Women, new targets of J&K militants
29 July 2003
Our Staff Reporter
Rajouri: In sharp contrast to the past, women in the border districts of Jammu and Kashmir are increasingly becoming specific targets of the militants. The women here had shouldered equal responsibilities with their male counterparts and enjoyed a unique equality in various spheres of life. Now, the militants it is imposing restrictions of their lifestyle and the freedom they have enjoyed. In the initial years of the militancy, the sufferings of the women were indirect; they lost their husbands, sons and brothers to the 'movement'. Several men who joined the militants in the last decade have never returned. Wives, sisters and mothers of militants became the particular targets of security forces and 'interrogations' were common. In December last, an attempt was made to force women to wear the veil but it failed. Now, a trend of militants routinely breaking into homes in remote villages and opening fire at the womenfolk has begun. The reason: the women are seen as mukhbirs (informers). Previously, such 'women' were merely warned. On Sunday night, three militants stormed the house of Sahja Begum in the Faislabad area and shot at her and her 23-year-old daughter Zubaida Begum. While Zubaida died instantly, Sahja escaped with injuries. Both were suspected to be 'informers' because Sahja's son was working in the Police Department. Earlier, in a neighbouring village, militants had administered a lethal injection to another 'woman informer'. Shahnaz, who was issued a threat a week ago, says: 'In most cases, any woman found talking to security personnel is a suspect.' Women who go to police stations or Army camps for routine enquiries about their children who might have been picked up for alleged militant links are also suspected of being informers. Such incidents have had the desired impact. Woman now invariably have a male escort even while taking cattle to the grazing areas.