Thursday, May 12, 2011

Abstract 2011 Shahnaz Khalil Khan

Shahnaz Khalil Khan, Humboldt University Berlin


What accounts for the absence of a concerted Muslim women's movement in J&K

There is a plethora of literature available on international relations and the on-going geo-political debacle that is the peace process between Pakistan and India over the entity known as Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). There is little of this vast and essential work that is focused on gender relations in J&K. This presentation will venture to look beyond preconceived notions of Muslim women's activism in J&K. Muslim women in (J&K) first publicly took to women's rights activism in the 1940s; I will present the contents of the Naya Kashmir manifesto, which included a comprehensive women's agenda, an instrumental document formulated as a manifesto pledge by the National Conference (NC) in 1944.
Next, having negotiated a document such as the women's agenda of the Naya Kashmir manifesto, women had to renegotiate in political climates that were not conducive to the idea of gender equality. Partial progress was made by women over the decades in trying to achieve their visions of a New Kashmir. The key actors that came out of the newly emerged modern educated elites were Muslim women with a missionary zeal; their ends were driven as much by their belief in women's emancipation through education as a sense of duty to a vision of J&K where Muslims were no longer 'dumb driven cattle'. The 50s and 60s were the 'hay days' but from 1980s onwards women were again subsumed at the intersection of rival discourses of nationalisms, quasi nationalism, ethno-religious discourses, and the violence that competition between them inevitably brings.
The contemporary situation of Muslim women has some similarities to that of the 1940s; projected as victims in order to access and control the territory of J&K itself. As such, it is the militarisation of the state that has, together with an armed insurgency, reduced public spaces for Muslim women by maximising their fear of public and private spheres. In the face of nationalist and militarist discourses Muslim women are still articulating their views of the future and their agendas. I will focus on how Muslim women are utilising public spaces by looking at women organising and attending demonstrations in order to protest against alleged crimes against women. This also includes the work of reconciliation between different faith communities of women, campaigning and networking undertaken by local organisations. Women are, after a lull at the height of the insurgency in the late 1990s, returning to and utilising public spaces to highlight their agendas again; What are Muslim women promoting as their priorities and is Islam shaping these priorities?

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