Razing the Fortress of Oppression

Razing the Fortress of Oppression

Maryam Shakeel

“Yeh Hisaar-e-Sitam Koi Tou Giraye Ga”

In the wake of the global pandemic, Balochistan’s educational system is once again under the siege of various catastrophic limitations. Students of Balochistan lack proper internet facilities and are struggling to save their future. On June 23, Progressive Students Collective along with several other student groups organized a Student Solidarity Protest which took place in all major cities of Pakistan, including Quetta and Loralai. Once again, the streets echoed with slogans of peaceful protestors demanding their rights. Despite the state’s hostility towards non-violent protestors, students offered an inspiring resistance. The role played by women activists, in particular, is worth mentioning.

The entire event of agitation amidst a pandemic is nothing but a stunning reflection of democratic resistance incorporating feminist uprising in Balochistan. The episode that took place between the state’s brutality and democratic resistance offered by students with a resolute presence of women, chiefly, is worth celebrating. These relentless advances of femininity in mainstream political occasions is a triumph.

Students in the entire province have been exploited in various ways e.g. lack of proper educational facilities, the militarization of institutes, disenfranchisement of student bodies, etc. Student Solidarity Protest was carried out regarding these democratic demands. What made the sight ever enchanting was the presence of men and women side by side. Women in Balochistan underwent a strenuous path to breakdown the chains of oppression which was prolonged by gender-based violence. Traditional stereotypes never missed a chance to abuse women with utter hostility but the recent years have seen the participation of women in quite large numbers in movements like Aurat March, Student Solidarity March, and other protests. All of this is nothing but a success of feminist movements that Balochistan was in a dire need of.

The social and political dynamics of Balochistan, specifically with reference to democratic freedoms and resistance movements, have always been intricate and intertwined to the core. Under these circumstances, to breathe an air devoid of patriarchy has never been a women’s cup of tea. Educational bans were quite common for local households until the last few years and women were most susceptible. Childhood marriages and bride money were pretty common practices that are testaments to the inhumane behavior of society. Ethnic discrimination in educational institutions was something inexorable and to some extent, still is. Exposure of women to despotic practices overlooks every kind of ethnic distinction. Women are equally victimized by patriarchy regardless of them being Baloch or Pashtun. Similarly, their participation in such protests intends for a common objective to be acquired.

A case in point is the recent event of harassment carried out allegedly by officials of the University of Balochistan, in Quetta, which sparked massive demonstrations demanding justice. This commotion impacted women in its gravest manner by stirring the honor and dignity concerns of patriarchy. Mental and emotional torment by narrow mindsets once again imparted fears in the victims. The horrific episode of blackmailing and sexual exploitation was a hard slap in the face of every single claim that guaranteed women a safe and sound educational environment.

In addition to that is the budget for the financial year 2020-2021 that incorporated a huge cut in the educational budget which is devastating for the already deteriorated system. The student’s suffrage might be enhanced by such measures. While resistances are constantly vilified by regarding them as “Foreign-agendas” or “RAW funded propaganda” which perpetuates the idea of them being violent. State’s edginess towards these campaigns explicitly spells trouble and is an endorsement of non-democratic ideologies. Offering resistance in such grim circumstances is indeed risky for women activists but these students and their blatant vocations in contrast to the authoritarian forces are exceptionally enchanting.

Balochistan has been subject to constant marginalization over a long period of time. This marginalization particularly pertains to the low economic share in academic budget curtailing educational opportunities and amplifying vulnerability of women to conventional forms repression that are usually in the guise of customs and traditions. Educational opportunities for women were extensively impeded by either religious, terrorist, or patriarchal activities. Despite all odds, the land of Balochistan gave birth to women like Saba Mahmood, an exceptional academic with a stunning approach to feminist and religious issues; Jalila Haider, a major contributor to feminist struggles in the province and so on. Potentials possessed by women of Balochistan are constantly stabbed to death by harassment and death threats from state and non-state actors. Education is the only way out but the state’s hesitation towards the violence committed by non-state actors is condemnable.

Decades of abduction in an air thickened with exploitative ideologies demanded and eruption. What is worth celebration here is the presence of women calling out the brutality of the state in the most audacious tone. Their eyes gleaming with rage and rhythms of revolution in their voices symbolizes the beginning of repression being called out. This is definitely a splendid shot to halt the authority of non-democratic forces functioning in Balochistan. An insurgency like Student Solidarity Protest is a democratic right of students to demand their constitutional rights but the state’s inability was asserted by arresting these non-violent protestors.

The Night of subjugation has been elongated but insurgencies like Student Solidarity March or Aurat March are the rays of hope reflecting a better future. However, the state’s behavior towards peaceful protestors denounces its own writ which is very unfortunate. Women’s participation in political movements is a remarkable declaration of their room in a violent patriarchal society. These anticipations with women as major contributors in them are nothing but surreal and key success. Feminist uprising is definitely worth a celebration because to raze the fortress of oppression, women’s liberation is inevitable.

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