Is Kashmir safe for women? You’re wrong, Madam Mufti

By Ruwa Shah

Dear Madam Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, you recently touted Kashmir as a safe place because women don’t get raped in a moving car. Are you sure it is indeed safer for women in Kashmir than Delhi?

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I am a Kashmiri woman journalist based in Delhi for the past nearly two years.

There is no doubt that crime, at least reported crime, is not as rampant in Kashmir as it is in other places like Delhi. But did you hide certain truth about Kashmir? Or you are truly unaware of the ground realities.

On Tuesday evening at an event in Delhi, you spoke about tourism and its potential in Kashmir. My heart skipped a beat when you remarked “women are safest in Kashmir”, hardselling the place as a safe tourist destination.

Did you actually talk about a relative safety or a perceived notion that Kashmir is a crime free and safest place for women?

Madam Mufti, I have been wanting to tell you since very long about torture, harassment, molestations Kashmiri women and girls face every day, everywhere. More so after you assumed power. That Kashmiri women don’t speak about it doesn’t mean it never happens even as the degree of suffering may vary.

“You cannot get raped in a moving car in Kashmir,” you said.

I am not sure if you, a woman yourself, meant that being safe only meant not getting raped. Do you know how safe it is for women to ride a bus, walk on the street, attend a tution class?

Before I shifted to Delhi for my job, I was a student of a government college in Srinagar. Please ask me, my friends or for that matter any Kashmiri girl about the ugly truth — which nobody talks about.

Please ask us how men try to touch us, humiliate us. Is not that molestation? Ask me how it feels. I wish I could explain how it tears apart the soul.

Madam Mufti, I am not blaming you for the mental and physical torture most of the women face. I am only wondering how you can equate the word “safe” with “not being raped”.

But then in many cases in Kashmir it is not only restricted to physical molestation or lewd comments.

May I remind you of 13-year-old Tabinda Gani’s brutal rape and murder in 2007 in a north Kashmir village? May I remind you about the alarming rise in domestic violence cases against women in Kashmir?

According to police records — I am sure you must be aware of it because you also head the police department as the home minister — nearly 1,000 cases of domestic violence were registered in 2013 and 2014. These also included 15 dowry deaths.

Have you forgotten about Kunan and Poshpora mass rape of several women? How about Asiya and Neelofar twin rape and murder in Shopian in 2009? You yourself spearheaded the fight for justice of the two Kashmiri women who were mysteriously found dead in a knee-high deep small river.

And very recently, Insha, a 14-year-old aspiring doctor, who lost both of her eyes due to pellets fired at her by security forces? Insha and many other girls were blinded when you are presiding over the state.

It is not easy for women to talk about crimes against them so openly in Kashmir. But will you please address the issue at its roots before branding Kashmir as safe for them?