In Kashmir, men have always held the upper hand. This patriarchal mindset has resulted in men subjugating women and, therefore, suppressing their voice. Women, for years now, are paying the price of staying silent and they needed a vent to give expression to their sufferings.
The #MeToo movement that originated in the US has had its moment in India. After actor Tanushree Dutta spoke about her ordeal at the hands of veteran actor Nana Patekar in 2008, the movement disseminated across India — and is currently sprouting in Kashmir.
The #MeToo movement has, across the world, named and shamed powerful men, including Hollywood directors, editors, journalists, actors, producers and politicians etc. Here in Kashmir, the movement has lived up to the reputation and named among sexual offenders men attached to politics, journalism and teaching. On Twitter and on Facebook, women have accused several, from different fields of sexual abuse and harassment.
A larger section of Kashmir's civil society has hailed the #MeToo movement. (Photo: Twitter)
They have shared screenshots of the conversations WhatsApp and texts as evidence to support their claim. Some of the accused have been charged of misbehaviour; some of them have been accused of forcing themselves on the victims and some have been alleged of sexual abuse and predation. And while a few have denied the allegations, others have gone off the public gaze to the extent that repeated calls have gone unanswered.
A Facebook page, Kashmir Women's Collective, has named some prominent figures like Gowher Geelani, a prominent journalist and political analyst. He has been accused of reportedly asking for sexual favours. Javaid Trali has been the other name accused of sexual misconduct by a friend. Trali was a political worker of PDP and has been the media analyst in the PDP-BJP led government. He is alleged to be a habitual offender. The recent claim has added more to the allegations.
Though some people have criticised the movement as a motivated campaign, a larger section of the civil society has hailed the movement. It has gripped the habitual offenders with fear. Those who enjoyed impunity all these years because either the victims were scared to speak up fearing social stigma, or the accused have held positions of power and thus abused this power as a means to silence the victims.
This movement should not only have our moral support, but we should also ensure that those being named through it are brought to book. When women have mustered up the courage to speak now, despite all the hurdles and the fallout associated with ousting men, civil society has an obligation to ensure that victims get justice.
Let's wake up and show women that there are people who care for them and are willing to do all it takes to make those wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing pay the price for it.