The first Kashmiri woman to clear UPSC, says: ‘fresh and saner narrative’ is required in Kashmir

By Anshika Ravi | NEW DELHI | 28 October, 2017

“Neither the incidents have been proven on a scientific basis nor would it bode well for the administration to shield the alleged culprits as has been speculated by the public. The police is now dealing with twin problems of maintaining a summer free of violence in the valley and curbing the consequences of alleged braid-chopping incidents,” she clarified. 

The Jammu-based officer, who is also the first Kashmiri woman to clear the UPSC examination, said a “fresh and saner narrative” was urgently required in Kashmir, where people have made a civil breakdown look imminent by taking the law into their hands. 

“A fresh and saner narrative from all elements is the need of the hour which is self-less and considers peace as the only option to end violence.” She added that the current protests, which the mobs are claiming have been necessitated to protect the honour of women, are a reflection of patriarchal domination as the alleged female victims have not been given the opportunity to speak for themselves. “Sadly, such incidents are politicised for vested interests and as a woman, it hurts to see yet another aspect of patriarchal domination being projected, where women are voiceless to give their opinion or protest against being made a scapegoat in the name of honour,” Salam wrote in response to this newspaper’s query.  She said that online trolling is not a new experience to her as, before she attained her eventual success as a female administrative officer, she had to cope with many obstructions that were thrown her way due to what she described as the “patriarchal set-up” of Kashmir. “I am facing the same patriarchal set-up that I faced earlier as a child and as a student. At times, even the selection in competitive exams and subsequent service in the state is considered to be an outcome of  appeasement policies of the Centre, by (a) few sections in the valley. The peer support was lacking for reasons of adherence to the  mass narrative out of fear and reprisal. My family has been my only pillar of support in such times,” Salam said. However, amid all the flak that she drew for her comments against braid chopping hysteria, some people had also come out in support of her online. 

As many as 402 cases of alleged braid-chopping have been reported in Kashmir, according to various media reports. 

The police’s failure to arrest the purported miscreants has led to crowd frenzy in which many innocents have been severely beaten up by the locals, in some cases fatally. Expressing her concern over such violence, Salam said, “Kashmir has been the abode of Sufi saints and its syncretism withstood the onslaught of communal riots of 1947. Mob vigilantism in whatever form is murder of the due process of law and justice. It hampers our day-to-day functioning as citizens and affects our image as peace loving people who want to come out of the hopelessness of nearly three decades of insurgency.”

She called upon youths of the valley to focus on their careers, reminding them that they have a “right to a progressive future free from uncertainty”. “I have had a very difficult childhood in the valley and I hope the same is not faced by future generations. Besides, J&K has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Very few people are aware of the job opportunities available in the mainstream. I would therefore advise the youth of the valley to seek opportunities available with an open mind and faith in the policies of the mainstream,” she said.

To her many female fans in the valley, who look up to her as a role model, her message is: “Girls must fulfil their dreams by realising their capabilities based on their inner voices.” Source: Sunday Guardian

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