Suppressed By Decades Old Violence, Sopore Woman Breaks Stereotype

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A college student Saima Bashir is passionate for all new upcoming fashion trends. She strictly chases all the upcoming arrivals and often were them on special occasions and during outing with friends.  Chasing the changing fashion trends has become her way of life and induces her confidence of being an educated modern girl. But her confidence of being modern woman seems limited within the religious parameters set up by her society and family. But Saima has no regrets for having social and religious limits in exhibiting the fashion. In fact she says,” What is wrong if you look fashionable? If you wear fashionable attires within the limits of religion.”

Bisma hails from the restive Sopore town where the separatist thoughts run deep into the minds of people. Highly influenced by the ideology of Syed Ali Geelani, top separatist leader and Jamait –e-Islamia, the north Kashmir’s town has always been the hot bed of militancy. The black veil or traditional burqa which cover females from head to toe remained synonymous to the local woman until militancy partially wanes from the town. Until several years back, the jeans wearing women was feeling considerable threat amid the clout of extremism in township.

Thanks to the dwindling graph of extremism, these days the girls are commonly spotted wearing jeans and western dress styles. On the streets, they have all the fun. 

The growing liberty to women in the town has also witnessed the brisk business for the garment and hosiery sellers as well.

Irfan Ahmed a hosiery seller says: “colour full Jeans along with hijab (veil) is now at the peak of trending stage in Sopore town, especially among working women and students. Over the last few years most students and employees especially girls come to me and ask for western wear and demand vibrant colours that they once used to avoid.

“I have limited stock of traditional garments due to poor response customers. The girls are interested in buying the latest trendy garments preferably of western styles. Girls now a days are fearless and choosy,” Irfan adds.

Irfan attributes the improving social conditions in the militancy infested town to the dwindling graph of violence.

“The violence is on decline and the role of extremists has also been lesser now in present times due to which the women feel more liberal in choosing her way of life,”

The boom of information technology like satellite channels, internet has also played its role in information explosion which paved way to change in life style like in other parts of the world. 

 Aajaz Ahmed, another garment seller takes the change positively for his growing businesses.

“Females with their new trend of dressing have changed the look of Sopore markets. Several years ago women were seen wearing simple and traditional frock Shalvar. Today, the traditional dresses are replaced with jeans, tops, Mic and other western style garments.”

The use of jeans and hijab or colorful embroidered abaya (loose gown that covers from neck to toe with a head scarf) or even long colorful chadar (soft free flowing long open gown) has grown very popular among young females which is a blend of both western and eastern style dresses and retains a religious symbol as well. 

Huzaifa a female student greets the change in town and says women has broken the stereotype and religious restrictions. She says woman grows more free and independent when it comes to choosing dress code without facing social and religious codes.”Woman is free to choose her dress code now. She is no more suppressed under the set norms of religion and society,” she says.  

Amina a LAW student, who wears bright pink coloured headscarf and dons a Pakistani Kurta with floral designs over jeans says she opted for hijab out of her own choice. “The trend of wearing hijab with jeans is fashion and within the limits of religion. Most of my friends prefer to wear the combination of jeans and colourful scarf’s. It looks good,” she told The Legitimate.

Thanks to the declining graph of violence, the cultural hindrances and the stereotypes are breaking in Sopore and the females are growing more liberal and choosy like the girls in other towns of valley.

The story appeared in print edition of March 1 to 7, 2017. 

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