, which empowers an executive magistrate to prohibit an assembly of more than four people,” Dr. Nayla wrote, adding that the women have been put behind bars for the “sin of attempting to peacefully and silently protest the strong armed methods of Government of India and its appendages.”

“It isn’t easy for a woman from a political and traditional family to make the transition from her conventional life to social activism, which she has been involved in for two decades,” she wrote, adding that she’s proud of her mother.

Farooq Abdullah, who has been booked under PSA, continues to be detained at his Gupkar residence. His son and former chief minister Omar Abdullah also remains under detention. The government recently released a three Kashmiri politicians after they reportedly signed a bond to "maintain peace and good behavior.".

Although the government has lifted ban on landline and postpaid mobile phones, both mobile and broadband internet continues to be banned in the valley. SMS services have also been banned in the valley.

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