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Shopian women find safety in numbers

Women in rural Kashmir, especially in and around Shopian, no longer venture out in ones and twos. And this has begun to impact one of Kashmir’s economic mainstays: its fruit production. Arun Joshi reports.

india Updated: Jun 24, 2009 00:21 IST
Arun Joshi

Women in rural Kashmir, especially in and around Shopian, no longer venture out in ones and twos. And this has begun to impact one of Kashmir’s economic mainstays: its fruit production.

Whether it’s a visit to the family orchard, or a return trip from there, or even visits to friends and relatives, they now travel in groups of eight-to-10, often accompanied by 2-3 men.

The rape and murder of two women, Nilofer, 22, and Asiya, 17, in Shopian, 50 km south of Srinagar, on May 30 and the subsequent the Valley -wide agitation on the issue have left deep scars on the psyche of locals.

“It has become dangerous for our sisters and daughters to move out in ones or twos,” said Azad Ahmad, 45, who owns an apple orchard in Dadarkoot village, 15 km from Shopian.

Shopian grows 30 per cent of Kashmir’s total fruit production of 1.5 million tonnes.

The value of its fruit economy, which employs about 3 lakh people across the state, is estimated at Rs 2,400 crore .

“Until last year, our women would be out in the orchards till late at night. There were no worries,” said Mehraj-ud-Din Dar, 41, an orchard owner. “But that is no longer the case.”

Cops’ suspension fails to calm people

Suspension of police officials has failed to calm down Shopian residents. Protests continued on 25th day on Tuesday in Shopian against the rape and murder of two women.

With inputs from Ashiq Hussain