It’s taken almost 70 years, but Jammu and Kashmir has for the first time a woman as Chief Minister. “This is a big day for all of us – seeing Mehbooba Mufti, a Kashmiri woman, at the helm”, declares the PDP’s Nayeema Ahmad Mahjoor, chair of the state Women’s Commission. “She has created political space for women in a traditional society where in spite of the high literacy rate, women still feel suffocated in expressing themselves.” As yet, very few women have ventured into that political space in Kashmir. Women probably have higher status in the Valley.
Begum Abdullah, Sheikh Abdullah’s wife, served two terms in the LS – and while she was much more than a Rabri Devi-style stand-in, she was clearly contesting as a proxy for her husband. He had been Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir (the post was redesignated as Chief Minister in 1965) for five years, but then for the best part of 20 years was either jailed, held under house arrest.