Among the numerous atrocities that the people of Kashmir have been subjected to, there comes one form of violence that has been orchestrated in the most brutal manner, whose victims are the mothers of the nation. The militarization of motherly sentiments can be observed in Kashmir through the lens of mothers of dead martyrs.
Under the perceived norms, motherhood has been associated as a biological function corresponding to women. However, from a broader perspective, the role of motherhood stretches as an institutional experience that holds great social significance in a broader cultural context. Moving beyond biological function that leads mothers to nurture children from infants well into their adulthood, there lays a factor of cultural inclusion that demands a certain degree of sacrifice from mothers in the name of confused ideologies. The western notion of Islamic motherhood misinterprets the role of mothers in the name of radical Islam while in reality, certain cultural constructs paradoxically shape the factors that evoke the range of emotions that are contradictory and ambivalent but are yet considered to be the most dignified notions that are associated with motherhood.
In order to dissect this further, a deeper understanding is needed that examines the historical roots that have shaped these ideals of motherhood in the political setting of Kashmir. The imagery behind this is constructed through the mythology of two mothers whose fables came to be adopted and championed as the epitome of motherly sacrifice in Kashmir. The story of the mothers of Aka-nandun spins a folktale that idealizes the sacrifice and selflessness of women despite the torment she faces on losing her child. The other tale of Lalded is based on a woman who evoked mysticism in the land of clashing belief systems and spoke the language of the changing Kashmiri ethos. She didn’t give birth to a child, rather, became the symbol of motherhood, guiding the wayward souls by breaking free from the patriarchal bounds and donning the armor of maternal spirit to transform and challenge the notions of the faltering Kashmiri society.
In a society whose ideals have been formed in the background of such powerful narratives, it is no surprise that its current atmosphere exhibits the same force of resilience with Kashmiri women as a force of resistance in the fight for the freedom struggle. An anecdote in the book Freedom struggle in Kashmir by GH. Khan sketches an incident where Dogra troops came face to face with a Sheikh who defeated the enemy forces but not without the support of his wife titled as Madar-i-Meherban (Kind-Mother), who encouraged him to take on the invaders and surge the resistance. This maternal role as a guiding light at times of conflict has been rooted in the Kashmiri thought and has prevailed all over the region.
The present scenario that penetrates the Kashmiri land is based on sentiments of self-determination that have taken shape from a political struggle to an armed rebellion. The changing sociopolitical uncertainties and use of military action without any justification have brought death at the doorsteps of weeping mothers. Women have lost not only their children but their spouses, brothers, and fathers. The sentiments of motherhood are no longer associated with a mother but to all women of the land. Women have lost their loved ones, sometimes the only bread earners of their family. They have allowed the military to recruit their sons, have said goodbyes to their husbands without even knowing that would be their last. The grieving daughters have laid the frayed and old bodies of their fathers to rest. The ‘Mothers of Martyrs’ is not a title they have taken up willingly. It has been socially and politically engraved as the only banner of consolation being provided to them.
The birth of the militant struggle for freedom has glorified the sentiment of martyrdom. The women march up alongside the coffins of the martyrs, raising the slogans of nationalism in the hope that others will be spared from the tragedy that has fallen in their own homes. They sing obituaries tell the tales of bravery whose price was paid by their loved ones. Their cries shriek not of despair but the zest with which they carry in their hearts. In these moments of agony, their pain bears witness to the testament that their deceased carried.