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Narratives of Kashmiri Women’s Protests

Women in Resistance

Media framings of street protests by young women in April 2017 projected them as “poster girls” of women’s resistance to the Indian administration in the region, thereby invisibilising the largely undocumented past of women’s resistance as well as daily acts of survival and dissent. Comparing women’s street protests across two time periods in Kashmir—1964 to 1974, and April 2017—women’s role in the narratives of nationalist and anti-colonial struggles is analysed. The struggle for “self-determination” in Kashmir provides women with a space for active political participation. However, as seen in the creation of women’s protests as “spectacle,” it denies women the opportunity to participate as genuine political actors and decide the terms of their participation.

In late 1973, Chandi Prasad, pioneer of Chipko Andolan, the Indian forest conservation movement, witnessed Kashmiri women standing on rooftops and throwing stones at the police in central Srinagar during a period of intense and valley-wide anti-India agitations sparked off by students of Srinagar Government Women’s College (Guha 2009). He describes it as a majedar tamasha (humorous spectacle) (Guha 2009). Four and a half decades later, in April 2017, young female students chanting anti-India slogans took to the streets across the towns and districts of Kashmir to protest against police brutalities. These young women, photographed in moments of aggression and rage against the state, became hyper-visible on digital media platforms.

Responses to these images from both within and outside Kashmir expressed surprise, disapproval, and resentment at the emergence of the “female stone-pelter” and more generally at the presence of young women on the streets demanding azaadi (freedom). From Chandi Prasad’s laughing dismissal, to the contemporary characterisation of these protests as “unprecedented,” the history of Kashmiri women’s participation in the resistance movements against the Indian state in the region has often been invisiblised or treated as insignificant.

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Updated On : 8th Dec, 2018

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