Women From Either Side Of LoC Discuss Peace
16 November 2007
Srinagar: Over 50 women from both sides of the Line of Control met here on Friday to discuss the possibilities of finding common ground for pushing through peace moves in the troubled state. They called for widening the scope of confidence-building measures (CBMs) on both sides. Organised by the Delhi-based Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation (CDR) in collaboration with the women studies centres of Kashmir and Jammu universities, the three-day conference was inaugurated by Syeda Saiyidain Hameed, member, Planning Commission. She said the arrival of 17 women activists from Pakistan and Pakistan- administered Kashmir showed that no power could thwart the process of interaction. 'Ease travel curbs' 'Dialogue is a must to resolve the issues,' Dr. Hameed said adding there was need to ease travel restrictions. Women and children suffered a lot in the last 18 years and the 'government is conscious of their plight; that is why Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced that the scheme of rehabilitation would be extended even to children of militants.' Making out a case for troops reduction, she said the government of India was considering this demand. Referring to the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons headed by Parveena Ahangar, Dr. Hameed said the setting up of this forum was a strong message from women that 'repression cannot be tolerated.' 'Why are there no women when it comes to discussions on the future of Jammu and Kashmir and India and Pakistan? Why is there no gender parity and gender balance in this area?' Naseema Jogezai from Pakistan said that in a conflict situation, dialogue was must. In conflict zones, women were soft targets. Dr. Jogezai, who is also a member of Pakistan's Kashmir Committee, said it was not a question of religion when it came to demanding rights. Kashmiri Pandits were part of the Kashmiri ethos. 'It is time to focus on similarities rather than differences,' but Kashmir was the core issue of contention between India and Pakistan. Dream come true She said crossing the border for the conference was like 'a dream come true' for her and the other women. 'It is ironic that Muslims and Hindus have so much in common in Kashmir and yet there is conflict.' Nighat Shafi Pandit, chairperson of the Srinagar- based Help Foundation, spoke of the impact of conflict on women and children. 'Misery and disaster have trans-territorial dimensions.' These acted as binding factors in terms of social response. 'Experience has shown that when women from States of India forged unity on certain social issues, their combined action proved more fruitful and result-oriented than the sceptre of law wielded by the state agencies for maintaining law and order.' Sushobha Barve, executive secretary, CDR, said women from both sides of the border should come together to think of the role they could play in the peace process. Why, after three years of peace efforts, were women's voices not heard?Reciting a Urdu poem she wrote about the future of Kashmir, Zahida Qasim Malik, a doctor from Mirpur, told the gathering how her family had left Poonch because of Partition. Both her parents died in their forties because of the sufferings of dislocation. This visit enabled her to meet relatives she had not met for decades. 'But we are all part of a family,' she said referring to Jammu and Kashmir. 'Circumstances have divided us but we will be united again.'