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CWGE Spring 2021 Book Club: Introduction and Chapter 1 Update

CWGE Book Club

Batoul Hammoud (she/her/hers), CWGE Volunteer
March 11, 2021

Resisting Disappearance is about Kashmiri women and the resistance to the ideology that their family has disappeared. These are determined women and resist the disappearances of their husbands, sons, fathers, brothers, uncles, etc. The word "disappeared" indicates a disappearance caused by the forces of the Indian government. “The term "disappearance" operates as a verb in Kashmir—more specifically, it means "made to disappear" rather than simply to disappear or go missing.” (Zia, 2019, p. 4).

The book helps us recognize the distinctions and power within Kashmir. The main goal of this book is to understand feminism and the complexity of this book. Ather Zia's story about Kashmiri women is an inspirational one that helps us understand the struggles women face in different countries, and worldwide. This book discusses women searching for their men, which impacts radicalism within South Asia, specifically India's subcontinent. Kashmiri and Muslim men have been "disappeared" due to the Indian government forces, leading women to search for their men within the region of Kashmir under Indian occupation.

The introduction and first chapter of the book discusses the term "half-widow" that started to show up in Kashmiri media. This term defined women who witnessed male members of their family "disappear" due to government officials. The word "half-widow" labeled Kashmiri women who were grieving the disappearance of their men. A woman who was grieving the loss of her brother, husband, uncle, etc., with no confirmation or validation about whether or not that man is deceased. As Zia (2019) mentions, “The phrase in Spanish is desaparecer a alguien: “to cause (someone) to disappear” (p. 23). Subsequently, in Latin American usage, “disappeared” became code for arrest, deportation, and torture in secret prisons and dumping of dead bodies” (see Vranckx 2007).

Processing the term "disappeared" immediately makes you think of someone kidnapped, lost, or confined in an underground prison with no word from the victim, no warning, or confirmation from the disappeared. Thus, the first chapter of Zia's book helps to give us an idea of the experiences Kashmiri men and women face on the other side of the world. The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) activists represent their public bodies as an unambiguous symbol to manifest the disappeared. In chapter one, the APDP is mentioned as activists who independently represent the power of politics behind those grieving for the disappeared. This has made the APDP movement a potent group that has been able to catch the media's attention. The APDP movement can address the resistance to the Indian military occupation. That is where the term "resisting disappearance" comes into play.

These women are resisting the disappearance of their men and male family members. Women who are allowed to participate within the resistance but then expected to return to domestic life once the struggle is over… However, Zia's book discusses the terminology behind the "disappeared," and the battle is never, really over. Women should be free to do whatever their hearts desire.

“This echoes what feminist scholars have revealed in studies on national liberation movements across the globe, that such movements in general provide space for women to be active, but they are expected to return to conventional domesticity once the struggle is over” (De Mel 2003; Bernal 2000, 2001; Sharoni 2001; Yuval- Davis, Anthias, and Campling 1989).

Women have the right to speak freely about their concerns. In this case, the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (1978), the Jammu and Kashmir Criminal Law Amendment Act (1983), the Terrorism and Disruptive Act (1987) stop women from expressing their concerns freely as well as their rights to political associations and ideas. The “right to freedom of speech, and the right to life” (Kazi 2009; Bhan 2013; see also Sangathana 1995).

Thank you for your interest in our Spring 2021 Book Club! Join the CWGE as we move forward with our book club kickoff! Anyone can join the Book Club, and at any time! We will continue to read Resisting Disappearance: Military Occupation & Women’s Activism in Kashmir by UNC’s very own Dr. Ather Zia. Join us while we discuss, compare, and contrast the contents of the book with fellow readers! If you are not able to join during our scheduled Book Club meetings, you can still read along with us and get a physical copy of the book (limited quantities available) or receive a digital PDF version of the book all for free!

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