Toughened by years of militancy
14 October 2006
Surankote: Women Village Defence Committees (VDCs) in this belt of Jammu and Kashmir have now removed the shackles imposed by militancy. Due to the backwardness of this belt, migration to the Gulf in search of livelihood has been a common occurrence among the men. In their absence, the women folk have managed the affairs of the family. Most of the men work as labourers, possessing a very low degree of skills and return after spending a decade or so. Economic prosperity driven by petro dollars was visible in most homes until militancy forced most of the men to return to protect their families. Many of them actively fought militancy. However things are looking up once again. Having actively participated in the armed revolt against militancy, Women Village Defence Committees are now encouraging men to return to work in Gulf countries. The message from them is that they can protect themselves and at the same time act as a shield to their families. Khatun Begum (24), confidently says, 'We can certainly protect our families. The decade-old militancy has made us tough. Meekness is no answer.' Mohammad Farooq, who returned to his village from Saudi Arabia is now confident that his wife like other women in the belt is capable of protecting herself. Farooq who will be joining his uncle in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) in a few days says, 'Some time ago, keeping in mind the situation here, I could not think of leaving my family alone but now the situation has changed. Women here can handle all types of weapons from the archaic .303 rifle to the sophisticated AK-47 and the SLR as well.' Women VDCs have proven their fighting abilities. In one incident, three women engaged the militants in a gun-battle for an hour forcing them to retreat.