India hosted the G20 tourism meet in May of 2023 in the Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) to deceive the world and propagate its false narrative of safety and prosperity in the occupied valley. The picture of safety and prosperity India tried to portray is the polar opposite of the ground realities in IIOJK. The truth is that Kashmir is bleeding, and so is its economy. The decades-long atrocities and brutality of the Indian state have left the people of the valley clambering to make it through their daily lives.
Despite India's assertion in 2019 when it revoked IIOJK's special status that it is doing so to uplift the valley’s economy in congruence with India’s, the fact remains that it is failing miserably at developing IIOJK, and Kashmiris continue to be victims of Indian ambition. According to the Indian government's data, investments have dwindled, and instead of ascending, the valley is sinking deeper into poverty.
A large proportion of the total population of Kashmir lives in multi-dimensional poverty. Multidimensional poverty is based on indices of health, education, financial security and standard of living. Women are more likely to be multi-dimensionally poor because of the security situation in the occupied valley as well as additional factors like limited social mobility, cultural and societal norms, etc.
The security situation in IIOJK impacts access to education and health for Kashmiris. The numerous checkpoints where all citizens, including women, have to go through stop and search discourage women and their families from going out to their educational institutions. The frequent curfews that cause these institutions to shut down impact their education further. These conditions also make getting medical aid difficult and have led to a particular increase in maternal and infant mortality.
The occupying forces intentionally target Kashmiri women, and out of fear for their dignity, they find themselves unable to do anything about their own and their families' financial situation and standard of living. The cultural norms of the Kashmiri society already limit women's social and economic mobility, and the malintent of the occupying forces further restricts it. Seeking employment or establishing their own business comes with humongous challenges of defying social norms as well as fending off the threat to life and dignity. Moreover, the heinous treatment of Kashmiri women and their men by the Indian forces leaves them severely impacted emotionally and psychologically. Search operations that often lead to the disappearance of male members of the family and violation of the sanctity of personal space leave many women scarred for life. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a very common mental health issue among the women of IIOJK that hampers their ability to lead a meaningful life in most cases. In many instances, well-educated women who were engaged professionally succumbed to the traumas of their lives and could not pursue their ambitions.
As the world embraces another new year, the conditions in IIOJK remain the same. An important question to ask at this time is: While the women of the world are ascending politically, financially and across other development indices, where are the Kashmiri women standing? Another question is: What is the international community doing, particularly its women with a voice? India is steamrolling democratic principles and curtailing the fundamental rights of Kashmiris in the garb of constitutional provisions as the world looks on in its state of oblivion fostered by its selfish interests. It is about time that the global polity takes stock of its double standards as they apply to IIOJK and rectifies the situation by insisting that India let go of its ambitions and let Kashmiris have their right of self-determination so they can live a safe, secure, and prosperous life.