Feminism Has Withstood Terrorism In J&K: Sonia
10 September 2007
The Daily Excelsior
Srinagar: Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), Sonia Gandhi, today said that the Congress-led coalition Governments at the Centre as well as in Jammu and Kashmir were planning and executing a number of schemes for upliftment and empowerment of women who had withstood the brunt of 18-year-long terrorism in the border State. Her host and J&K Chief Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, announced that a fresh battalion would be exclusively raised for women in J&K Police. Addressing a congregation of Kashmiri women at the picturesque SKICC lawns this afternoon, Sonia Gandhi said that females had faced the brunt of 18-year-long terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. 'Yet, they have withstood this catastrophe with courage and determination and proved that terrorism could not defeat feminism', Sonia said and claimed that the UPA Government was planning and executing a large number of initiatives to boost empowerment and self-confidence of the women in Jammu and Kashmir. She said that terrorism had not only destroyed structures but also inflicted wounds on the body and mind of people in this State. 'I believe healing the invisible wounds is more important that reconstruction of infrastructure'. Sonia said that by standing like a rock against terrorism, the Kashmiri women had saved Kashmiriyat. She said that Union Ministry of Women and Child Development as also its Central Social Welfare Board (CSWB) were working on a large numbers of schemes, in collaboration with the J&K Government and NGOs, for socio-economic empowerment of women, particularly the widows and orphans. Social Welfare Board, she said, had increased its annual allocation for J&K from Rs 1 cr to Rs 6 cr. The UPA Chairperson said that women's empowerment was most important for real development in any state. She said that self- help groups were being constituted all over the country and NGOs were also playing a significant role in socio-economic upliftment of women and children, particularly widows and orphans. Proper training to NGOs, according to her, was need of the hour. She asked social welfare boards to particularly focus on mobilisation and training of NGOs besides 'real education and (exploitation of) real opportunity. She said that today's conclave of Kashmiri women would bloom into the smile of peace and tranquility in Jammu and Kashmir. Sonia said that UPA Government was working on many plans to restore peace and tranquility in Jammu and Kashmir. She said that opening of Srinagar- Muzaffarabad Road and Poonch-Rawalakot Road were among the CBMs aimed at cross-LoC travel between divided parts of the State. Earlier, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said that women had suffered the worst in Kashmir's terrorism as thousands of them had been rendered widows and thousands of their children had become orphans. He said that the working groups, constituted after three roundtable conferences of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Kashmir, had worked out and recommended a host of measures for relief, rehabilitation and empowerment of women and children, particularly widows and orphans. He said that these recommendations were likely to be translated into action in near future. Azad said that a full battalion of Jammu and Kashmir Police was being raised exclusively for women with substantial assistance from the Government of India. He said that the women battalion of Police would take over the job of checking and physical frisking of women which would redress a big grievance. He said that it would also bring about a sense of security among women. In her brief speech earlier, PDP President, Mehbooba Mufti, had called for recruitment of more and more Kashmiri youth, particularly women, in J&K police. She expressed her concern over what she called 'rising graph of crime against the women'. Minister for Women and Child Development, Renuka Chaudhary, and Chairperson of CSWB, Rajni Patel, also addressed the gathering and stressed on arresting the rot of domestic violence against women. Ms Chaudhary said that a law on the pattern of recently made anti- violence legislation in Parliament, would soon be introduced and implemented in Jammu and Kashmir. She too emphasised recruitment of more women in Police force. In addition of Renuka Chaudhary and Rajni Patel, the UPA Chairperson was accompanied on his two-hour visit to Srinagar by Union Home Minister Shiv Raj Patil, Union Water Resources Minister Saif-ud-din Soz and M M Jaicob. Chief Minister Azad received her SKICC alongwith a number of his Cabinet colleagues and senior Government functionaries. Waving miniature national flags, about 5,000 Kashmiri women, drawn from different parts of the Valley, including the capital city, participated in today's congregation. Most of the participants said that they were from School Education, Health and Social Welfare departments. Authorities had made elaborate arrangements to ferry the droves of participants from different areas to the SKICC. Closure of vehicular as well as common pedestrian traffic on all roads leading to SKICC, coupled with diversion of traffic, on many roads in uptown resulted in unending jams and suffering to commuters for four to five hours. Though Sonia was and her entourage were flown by helicopters from Srinagar Airport to Cheshma Shahi, traffic snarls troubled people as a number of Congress leaders and Ministers drove to receive the AICC chief at airport.