March 1999 News

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Militants Turn Fire on jean-clad Young Girls in Valley

27th March 1999
J&K Newsline
By: Vikram Jit Singh

Three shots were fired at her calf, shattering two bones and causing rupture of blood vessels; the second got away with a graze.

SRINAGAR: Fanatic elements of the Pakistan-based Harkat-ul-Mujahideen have broken new ground in imposing their brand of Islamic codes on a reluctant Kashmiri society by attacking jean-clad young girls. In an act both cold-blooded and pre-mediated, militants pressed pistols to the calves of two 12-year old girls wearing skin-tight jeans and fired five bullets in what they saw as defiance of their diktat against "un-Islamic" dresses in downtown Srinagar.

But it left their traumatised families equally unwilling to bow down to what they saw as acts committed by people ingnorant of the true teachings of Islam. In the third such incident, two militants walked up to the two cousins buying chocolates outside their grandfather's house in Hawal.

Kashmir observers warn of a fanatic Taliban-turn to the movement with the HUM and the Laskar-e-Toiba more openly following up on their brand of Islamic fundamentalism. "The HUM might be unnerved by the thought that if little girls start wearing jeans, it could grow into a trend adopted by the older women. Earlier in the 1990s, the militant women outfits, the Dukhtaran-e-Millet and Khwateen Markaz, threw colour and acids on unveiled women. But they did not succeed much and neither were bullets fired at these women," said a senior political commentator here.

Mehwish was the first to be shot at, thinking first that the bearded gunman had pressed a toy pistol onto her calf. He fired thrice, crunching two bones and causing the multiple-rupture of blood vessels of a little girl munching chocolates. Her cousin, Noyneen Malik, was slightly luckier because the second militant fired at her slender calf outlined in the jeans from a distance of two yards. She got away with a flesh wound and bullet grazed shin injury.

The attacks on the little girls followed the attacks just after the Lahore Summit and were launched in tandem with the HUM crackdown on "obscene" cable channels in downtown Srinagar. On February 21 last, the same militants blew the kneecap of jean-clad 12 year old Saima Rashid Tramboo in Lal Bazaar and inflicted a serious leg injury on Class XI student Reva Majeed in Ranger Stop. Cable operators in Battamaloo were attacked with grenades.

And such is the terror struck by the acts to enforce a Taliban-like brand of Islam that Mehwish and Noyneen were left screaming on the ground for a few minutes and not a bystander dared to help them. They helped only when the two militants casually strolled away from the spot. The girls' relatives, too, refuse to point the finger at the militants and prefer to describe the assailants as "unidentified gunmen". But their condemnation of the act is unequivocal.

Says a convent-educated Noyhneen brought up in liberal though Islamic-oriented home, "I have read the Quran twice. I observe a month-long fast during Ramzan. Who are they to teach us Islam." Noyneen is back from hospital even as Mehwish struggles in the ICU at the SKIMS, Soura.

Both the elder sisters of Noyneen, too, had worn jeans till they were 23 years and then discarded them for the loose salwar-kameez and head scarf in deference to the Islamic code of not exposing the woman's figure.

Says another relative, "These people are ignorant about the true meaning of Islam and must uneducated. We have inculcated all the values of Islam in our children but no Islamic teaching sanctions the shooting of 12 year-old girls."

Confronted with such heinous acts of human rights violations the separatist lobby is quick to condemn it but assigns blame on pro-government gunmen. Says Qazi Ahadullah, Political Secretary, Jamaat-e-Islami, "These attacks are by elements out to defame and sabotage the freedom movement."

But the police are convinced that the needle of suspicion points to the HUM although SSP, Srinagar, S. D. Wani, says no breakthrough has yet been made.

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