Women and Veiling in Kashmir

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WOMEN AND VEILING
Traditionally Kashmiri women have enjoyed more freedom than women in other parts of the world. Particularly peasant women and lower class women used to work side by side with men. It was only upper class Syed families who wore burqas to maintain their elite structure and their foreign origin. The nationalist struggle wanted women to be politically mobilized and women found it a liberating opportunity. Their response was overwhelming to the struggle of 1990s. In Rita Manchanda’s ‘Guns and Burqa: women in Kashmir’s conflict’, according to a Kashmiri scholar in women’s studies, Momin Jan, it was in the 14th century that purdah was imposed on Kashmiri society. In Kashmir there was lack of women’s organization working for gender justice and social reform. The organizations which came up in 1970s and 1980s in Kashmir were imbibed with an Islamic agenda. Many elite women who came into politics were through their involvement in promoting Islamic social reform. As far as veiling of Kashmiri women is considered it started in 14th century with the coming of Afghans. They forced women to put burqa and pushed them inside. This didn’t last long; the lower class women resisted this veiling by demanding freedom. However women did hold to manage their role in the economic activities by working side by side with men. They were politically mobilized with Asiyah Indrabi coming on the scene, the campaign to reveil Kashmiri women started. Even many fundamentalist organizations were determined to veil Kashmiri women. Pamphlets were thrown in the women colleges, warning Kashmiri women to wear burqa and Kashmiri (Hindu) girls to wear a tikka. Posters were pasted on the walls of Mosques in different mohallas asking them to veil their women otherwise they would face dire consequences. But the women resisted this thing. Writing under pseudonym, Sara Bano, in a letter to the editor in the daily Al Safa, ‘questioned the legitimacy of linking wearing of burqa...
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