Indian Police Arrest Kashmiri Women Separatists
2 September 2005
Srinagar: Police in Indian Kashmir said on Friday they had arrested the head of a hardline women's separatist group which raids hotels, restaurants and wine shops to stamp out the 'flesh-trade' and check moral decline. Asiya Andrabi, wife of a militant leader and chief of the Dukhtaran-e-Milat (Daughters of the Muslim Faith), was arrested along with six female comrades on Thursday night when they raided a restaurant in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital. 'Asiya was arrested when she assaulted a married woman who was with her husband at the restaurant,' senior police officer Muneer Khan said. 'Who are they to impose their code of conduct?' Veiled from head-to-toe in black, the group's 'Maryam Squad', named after the Virgin Mary, has raided several suspected brothels and wine shops that Andrabi says are encouraged by Indian authorities. 'Indians are fighting on several fronts in Kashmir and the moral degradation in our Muslim society is part of their plan. We decided to counter this,' Andrabi said before her arrest. She said the group had picked up several girls involved in prostitution and had damaged a wine shop. 'We will not punish these girls, we will try to rehabilitate them and convince them that what they are doing is all un-Islamic,' she said. The Dukhtaran-e-Milat became active in Kashmir in the early 1990s when it launched a campaign against obscenity in public places. Influenced by the Iranian Islamic revolution, it has also campaigned to force Muslim women to wear veils. Most women in India's only Muslim majority state do not wear veils. There are no legal red light areas in Kashmir and police have arrested several people in recent months on charges of being involved in the sex trade. Beauty parlours, cinemas and wine shops were closed in Kashmir in 1989 after a Muslim insurgency broke out against Indian rule, killing tens of thousands. Two cinemas and two wine shops have now opened in safe zones in Srinagar, along with several beauty parlours.