From Times of India: “The Stone in her Hand”
“On a summer morning this July in Srinagar, teargas from the troubled streets of Batmaloo began to roll into the first-floor home of Fancy Jan. The 24-year-old went to draw the curtains to screen the room from the acrid smoke, her mother told a reporter later, then turned away from the window, and said: “Mummy, maey aaw heartas fire (my heart’s taken fire, mummy)”. Then she dropped dead, a bullet in her chest, the casual target of an anonymous soldier’s rifle. Fancy Jan was not a ‘stone-pelter’. She was a bystander, like many of the 50 people killed in last two months. She is not the first woman to be shot by the security forces in 20 years of the troubles. But her random death, almost incomprehensible in the presumed safety of her family’s modest home, coincides with a vigorous unsettling of the way women have been represented in this conflict.
Until the other day, Kashmiri women were little more than a convenient set of clichés, shown as perpetual bystanders in houses that overlook the streets of protest. When seen outside of that protected zone, they were cast as victims, wailing mourners, keening at the endless funeral processions.
But now an unfamiliar new photograph of the Kashmiri woman has begun to take its place on newspaper front pages. She’s dressed in ordinary salwar-kameez, pastel pink, baby blue, purple and yellow. Her head is casually covered with a dupatta and she seems unconcerned about being recognized. She is often middle aged, and could even be middle-class. And she is carrying a stone. A weapon directed at the security forces.Last week, in a vastly under-reported story, a massive crowd stopped two Indian Air Force vehicles on the highway near Srinagar. At the forefront were hundreds of women. The airmen and their families were asked to dismount, and move to the safety of a nearby building. Then the buses were torched. This is not a rare incident: women are everywhere in these troubled times in Kashmir, and not in the places traditionally assigned to them. They are collecting stones and throwing them, and assisting the young men in the front ranks of the protestors to disguise themselves, even helping them escape when the situation gets tough.”
A more reasonable explanation is being proffered to us now: it’s anger, we are told, the people of Kashmir are angry at the recent killings, and that’s why the women are being drawn in. That is true, but only partially. For this is no ordinary anger, but an old, bottled-up rage, gathered over so many years that it has settled, and turned rock hard. That accumulated fury is the stone in her hand. To not understand this, to fail to reach its source — or fathom its depth — is to be doomed to not understand the character of Kashmir’s troubles. “
In the absence of justice, the space between Kunan Poshpora and Shopian can only be filled with the stories of nearly 7,000 people gone missing, of the 60,000 killed, and the several-hundred-thousand injured and maimed and tortured and psychologically damaged. The men of this society took the brunt of this brutalization. What of the price paid by the women? It’s when we begin to come to terms with their decades-long accretion of grief and sorrow, of fear and shame, that we will begin to understand the anger of that woman with the stone in her hand.”