I posit that similar to nineteenth-century French feminist leaders, my maternal grandmother Begum Akbar Jehan Abdullah, along with other women members of the Women’s Self-Defence Corps (WSDC) of Jammu and Kashmir, “used the concept of motherhood figuratively to refer to women’s spiritual qualities and social mission” (Allen 104). In doing so, they articulated a new sensibility linked by multilayered identities in which politics and selfhood are profoundly interrelated. Akbar Jehan’s political and social activism for the empowerment of women vocalized the desire for freedom and liberation as “a historically situated desire whose motivational force cannot be assumed a priori, but needs to be reconsidered in light of other desires, aspirations, and capacities that inhere in a culturally and historically located subject” (Mahmood 223).Although the members of the Women’s Self-Defence Corps were harbingers of the political participation of women and fashioned educational opportunities for them, I take the liberty of reminding the reader to complicate the conceptualization and measurement of Kashmiri women’s empowerment. Enfranchisement of both women and men, and assuring women of equal opportunities with men in education are not empowering in themselves, but they cause a momentous shift in traditional gender relationships. The consequent opening up of new possibilities for the pursuit of democracy and regional peace create “the vantage point of alternatives which allows a more transformatory consciousness to come into play” (Kabeer 462). The social activism of the Women’s Self-Defence Corps created spheres of emancipation for Kashmiri women. I observe that the interactive grassroots outreach and mobilization tactics of the Women’s Self-Defence Corps initiated an advocacy “on behalf of women which builds on claimed synergies between feminist goals and official development priorities” (Kabeer 435). This strategy made a more significant foray “into the mainstream development agenda than advocacy” which calls for the liberation of women “on intrinsic grounds” (Kabeer 435). As women’s concern with family and society often manifests itself in social and social regeneration, this organization did not give either an essentialist Muslim identity or a Hindu one a privileged place in political discourse.Akbar Jehan’s political and social activism for the empowerment of women vocalized the desire for freedom and liberation as “a historically situated desire whose motivational force cannot be assumed a priori, but needs to be reconsidered in light of other desires, aspirations, and capacities that inhere in a culturally and historically located subject”Political assumptions and claims that unambiguously define religious identity and project it in order to solicit support “a negation of the role of values, understanding and intellect” (Smith 2001: 43). The goals of this organization in a turbulent and chaotic time were much higher than simply propagating and whipping up “combat locked within action and reaction” (Grewal 249). The Women’s Self-Defence Corps did not espouse an identity politics that appealed only to that part of “individual identity that is shared in a collective identity.” The question to ask about that kind of essentialist politics which the Women Self-Defence Corps disavowed is, “‘Which collective identity?’ It is a question that is never asked in the process of political mobilization on the basis of identity; indeed, the question is often actively suppressed, sometimes violently” (Smith 2001: 36). One of the most formidable challenges facing the social activism of Akbar Jehanc and other members of the Women’s Self-Defence Corps was the palpable hostility between Muslims and Hindus and each community’s assertion of an essentialist identity, which was the insidious fall out of the partition of India. It was in this climate of fear, paranoia, mutual suspicion, and vendetta that Akbar Jehan undertook the arduous task of attempting to bridge the nigh impassable gulf between the two communities in the state. It is necessary to recognize the determination and perseverance of other members of the Women’s Self Defence Corps as well in overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges.The writer is the author of Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism, Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir, The Life of a Kashmiri Woman, and the editor of The Parchment of Kashmir. Nyla Ali Khan has also served as an guest editor working on articles from the Jammu and Kashmir region for Oxford University Press (New York), helping to identify, commission, and review articles. She can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, December 11th 2018.