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Kashmir: Burqa Gals Smash Up Liquor Store

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    Kashmir women fight obscenity By Altaf Hussain BBC News, Srinagar http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/default.stm Photo at website. The all-women
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 4, 2005
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      Kashmir women fight 'obscenity'
      By Altaf Hussain
      BBC News, Srinagar
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/default.stm

      Photo at website.


      The all-women vice squad opposes liquor and prostitution
      Eight veiled women gather outside a shop selling alcohol on the
      ground floor of a hotel in Srinagar, in Indian-administered Kashmir
      and start ransacking it. They chant Islamic slogans.

      One of them lights a match to set the shop on fire but is stopped by
      others for fear that the fire might engulf the entire complex.

      The women comprise the Maryam Squad of the Dukhtaran-e-Milat
      (Daughters of the Nation).

      The squad is named after the Virgin Mary.

      The chief of Dukhtaran-e-Milat, Asiya Andrabi, herself leads the
      squad.

      Ms Andrabi is a well-known separatist leader who spent a year in jail
      with her then breastfeeding child.

      "According to the Koran, liquor is the mother of all vices. We have
      been requested by the local residents to destroy this liquor shop
      here," she says.

      A crowd that watched the women smash liquor bottles, endorsed her
      claim.

      "It has affected our children. We told [the chief minister] Mufti not
      to open this shop here. But we were told it is a sign of normalcy
      returning to the state," one person said.

      Another man said: "These women have taken a bold step. We'll support
      them."

      'Illegal' attacks

      There was no sign of the police while the women smashed the bottles
      of alcohol.

      According to the Koran, liquor is the mother of all vices.

      Asiya Andrabi, Dukhtaran-e-Milat leader
      But the deputy inspector general of police, HK Lohia, told the BBC
      that "such attacks are illegal".

      "Police will act against anyone breaking the law," he said.

      Apart from alcohol the Maryam Squad has also launched a campaign
      against prostitution.

      They visit a brothel in the Habba Kadal locality of the city and
      demand that it be closed down.

      Before launching its most recent campaign, the Dukhtaran-e-Milat
      organised a function in honour of a barber-turned reformer, Subhan
      Hajam.

      The late Hajam carried out a single-handed campaign against
      prostitution in Srinagar in the first half of the 20th century.

      The government banned brothels in response to his campaign.

      There are no legal red light areas in Srinagar or any other part of
      Indian-administered Kashmir but prostitution has been going on
      nonetheless.

      It flourished in Srinagar before the outbreak of armed conflict 16
      years ago.

      Mr Lohia says that "small modules, dealing in flesh trade, are still
      operating".

      He said the police have busted about eight such rackets so far this
      year.

      Larger aims

      The Dukhtaran-e-Milat has issued a diktat to operators of restaurants
      and internet cafes to remove booths where there are reports of young
      men and women getting intimate.


      The group intends to extend its campaign across the state

      Asiya Andrabi says the campaign against prostitution and alcohol has
      been launched from the capital city but will gradually be extended to
      all parts of the state.

      Alcohol shops as well as cinemas were closed down in the Kashmir
      Valley in the autumn of 1989 after the outbreak of separatist
      violence.

      They have started re-opening in some areas in the past couple of
      years.

      The Dukhtaran-e-Milat launched a campaign for the wearing of the
      burqa (veil) by Muslim women in the early 1990s.

      Its activists sprayed paint on women who did not wear a burqa.

      The campaign succeeded but its success was short-lived.

      A large majority of women have abandoned the veil.

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