Kashmiri girls take to martial arts for self-defence

By F. Ahmed, IANS,

Srinagar : Rubina, a Class 11 student in the old quarter of the Jammu and Kashmir summer capital, is among 50 odd girls who regularly attend martial arts classes in school to ward off attacks by delinquent youth.

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“It has become absolutely necessary to master some self-defence techniques as roadside eve-teasing, obscene comments by youths in the city have put me on alert,” she said at the end of one such evening training session.

Alarmed by an increase in crimes against women, hundreds of college and schoolgoing Kashmiri girls have started learning self-defence techniques here.

“Our studies show that during the last five years, there has been an 80 percent increase in crimes against women,” said Muzaffar Ahmad, a sociology teacher at a college here. He attributed this to the breaking up of the joint family structure and rapid urbanisation.

There are around 30 schools in the old quarter, and almost all of them have these self-defence classes nowadays, with around 50 girls in each session.

Syed Shafqat, a martial art trainer, goes to most of these schools.

“Self-defence is the right of every citizen, but it is more essential in case of our sisters and daughters who become easy targets for delinquent youth loitering around in the city,” Shafqat told IANS.

Parents here are especially worried after the murder of a local girl, Romana, 16, last fortnight, allegedly by two youths who made a pass at her and after being spurned, hit the girl with their speeding vehicle in uptown Srinagar.

“Police have arrested the two youth involved in Romana’s murder and we have also set up special squads who keep vigil outside schools and colleges during opening and closing hours to address the menace of eve-teasing in the city,” said a senior police officer here.

But parents feel not just police but society as a whole needs to tackle the problem.

“Parents must make an example of their children who loiter around schools, colleges and busy markets targeting innocent girls,” said Muzaffar Ahmad.

“The children of relatively more affluent parents mainly form such groups of loitering hooligans and if strong action is taken against them, others would automatically learn a lesson.”

Sharifa, 17, a Kashmiri girl who attends martial arts classes, said: “But we cannot wait till the conscience of society is aroused fully to make the city a safe place for us. It is always handy to know how to defend yourself against the attacks from criminals on the roadside.”

(F. Ahmed can be contacted at [email protected])