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The Myth of Empowerment: Gender, Conflict, and ‘Development’ in Kashmir

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Part of the Philosophy and Politics - Critical Explorations book series (PPCE,volume 10)

Abstract

This paper attempts to look at the discourse of development and empowerment in a conflict zone like Kashmir to explore how such narratives are employed by the state to suppress people’s resistance. Kashmir has been noted as one of the longest running ‘disputes’ between India and Pakistan following the Partition of the subcontinent in 1947—a narrative that ignores the centrality of Kashmir and Kashmiris to the conundrum. This paper brings forth India’s nation-building exercise in Kashmir, often hinged on the discourse of development, to show how gender and conflict intersect with violence being central to state control. It looks into women’s empowerment narrative propagated by the state, presenting itself as a saviour of the otherwise ‘oppressed’ women. In doing so, the paper highlights how such empowerment does not translate into a life of dignity for the women. It brings forth women’s subversion of statist impositions to participate in resistance as they demand their right to a national imaginary of their own.

Keywords

  • Gender
  • Empowerment
  • Violence
  • Kashmir
  • India

Editor’s note: Samreen Mushtaq’s piece was written and submitted before August 05, 2019, when Article 370 of the Indian Constitution was struck down, dissolving the earlier statehood and semi-autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir in relation to the Republic of India.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Fazal, Minority Nationalisms in South Asia (ed.), p. 127.

  2. 2.

    Kazi, Between Democracy and Nation, p. xv.

  3. 3.

    Singh, ‘Crisis of National Unity in India: Punjab, Kashmir, and the northeast’, p. 256.

  4. 4.

    Kaldor, cited in Kazi, Between Democracy and Nation, p. vii-x)

  5. 5.

    Muller, ‘Parsing Populism’, p. 83.

  6. 6.

    Kaul, ‘India’s obsession with Kashmir: Democracy, gender, (anti-) nationalism’, p. 128.

  7. 7.

    Ibid, p. 131.

  8. 8.

    Tickner, Gendering World Politics, p. 49.

  9. 9.

    Giles and Hyndman, Sites of Violence, p. 22.

  10. 10.

    Cock, ‘Keeping the fires burning’, p. 52.

  11. 11.

    Menon, Seeing Like a Feminist, p. 52.

  12. 12.

    The International Peoples’ Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, Structures of Violence, p. 14.

  13. 13.

    During these operations which are a part of the counter-insurgency process, the state forces lay siege to an area and then proceed for a house-to-house search, looking for weapons and/or armed fighters hiding in the premises. Over the years, residents have often complained of being beaten or harassed during such operations.

  14. 14.

    Brownmiller, Against Our Will, p. 38.

  15. 15.

    Asia Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, Rape in Kashmir, p. 2.

  16. 16.

    On the intervening night of 23 and 24 February 1991, soldiers of the 4th Rajputana Rifles entered the twin hamlets of Kunan Poshpora in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district for a cordon and search operation, gathered the men outside and raped more than fifty women within their homes. For more on this, see Batool et al, Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora?

  17. 17.

    Kazi, ‘Law, Governance and Gender in Indian-Administered Kashmir’, p. 24.

  18. 18.

    Asia Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, Rape in Kashmir, p. 4.

  19. 19.

    Mohanty, ‘Imperial Democracies, Militarized Zones, Feminist Engagements’, p. 77.

  20. 20.

    Dixon, ‘“Hearts and Minds”? British Counterinsurgency from Malaya to Iraq’.

  21. 21.

    Mockaitis, ‘The Origins of British Counterinsurgency’, p. 215.

  22. 22.

    Chakrabarti, ‘Sadbhavana and the Paradox of “Winning Hearts and Minds”’, p. 21.

  23. 23.

    Anant, ‘Counterinsurgency and “Op Sadhbhavana” in Jammu and Kashmir’, p. 13.

  24. 24.

    Refers to the essential needs of electricity, roads and water, the basic developmental aspects and everyday needs of people over which parties usually seek mandate during elections.

  25. 25.

    Kak, Until My Freedom Has Come, p. 39.

  26. 26.

    Mohanty, ‘Imperial Democracies, Militarized Zones, Feminist Engagements’, p. 77.

  27. 27.

    Adams, cited in Pease, ‘Rethinking Empowerment’, p. 136.

  28. 28.

    Parpart et al., Rethinking Empowerment, p. 4.

  29. 29.

    Kuttab, ‘Palestinian Women’s Organizations’, p. 73.

  30. 30.

    The Indian Express, ‘Mehbooba Mufti Declares Women Empowerment One of Top Agendas of J&K Government’.

  31. 31.

    Pease, ‘Rethinking Empowerment’, p. 138.

  32. 32.

    The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) was founded in 1994 by the families of the people subjected to Enforced Disappearance.

  33. 33.

    de Alwis, ‘Motherhood as a space of protest’.

  34. 34.

    Zia, ‘The Spectacle of a Good Half-Widow’.

  35. 35.

    Manchanda, Women, War and Peace in South Asia, p. 20.

  36. 36.

    The International Peoples’ Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, Structures of Violence, p. 10.

  37. 37.

    Wise, cited in Pease, ‘Rethinking Empowerment’, p. 136.

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Mushtaq, S. (2020). The Myth of Empowerment: Gender, Conflict, and ‘Development’ in Kashmir. In: Kaul, V., Vajpeyi, A. (eds) Minorities and Populism – Critical Perspectives from South Asia and Europe. Philosophy and Politics - Critical Explorations, vol 10. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-34098-8_19

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