Forging Identities: Gender, Communities, and the State

By Zoya Hasan | Go to book overview

Identity Politics, Secularism and
Women : a South Asian perspective

Amrita Chhachhi

"If by making separate laws for Muslim women, you are trying to say that we are not citizens of this country, then why don't you tell us clearly and unequivocally that we should establish another country—not Hindustan or Pakistan but Auratstan (women's land)." 1

Shahjahan (also called Apa) made this statement in a speech in front of the Parliament building, New Delhi, on March 8, 1986. A working class Muslim woman, she had been drawn into the feminist movement since 1981. Initially seeking justice for her married daughter whose husband had murdered her for not giving enough dowry, Apa became a militant feminist involved in every issue of the women's movement. Deeply secular, and a practising Muslim, she is now working increasingly with Muslim women in the slums of New Delhi, battling often with despair against Muslim fundamentalists. Her statement however, could be echoed by women of other communities as well, as a section of Hindu women and feminists are polarised over sati, reservation of seats for backward castes, by Sikh women in Punjab, by Kashmiri women, Muslim women in Pakistan and Bangladesh... the list continues as the South Asian region is torn apart with the emergence of new and different identity groups. New kinds of division and polarisation leading to further conflict and violence seem to be constructed every second day. If yesterday there were divisions between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, today there is the addition of caste divisions in a more intensified form. If internecine conflict between Shias and Sunnis and the assertions of nationality movements against Punjabi domination characterised Pakistan earlier, today further divisions between muhajirs and Sindhis have led to an almost permanent state of siege in the cities of

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Forging Identities: Gender, Communities, and the State
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