Are Army Camps In Kashmir Trying To Spread ‘Mandir Culture’?

By Mohammed Sirajuddeen :

A civil rights activist for decades and a well-known lawyer, Parvez Imroz is the chief of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and possesses a long-standing experience of human rights activism in Kashmir.

He also represents the ‘International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir’ and has been accorded with international recognitions for his efforts to bring anomalies of the conflict in Kashmir to the outside world.

Kashmir many-a-times witnessed state-sponsored attacks on human rights organisations, activists and lawyers. Last year, Khurram Parvez, another leading figure of JKCCS was arrested and prevented from boarding his flight to Switzerland. This was directed by the Intelligence Bureau even though he was in possession of a valid Visa with an official invitation to attend a session organised by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Parvez Imroz had then led the delegation and sought to build opinion in support of their efforts. In early 2005, he had stated in a press conference that the Indian Army and the Government are conspiring to kill him.

Mohammed Sirajuddeen, a doctoral researcher at the Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, JNU, interacted with Parvez Imroz in February, 2017 at the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) Office in Srinagar.

Mohammed Sirajuddeen (MS): Why are people getting mobilised given the fact that security establishment is tough in every corner of Kashmir? 

Parvez Imroz (PI): No doubt the history of Government conduct has been tough. The element of fear is gone in Kashmiris to the extent that the stake of remaining silent is more costly than resistance. The young generation is politically mature in their struggle. Palestine is an example in front of us and Israeli settlement is the model of Indian occupation. Kashmir does not need a ‘Palestinisation’. RSS Chief believes that demographic changes are the only solution to Kashmir problem. Now, the ‘Article 370’ is being diluted even by judicial acts. A process to that direction has started. There is a conservative turn globally and a globalisation of mediocrity. No concrete solutions are coming from Indian authorities.

MS: How will you characterise the behaviour of Indian Armed Forces?

PI: The army is getting communalised and with the coming of the Modi government, that process has intensified. Defense Ministry took an aggressive stand. Army camps in Kashmir have succumbed to ‘mandir culture’ and the State is hell-bent on bringing radical ‘Hinduisation’ of army ranks. Even though the aggressive attitude of army men existed earlier, the communalisation process is a recent phenomenon and in many cases, it is reported that the behaviour of army men hailing from the northern belt of the Indian mainland has been belligerent towards Kashmiri people. Hence, even after 25 years, we witness no delivery of justice, and institutional mechanisms also prove inadequate.

Parvez Imroz

MS: Will you compare Kashmir with Palestine?  

PI: The world has condemned atrocities in Palestine and Israel was vetoed in the UN. The government cannot be as brazen as Israel because the Indian ruling class is different. For Kashmir, the ‘Pakistan factor’ is pertinent and therefore, there cannot be a plain comparison with Palestine. While Palestine has a 4 million ‘diaspora’, Kashmir lacks a diaspora and Palestine has also received global support. At the same time, we have seen parallels in patterns of state atrocities in both the places.

MS: What are your views on ‘Indian Left’ since it said that the only spectrum that speaks for Kashmir is ‘Left’ groups in India?

PI: We have seen vibrant left movement in Palestine like that of The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP). Kashmir is the only national liberation movement where there is an absence of a left movement. The only visible left group in Kashmir is represented by Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami and he functioned as a collaborator much like mainstream Indian political parties. From experience, for Kashmiris, ‘left’ and ‘right’ political groups in India stand as two sides of the same coin. The Indian left has played a treacherous role with respect to the need of resolving the Kashmir question. Barring Maoists and radical humanists, all streams of the parliamentary left in India didn’t care about Kashmir and confined themselves to rhetoric.

MS: There are criticisms that if granted freedom, Kashmir will become an ‘Islamic State’. Any comments?

PI: Many scientific surveys in the past few years pointed out that the majority of Kashmiris aspired to ‘azadi’. Since there are no non-Muslim entities and notable non-Muslim figures in Kashmir’s resistance movement, vested interests in India sought to frame it otherwise. But in reality, we cannot ignore the role of religion in Kashmir. Those who criticise Kashmir forget the fact that India can also be considered a ‘Brahminical Hindu’ state. Though there are Bhutan and Nepal, they say that Kashmir will be at peril if given freedom, that too at the hands of Pakistan and China. This is colonial British-like logic and we reject it.

It is a ‘self-defeating’ proposition that Kashmir is becoming an ‘Islamic state’. Those who argue this leave no scope for ‘self-determination’ and they undermine our cause. Unlike other South Asian turmoil, outfits like ‘Taliban’ do not have much influence in Kashmir and the visible militant group Hizbul Mujahideen is based on an indigenous cadre base. While in Pakistan, electoral politics witness no more than 3% support for religious political parties, India mandated a Hindu party with more than a 31% mandate. India represents as a burning pot of 16,000 communal riots and a history of mass atrocities against minorities. The condition of Muslims is worse than the situation of Dalits and they are considered second-class citizens. Here in Kashmir, Hindus are over-represented institutionally and we believe in brotherhood.

MS: What is your vision of ‘Azadi’?

PI: During the early 1990s, militancy was a result of an emotional outburst, a sentimental reaction and the State responded with a heavy hand and it was an ugly phase. Even after the militancy receded and reached a low point in terms of scale and scope, state repression continued unabated. Militancy in present Kashmir is organised by Hizbul Mujahideen and  Lashkar-e-Taiba. Their methods are qualitatively different in the sense that they rely on ‘romanticism’ and ‘glorification’ techniques to gain mass support. The question of freedom is a ‘dream’, our primary concern is to put the military out and a majority in Kashmir believe that Pakistan is an option which is a lesser evil than the present regime.

The author is a PhD Candidate at the Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, India. This interview was first published here

Similar Posts

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below