Human Rights

Photo Essay: On Human Rights Day, glimpses of distressed women of Kashmir 

Paternal aunt of slain civilian Faizan Fayaz wails after his nephew was killed by armed forces during poling for Srinagar parliament constituency in Dalwan area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district.

To celebrate the 70th Human Rights Day on December 10, 2018, the United Nations came out with #StandUp4HumanRights theme. But in Kashmir, it was yet another day of grieving, as women mourners were crying their hearts out over the passage of the minor militants of Hajin and braving biting cold in Srinagar to seek the whereabouts of their disappeared sons. Here, a photojournalist from Srinagar details the suffering of Kashmiri women in different frames.

For the day, when Human Rights Day was trending worldwide with hashtag #StandUp4HumanRights, many agonised parents were silently walking inside Srinagar’s Press Enclave to register their customary monthly sit-in—observed on every 10th of the month, to demand the whereabouts of their sons subjected to enforced disappearance in the valley since 1990.

Years of wailing, lamenting and suffering had reduced them to some feeble and forsaken lot, who now mainly speak through their silence.

Srinagar, their host for the day, was under the spell of biting cold. Yet these parents—withering in the larger indifference—were holding posters, seeking whereabouts of their sons.

Among them were the wrinkled and aged mothers, sitting glum and lost in their own thoughts. They didn’t show any signs of eagerness in front of cameras, like they used to do when their sons were first subjected to enforced disappearance.

Years of tormenting struggle — taking them to different dungeons, torture chambers and some notorious prisons across India — had apparently made them paranoid about many things.

But amid the pervasive hopelessness, they did show some hope, drawing them out—at least, once in a month, to remember their beloved ones.

“How sad and tragic,” a passerby remarked, as he walked up to the silent gathering. “These unfortunate lots think that someone in power corridors or those human rights champions gracing ivory towers around the world, like UN might give them some clue of their loved sons. What a transfixed state of mind they’ve been pushed to, by this horrific turmoil!”

But more than beckoning the so-called power corridors or rights champions in ivory towers, a scribe said, they are out there to crystallise the memory of their loved ones.

“And that’s more important for them now—when even memory is under attack,” the scribe made it precise.

After some time, many of those battered mothers began taking heavy steps to their homes, where they keep fighting the memories of their disappeared sons.

Every year December 10 is celebrated as the day to raise awareness and infuse the importance of human rights in the minds of the people. On this day, 70 years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted and proclaimed the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, which declared inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being.

But women in Kashmir are constantly facing rights violations, which hardly become a rallying point in the world.

Living in one of the ugliest conflict zones in south Asia—tagged as the largest militarized zone of the world for housing around 700,000 Indian troops—had/has their own problems to offer for Kashmiri women.

It has not only adversely affected them socially, physically and economically, but also distressed them psychologically.

The ratio of mental malady in women shows higher levels of despair as compared to men in the Valley. They’ve been made victims in all possible ways—widowed, tortured, raped, blinded and jailed.

Despite being resilient, many of them have witnessed the killings of their beloved ones, along with being witnesses to razing down of their houses in the continuing conflict.

All this makes Kashmir women as the worst sufferers of the protracted political conflict.

A Kashmiri woman relative of a disappeared person holds his picture during a protest demonstration organized by Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) to mark the International Human Rights Day in Srinagar.

A Kashmiri woman hiding her face while passing by a group of armed forces during restrictions in old city of Srinagar.

Kashmiri women shout pro-freedom slogans during the funeral procession of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militant Zubair Ahmad Turray at his native place Main Town in Shopian district of South Kashmir.

Kashmiri women run for cover after police fired tear smoke shells and pellets on the funeral procession of a civilian Tanveer Ahmad Wani who was killed by the Indian army after they opened fire on protesters at a village Arwah in Beerwah town of central Kashmir’s Budgam district.

Nusrat Jan, 32, a mother of a two-year-old baby stands near the window where she lost her eyesight when a pellet fired by Indian armed forces pierced her right eye following the intense clashes near the gunfight site at Fateh Kadal area of old Srinagar.

An elderly Kashmiri woman stands baffled in front of a bullet-ridden wall of a residential house that was ravaged during a gun battle between militants and Indian army at Nowgam on the outskirts of Srinagar.

Relatives sitting tormented as they mourn the death of a civilian Amir Hameed Lone, a resident of Chattergul Kangan who was seriously injured in the clashes and breathed his last after battling deteriorating health for 12 days at hospital.

A relative mourns the death of a civilian Tanveer Ahmad Wani who was killed by Indian army after they opened fire on protesters at a village Arwah in Beerwah town of central Kashmir’s Budgam district.

Relatives of Firdous Ahmad faint during his funeral procession. Ahmad was killed after Indian forces opened fire to disperse protesters during a gunfight at Hakripora area in Kakpora village of South Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

People offering water to the sister of a civilian Shahid Ahmad, a resident of Arihal, Pulwama who was killed after Indian forces opened fire to disperse protesters during a gunfight at Drubgam area of South Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

Eight months’ pregnant wife of slain civilian Firdous Ahmad cries in distress while holding his photograph and the sobbing relatives accompany her.

Wailing mother of slain civilian Faizan Fayaz, hugs the best friend of Faizan asking him to bring back his son who had left with him for playing after reciting the holy Quran. Faizan was killed in firing by armed forces during poling for Srinagar parliament constituency in Dalwan area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district.

Sister of top Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Sabzar Ahmad Bhat wails during the funeral procession of her brother at their home located in Ratsuna village in Tral area of South Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

An elderly Kashmiri woman stands perplexed near the window of her house as she watches the funeral procession of Sajad Ahmad Gilkar in Downtown area of Srinagar.

 

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  1. Pingback: » #2018: The Noose Tightens Around Kashmir

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