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Kashmir's Desperate Housewives




Kashmiri Muslim women shout slogans during the funeral procession of 19-year old Syed Farrukh Bukhari in Kreeri, north of Srinagar, on August 11, 2010. (Rouf Bhat/AFP/Getty Images)

Kashmiri Muslim women shout slogans during the funeral procession of 19-year old Syed Farrukh Bukhari in Kreeri, north of Srinagar, on August 11, 2010. (Rouf Bhat/AFP/Getty Images)

Kashmir violence has been on the rise again as continuing skirmishes between security forces and anti-Indian Kashmiris have left 57 dead and scores wounded since June 11.

Indian-administered Kashmir has been in the throes of violent protests recently as part of so-called "Quit Kashmir" campaign launched by separatist groups against Indian rule in Kashmir.

Women, mostly, are joining demonstrations in large numbers demanding "freedom from India" in the crowded neighborhoods of Srinagar. Firdous Farooq, with her four-year-old son in tow, faced security forces who fired on stone-pelting protesters, to take part in a demonstration that could potentially kill her.

So what makes a mother of three hit the angry streets of Kashmir?

Farooq's eldest son, Wamiq, 14, was killed in January when a tear gas shell fired by the police exploded on his head. He was stepping out his house to play a game of cricket when the incident happened.

The police report describes Wamiq as a "miscreant who was part of an unlawful assembly," at which the forces had fired tear gas shells in self-defence.

Very few locals - including his neighbours, lawyers and journalists - believe this.

Other housewives, mothers, and sisters are also joining the demonstrations because of the increasing number of men arrested in Kashmir. Forced to stay on their own with a feeling of abandonment, not by their husbands, fathers, or brothers, but by their government.

Many in the Valley share this sentiment. Parvneena Ahangar, who heads the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, says the women have suffered the most during Kashmir's tumultuous years. "My son was picked up by the (Indian police) in early 1990s and since then his whereabouts are not known. Who can douse my anger?"

Out of more than 50 people killed in the latest round of violence, three have been women.

Yasmeen Jan, 25, was standing near a window inside her house watching a demonstration wind by when she was hit by a bullet allegedly fired by security forces.

Fifteen-year-old Afroza Teli took a bullet in her head during another demonstration, causing angry Kashmiris to burn offices throughout the Valley. Anisa Sheikh, 55, was hit by a stone from a sling shot by security forces when she was walking her granddaughter to buy milk. She died a day later from her wounds.

This is not the first time that women in Kashmir have come out in droves to protest, but their numbers and impact appear to be greater than ever before.

Rozy Salim, 40, a protestor from north of Srinagar said, "Let India read the writing on the wall and realize the anger of Kashmiris against the occupation of Kashmir. They should allow the Kashmiris to decide their fate as per the UN resolutions."

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