Kashmir is the highest militarized zone of the world where going against the state policy is a sedition which can land one into the jail or even can lead to death.
Parliamentary elections in the valley have been widely opposed by the people. Separatists played a major role in opposing these elections. They carried out strong anti-election campaigns to keep the people away from polls. Almost all the pro freedom leaders were arrested for their poll boycott rallies – for it was something going against the wishes of state.
In poll boycott campaigns the role of women activists cannot be disparaged.
They played a major part in creating awareness among gullible women folk — for boycotting the elections. They carried out the exercise intrepidly – despite of the fact that fear of getting arrested was all the time looming large — as draconian law have been unleashed on the soil of Kashmir to curb the voice of dissent.
Fearless women activists like Zamrooda Habib, Tanveer Fathima, and Parveena Ahangar – ran an election boycott campaign throughout the valley.
They launched an anti election campaigns across the length of the valley and went door to door to make people aware about as to why they shouldn’t participate in elections.
It took them weeks to cover all the targeted areas. Braving all odds, they made the campaign a success and proved elections are a futile exercise in Kashmir.
Now as the elections are over the leadership is content as state’s coercive theory could not suppress their voice.
Her Voice tries to trace out the course of poll boycott journey carried out by women activists of the valley.
Habib was in her teens when she joined politics. She is the member of Hurriyat
Conference (G). Habib who hails from Anantnag district of South Kashmir, began her journey from there only and calls it an obligation meant to achieve the cause.
The meaning of ‘democracy’ changes when it is attributed in Kashmir context as India projects democracy as a tool to suppress the voice of a commoner.
Democracy in Kashmir is a camouflage. We too want a democratic solution of Kashmir but it has to be the way it is meant to render. We should be given our rights. Unless we get them we will keep opposing the elections.
Elections mean nothing to us. We will take part in election only when they are conducted, according to our aspirations, in a free environment.
Our aim to carry out election boycott was to make women aware about the political processes. Women, at some places, can be easily influenced by the false promises of development and we could not afford to let that happen so we begin with the poll boycott exercise.
My journey began from Anantnag District of South Kashmir – being my hometown as well. It was a challenge for me as the area is full of renegades and police personnel.
Initially I and my co-workers were very much apprehensive about running a campaign. We were apprehensive of getting arrested before finishing up the job but we were committed and wanted to carry it out.
I went door to door to spread a word among women. On the way, whosoever I met, I asked them to stay away from elections.
I would assemble women at a place in a village and would tell them as to that casting a vote is not of any use. My target areas were places where chances of polling were high. I went there and talked to women. The women who were ready to cast their votes changed their mind after I made them understand the hazards of voting. We distributed pamphlets among women and asked each of them to make a photo copy of a pamphlet and circulate it among their friends or acquaintances.
Out of all the places I travelled, Kulgam was very frightening. Mufti Sayeed had a rally same day I was to campaign against the elections. The area was barricaded and dotted with Indian forces. I was shivering with fear but I along with my workers didn’t stop and carried out the campaign.
As I moved on the fear went off by itself. There was an overwhelming response from women.
It took me 10 days to run the poll boycott campaign in different districts and towns of South Kashmir. After I finished from there I moved to Srinagar where I went to areas like Khanyar, Kak Sarai, Karanagar and Chattabal etc.
While carrying out this exercise I had one thing in my mind that I have to send a message across that we are not with elections and I have to keep people away from it. And today when elections are over I feel proud for this collective achievement.
She a resistance leader from Baramullah Distirct of North Kashmir – who has recently set up her own party namely Women’s Democratic Forum after working with several separatist parties in Kashmir.
Fathima like Habib carried out the poll boycott campaign to aware the people. She too began with her home district. Fathima doesn’t want world to see Kashmir through the eyes of India. Instead she wants to show them the way people look at it.
Elections should happen. I have nothing against it. My only problem is with the way India projects it in Kashmir context. They show it is an alternative to referendum.
People here do not vote, they don’t consider themselves to be a part of this democratic system. So I wanted to convey this message to the world that Kashmir is not part of Indian democracy.
I began my poll boycott campaign from Press Enclave, Srinagar because I didn’t want to do it clandestinely. Then I, along with my partly workers, went to different areas of Srinagar to send a word across — among the women in particular.
We were welcomed by one and all. During this journey I found that young girls are very dynamic and politically sound – who are completely against the Indian rule and her occupation of Kashmir.
After Srinagar I moved to Baramullah and got a keen hearing from people who promised me that they will not vote till they are free of oppression.
I also took help of social networking sites. The poll boycott campaign, which I ran on Facebook, got an overwhelming response. I was joined by hundreds of users and got the encouragement to carry out in their areas too.
When I began with the program the only fear I had was of my two sons. Police was on arresting spree and I knew I would be arrested so would be my sons. But I pledged to carry out this program even at the cost of any kind of sacrifice.
Also known as Iron lady of Kashmir — who runs Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons. Ahangar is fighting for the disappeared people of Kashmir for the last twenty years – ever since her own son disappeared. Ahanger had made a special appeal to the people to shun voting as she believes it is a futile exercise.
If we talk about politicians — all they need is a chair and power. They are not concerned about their own people. We have hundreds and thousands of disappeared people here but do they care?
Women who have lost their beloveds are struggling everyday but who cares? We have no graveyards and not even the place of epitaph, where we can offer prayers for our beloved ones. There are no prisons where we can visit them.
Government in Kashmir only knows how to double the miseries of a person — whose dear ones have been picked up by armed forces and have disappeared. They are just engrossed in their own lives and people like us are demanding justice from years.
There are some ladies who are trying to locate their sons from last 24 years.
Why should we vote them when we only got pain from them.
We are presided over by Army, we are mere slaves and I believe slaves have no authority — so how can government ask us to vote.
There have been so many leaderships – they came, made some promises and went off. There has been Farooq Abdullah, Mufti Sayed, Ghulam Nabi Azaad, Omar Abdullah – what did they all do except uttering few hollow words.
Talking about the present leadership of Omar Abdullah – it is worst of all. Before we could have attached some hopes with him he made a statement that Kashmir has 1100 disappeared persons only out of which 500 have already got relief – while the actual number is more than 10,000.
Our kids are being arrested, killed, disappeared and tortured; mothers and wives are struggling, children are suffering – but none of it moves the government so I made a special appeal to all the people of Kashmir to always keep away from elections — for it is not meant for us.