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When Shah Jahan’s Paradise Became A Bone Of Contention

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By Manisha Chachra:

Kashmir — a jewel in the Indian crown, whose position even after 64 years of India’s independence remains an ever-disputable issue. The conflict-ridden situation in Kashmir isn’t merely a coincidence but a product of episodes happened in the past. The territorial clash between India —Pakistan can be traced back to pre-independence era.

Before 1947, Jammu and Kashmir was a princely state. Its Hindu ruler maharaja Hari Singh didn’t want to merge with India and tried to negotiate with India and Pakistan to have an independent status for his state. The popular movement in the state led by Sheikh Abdullah of the National Conference wanted to get rid of the Maharaja but was against joining Pakistan. The national conference was a secular organization and had a long association with the Congress. These two factors played a prominent role for accession of Kashmir to India. But this process of accession was as complex as Kashmir’s destiny. On October 22, 1947 Pakistan invaded Kashmir from the north with an army of soldiers and tribal infiltrators to capture Kashmir.

The unfortunate news of invader’s brutal sackings reached every home which caused frenzy among people. To this, Maharaja Hari Singh sent Sheikh Abdullah to Delhi to seek India’s help. India extended military support and drove back the infiltrators from Kashmir valley, but only after Maharaja signed an ‘Instrument of Accession’ with the government of India. It was also agreed that once the situation normalized, the views of the people of Jammu and Kashmir be ascertained about their future. Sheikh Abdullah took over as the chief minister of the state in March 1948. Furthermore, India agreed to maintain the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir.

Nonetheless, this was not the end, the story gets further entangled when Pakistan occupied northern-southern strip of the state and called it ‘Azad Kashmir’. Later India approached United Nations organization to resolve the issue between both the countries and resolutions were passed to hold plebiscite to decide Kashmir’s future. Nevertheless it was difficult to conduct a plebiscite which required both the states to withdraw their respective armies. In 1949, a line was demarcated between countries, separating northern and western parts of Kashmir, creating two separately controlled political entities- Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit- Baltistan called ‘federally administered northern areas’.

India’s attempts to integrate Kashmir infuriated Pakistan. They decided to launch ‘Operation Gibraltar’ so as to recover Kashmir. It launched an attack in the valley by sending guerrillas assuming that Kashmiri Muslims would rise against India. On the contrary, guerrillas were apprehended and handed over to Indian authorities. The situation worsened when India launched a series of attacks on Lahore, Pakistan and battled with the Pakistani army. The war finally reached its edge when USSR intervened which both the countries accepted on September 6.

The issue gained momentum during the 1989 elections when the opposition party Muslim United Front failed to attain majority and won only five seats. It accused that government of India has rigged the elections. On other side, Abdullah’s government failed to promote economic development of the state which further enraged people of the state. This led to the rise of three major groups- the first umbrella group, Muslim fundamentalists, was pro Pakistan and had links with the terrorist organization like Jammait-i-Islam. The second umbrella group was Jammu and Kashmir liberation front established in 1965, and demanded an independent Kashmir. The third group was Jammu and Kashmir Peoples’ League which wanted to orient with Pakistan. But all these demands were quashed by Indian government because it considered the accession treaty as the treaty approved by the masses of the state. Moreover, India was concerned about the minorities like Hindus and Buddhists of that region.

Irrespective of Indian view, the militants were focused on their goal. These militants raised the demand of insurgency and received moral and material support from Pakistan. This forced India to enact Armed Forces Special Powers Act which led to an ample amount of human rights violations, rape cases, and mock encounters where the actual guilty weren’t punished. One can go back to Shopian rape case of 2009 in which two young women were gang raped and violent protests were held against the CRPF personnel Neelofar Jan and Asiya Jan. After an arduous research their bodies were found in the CRPF camp. Mass graves that were found in Kashmir were yet another horrendous incident. The human rights commission of Indian -controlled portion has found 38 unmarked sites with thousands of bodies. Several hundreds of these it is believed are of civilians who went missing since the onset of indigenous ethno-religious insurgency that erupted in 1989.

In accordance to the chronological order the fate of Kashmir twisted during the onset of kargil war. The 1999 kargil war took place between May 8, when Pakistani forces were detected atop the kargil ridges and July 14, when both sides ceased their military operations. The Indian military campaign to repel the intrusion left 524 Indian soldiers dead and 1,363 wounded, according to December 1 statistics by then Defense Minister George Fernandez. The Diaspora between India and Pakistan has got always influenced with the issue of Kashmir. Flipping through the pages of history one finds aplenty of incidents.

According to 2009 international crisis group report, “Kashmir: learning from the past”, Kashmir which earlier neither had an exclusive Muslim identity nor Hindu, now simply consists of Islamists. The reasons for the shift are:

1. Islamic political revivalism following the Iranian revolution.
2. The rise of Muslim educational facilities within Indian- administered Kashmir.
3. A decline in employment prospects fro youth nada growing sense that the mainstream secular leaders failed.
4. Farooq Abdullah, a Kashmiri leader manipulated Muslim sentiment to gain advantage in elections.

Supposedly, Pakistan played a role in promoting militant Islamic groups in Kashmir in 1970s and 1980s. Allegedly, Zia-ul-Haq, the then prime minister of Pakistan was responsible for the rise of militants and encouraged the idea that Kashmir is a religious conflict and Muslims are suppressed by Hindus in that region.

India responded dramatically to this act of Pakistan by enacting ‘Terrorism and Disruptive activities Prevention act’ which led to arrest of over 76,000 individuals. Various anti-terrorism measures were notable for their human rights violations.
President Musharaff’s pledge to crack down on Islamits led to the banning of lashkar-i-tayba and jammait-i-islam. However, these groups continued their activities by changing their names.

Following Musharraf’s resignation it was discovered by US analysts that he was equally involved in the development of Jihadists groups in Kashmir. The role of Pakistan’s government has always been an eminent one when one talks about Kashmir- Mohammad Ali Jinnah contributed significantly by sending troops to Kashmir in 194, Zia—ul —haq’s role in creating religious chasms in the Kashmir, Mushraff’s role in encouraging the development of Indian Mujahdeen.

Despite signing a plethora of treaties and agreements, the issue remains irresolvable. The endeavors to start ‘Samjhuta expresses’ by Atal bihari Vajpayee and Mushraaff also ended up in smoke. The obstacle of terrorism also comes to light when one ponders at what happened in Amaranth. The pilgrimage suffered a setback with the massacre in Pahalgam of 30 people by Kashmiri militant separatists.

On 2 May, 2008, the government of India, and the state government of Jammu and Kashmir reached an agreement of transferring100 acres of forest land to the Shri Amaranth shrine board to set up temporary shelters and facilities for Hindu pilgrims. Kashmir separatists opposed the move citing that it will jeopardize the article 370 that gives separate identity to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and prevent any Indian citizen’s to settle in Kashmir. People of Kashmir staged widespread protests against the decision. As a result, the government of India cancelled the agreement but had to confront Hindu agitations against this roll-back.

Another group has which become a victim of the vicious grip of terrorism are the Kashmiri pundits who are displaced from the region in the name of ethnic —cleansing. Their properties have been destroyed and looted by the terrorists. These communities have been living in that region since years and are plundered at every moment. Bearing in mind aplenty of factual information it becomes cumbersome to declare Kashmir really azad (free)? Did the deployment of Para-military forces fecundating? Did mediations from UNO or USA really make a difference?

I am neither a Pakistani nor an Indian. Before I bind myself with any nation or society I am a human being who sees fate of Kashmir hanging on the iron rods of India and Pakistan.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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