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Gendered Constructs of Militarised Violence in Kashmir

Home as the Frontier

In conflict zones, the home–outside binary is often erased in practice as violence enters people’s lives and personal spaces, diluting any distinction between combatants and non-combatants, even as the international humanitarian law and Geneva Conventions highlight the distinction. In Kashmir, a popular armed rebellion against the state, since 1989, has been met with brutal force. Making use of militarised masculinity to inflict violence on bodies and psyches of the people considered to be the “other” has been a norm. In extending the understanding of the front line from the border to homes, actions, bodies, and the everyday trauma that women face, the victimhood narrative is problematised by placing women as frontliners as they witness, survive, and resist.

The recognition of violence is no longer restricted to the interstate conflicts characterised by war, but extends to its prevalence in what is the changing “landscape of combat” (Cock 1989). Despite the international humanitarian law drawing out a distinction between combatants and civilians, the former being direct participants in hostilities and getting certain privileges as prisoners of war, and the latter not being made objects of any attack under the military operations (Watkin 2003), the lines have largely been blurred as these neat categorisations do not stand in the face of modern armed conflicts, where both the public and the private spaces are militarised and violence does not remain confined to the combat front, but enters people’s safe havens.

This paper highlights how the home–outside binary is rendered indistinct in conflict, as homes become frontiers where people’s lives and spaces are subjected to militarised control that makes gendered constructs of identity especially prominent. The paper builds on the existing research that brings to the fore the linkages between gendered identity and violence in the context of armed conflicts, using the intersectionality framework developed by Crenshaw (1989), so as to understand how Kashmiri women become the “other” in terms of the varied strands of identity they inhabit, and how the everyday forms of violence play out, with their bodies, psyches, and spaces becoming sites of conflict. The paper includes interviews of women survivors of violence, presenting the testimonies in a single narrative without identifying the survivors.1 Taking from Scott’s (1985) understanding of “everyday forms of resistance” among Malayan peasants, the paper also brings to the fore the subtle ways in which Kashmiri women are reclaiming their spaces and how these attempts construct them as frontliners resisting the brutal onslaught of a militarised state. In bringing forth narratives of Kashmiri women about violence, struggles, and survival, the paper attempts to highlight the multiple experiences of women living in a conflict zone, beyond the binaries of victim and agent, and how they negotiate their days under a militarised code of conduct.

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Updated On : 8th Dec, 2018

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