Plague in Pandemic: Kashmir Witnessing Surge In Women Abuse

TWO days, two media appearances and two contradicting statements almost threaten to become a scandalous showdown in Srinagar.

But with statistics supporting the statements, the valley is only witnessing a ‘sordid surge’ in lockdown.

On June 2, a non-local woman arrived in Press Enclave to brief newsmen about “the trio who stormed her room and outraged her modesty”.

A day later, the locals arrived in the same venue to contradict the woman’s claims, and sought police investigation into the case.

But beyond the claims and counterclaims, an exclusive data accessed by Kashmir Observer shows a significant increase in the number of rape cases in the valley during Pandemic.

Revealing that the highest number of rape cases—in the last decade—took place in 2020, a RTI reply from J&K Police reads: “A total number of 170 rape cases were reported across Kashmir in 2020.”

The information availed by law student, Badrul Duja, further states that Kashmir reported 94 cases in 2019, 144 in 2018, 109 in 2017, 85 in 2016, 119 in 2015, 107 in 2014, 161 in 2013, 120 in 2012, 113 in 2011 and 75 in 2010.

The RTI reveals that the year 2020 also reported highest number of molestation cases—1358—in ten districts of Kashmir.

The molestation figures were 1073 in 2019, 1184 in 2018,1061 in 2017, 854 in 2016, 974 in 2015, 1027 in 2014, 1057 in 2013, 1072 in 2012, 968 in 2011 and 837 in 2010.

Women rights activists say these statistics are startling as the surge happened in the lockdown.

“It will be surprising to know whether the rapes happen within or outside the family but the numbers seem to be overwhelming,” Arshie Qureshi, one of the co-founders of the women’s cell, Mehram, told Kashmir Observer.

The kind of situation that the valley is witnessing since the last two-three years has built up frustration upon the people that led them to the crimes, she argues.

“It could be the outcome of the frustration,” Arshie said.“But nothing can justify the violence against the women.”

The collective outcry against violence on women is missing in the valley, she said. “The women need to report the violence inflicted on them.”

But many say reporting these cases in absence of women commission is challenging.

Notably, the State Women’s Commission was shut on October 31, 2019, soon after New Delhi scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and downgraded the state into a union territory on 5 August 2019.

Since the commission is history now, the women across Kashmir are running pillar to post for help. Hundreds of women who had registered cases of violence—domestic violence, eve-teasing, rape, molestation, and harassment—are without any agency, although police lately floated certain cells and numbers to tackle these cases.

“Will they get justice is a big question when everything is labeled under ‘law and order’,” Nayeema Mahjoor, the former chairperson of the State Women Commission, told Kashmir Observer.

The society has become so numb by the constant violence that all other issues including social evils are considered the least priority, she said.

“Domestic violence and rape cases are rising because the society has reached to its breaking point due to depression and other mental disorders,” Nayeema said.

“And since the issues connecting to women are being taken very lightly, this menace is growing as a monster now. This is despite the fact that we belong to a patriarchal society where we consider our women the repository of honour.”

Interestingly, a NCRB (National Crime Record Bureau) report last year blamed the law-enforcing agencies for slow progress in investigations into the crimes against women in Kashmir.

According to the report, the erstwhile state witnessed as many as 3069 cases of crime against women including rapes, molestation, and domestic violence in 2019. Of which 1589 are pending investigation.

Data revealed that investigation into 1732 cases of crime against women has been pending since 2018.

Interestingly, 12518 cases of crime against women have been pending in courts of J&K. Different courts completed the trial in 1353 cases in 2019.

NCRB figures further revealed that 70 persons have been convicted of crimes against women, while 17 were discharged and 2506 acquitted.

Although the government has set-up “One Stop Centre” in each district to help women in distress, many districts are yet to come up with such a centre.

“Unless there is a proper system in place to report these women-related crimes,” Mehjoor said, “the cases will continue to rise.”

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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