Life beyond the greens of Kashmir

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Kashmiri women struggling to make both ends meet.

By Yasmeen Khan

After fighting nearly two wars over a piece of land, Kashmir continues to become the battlefield between India and Pakistan. Numerous failed attempts to thwart conflict related strategies in Kashmir has left the border residents agonized.

On 22 December, 2O year old girl, Masooma Bano lost her foot in a landmine blast along the line of control in Hathlanga Village in Uri, North Kashmir. The incident happened when Masooma was reportedly grazing sheep near her home and accidently stepped on a landmine resulting in severe foot injury.

Since 1990’s there have been numerous landmine incidents where civilians lost their limbs on the militarized borders. In 2018,

Brigadier SM Mahajan, Director of Military Affairs at the Ministry of External Affairs in India stated that the landmines were set to avoid the infiltration of militants from Pakistan.
During the insurrection of conflict in Kashmir, the border residents have remained totally non-combatant. The residents along the Line of Control (LOC) mostly remain away from politics and conflict while their focus is on survival means due to harsh conditions and meagre facilities.
Kashmir has been a conflict zone from years altogether however the magnitude of suffering is intrinsic to class based societies which are mostly oppressive and financially unstable. The loss of life, property and displacements have added to the miseries of border residents of Kashmir.

Haseeba Bano (name changed) has been a victim of one such incident on a canny afternoon while she was offering a glass of drinking water to the army personnel and abruptly got hit by a mortar from the other side of border. After losing her limb, she was given a monthly compensation of two hundred rupees by the administration. On the other hand, Defence Minister of India, Rajnath Singh described the border residents as no ordinary citizens but India’s “strategic assets”.

Apart from the tension due to territorial boundaries, the divided families have faced psychological and socio-economic problems. Most likely the Non-Governmental Organizations hesitate to work in conflict prone areas fearing cross border firing.

“People living in border areas are most likely facing lot of psychological issues based on divided families during 90’s conflict, harsh climatic conditions, less income sources, zero interaction and awareness about government schemes,” said Afreen, a resident living near the Line of Control (LOC) between India and Pakistan.
“Their lives are not going to get changed unless they have good education leading to better opportunities. Most of the students give up their studies as there are no colleges in such places and in case there are any, they are nearly some 12kms away from their residence,” she added.

Women in most of the cases are most likely to get affected in comparison to the men. Less information and awareness about women health and hygiene has resulted in various complications leading to severe health issues and death in some cases. Pregnant women suffer the most as there are no hospitals in their areas which makes them to travel several kilometers downhill.

“We have very less knowledge about women health and hygiene as speaking about it is a taboo. My health was deteriorated to a larger extent till a family friend took me to the city and got me operated. My uterus was infected and had to be removed,” said Sardari Begum, a border resident.

According to a research published in International Journal Of Health Science, The multiple roles that women fulfill in society render them at greater risk of experiencing mental problems than others in the community. Women bear the burden of responsibility associated with being wives, mothers and caregivers of others. Psychological and psychic injuries can have more damaging, long-term consequences as other injuries from a situation of conflict, they remain undetected and distanced from any plans for rehabilitation. Partly this is because these injuries are difficult to fathom in terms of the enormity of scale and the delayed manifestation of symptoms which can sometimes take years to surface. Physical violence may be easier to identify, name and quantify than psychic or symbolic violence.

People living on borders unaware of the political tensions are hopeful to meet their family members over the LoC who could not return due to the security concerns. On the other hand, there are no hopeful measures being taken to ensure peace between India and Pakistan.

Ali Muhammad, a resident of border district of Uri in Indian-administered J&K says that his family was divided by the LoC. His three elder brothers, one sister, uncle, aunt and cousins crossed over the LoC in 1990s, and could not return due to security reasons. Ali fondly remembers his brothers hopes to see them again.
“My elder brother died in Pakistan and I could not see his body for the last time. That has been no less than a trauma for me,” he added.

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Disclaimer: Life beyond the greens of Kashmir - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view

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