September 2001 News

Scared Kashmiri women wear veils as per rebel order

10 September 2001
The Asian Age
Sheikh Mushtaq

Srinagar: Thousands of frightened Muslim women in Kashmir region fell into line with an Islamic dress code on Monday and donned head-to-toe veils as the deadline imposed by a shadowy Muslim rebel group ended. The police said they had stepped up security patrols and posted plainclothes men at schools and colleges to protect a handful of women defying the ultimatum from the rebels, who attacked unveiled women with acid in August to launch the campaign. Women residents said that very few dared to defy the Lashkar-e-Jabbar dress code. “Some women have defied the order, but I have started wearing it. I cannot take chances,” Mehjabeen Akhtar, a government employee, said. Lashkar-e-Jabbar told women in the Muslim-majority state in August to cover up in public or face attack. Two women were injured in an acid attack at a crowded crossing. On Monday, streets in Srinagar, the state’s summer capital, were peppered with women in long black robes which covered them from head to toe, with only a small net opening for the eyes. Tailors in the city have reported being flooded with orders to stitch the burqas, as the all-covering veils are known. The rebel group extended an August 31 deadline to September 10 following an appeal by a women’s separatist group. The little-known Lashkar-e-Jabbar followed up its social crackdown during the weekend by ordering women from the minority Hindu and Sikh communities in Kashmir to dress differently so they could be easily identified. It said Hindu women should wear a traditional bindi or a coloured dot on their forehead and Sikh women should cover their heads with saffron-coloured cloth. They set no deadline for their order which is similar to one issued by Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers earlier this year directing non-Muslims to wear a distinctive badge in public. Some 50,000 Hindus and about an equal number of Sikhs live in the Kashmir Valley.


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