Kishtwar Riots: What lies beneath communal violence?

Peace in Jammu and Kashmir is fragile and a small incident could well turn into a major conflagration. The violence that suddenly erupted in Kishtwar during Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations on 9 August and soon took communal overtones is testimony to the brittle nature of peace that prevails in these areas. The violence unleashed in Kishtwar soon spilled over to the neighbouring districts of Udhampur, Samba, Kathua, Reasi, Rajourie and Doda. Curfew imposed in Kishtwar following the violence continued for 12 days, until lifted on 21 August 2013.

What caused the violence? As per local media reports, a group of villagers from Hullar, raising anti-India slogans, were going to the Eidgah to join Eid prayers at the Chowgan ground. This group got into an altercation with a few youth from the other community at Kuleed. At this time, some police personnel, said to be Personnel Security Officers (PSOs) of a local leader, opened fire in air. They were allegedly joined by some Village Defence Committee (VDC) members, who opened fire from their houses. The government version of the events stated, “Some anti-social elements picked up a fight in Kishtwar which turned violent and caused further disturbance to the large gathering on the occasion of Eid festival. As a result of rumour mongering the incident spread to other parts of the city where anti-social elements looted shops and indulged in arson”[1]. The tensions were also heightened if not entirely induced by the killing of five Indian soldiers in cross LoC firing.

Though incidents of violence continue to occur sporadically, it must not be forgotten that Jammu and Kashmir has a rich history of peaceful coexistence between diverse religious communities and ethnic groups. There is no historical basis for animosity between different sections of society, which therefore lends credence to the view that violence is more often than not provoked. To that extent, the threat lies within. Two causative factors merit consideration. First, there are vested political interests who want to perpetuate the tension and chaos in the region. Second, the peace process in J&K cannot be achieved without addressing the intrastate dimensions of the conflict. Jammu and Ladakh do not necessarily identify with the Kashmir nationalism. The latter has its roots in the Praja Parishad Agitation of 1953, which exemplifies the intra state differences that exist within J&K and are often used as a tool by politicians to divide people on communal lines.

Sheikh Abdullah, when elected as the leader of the State Assembly in 1951 launched the ‘New Kashmir Manifesto’, which advocated agrarian reforms, women’s empowerment and employment. This found resonance amongst the progressive elements of Kashmir. However, his unwillingness to ratify the Delhi agreement of 1951 caused unease in the Centre about the regime it had set up in Srinagar. Though the National Conference made secular claims, its policies aimed to secure Muslim votes in the valley of Kashmir. This struck a negative chord amongst the majority Hindu population in Jammu that found itself at the receiving end of these policies as well as an unfamiliar repression. Thereafter, the Hindu majority joined the violent agitation launched by local Praja Parishad Party and the newly formed Jan Sangh (presided over by Dr. Shyam Prasad Mookerjee) against Sheikh Abdullah. They campaigned for revoking the special status accorded to the state of Jammu and Kashmir and demanded its total accession to India. The slogan, “Ek Desh mein do Nishan, Ek Desh mein do Vidhan, Ek Desh mein do Pradhan – Nahin Chalenge, Nahin Chalenge”[2] echoed in the Jammu region.

Ram Chandra Guha, in his book “India after Gandhi” mentioned that, “The popular movement led by Dr. Mukherjee planted the seed of independence in Sheikh Abdullah’s mind; the outcry following his death only seems to have nurtured it”. Abdullah assumed that he could seek American help to carve out an independent nation of Kashmir, something like the “Switzerland of the East”. The unfortunate death of Dr. Shyam Prasad Mukherjee sparked an anti Nehru (who for a long time was indifferent to the chaos in the state)[3] and most importantly an anti Abdullah sentiment across Jammu. Consequently, in 1953 Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed replaced Sheikh Abdullah as the Prime Minister of J&K. He adopted a constitution without any reference to referendum and pushed forward the integration of J&K within India. This incident sowed seeds of factionalism between the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the effect of which exists till date.

Amarnath Land Row of 2008

In 2008, the Centre and the State Government in Jammu and Kashmir agreed upon a land transfer of 99 acres to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board to construct shelters for Hindu pilgrims in the Kashmir Valley. This sparked a strong reaction in the Kashmir Valley forcing revocation of the proposal. Consequently, protests erupted in Jammu where Hindus and Muslims joined hands against the appeasement of Kashmiris and the fear of political marginalisation. The incident acquired a political tone when fresh elections were declared to be held in J&K later in the year with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad , Bajrang Dal and Bhartiya Janta Party joining the agitation. The agitation fetched votes for BJP, which increased its seat share to 11 from the earlier eight seats held in Jammu. The National Conference and Congress won the election and came to power.

Mehbooba Mufti (President-PDP) while representing the perspective of people in Kashmir said, “People have seen that New Delhi succumbs to communal forces and passes unilateral orders in Kashmir. Kashmiris feel totally alienated and think the Government in Delhi is ready to bend backwards to satisfy the communal forces.” The regional tensions have continued ever since and have made the Kashmir problem intractable.

To give a communal colour to the Kishtwar violence would be a blunder as this area has historically been free from communal violence. However, its proximity to Kashmir is what makes it a “fertile ground” for Kashmiri separatists and their rivals to widen the communal divide. Kishtwar  has a Muslim to Hindu population of 60:40[4] where both the communities have been known to have lived peacefully before the advent of militancy and Village Defence Committees[5]  in the area. Kashmiri nationalism has made no inroads into Jammu and Ladakh. While Kashmiris state that they are being given step motherly treatment by the Centre, people in Jammu and Ladakh feel that they are given a step motherly treatment because the Kashmiris dominate the socio-political set up of the state. Muslims in Jammu and Ladakh area also do not identify with the political aspirations of Kashmiris.[6]

In addition, the national and local media is often instrumental in widening the gulf and fanning tension between the two communities. During the Kishtwar riots, people also engaged in a virtual war over social media websites and this too contributed to the spread of violence. The social media is a powerful tool today and efforts need to be made to spread truth and stop rumour mongering through this all-pervasive means of information sharing.

The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is volatile and politicians often play the communal card in an attempt to divert the attention from the mal-administration that has plagued the region for several years. The developmental issues are hardly addressed. Kishtwar has a literacy rate of seventy percent but is still counted amongst the most under developed districts in the region. It makes news only for the wrong reasons .Villages near the LoC region are seldom highlighted in the media except for ceasefire violation or a war like situation. Mohar Ban, a village near Poonch district comprising of three hundred and fifty destitute is enveloped in darkness during the night. The State had received Rs eight hundred and twenty crore under  Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyuktikaran Yojana  through which thirty lakh houses had to be illuminated. After spending sixty percent of the amount, only twenty nine thousand seven hundred and forty two villages have received electricity. Several villages share the same story as Mohar Ban.

The health infrastructure in the region also represents a dismal picture. Given the absence of opportunities to support themselves and several years of political turmoil a new trend is emerging in Kashmir where young, educated and disillusioned people from the Valley are being drawn towards militancy.“We are not scared of death, we are just scared of detention of our families”, said Shakeel Ahmed , a 24 year old pharmaceutical representative, before returning to throw stones at the police. “The level of militancy is low now, but it will rise, God willing”.[7] This phenomenon signals towards a lurking shadow of militancy beneath the declining trend in insurgency in the past few years

Elections are scheduled in the State in 2014. In their, urge to gain power, some political parties might go to any extent to sow seeds of violence and communalism in the fragile State. However, one can only hope that good sense will prevail in the region and welfare of the common man would be given top most priority. Few recommendations that merit consideration are as under: –

  • Intra State difference is the core issue, which often stalls the peace process in J&K. A dialogue amongst all the factions including the Central and the State Government is not only necessary but also vital.
  • National and local media should be instrumental in providing an analytical and unbiased overview of such events in future, especially the ones potent of creating communal rifts.
  • Education, employment, health and other development concerns should be given the top most priority. These channels have the potential to mitigate conflict.
References

  • Burke Jason, “Kashmir Conflict ebbs as a new wave of militant emerges”, The Guardian, August 2013 -Guha Ramchandra , “ A Fateful Arrest”, The Hindu, August 2008 -Iqbal Fida, “Election 2014”, Greater Kashmir, May 2013
  • Wani Riyaz, “What Pushed Kishtwar over the Edge”, Tehelka, August 2013 -Kandhari Mohit, “Kishtwar Mob Turns Riot”,The Pioneer, August 2013 -Puri Balraj, “The RSS Sabotage”,The Hindu, July 2001
  • Puri Luv, “Gujjar Muslims flay remarks of separatists”, The Hindu, August 2008 -Kashmir, Editorial, The Economic Weekly,Vol VI-No 7,February 1954 -Swarup Bhagwat, “Abdullah imprisoned those, who advocated integration”,an interview – Jameel Yusuf, “Surviving in the Dark ages”,Kashmir Times, August 2013
  • Wani Danish, “Sheikh Abdullah and the World’s Largest Democracy: The First Betrayal”,India resists, February 2013 – Amarnath Agitation
  • Government should have anticipated Kishtwar Violence: Ellora Puri, Business Standard, August 2013 -Mattoo Amitabh, “Masked Men of Kishtwar”,The Indian Express, August 2013
  • Chibber Manish, Sharma Arun, “Beneath the communal violence in Kishwar lies politics and creeping shadow of militancy”,The Indian Express, August 2013 – Mishra Abhinanadan, Noor-Ul-Qamran, & Das Purba, “Village Defence Committes will be probed in Kishtwar”, The Sunday Guardian, August 2013
    [1] Maneesh Chhibber and Arun Sharma, ‘Beneath the communal violence in Kishtwar lies politics and creeping shadow of militancy’,
    [2] The English translation is ‘Two flags, Two Constitutions and Two Presidents shall not be permitted in a single country’.
    [3] Writing to his friend and colleague C. Rajagopalachari on the last day of July, 1953, Jawaharlal Nehru observed that “the internal situation in Kashmir’ was “progressively deteriorating”. This was caused, in the first instance, “by the wholly misconceived Praja Parishad and Jan Sangh agitation, which produced strong reactions in the Kashmir valley”. This was bad enough; worse still was the fact that Sheikh Abdullah, while retaining his position as Prime Minister of the State, had begun “functioning as the leader of the opposition”.
    [4] Sectarian politics fuelled Kishtwar riots
    [5] Village Defence Committees will be probed in Kishtwar
    [6] Haji Mohammed Qasim who had led the first organised civilian revolt against militants in Poonch district said, “We are touring various parts and trying to spread our message of secularism. Ethnically and linguistically we are closer to our Hindu brothers of Jammu. We cannot shun these ties and this is the message we have. We do not accept this argument that we want to separate from Jammu Hindus. This is a relationship of centuries and this cannot be severed
    [7] Kashmir Conflict ebbs as a new wave of militant emerges

Original Source: Centre for Land Warfare Studies

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Women’s Role in Rebuilding Afghanistan

The determination shown by Malala Yousufzai, a young Pakistani girlt o receive an education, despite the brutal assault on her by the Taliban has garnered global support for women’s rights. In her recent speech at the UN, Malala’s statement that“one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world” has reverberated across the world and exemplifies the faith that Taliban induced fear cannot suppress the voice of millions of women desirous of seeking an education. Education, especially of women, acts as a counter to the ideologically regressive and conservative policies of radical Islamists who declare that anything to do with women’s rights is un-Islamic. In Afghanistan, as we move closer to the drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan in 2014, perhaps a focus on female literacy along with other initiatives can lead to a diminishing of Taliban influence in the lives of the people and contribute to a more durable peace.

Shukria Barakzai,an Afghan politician, journalist and entrepreneur, and a prominent Muslim feminist labelled as the “woman who the Taliban and NATO Fear”, is currently a Member of Parliament in Afghanistan and a probable contender for President in the 2014 elections.She talks of growing up in a pre-Taliban Afghanistan “playing football,volleyball,writing adolescent fiction and eventually choosing to study physics” and how the situation turned worse during the Taliban occupation where she was flogged on the streets when found without a male escort.“Most people think of Afghani women as victims,” she says, “victims of violence, of forced marriages, of terrible rates of maternal mortality.  Well, this is all very true. But it is also true that countless women, smart and beautiful and brave, will not bow their heads and will not be victims anymore.” This sentiment needs support to ensure a durable peace in war torn Afghanistan.

However, the mindless imposition of “rights” can also prove to be a failure when not in consonance with the cultural fabric of the society. Women’s rights have been central to the war in Afghanistan. When Cherie Blair and Laura Bush joined forces to bolster the rationale for invasion back in 2001, the West developed a passionate concern for the position of women in the country.There were films, books and documentaries about the high rates of maternal mortality, girls being married off young and low levels of female literacy. There was an assumption that it only required an invasion for women to spontaneously rise up and throw off their burqas.However, change has proved slower than expected. A major achievement however has been in education where over 2 million girls attend school, although there is still a high dropout rate and the numbers going on to secondary school are small. Nevertheless, the fact is that the conservative nature of rural Afghanistan has not changed fundamentally. Despite the colossal aid to Afghanistan over the past decade, the impact on the entrenched attitudes shaping women’s lives has been minimal. More intervention in the field of education is required and could be a potential game changer.

Foreign pressure ensured that the constitution and the country’s legal system enshrined women’s rights, but the reality is very different. There are only a handful of female judges and even when women do have the courage to take a case to the police, they face entrenched discrimination.While women’s empowerment is the need of the hour, its gender dimensions need to be addressed. Positive change will follow with a gendered inclusive approach considering that many Afghan women still cannot step out of the house without permission from a male member in the family.{C}[1]

India can play a considerable role in providing sustainable solutions to Afghanistan’s growth story by promoting women’s empowerment. An educated, self-sufficient woman goes on to affect her family, community and a nation as a whole in a positive manner. To tap into this field will further enhance India’s standing in Afghanistan as well as strengthen relations between the two countries.So far,India has invested 2 billion dollars in rebuilding Afghanistan’s infrastructure,health, transport, communications, enabled cultural exchanges and so on but investing in human capital, keeping women as the focus could lead to long lasting impact.

A project scheme containing numerous modules ranging from education, health, governance, skill and capacity building could be proposed to the locals keeping in mind the cultural contours of Afghanistan. A holistic developmental model can only be realised if both men and women are educated about its outcomes. Programmesfor Afghan women, conducted in both Afghanistan and India, and explained through audio-visual training workshops in their own language could prove useful in empowering Afghan women. As a follow up intervention, sponsoring and training of two to three thousand Afghan women in India every year on sponsorship in specific disciplines could help in empowering women and changing attitudes within the country. With respect to the 2 billion dollar aid India has already provided, this would prove to be a low cost investment with a potential to yield better results. Training programmes could cover the following:

Education

Five hundred scholarships are already been given out to Afghan students by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations. At least fifty per cent of these should be reserved for women. An effort to bring awareness about disciplines like women and gender studies, political science, good governance, technology, medicine etc. amongst women will broaden their range of options, which they can apply in their respective fields.A Horyan, an Afghan woman studying zoology at the University of Pune says that Taliban rule subverted women’s education but now some families are encouraging and supporting their choice to go abroad and work. She intends to go back and teach in Afghanistan while citing the dearth of professors in her own country.

Governance

Afghanistan is still to have an Afghan Women’s commission to secure rights of women within the country. The National Commission for women in India could play a pivotal role in lending their expertise and providing training to future women leaders of Afghanistan. Training modules should also be prepared to facilitate interaction with women leaders at the Panchayat level to encourage women’s participation at the local government level in Afghanistan. Fellowships could be organised for women to engage with Parliamentarians, which will sensitise them towards various facets of governance mechanisms.

Health and Sanitation

Under the Small Development Project Scheme, India has built basic health clinics in the border provinces of Badakshan, Balkh, Kandahar, Khost, Nangarhar, Nimroz, Nooristan, Paktia and Paktika. It would perhaps be a more sustainable model if women from the community are imparted training in health care, child nutrition etc. In the last few years, the maternal mortality rate has gone down from nine per cent to two per cent because of better infrastructure and awareness amongst women regarding better health care.One woman impacts the whole community, therefore hygiene and sanitation training for women from the poverty stricken areas will help curb diseases emanating from unhygienic conditions.

Capacity Building

A large number of rural women in Afghanistan rely on informal economic sectors like basket weaving, knitting, food processing, handicrafts and agriculture. These women could be trained to replicate community livelihood projects(self-help groups) on the lines of SEWA{C}[i]{C}. Forums like Dastkaar{C}[ii]can play an instrumental role in expanding the market outreach for women’s artisans establishing a continuous source of income and at the same time providing a platform to enhance their skills in producing handicrafts.

Conclusion

Indian intervention to assist in empowerment of Afghan women, keeping in mind their cultural backgrounds could yield long-term dividends. Women empowerment will have a direct bearing on community life in Afghanistan. One woman has the potential to change many lives.While it is clear that the Pashtun culture is still regressive in its approach towards women’s rights, need based opportunities created for women will definitely lead to positive response. After all, Afghanistan has given to the world several indomitable women, one of them being Malalai Joya, known as the “bravest woman in the world” for her courage to speak up against the warlords in the Afghan Parliament.

The author is a Research Assistant at CLAWS.

Views expressed are personal

[1]{C} http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/sep/26/afghanistan-women-what-went-wrong

[i] Self Employed Women’s Association

[ii]{C}http://www.dastkar.org/organisationalmap.htm

Original Source: Centre for Land Warfare Studies

Army Widows: The Battle is yet not over

Mohini Giri, ex president of the National Commission for Women and a devoted worker for the rehabilitation of widows in India has very rightly said, “Widowhood is a condition of social death, even among the higher castes”. Several border conflicts have taken place since Independence and insurgency is rife in many parts of the country, which the Army is combatting. This has led to an increasing number of army widows who need care and rehabilitation.

Socially retrograde practices and customs prevalent in some parts of Indian society see widows as an embodiment of “bad luck and omen”. The laws of Manu declared women as “appendages” to be controlled and protected by men; it is these beliefs that are carried forward and at times, widows are forced to marry their brother in law. Family members take this step to ensure that the land and property remain within the family, as division could occur if she chose to remarry an outsider. Earlier, the Government encouraged levirate marriages through archaic rules, which stated that a widow on remarriage would not be entitled to pension. However, the pension remained admissible if she remarried her late husband’s brother. Prior to 1996, pension benefits were not admissible to widows who remarried outside the family.[1] The widows from the many conflicts fought before 1996 thus remained discriminated against. It is only in the year 2006, that remarrying outside the family was recognised and widows won a tough battle against the mindset that promotes their subordinate and “property-like” status.[2]

There remains a significant knowledge gap that exists between the beneficiaries and the organisations[3],which are responsible for delivering these benefits. Several widows do not receive enough guidance on who to approach to request for pensions. A ninety year old widow, Pushpvanti used to get rupees seventy per month as family pension. It is only when she approached the Supreme Court that her pension has now been raised to Rupees 18,000. The Court expressed that they were flooded with such complaints from serving and retired army personnel as well as widows and that there is an urgent need to set up a single commission to handle their financial assistance requests.

Interstate disparities have been observed in granting pension to the widows. Widows in Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana received better pension than their counter parts in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. A significant imbalance also exists between the pension granted to Kargil war widows with those from the 1971 and 1965 wars. The latter have been known to receive meager pension with no benefits. As if this is not enough, some politicians, bureaucrats and army officials have been involved in grabbing plots and apartments meant for housing war widows as well as ex-servicemen. The 1971 war widows who are often invited to receive honours and awards on behalf of their husbands feel that their real needs have not been addressed. Some of them need housing, a facility that for widows can be vital to decrease their dependence on their families.[4]

Many widows are not aware of the procedural formalities required to file for pensions and most are even far from knowing the exact amount they are entitled to receive after their husband’s death. “Illiterate Malhori Devi, widow of L/NK Kharak Singh does not even know how many zeroes are there in Rupees 7.5 Lakhs” .Under such circumstances, the families take undue advantage of their ignorance for their own personal gains. “Women in Uttarakhand have to walk several kilometers to the post office to collect their pension, the employees at the post office force them to give some share for the services rendered”.

Research conducted by National Commission for Women showed that there are only few Zilla Sainik Welfare Board (grassroots agency) with modern facilities like computers and updated information of the deceased soldiers to enable them to process the pension formalities. This leaves the majority of such institutions inefficient to address the basic needs of the war widows. Zilla Sainik Welfare Board collude with the families and force the widows to remarry within the same family to settle the financial disputes and at the same time lighten the burden of paper work over their shoulders. According to a survey conducted by National Commission for Women, 68 percent of women had to approach the Sainik Welfare Boards themselves to put up a request for pension. It is a moral duty of these organisations to take the first step and come forward to help these women. This can be achieved through an increased counseling and sensitisation on the matter. War widows and army wives involved in the decision making level at these institutions would prove to be beneficial to cater to the needs of widows and their grievances.  How can one expect the traumatised “ghunghat clad women” to confide in men who have received no training to handle such issues?

Army Wives Welfare Association is currently doing yeoman service in providing psychological help and counseling to the army widows. The grief attached to the stigma and trauma state of widowhood is immeasurable. Most of these widows have confessed that they were forced to marry their brother in law so that the financial disputes could be settled well within the family. Many chose to marry the brother in laws themselves because they had no other choice to sustain themselves and their children. They have cited that the transition to a wife of their own brother in law was an immensely traumatic experience for them. Kalpana, widow of L/Nk Naresh of 4 Jat received a mutilated body of her dead husband after the war. Their psychological trauma is immense and efforts should be directed towards exorcising their grief and rage. Social organizations and women’s groups could also step forward to help these women.

Widows also suffer in their new homes because they often have to give in writing that the pension meant for them should be granted to the parents of the martyr. A widow who was allotted a petrol pump by the Government refused to have it on grounds of constant threats she received from her relatives who were eyeing every single penny from her pension money. Madhuri Dixit, wife of Raghunath Dixit was allotted a gas agency by the Government which is looked after by her relatives. She receives rupees 5000 per month but is never allowed by them to visit the agency.

Effective monitoring mechanisms and performance evaluation mechanisms could prove to be a boon to make the pension-related organisations more accountable and responsive. Organisations like War Widows Association of India have stepped forward to provide skill building and livelihood opportunities to these women. Women’s self help groups have proved to be effective to organize these women to generate income.[5] Since most of these widows come from an agrarian background, it is imperative that the Government makes provisions to grant them land rights. The need of the hour is to pull them out of the social stigma and empower them to lead dignified and economically sound lives.

Amidst all the debates going on for increased defence cooperation, technology and development, let us not forget the families of those who laid their lives for the nation. Adopting a holistic approach to cater to the needs of the families and widows could also prove to be a major strategy to motivate the soldiers who can be assured that their families will be taken care of after them. To achieve that, we have to stop viewing widows as passive recipients of the welfare schemes, but active contributors and authors who can carve out their own destiny. The battle for many of these widows is still ongoing.

Few Recommendations that emerge out of this article are as follows:

  • Fifty percent reservations for women in the Zilla Sainik Welfare Boards would enable bringing women’s issues on the forefront
  • Zilla Sainik Welfare Boards must liaise with social organisations, which handle aspects like psychological counseling, employment opportunities, skill building and education of women.
  • Zilla Sainik Welfare Boards should have information centres to provide guidance to women on the procedural formalities and queries.
  • All centres dealing with welfare of army personnel and widows should be sensitised regarding these issues. Controller General of Defence Accounts, Department of Pensioners’ and Pension Welfare, Sainik Welfare Boards are organisations that should be approached for financial assistance.

References-

-Lal Neeta, “ Light and Action Women” ,Grassroots-Reporting Human Condition, October 2006

-Phadtare R.G, “The Rehabilitation of War Widows and Ex Servicemen’s Widows: Problem and Remedies, Women’s Link, April-June 2004

-Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini, “Report on the study of War Widows”, National Commission for Women

-Narula Vinita, Anand Sarita, “Life after death: a journey into the lives of war widows” , National Commission for Women, 2002

-Giri Mohini, Khanna Meera, “Widows of the unsung Brave of Kargil” , Living , Death Trauma of Widowhood in India” , Gyan, 2002

-Iqbal Naveed, “Honours but no home for 1971 War Widows” , Indian Express, December, 2011

-Parmar Leena, “ Money Matters”, Manushi Journal, February 2004

-V Narula, S Anand, B Babbar, “Life After Death: Glimpse into the plight of War Widows” , Manushi Journal

-BBC News South Asia, “India Chief Minister resigns amid war widows scam probe”, November 2010

-Shaikh Nermeen, Mohini Giri: India’s Voice for the Voiceless, Asia Society

-Indian Military Info, “ Status of Special Family Pension on remarriage for pre 1996 cases : need to educate” ,August 2010 http://www.indianmilitary.info/2010/08/status-of-special-family-pension-on.html

-Press Trust of India, “War Widow was getting rupees 70 a month as pension”,

February 2011

-India Today, “Top army men, netas grab plot for war widows”, October 2010

-Interview with Ms. J Gurmit Singh, President, War Widows Association of India

-Video interviews of Kailashi Devi and Madhuri Dixit (War Widows) provided by Major Chandrakant Singh, Vrc (Retd).

The author is Research Assistant at CLAWS

Views expressed are personal

 

[1]Kailashi Devi, widow of a martyr from the 1971 war, while describing  her experiences mentioned of receiving a telegram informing of her husband’s death and that she was entitled to rupees 132 per month. The telegram mentioned that the pension will be discontinued if she remarries someone except her brother in law. This mindless and unthinking attitude of the government disposed a 17 year old woman to perpetual widowhood for a pension of 132 rupees per month.

[2] The childless widow of a deceased employee who expired before 1.1.2006 , shall also be eligible for family pension irrespective of the fact that the remarriage of the widow had taken place prior to/on or after 1.1.2006 subject to fulfillment of other conditions. The financial benefits in such cases has, however, been allowed from 1.1.2006. (Govt of India, Dept of Ex-Servicemen Welfare, No.1(6)/2011-D(Pen-Policy)

[3] Controller General of Defence Accounts, Department of Pension & Pensioners Welfare (Ministry of Personnel , Public Grievances & Pensions)

[4]  Some widows have to trade away their financial independence with the shelter provided

[5] Vaikunthi Devi, a Kargil War widow is one amongst 700 women who work for Uttaranchal Power Corporation. She repairs fuses and climbs up electricity polls to fix faults

 Original Source: Centre for Land Warfare Studies

Women’s Role in Naxalite Movement

According to CPI (Maoist), in 2010 women constituted 40 percent of their cadre, most of them are reported to be more ferocious than men. However, this is not a recent phenomenon; women have participated in the revolutionary Naxalbari movement since its genesis. Any conflict often leads to a blending of public and private spheres and the ongoing “outside” violence and terror spills into what is known as the “safety zone” i.e. house thus leaving women no choice but to get directly or indirectly involved in conflict. In the Naxalite movement, women have played various roles as combatants, peace builders, activists and politicians.Whether this movement which espouses   the cause of the oppressed classes has also adopted an inclusive approach towards women,remains to be analysed

Charu Mazumdar, himself had written that women should not be involved in squads “because women need a place to stay at least for the night”. This view reasserts the patriarchal mind-set etched in the very ethos of the movement. To see women as “objects of violence” and “ “subjects of fear” thus assuming a “protective” approach towards them shows that women are not and perhaps can never be considered as equals in the revolutionary movement.

In the initial phases of the Naxalbari movement several women especially from the middle class joined the movement under the influence of their male counterparts (brothers, husbands, friends and relatives). This movement brought to several women a new ray of hope for self-transcendence from the “everyday” life to a “heroic” one. However, even at the peak of the Naxalbari movement, women were only recruited to “assist” men or do ordinary and courier tasks. “Fewer women were on local communities and none were in the senior positions of leadership”. For most part of the 1970s many women limited their efforts to the class struggle and did not seek to explore the larger role other marginalised women could play in the movement. Even within the organisation, several instances contradicted the very foundation of the Naxalite movement; upper middle class women often enjoyed a better status than lower middle class women. Wife of the leader was automatically granted a higher status than most other women. The self-inflicted “voluntary poverty” by women was over romanticised by these revolutionaries at various levels. The everyday struggle was subverted under the higher and more worthy cause these women were fighting for:

Under the patriarch’s strict supervision of the women of the family would draw water from the well for my bath. I would bathe in the night under their watchful eyes. I had long hair and would spread it, fan like on the pillow to dry. Rats would tug at my hair at night. I was always terrified of roaches and rats but I had no option. The entire family took such wonderful care of me that I never felt the least discomfort.(Sanyal, 2001)

Women activists were “resistant to a protectionist discourse that intended to restore them to their homes, conceived as a space of safety from dangerous public domain”. While for male activists the shelter was “refuge” of sorts during the struggle, for women it meant receding into the same domestic space they sought to liberate themselves from through the movement. For example:

“First, she (Supriya) cannot leave for anywhere on the spur of the movement. If she has a programme or wishes to stay away even for a night she has to inform me beforehand”(Sanyal,2001)

In the October 2004 ceasefire agreement between the State Government of Andhra Pradesh and the Naxalite groups, none of the women who were part of the movement were represented. Men and women have different experiences in conflict, therefore this gender blind approach affected several women who were victims of conflict and were deliberately silenced.

“Since the parties had repeatedly asserted in the course of the peace process that they would function within the constitutional framework, representation in terms of only physical numbers, at every level was an intrinsic part of democratic structures. And in a situation where there is concentration of power and authority in a certain class, in this case men ,bringing about equal representation would mean that women could only assume leadership to the extent that men are willing to relinquish the authority that is already with them”.(Kannabiran and Volga ,2010)

Naxalites still sanction the idea which regards women as an epitome or reservoir of culture and traditions of a community, who need to be protected. This leads to the usage of rape as a tool to demean the other community, in this case, the warring sides. A naxalite woman could be raped by the State forces or if a woman chooses to support the State or drops out of the naxalite cadres could easily fall prey to the brutality of the naxalites

Now, women are joining the naxal cadres due to various reasons ranging from oppression and sexual harassment by the upper class/caste communities or the State forces, married into a family of pro naxalites, abject poverty and recourse to a better life which Naxalism often offers. However, once a part of the cadre these women are supposed to shirk their feminine identity and transcend into a more masculine one. Jaya, an ex-naxalite who became a guerrilla  in her teens says, “a majority of members in the Eturanagaram (Warangal district) dalam (group) were men and at the time that time there were only two women including myself. I had to don the guerrilla uniform and carry a heavy sack on my back. This kit contained all and sundry, right from kitchen ware to uniforms, arms, ammunition, provisions etc. It was very heavy but slowly I mastered the art of a porter; after having quit, I cannot go for coolie work(daily wages) because the extreme life in the forest has sapped my strength. I suffered from kidney problem, ulcer, joint pain and reproductive tract infections. The monthly periods are extremely difficult.”  The rehabilitation package promised by the Government never reached her.

Sabita, a resident of Jogapur village lost her husband in a family dispute. While on one hand, the naxals assured her that joining the cadre would give her security, the police offered her a sum of fifty thousand to become a source for them. Later on being caught while mixing poison tablets in the food she was cooking for the leaders of her cadre, she was shot in the outskirts of Jogapur forest. The police later tried to label naxalites as rapists and murderers; however the autopsy reports of the victim declared that she was not raped.

Under these sub human conditions and abject poverty, this ongoing conflict has also resulted in a lot female headed households. Men are either picked by the police forces on suspicion of collaborating with the naxalites or by naxals to join their cadres. Due to State apathy and lack of policy interventions for these women, they continue to struggle and lead a life of hardships.

It seems that in or outside the naxalite movement, women have lost the battle. Women who are a part of naxalite movement place the “class” agenda over gender, the latter often considered as “deviant”. This approach obviously reverberates of the patriarchal discourse within the movement. The Government and the society often neglect women, who wish to quit and become a part of the mainstream life. It remains to see if the women’s issues can be looked in isolation within and outside the Naxalite movement.

Original Source: Centre for Land Warfare Studies

Naxal Target Schools

The ideological battle, which started in Naxalbari for the rights of vulnerable, impoverished and landless tribal groups, has over the years grown into a bloody one. According to official data, naxal violence claimed the lives of 287 civilians and 113 security personnel in the year 2012. But perhaps of even graver import is the fact that Naxals are using schools to subvert the minds of the young.

In Naxal dominated areas, schools are being targeted to propagate Naxal ideology. Lessons imparted to young impressionable minds are distinctly anti-establishment and give a message that a revolution is necessary to overthrow the Government. The youth in affected states are thus being subverted to Naxal ideology which aims to overthrow India’s democratic structure through violence. Many instances have also come to light where children are used to collect information about the location and movement of security forces. Even worse, they are at times used as human shields by the Naxals while operating against the security forces.

This simply lays bare the abysmal state of education prevailing in Naxal affected districts. Government run schools have shut down due to high violence levels forcing the locals to send their children to schools run by Naxals. In many areas, Naxals are known to blow up school buildings or raid schools to pick up young students and forcefully recruit them into armed cadres.  The locals out of fear of Naxal retribution shy away from registering complaints and simply allow their children to drop out of school.

During the previous elections, the naxals inscribed anti-government slogans on the school walls, which demanded the locals to boycott polls. These instances generate a constant fear psychosis and have a detrimental impact on children and teachers who wish to attend schools. In Latehar district, for example, teachers are either threatened to stay away from schools or often kidnapped and only let off once they have paid a ransom. Such cases are increasing in frequency; teachers therefore prefer being posted in towns and cities rather than interiors of such villages where Naxal violence is rife. In addition lack of financial incentives for working in such areas and the poor salaries being paid further reduces motivation levels. The standard and capability of teachers is also suspect. According to Jharkhand Academic Council, out of 13,807 teachers who had appeared for the exam, only 7 per cent were actually qualified.

The State Government’s inadequacy to provide basic facilities in schools has further isolated the tribal communities from the mainstream and fuelled anti-establishment sentiments amongst them, which are responsible for a steep increase in the Naxalite movement despite its paradoxes. Quality education still faces severe challenges in these regions. Around fifty to sixty per cent students in Bihar and Jharkhand are yet to receive midday meals. Several schools have no drinking water or toilet facilities. As per the National Secondary Education Programme, around 65 percent gram panchayats in Bihar are yet to have secondary schools. This kind of education system does not ensure continuity and security; it propels students to drop out of primary and middle schools. Due to lack of opportunities, many such students are easily lured towards the Naxalite movement.

The Naxalites, while ostensibly espousing the cause of the landless and oppressed classes, leave their children deprived of the basic right to education. Their claims that only such schools have been destroyed which were being used by the security personnel is also suspect. The report released by Human Rights Watch in 2009 named as “Sabotaged Schooling: Naxalite Attacks and Police Occupation of Schools in India’s Bihar and Jharkhand States” shows that “ twenty-five schools which were attacked in Bihar and Jharkhand  between November 2008 and October 2009 were undefended and not in use by the security forces”. Nearly 260 schools have been destroyed by the Naxalites from 2006 to 2011 and the number is steeply rising.

Destruction of educational buildings unless meant for military pursuits is considered a war crime both by Indian and international Law. According to International Humanitarian Law, “Military objectives are those that contribute to the military action and whose destruction under the existing circumstances would offer a definite military gain”. It also “forbids acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population. However, schools remain soft targets, through which Naxalites can gather media attention and keep the masses under a shadow of fear.

Citing the occupation of schools by police personnel as one of the reasons for attacks by the extremist elements, the Centre has given clear instructions to the State Government that under no condition should the police forces involved in counter insurgency operations use or occupy school buildings. The occupation of schools by the security forces also highlights the poor conditions under which they have to operate. Most of the police stations in the interiors have been destroyed by the naxals and lack of infrastructure and developmental interventions to support the troops inevitably lead to the occupation of schools. The police forces claim that partial occupation of schools does not disrupt education; however militarising schools definitely has a damaging psychological impact on children. In an environment as precarious as this, which is dominated by gun and violence is not conducive to functioning of schools. The dropout rates are highest amongst girls due to actual or perceived sexual harassment by police personnel.

The occupation of schools by police forces at times lasts for ten days to a month or more. The school staff is not served any prior notice before the occupation to arrange for an alternative accommodation to continue the process of education unhindered. Lack of redressal schemes emanate from the poor monitoring mechanisms of the Government which have neither managed to determine the extent and pattern of the destruction caused to the school buildings by naxals nor the exact number of schools still occupied by the police.

The government is however sensitive to this problem as indicated by various interventions on this score. In Chhattisgarh, under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, porta cabins, which are pre-fabricated residential schools for students have been established in the Naxal affected regions. The Jharkhand Government has also released funds to replicate the same model in conflict-ridden regions where school buildings have been destroyed. The National Commission for  Protection of Child Rights has started “Bal Bandhu initiative in seven strife torn districts of Sukhma, Gadchiroli, Khamman, East Champaran, Sheohar, Jamui and Rohtas. Under this scheme, youngsters from within the community keep a check over the number of children who attend schools or drop out. Their job is also to trace and restore missing children. These young recruits may not have the power over implementation but can put pressure on the authorities by involving the community and the panchayats. This programme has been known to instil confidence in the school-going children.

The ongoing violence has had a damaging effect on the growth and personality of children. Therefore, UNICEF has used its Physical Education card methodology to engage with students in Chhattisgarh. To make Education more attractive they have used sports as an intervention to enhance their confidence levels. Trainers and “khel mitras” under this scheme deliver lessons on teamwork and life skills to these children who often act as a connecting link to the whole community. In spite of such interventions, the socio economic problem in these areas has persisted and is still growing in proportions across States in India. The police forces can only address the symptoms of the Naxal problem, the root cause has to be addressed by bringing more development and long lasting measures, which shall guarantee inclusion of these tribal communities into the mainstream. The President, Shri Pranab Mukherjee recently had emphasised that Left Wing Extremism affected regions should have a special focus on education since it is seen as the “best antidote to violence”. Though difficult, this must be the implemented in these strife torn regions. There will still be children who shall incline towards joining Naxal armed cadres but erasing the importance of education from the mind map of policy makers in these regions will stifle the aspiration of those who yearn for knowledge.

References

-Sarita Brara , “Educating Children in Naxal Affected Areas” , Press Information Bureau (GOI) , January 8 ,2013

-Deepthy Menon, “Sports for Development and Peace building” , UNICEF, October 10, 2012

-Prakhar Jain, “The Story of One School. Why 650 Children came and only 200 Remained” , Tehelka(Issue 15, vol 9) ,April 14 2012

-Press Trust of India, “Number of casualties in Naxal Violence see decline”, December 16 ,2012

-post.jagran.com, “Primary teachers in Latehar District not attending school over kidnapping incidents” , September 27, 2011

-Mitali Mohanty Ghosh , “Using Education to bring Development”, Millennium Post, January 5, 2013

-Aarti Dhar, “Pedagogy in the time of flux” , The Hindu, May 23, 2012

-Human Rights Watch report on , “Sabotaged Schooling: Naxalite Attacks and Police Occupation of Schools in India’s Bihar and Jharkhand States” , 2009

-Anil Mishra , “Schooled in Rebellion, An Imperilled Generation” ,Tehelka( Issue 10, Vol 10) ,March 9 , 2013

-IPCS Conference Report, “The Naxal Problem: Understanding Issues , Challenges and Alternative Approaches” ,March 2012

The author is a Research Assistant at CLAWS.

 Original Source: Centre for Land Warfare Studies

Operation Sadbhavana: Build more than just Goodwill

Operation Sadbhavana was initiated by the Indian Army as a conflict prevention measure in the violence ridden regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. It aimed at providing a humane face to the army, while also winning over the hearts and minds of people, scarred by twenty two years of violence through developmental initiatives thereby eradicating a perceived sense of alienation. The Army accordingly diverted a part of its efforts and funds to focus on issues which were of concern to the common people such as education, medical care, women empowerment and skill development, especially in the remote areas which were not easily accessible to the civil administration. These efforts have had a positive impact. Construction of roads and bridges, providing medical assistance and improving infrastructure in schools have been areas of focus which have topped the agenda. Women empowerment programmes have also involved training to enhance skills in knitting, carpet weaving and sewing in order to make them self-sufficient. Youth employment guidance node now provides training and counselling to the youngsters for education and job opportunities especially in the militancy prone regions. The Army also occasionally makes it resources available to civilians. For instance, civilians or patients from far flung areas could use the army bus for transportation. The rations meant for the Army have also at times been distributed among the needy villagers.

However, few aspects of Sadbhavana need to be revisited in a holistic manner. Any lapses would only tarnish the image of the Army which has come a long way playing its role as a facilitator. It needs to be understood that Sadbhavana projects are not aimed at legitimising army in these regions or act as a substitute to state machinery. It is merely a mediator between the State and the civilians when it comes to developmental initiatives. In any case, welfare schemes are not the primary objective/duty of the Army; they face a paucity of funds as well as officers to carry out such activities. Therefore, the first imperative is to synergise activities between the Armed Forces and civil administration. Projects undertaken by the Army could then be handed over to the latter at a later stage to ensure sustainability and continuity. According to one prominent civil official who was quoted in a biweekly national magazine, “The civil administration is upset with the army that it’s creating a parallel infrastructure. [Since], army-civil administration is still a far cry; this puts a question mark on the sustainability of the new model of border management.”

The ad-hocism and personality oriented approach could perhaps be replaced with a long term vision for these projects. While commanding officers and senior commanders may have their own vision in mind, it is important that a central long term strategy is executed on the ground. This may at times act as a dampener to the motivation level of troops on the ground but in the long run, effective planning and monitoring mechanisms would lead to further strengthening the relationship between the armed forces and locals. To further facilitate the aspect of ‘winning hearts and minds’ of the people, it is important that the troops have the skills to communicate with the people in their local language and be acquainted with their cultural and religious sensibilities. Focused training on these aspects would pay huge dividends in improving the image of the Army. In addition, the desire to use Sadbhavana as a tool for intelligence gathering is counter-productive and is best avoided. While it may at times give some short term returns, the long term impact is negative. If the locals view Sadbhavana activities as a means employed by the army to gather intelligence, it loses its value. Promoting a positive image of the Army will in the long term eventually lead to very high levels of cooperation between the civil population and the Army and intelligence would in any case then be more forthcoming.

Sadbhavana must also be focussed on what the people really need. Some instances of failed priorities are given below: –

  • Agricultural subsidies in the Ladakh region might not be the greatest idea since the land is not very agriculturally productive. In various regions, women who were actively involved in horticulture were asked to look after as well as seek admissions in adult education centres under Sadbhavana. The women would often absent themselves as they needed to work in their fields for economic survival and the Centres soon fell into disuse. The army however did not withdraw the abandoned centres because they had been extensively publicised.
  • The Army has constructed 425 Micro Hydel Projects under Sadbhavana. These are either non-existent or non-functional, according to a committee set up by the State Government.
  • A commanding officer while withdrawing his troops handed over the school in the area to local teachers who were poorly trained. Several people   withdrew their children from that school. A local mother said, “It was primarily because of a strong emphasis of English language is why I admitted one of my kids to Sadbhavana school, but what is the point if they are being taught by locals who themselves have a poor grounding of knowledge.”

Such initiatives are at best avoided, since they would only lead to resentment among the people. Also, working in a terrain and with groups as diverse as J&K and Ladakh, welfare schemes directed at one community might raise doubts and suspicions in the minds of the other. Prime developmental focus on the Ladakh region and intensive recruitment of Ladakhis into the army has further widened the gulf between Kashmir and Ladakh communities. Therefore, to avoid any portrayal of the Army in a negative light, it is imperative that they make provisions for tie-ups with the State schemes like MNREGA and ICDS. This would be helpful to clarify misconceptions about the army patronising a particular community.

The educational exposure trips conducted under Sadbhavana for the students from these regions is making headlines at present. However, this initiative needs to branch out of the charity approach of merely familiarising students with opportunities and culture that exist in the rest of India and instead develop a chain through which these youngsters can also avail them. For instance, often students in remote areas drop out after completing middle school because they have nowhere to go. There could be tie-ups between Sadbhavana schools and other Government administered schools and universities, across India if possible, to keep the process of education ongoing. Perhaps are evaluation of school curriculum and incorporating secular, democratic, human rights values might help countering religious extremism at its roots. This would also require trained teachers and a way towards this needs to be found.

To prevent conflict and to earn confidence of people, it is essential that the efforts be directed towards harnessing youth energy in the most efficient manner. They yearn for the same exposure, educational and economic opportunities as is available to others in the rest of India, failing which, they succumb to militancy. If Sadbhavana needs to achieve the desired results, tapping the youth energy from these regions could be a priority target.

The audit of Sadbhavana funds need to be available to the public. While funds are generally well accounted for, there is a need to allay suspicions that the funds are not being used in the manner intended. Also, it is worth noting that the emphasis should now shift to conflict prevention mechanisms, rather than being confined to just “winning hearts and minds”. A statement by the J&K Chief Minister has great significance. In his words, “a lot of goodwill and rapport depends upon the action of the commanding officers and troops on the ground. Sadbhavana is a good project, but if you put a good CO on the ground without Sadbhavana, he will show better results.

In the final analysis, what is needed is empowerment of the people within their own region. Their self-worth and confidence has to be restored so that they can take charge of development in their best capacity. This can only be achieved through long term investment. While Sadbhavana has been an enabler in the last two decades of conflict, we would have to look further now to ensure a long term peace.

The author is a Research Assistant at CLAWS.

Original Source: Centre for Land Warfare Studies

Beyond Malalai: Give Afghan Women a Chance

The US and NATO withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in 2014 and its likely outcome have garnered global attention in the past few months. Whether Afghanistan will strive towards maintaining internal and external security or relapse into another long-drawn conflict remains a lurking question. Since much of the discourse in the past few years has been replete with issues of women’s safety and empowerment in Afghanistan it is imperative to sieve through the rich legacy of powerful women in Afghanistan who have assumed leadership roles both in the ancient and contemporary settings. These facts are however meagerly documented in the history books. As the West would like us to believe, the conditions for women in Afghanistan have not always been dismal and oppressive until they suffered a backlash during the Taliban regime, which was most likely sponsored by the major global players.

The pre-Aryan history establishes the existence of many matriarchal societies in the region, the remnants of which are still found in certain tribes in Afghanistan as also in parts of Kerala and Northeast India where women enjoyed power within their communities. Similarly, the legendary poet and Afghan warrior Malalai who had fought along with Ayub Khan and defeated the British in the Battle of Maiwand in 1880 has been slowly vanishing from the pages of history. Goharshad Begum had played a very important role in moving the Timurid capital from Samarkand to Herat and is also said to have started a cultural renaissance in the region by inviting illustrious philosophers and artists from around the world. Contemporary figures like Shukria Barakzai who is labelled as the “woman who the Taliban and the NATO fear” and Malalai Joya who is known as “the bravest woman in the world” for speaking out strongly against the American occupation in Afghanistan also go on to prove that women have been more than just ‘victims’ in the Afghan society.

Considerable efforts have been made in the direction of women’s empowerment in Afghanistan; however a much-coveted space for women to prove their mettle still remains a distant dream. India has shared rich cultural ties with the region in the past and is home to a large number of Afghan migrants. Since stability of Afghanistan also falls under the purview of India’s strategic interests, it should make concerted efforts towards reviving and fortifying pillars of economic and internal security in the region. It is an accepted fact that a strong and educated woman goes on to affect her immediate family and the larger community in the longer run. For India, it would prove to be a low cost investment to award 5,000 scholarships to Afghan women every year in the field of science, technology, military training, horticulture, social sciences, history, and agriculture at a monthly allowance of Rs 10,000. These women could stay in India for a period of two to three years to learn the required skills and later work towards strengthening the legal, political and economic structures in Afghanistan.

The induction of women in the Afghan national army and police forces was a welcome step but their sustainability remains a concern. India could open up avenues to organise training programmes for Afghan women alongside women from the Indian Army and police forces in order to equip them with the kind of skills required to strengthen internal security in the region. On the other hand, it is also imperative for the Afghan forces to recruit more women for their internal security operations, since women are likely to be impacted by the Taliban hardliners. Equipping the women to protect themselves and their communities is the need of the hour. Currently there are only 1,551 female police officers in Afghanistan, which is just one for 10,000 women in the war-torn country.

Improving communication channels is another area of concern. India along with its booming media is also home to various successful and talented female journalists. Training programmes could be organised for the Afghan women on a mentor-protégé basis to help them knit stories that concern their society. In fact, a medium like CGNET Swara, which is currently being operated in the tribal belt of India, could well be replicated in the rural hinterlands of Afghanistan where computer and internet have not yet penetrated

Afghanistan is yet to establish an Afghan Women’s Commission; The National Commission for Women in India could play an integral role in lending its expertise to facilitate the process. India has made significant strides in improving women’s participation in local governance or Panchayat level.  Many Afghan women are already members in the Parliament with a few even aspiring for the Presidential elections in the year 2014. Interactions can be facilitated for Afghan women who are aspiring to participate in public affairs with the women Panchayats in India to learn about the challenges and best practices at the local level.

Since several women in Afghanistan are also involved in handicrafts and agriculture, a model like that of SEWA (Self Employed Women Association) will help several women gain financial stability. Simultaneously, health and sanitation programmes can be organised through these forums since these issues have a direct bearing on women and children.

Afghan women entrepreneurs are already looking towards India for business opportunities. India can perhaps play an integral role in fostering security in its neighbourhood by providing women with the opportunities that would facilitate growth and stability.  Afghanistan has had a rich legacy of women involved in the resistance movements against those who have lacerated their region with violence and extremism. The likes of Malala have already risen against the Taliban, and the clock is still ticking.

Original Source: Science, Technology & Security Forum, Manipal University