Muzaffarabad (AFP): Women in Pakistan-administered Kashmir offered their bangles to Ban Ki-moon Tuesday, an insult in patriarchal South Asia aimed at the UN head’s perceived inaction over violence on the Indian side of the disputed region.
Hundreds of refugee women marched in Muzzafarabad, capital of the Pakistani side, chanting slogans against the UN and India as some clutched their bangles in their hands in protest at the weeks of deadly violence.
Much of Indian-administered Kashmir has been under curfew since protests broke out over the death on July 8 of a popular young rebel leader in a gunfight with security forces.
More than 60 civilians have been killed in clashes between protesters and police and troops and thousands more injured in the worst violence to hit the restive region since 2010.
Hospitals have reported hundreds of young men and boys suffering serious eye and other injuries from the pellets.
“If the secretary general of the UN Ban Ki-moon can’t help Kashmiris, he should wear these bangles and rest,” protester Irshad Qureshi told AFP, clutching her bracelets.
Others held placards saying the bangles were “For UN”. The protesters also burnt the Indian flag.
Bangles are deeply embedded in female identity in Pakistan.
To offer the delicate bracelets to a man is to say he is acting like a woman — still seen as an insult in the deeply conservative country, where women have been fighting for their rights for decades.
Kashmir has been divided between rivals India and Pakistan since the end of British rule in 1947. Both claim the Himalayan region in full.
The Kashmir Valley, where the recent violence has occurred, is the epicentre of a separatist insurgency seeking either independence or merger of the territory with Pakistan.