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Hum Kya Chahte, Azadi! End State Sanctioned Violence in Kashmir!

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On this Day, February 23, the International Women’s Alliance commemorates the Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day by remembering the unjust, criminal violence against women in Kunan Poshpora, twin villages in Kashmir, by soldiers of the Indian Army in 1991, and lends our solidarity to those fighting for justice and freedom. On the night between 23rd and 24th February, 1991, the 4th Rajputana Rifles of the Indian Army launched a cordon, search, and interrogation operation in the adjacent villages of Kunan Poshpora. Under the guise of a search for militants, the Indian soldiers dragged the men out of their homes at gunpoint, tortured them, and over the next few hours the soldiers brutally gang-raped at least 31 Kashmiri women in their own homes, deploying rape as a weapon of war, to subjugate an occupied people. In reports, the number of raped female victims ranges from 31 to 100 – the fluctuation being a sign of the families’ concerns for ongoing safety, fear of stigma, and to preserve the marital prospects of unmarried younger women and minors. (As a reference, it is estimated that only around one-third of rape cases in the US are ever reported to the police.) Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day commemorates and salutes the Kashmiri women who, in the face of tremendous agony and decades-long struggle, refuse to give up. The message is strong: occupation, militarisation and war will be met with fierce resistance.

The crisis in Jammu & Kashmir can be traced back to the freedom movement of historically oppressed Kashmiris, an overwhelming majority living under conditions of near slavery, from more than four centuries of colonization under five different colonial regimes, and since 1947 to an ongoing dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan, despite United Nations resolutions calling for a plebiscite, acknowledging the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination. After decades of peaceful protest, Kashmiris initiated a guerilla movement against the Indian occupation in early 1990s, which retaliated with a record buildup of troops and an ongoing declaration of emergency. The Indian occupying forces are given complete impunity to rape, torture, and kill under special colonial laws called AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) and PSA (Public Safety Act) – the former is a more draconian verson of a 1942 British imperial law enacted to suppress the Indian freedom movement, and the latter is a preëmptive law called the “lawless law” by Amnesty International. An eloquent evidence of this colonial onslaught is not just entire football fields now used as graveyards, but also the discovery of almost seven thousand unmarked mass-graves and the forcible disappearance of about eight to ten thousand Kashmiris. The mass-graves still await scrutiny and DNA investigations to offer closure to the suffering families.

The situation in the former state of Jammu & Kashmir continued to worsen under a proto-fascist regime, headed by Mr. Modi – with an established track record of anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat (2002) and explicit support from corrupt capitalists like Adani. On Aug 5, 2019, Modi promised “security and development,” and unilaterally derogated Article 370, which had allowed a figleaf of constitutional autonomy to Kashmir, and Article 35A, which reserved the right to define state subjects of the state and restricted the sale of land in the state to them alone, and was intimately connected to the most radical land redistribution in the history of South Asia which gave land to the tillers. The illegal move also split the state into two federally-governed “union territories.”

In the weeks preceding Aug 2019 India had moved more than 50,000 military and paramilitary personnel to the region, in addition to the 700,000 to 800,000 already stationed there, culminating in one of the biggest humanitarian crises in the world. Indian Occupied Kashmir is the most densely militarized zone in the world, and has been so, for more than a decade. This density has only increased since 2019, with some estimates suggesting a civilian to military ratio of 10:1 in the Muslim-majority areas of Jammu & Kashmir. The Indian state’s action are accompanied by brutal violations of Kashmiri human rights including, but not limited to, arbitrary detention and torture of thousands; indefinite curfews; checkpoints at each corner and block; initially, a total communications blackout – the longest internet lockdown in a “democracy” for almost five months – and now, ongoing and frequent internet and communication shutdowns, up to 20% of all the world’s shutdowns, more than in Russia or in Iran; severe restrictions on freedom of movement, expression, and peaceful assembly; torture and arbitrary arrests; extrajudicial killings, desecration of bodies, and denial to the bereaved family of the right to last rites; sexual violence; use of lethal crowd-control weapons like pellet-firing shotguns; etc.

Sheikh Farkhanda

The Indian army had already seized over 54,000 acres of land in occupied Kashmir even before August 2019, and since then, India has changed laws with an Imperial swoop, so that India and its military forces can seize any land in Kashmir with impunity and build upon it as they wish, without restrictions. Since the illegal annexation, India has proceeded with its settler-colonial project as if on steroids: it has struck off the anti-capitalist land-ceiling act, which limited the amount of land any one person could hold; opened up permanent residency in the territory to personnel and families of the Indian Army and the employees of the occupation regime in an attempt to make the indigenous Kashmiri Muslim majority into a minority; auctioned off common lands to the highest bidders from India; dispossessed the most vulnerable and economically oppressed Kashmiris from their homes, which were quickly bulldozed; mined riverbeds, cut down more than 200,000 trees, and put in multiple dams in the extremely ecologically-fragile Himalayan zone of The Third Pole; intensified censorship on media and civil society groups, including through new laws that entail approval of the state before publication, frequent use of non-bailable charges of “terrorism” and “public safety” to arrest journalists, human rights defenders, and common Kashmiris for “antinational” acts like “liking” a Facebook post or a tweet.

Kashmir is an area rich in resources and biodiversity, within the sensitive “Third Pole” zone of the Himalayas, and both Pakistan and India rely on the region for much of their water sources and for hydroelectric power. On February 9, 2023, the Geological Survey of India confirmed that 5.9 million tons of lithium resources are being “inferred” in Jammu & Kashmir. If confirmed, colonial corporate greed will inevitably mean even more militarization, resource grabbing by India (probably funded and counseled by the US), and the impoverishment and dispossession of indigenous Kashmiris. Rising tensions between the nuclear-armed Pakistan and India over Kashmir could have catastrophic implications for the working class and oppressed people throughout the entire region. People could lose access to water, families could get displaced, entire ecosystems could be destroyed.

The increase in colonial militarization and genocide-like conditions in Kashmir has dire implications for Kashmiri women and girls. For example, just in 2021, three Indian army personnel were found involved in the abduction and assault on a nine-year-old Kashmiri girl, and four persons, including a policeman and a retired army man, were apprehended for raping and impregnating a minor Kashmiri girl in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district. These are not isolated incidents but are a part of a larger structure of impunity and gendered violence perpetrated by the Indian occupying forces to further break the spirit of a people resisting imperialism and oppression. As in the world over, many such incidents go unnoticed or are unreported due to fear of reprisal and/or the stigma associated with sexual violence.

After India revoked the autonomous status of the Kashmir region, social media and digital spaces were replete with increased objectification, exoticization, and sexualization of Kashmiri women. Women have also been killed in encounters between state and non-state armed forces as well as in cross-border firing between India and Pakistan. In these incidents of extra-judicial, arbitrary killings of civilians, there is no accountability for the excessive use of force or the failure to safeguard the right to life of civilians as required by international humanitarian standards.


Kashmir’s active quest for self-determination and freedom has lasted almost a century – 1931 being the year of a spontaneous freedom movement. Kashmiris have been in the vanguard of this battle, advocating for their rights and opposing Indian authority via peaceful protests and acts of resistance. Despite the difficulties they have experienced, the Kashmiri people have stayed persistent in their quest of independence and justice; No doubt, Azadi (liberation) remains the clarion call of the Kashmiri women, and the Kashmiri people.

The Kashmiri people’s resistance to Indian domination demonstrates their tenacity, power, and resolve. Despite the obstacles, they continue to struggle for their rights, demonstrating that they are unwilling to give up their liberties or their right to self-determination. They have demonstrated via their resistance that they are the guardians of their land and the protectors of their rights. The International Women’s Alliance stands in militant solidarity with the Kashmiri women in their fight for self-determination and sovereignty.

Defend Our Sisters, Free Ourselves!

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