By Inshah Malik
The research I conducted in Kashmir in June 2013 is shaped through personal encounters with systems of power, and also through a self-directed exploration on the question of agency of Kashmiri Muslim women. A clear strand of Indian interventionist feminist work on Kashmir, reiterates the western ideas on Muslim women, with focus on cultural rather than historical or agential potential of Kashmiri women. This research addresses this colonial import and instead attempts to put indigenous history of Kashmir’s resistance struggle at the center of the debate and explores women as agents and authors of their political actions.
Using the qualitative research methodology, the question of Muslim women’s agency has been investigated in three different phases of the resistance movement in Kashmir. It is argued that the Kashmiri consciousness has its roots in the anti-Dogra struggle that functioned parallel to the subcontinent’s struggle against the British colonialism. It served as the basic consciousness in the alternative self-actualization of women during the era of the Plebiscite Front after 1950s. The hegemonic relationship between India and Kashmir is examined in the identity formations during this era. In the 1980’s, the supposed ‘Islamization’ of Kashmir’s public politics has actually enabled women to use Islamicate concepts to further the cause of women’s rights while formulating ‘moral’ responses to the political crises in Kashmir. The research further attempts to understand the process of militarization and its impact on the subject formation of women, and hence the emergence of class specific creative protests and institutional struggles where recognition of rape as a ‘war wound’ or a ‘badge of high morality’ counters the militaristic reality of ‘rape as a weapon of war or cause of injury’, among the women in Kashmir.
This research reveals a presence of agential political Kashmiri women as in their alternative visions of self-actualization, women’s rights takes a central position; however, their struggles take uniquely localized forms depending on knowledge and ideological sources available to them.