Fears of acid attacks as Kashmiri women are ordered to wear veils


A little-known militant faction calling itself Lashkar-eJabbar has ordered that from today all women in Kashmir must wear an Islamic veil.

This follows an attack last month in Srinagar, the capital of the troubled north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, in which a 14-year-old student, Ms Kulsum Bhat, had acid thrown on her as she and a friend walked home from school.

She has now only one eye, and red weals disfigure her cheeks.

The attack was carried out by four youths who are believed to be supporters of Jabbar, an Islamic fundamentalist group fighting for the integration of Kashmir into Pakistan.

A few days before the incident the group ordered that all women in Kashmir should wear the Islamic veil. Ms Kulsum was one of a number of young women who were subjected to acid attacks in the city because their heads were uncovered.

The original deadline of September 1st for women to wear veils was extended to today after the intervention of an extremist Islamic women's group, Dukhtaran-e-Millat (Daughters of the Faith).

Its members all choose to wear burqas (Afghan-style cowls which cover the body from head to toe). They have threatened to take appropriate steps if other Kashmiri women do not follow their example. They asked that women be allowed more time to visit their tailors.

"I'm going to buy a burqa for my wife and sister," said one middle-class professional in Srinagar. I'm going to insist they wear it. It could be very dangerous for them not to."

In addition to the burqa edict, Jabbar has ordered that Hindi women should sport bindis (devotional marks on the forehead) and that Sikh women should wear saffron-coloured cloths on their heads. The group has also ordered bus operators to provide separate seating for women on public transport.

And in a series of their posters put up in the Valley of Kashmir, they have stipulated that men should grow beards and stop wearing tight jeans.