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Asiya Andrabi: Warrior in Veil

Asiya Andrabi, the chief of South Asia's single militant organisation of women, has been evading arrest for sometime. Her organisation Dukhtaran-e-Millat (Daughters of the Ummah) has been assisting Lashkar-e-Jabbar in imposing purdah on Kashmiri.women. She is wanted under Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) for allegedly taking money from ISI. Andrabi, daughter of a physician, is a science graduate. A fierce militant, before marriage she had expressed her desire to her father to marry only a mujahid.

She went into hiding after the arrest of Imtiyaz Bazaz, the editor of the Mountain Valley. It is alleged that Bazaz had approached Ayub Thakur, the London-based president of World Kashmir Freedom Movement at her behest for funds for insurgents in Kashmir.

Andrabi formed Dukhtaran-e-Millat for a social cause as she claims. The objective was to help Kashmiri women to fight for their rights conferred on them by Islam. She fought for special reservations for women in buses, ostracised families that demanded dowry, and married off poor girls. She staged a rally in March 1987 against pornographic films, when foreign films were being screened all over Srinagar. DeM cadres carried brushes and cans of paint under their burqas and painted posters showing nudity. 

Andrabiís organisation has not taken to arms yet. However, her cadres support jehad in Kashmir and act as messengers for other militant organisations. With the onset of militancy in Kashmir in 1989, her activists staged rallies against atrocities. The next year she protested against Kashmiri women not wearing burqa. In May 1993 DeM warned women not to venture outdoors without a veil. Andrabiís cadres have been accused of throwing acid and paint on the faces of women not wearing burqa.

After many years of silence, she was in news last year for supporting Lashkar-e-Jabbar (LeJ), the militant outfit imposing purdah on Kashmiri women. LeJ activists reportedly threw acid on two women in Srinagar on August 7. Andrabi says that the purdah campaign is the "beginning of a comprehensive social reform movement based on true Islamic thought". She has asked women to quit their jobs and stay at home. 

Andrabi, who has proclaimed herself to be some sort of moral police chief, had an enlightened upbringing. The metamorphosis in her came when she read the book khawateen ki dilon ki baatein ( Words from the Hearts of Women), a compilation of the writings of Islamic women revolutionaries. After reading the book she was a changed person. She decided to live and die for Islam. She told her father that she would marry only a mujahid. Her father married her to Mohammad Qasim, a member of militant organisation Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen.

The DeM chief is of the view that only jihad (holy war) can protect the Islamic faith. Thatís why she wants her two sons to emulate Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammad Omar, not a doctor or engineer. She has told her husband that he should take two or three more wives, given the large number of Kashmiri women widowed by the insurgency in Kashmir. "I would be more than glad to share my house with the other wives of Qasim", she says. That way, between them, Qasim's wives would have a lot of children to be raised in the image of Osama and Omar.

Į M. Mazharul Haque

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