The situation of conflict in Indian-administered Kashmir while on the one hand has led to the creation of a shadow economy, on the other it has led to the build-up of a shadow morality. Even though enough has been written and recorded about the shadow economy in this part of the world, very little or nothing has been said, written or recorded about the shadow morality down here and the “credit” mainly goes to Kashmir being a majoritarian Muslim region. As is the case with Muslim majority regions and the populations that be, tolerance levels are running an all-time low and all matters codified as less-moral are swept under the traditional carpet leaving no room for a subjective analysis of the matter and Kashmir is no exception.

Kashmir is by all means emblematic of the “sweeping” mentality and we always like to pose as “good men of the cause” and brush everything aside to maintain our cross-cultural dynamic of “good”. While the general perception down here is that some good is being done to upkeep the image of Kashmiris across the globe (even though half of the globe barely knows where Kashmir is and what ails it) especially of the “resolute Kashmiri male”, grave atrocious behaviour is significantly characteristic of the male population here with women and children being its worst victims and all we keep count of is human rights violations committed by the Indian security forces and agencies.    

Kashmir - A definitive patriarch-matriarchal society

As opposed to common refrain that Kashmir is a patriarchal society, I have witnessed that the Kashmiri society is bipolar. The society in Kashmir is a definitive mix of patriarchy and matriarchy which turns to be a dangerous combination. It so happens that the women, elder women, in families across Kashmir play a pivotal role in decision making in Kashmir, but this matriarchy serves the larger evil of patriarchy. A patriarchal society is known for its ill merits and disadvantages and same is true about matriarchies. But since in Kashmir the matriarchy is woven into the prominent matriarchy, the confluence of the two with one characteristically playing dominant when it needs to and the other coming up to play when it finds the environment demanding turns out to be a criss-cross of fatiguing factors that keep ill-morality at bay. The matriarch as the mother or mother-in-law obtains justice for every “crime” committed by the patriarch, the son, the brother et al and thus rejuvenates the unjustifiable acts of the male and the male accords a certain amount of power to the elder female in turn. This interplay is very dangerous to illicit games being played socially or within families and thus forth grants social sanction to moral defunct-ness which proves very critical to the lives of rest of the women folk as also kids. This interplay of the patriarch and the matriarch also chokes the flow of information requisite to addressing of causes and matters that pertain to subjugation and violation of the rights of the “lesser mortals”.

What we presume to know and talk endlessly about

Kashmir has been at the cross-hairs of septic conflict for decades now and over the course of time thousands of people have died and this has become the primary “slogan” of Kashmir’s fight for freedom – tens of thousands dead in our arms and why should we not speak about human rights violations. But is it all that we should speak about – human rights violations by the Indian troopers? 

What we know but don’t talk about

Ever since the conflict broke out in Kashmir, which is in the late 80s, it created a smoke sphere for everything else. This was where the seeds of a shadow morality were sown. Just by assuming that since the people of Kashmir were contemplatively focused on the core human rights violations being perpetrated by the Indian security paraphernalia, people in Kashmir had the chance of “indulging” without being noticed or at least the chance of being reported. The smoke screen of the conflict in Kashmir made sure that it stayed in the news and this in turn ensured that nothing else made it to the front, or for that matter any other pages of the local dailies. What I am talking about concerns people who were victimized at certain junctures or persistently; and since the valley was strife hit the voices of these victimized classes were never able to make it beyond the chorus of “human rights violations”, mass killings of the people of Kashmir and the general rulings of the conflict. Therefore a shadow morality was constructed under the garb of which a man could do what he wanted – indulge to the extremes and since he had a gun to substantiate his existence he was able to carve the heroic niche for himself and never got bogged down; and they got a “lifetime” subscription to maul, harass and molest the children and the women. It has been a “lifetime” of struggles for the Kashmiri people now. During this “lifetime” Kashmiri women have been raped indoors by their own husbands, children have been molested even by their teachers even inside madrassas. Women are the primary victims of crime and crimes against women in Srinagar are mainly domestic violence, abuse – physical as well as mental, abuse and murders over dowry, eve teasing, and torture in marital relations. Women have been beaten to pulp and driven to the point of exhaustion till they eventually surrendered themselves to death by committing suicides. Yes, suicides are too common in Kashmir. Every other week a woman ends her life and all she gets is coverage in the local media for which this suicide is a mere column of news. No one wonders why this or that woman killed herself and perhaps it is assumed that they were “bored with life” and thus ended it – such is the nature of the masculine, fraternal logic. Kids are endlessly sexually abused by their own family members, their teachers and siblings and no one talks about it because it is taboo. It is a taboo but at the same time children are crumpled with fear and more than often do not disclose their “secrets” to their parents and if the parents or the like are the perpetrators of the crime then who is supposed to tell? This is not only true of the girl child which is supposed to mean that even the boys are molested and raped. Various incidents were reported in the past year or so where school teachers were caught attempting to rape their students and action was taken against some but the taboo “clause” kept the whole matter under the carpet. There have been instances where clerics have been reported to have molested children within the precincts of madrassas. All this goes on behind the Kashmiri shadow morality. We talk and talk about our “upright moral character” and since we are known to be abiding Muslims no one dares talk about our crimes.

There are other kinds of crimes which are growing abundantly inside the Kashmiri society and these may or may not have direct bearings on our women and children. Kashmiri men indulge in alcohol abuse. There are a handful of wine shops in Kashmir but the quantity of men pouring into these shops to buy liquor is staggering. The locals have time and again come up urging the authorities to ban these outlets but why would the government lose revenue since alcohol is an excisable commodity and the sales amount to millions of rupees per month. There are several other kinds of abuses which mainly involve the juveniles. Youngsters, straight from somewhere around 4th standard have been reported to indulge in substance abuse which includes abuse of ink removers, shoe polish, hand wash liquids, cough syrups and narcotics and sedatives not to mention the class of youngsters who are involved in drug abuse of the highest kind. Smuggling and production of narcotics has been going on unabated in Kashmir and I figure that it witnessed its peak period during the late 90s when the struggle for “freedom” was at its zenith. It was too easy for anyone to buy high class opiates and its derivatives from around almost anywhere in Kashmir. This has continued and in fact grown to cataclysmic proportions. Talking of prostitution, howsoever hard the Kashmiri society may strive to hide its flaws there known centres of prostitution in the valley and these work in a hush-hush manner so that the bystander doesn't even guess what kind of trade is being conducted around him. The smoke screen of the shadow morality comes in very handy here.

Crime graphs are on the rise in Kashmir, and from petty thefts to murders for money the entire valley is up in flames but the rigid shadow morality of the Kashmiri outshines it all. Once a man leaves his home to pray in the Mosque, it is assumed that he is a pious man. Women who have to pray inside the house are merely trusted.