Kashmir: Burqa Gals Smash Up Liquor Store
- Kashmir women fight 'obscenity'
By Altaf Hussain
BBC News, Srinagar
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
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
"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
There was no sign of the police while the women smashed the bottles
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
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
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
It flourished in Srinagar before the outbreak of armed conflict 16
Mr Lohia says that "small modules, dealing in flesh trade, are still
He said the police have busted about eight such rackets so far this
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
They have started re-opening in some areas in the past couple of
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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