Gun-toting women take on militants
22 July 2006
Bafliaz: Women in this terrain of the Pir Panjal mountains have found a way to combat militancy — they have taken to the gun. Giving a different dimension to anti-militancy operations women are increasingly enlisting themselves in Village Defence Committees (VDCs) and getting trained in the use of weapons. This is also being seen as a revolt against the societal curbs imposed by religious extremists and militants in the last few years. And, each household has a tale to tell as to why they have resorted to this. Gulzar Bi's son went missing five years ago. Thirteen-year-old Mohammed Yasin was recruited by a militant commander. Her pleas to get him back went in vain. 'Tell me what is the alternative before me. I have lost my son but I would never allow them to harm the rest of my family,' she says. Interference in the socio-economic life of the people too has had a bearing on their sudden aggressiveness. Some time ago, militants launched a massive campaign to enforce the wearing of veil. And this in part contributed to the lowering of the education standard of girls. Feeling empowered Taslima (24) says that 'by learning to handle weapons we feel empowered and our sense of insecurity has definitely lessened. We have realised that silence only breeds fear.' It has not taken much time for them to master the use of weapons. The archaic .303 rifle, much heavier than automatic weapons, is handled with ease. Some are adept at using the AK-47 and the SLR as well. Mohammad Aslam, a VDC member, who trained them, says: 'Women of our hilly belt have been equal partners with men in every sphere. Militants have often tried to enforce the veil campaign in this belt, but it has been fiercely resisted by them.' More VDCs coming up Women VDCs were formed first in the Marrah area but now the idea is fast catching up in other areas. The gun-toting women have often repulsed many a militant attack. Two years ago, militants attacked a family in the Teli Katha area of Surankote after men had gone out for work. Surprise To their surprise, three women stood their ground for over an hour forcing the militants to flee. Though 13 civilians were killed, the women saved the lives of many children and elderly.