Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir administration thinks it has an image problem. With assembly elections still months away, the state, which was under Governor’s Rule since June last year and has been under President’s Rule since December, wants to fix its image by developing strong female role models who will also be peace-builders. The new outreach will be called ‘3S’.
‘3S’ stands for skill development, self-help groups and sports, and officials say it could bring about a positive change in image for Kashmir, and play a role in “peace-building” and engineering social changes in Kashmiri society.
The government plans to work with NGOs to reach the women and start a dialogue with them directly. Women will be given various livelihood skills and micro-finance to start their own small businesses. Sporting skills and infrastructure will also be developed.
K. Vijay Kumar, senior security adviser to J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik, told ThePrint that the Governor, the J&K chief secretary and advisers to the state administration were working seamlessly on the initiative.
“‘3S’ is not fully conceived or operationalised yet, but discussions have been held on it in the past month,” Kumar said. He added that the budget allocation process for ‘3S’ was in its final stages, and that the programme would soon be launched.
The ‘power’ of women
A senior state administration official said the move would increase women’s stake in the state’s economy, and help them move away from disruptive politics. Women could then encourage others to do the same, the official said.
One senior police officer said the “power” of women within families and households could be used for good. The “power”, the officer said, was best exemplified when several youth who had joined militants ranks gave up arms after their mothers appealed and asked them to return home.
Lt Gen. K.J.S. Dhillon, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps, was among those who had openly appealed to the mothers in Kashmir to ensure their sons did not join the militancy.
Political observers and even politicians such as National Conference’s Riyaz Bedar,
welcomed the ‘3S’ initiative, saying it was good that the state administration was not just restricting itself to controlling violence, but also working to build local economies.
Bedar suggested that the state administration should encourage traditional art and craft as well, like shawl-weaving and embroidery.
In Kashmir, civilian-government collaborations are mostly carried out by security forces in the field of sports, such as by organising cricket and football tournaments. But while the security forces do not have the kind of budget to provide financial assistance that can create and sustain livelihoods, the state administration does.
Nayeema Ahmad Mehjoor, senior journalist and ex-chairperson of the Jammu and Kashmir State Commission for Women also welcomed the move, but hoped that the state administration was serious about it.
“A lot of things happen on paper and no one knows what happens to the women who are supposed to benefit,” said Mehjoor, who resigned from her post after the fall of PDP-BJP government in June last year.
Mehjoor pointed out that the administration hadn’t yet elected her replacement as chairperson of the women’s commission, and said: “Women empowerment cannot be only cosmetic fixes. Enabling women requires a holistic approach that includes institution building.”
Scepticism over ‘3S’
Some, however, are more scepticial about the ‘3S’ plan, given Jammu and Kashmir’s highly politicised atmosphere.
Hameedah Nayeem, chairperson of the Kashmir Centre for Social and Developmental Studies, termed the move “politically motivated”.
“The problem is that every single move by the state or the Centre is politically motivated and negative in nature, even though it might be given a positive name like ‘3S’,” Nayeem said.
“Sports has long been used as a tool in the state’s narrative. The same goes for NGOs in Kashmir that have acted as paper tigers on behalf of the Centre in Kashmir. Their aim is not only to engage people, but to ensure that they move away their rights movement.”