Set these women free

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Mian Tufail

THE recent days have seen Seema Haider, a Pakistani woman who entered into India to meet her lover, keeping the media buzzing with her statements.

While some attributed her intrusion to a spying tactic by the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI and to keep an eye on the activities here, others declared her an immature woman in love. While the news of her entry into India popped all over the media, and the cameras zoomed in on Seema, she was found speaking fearlessly, without prejudice. Her heavily romanticised interviews blared from TV sets and social media handles. The Uttar Pradesh police have taken cognizance of her illegal intrusion and are searching the background of the woman who happens to be a mother of four.

After a fortnight of this drama, a reverse case has been revealed by the Pakistan media. An Indian woman, Anju, apparently travelled to Pakistan, albeit legally – with a visa – and met her lover in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan.

Interestingly, both Seema and Anju met their partners on the internet. How vulnerable we could be in the hands of the internet can be gauged from these ‘love’ stories.

In the case of Kashmir, however, the internet has not played any such role. And yet the Valley is home to thousands of Pakistani origin brides, married to Kashmiri men, in the hope of a decent life in the Indian mainland. These men – most of them being former militants – had crossed the Line of Control (LoC) to start a proxy war against India to the tunes of the Pakistani State. But they ended up marrying these women instead.

  • A decade of trauma

When these former Kashmiri militants realised that the war started by Pakistan against India had a dead end, they began to sneak back into the country through the Nepal border. There were hundreds of Kashmiri men who went to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) for arms training in the 1990s and early 2000s and came back with wives after the then J&K government introduced a ‘rehabilitation scheme’ in 2010 for those who had crossed over to the other side of the LoC between 1989 and 2009.

However, a decade later, the scheme has left behind a trail of broken families, domestic abuse, unemployment, widows and hapless families waiting for a miracle to happen.

The truth is, these former militants, after returning from Pakistan, either abandoned these women or retained them with no identity or domicile documents. These women have no documents that would even enable them to travel back to Pakistan to see their loved ones.

Aasiya (name withheld), in an exclusive conversation with Kashmir Central, shares her ordeal and plight. She says, “There are hundreds of Pakistan women, married to Kashmiri men, especially to former militants. Though we have cultivated our own family and friends here, many of our loved ones reside in Pakistan and we are not able to see them since we were offered to stay in Kashmir under the rehabilitation scheme”.

“The government has kept us devoid of an Aadhaar card and domicile documents. Our life has become so messy that we cannot even take up a menial wage-paying job to feed ourselves. Some among us are divorced and desperate to return to their parents in Pakistan,” she adds.

Clearly, the rehabilitation scheme of 2010 was prepared haphazardly and was carried out without any homework. National Conference and Congress coalition govt made this policy amid huge fanfare to garner sympathy and strike cord among gullible voters. A rehabilitation policy is not the sole domain of a state government but should be planned & chalked out after consultation with the Union government. Security and national interest are more crucial than electoral interest.

Omar Abdullah, former CM of J&K (2008-14)

Aasiya further adds, “Divorcing these women, Kashmiri men have left them in the lurch. Those at the helm of affairs in 2010 have made an improper policy which has left hundreds of families in deep trouble. Had this rehabilitation policy been devised meticulously, today these women could have travelled back”.

After the Partition and the tribal raids of 1947, Jammu and Kashmir witnessed division of families. Some families went to Pakistan while others chose to stay in India. This division has made both men and women prone to love affairs.

Notably, chairman of People’s Conference Sajad Lone is married to Asma Khan from Pakistan, the daughter of Amanullah Khan, founder, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). Later, the same JKLF baton was handed over to Yasin Malik in Jammu and Kashmir. Malik too married a Pakistani national – Mushaal Hussein – in 2009.

Yasin Malik and his Pakistani-Origin Wife

Pertinently, two PoK women fought the District Development Council (DDC) elections of 2020 from Hajin (A) and Drugmulla in Bandipora and Kupwara respectively. Both the candidates – Soomia Sadaf and Shazia Aslam – were hopeful of winning the battle but after proper verification of documents, the State Election Commissioner declared the election of both seats “null and void”.

Now, the time has come to correct the mistakes made by the NC-Congress government in Jammu and Kashmir. The present administration needs to open their heart and ameliorate the miseries of these women.

While Seema and Anju, whose credentials are under the scanner, were welcomed by the populace of the two countries; there are women like Aasiya and others, who shun Pakistani nationality to immerse into mainland India, and deserve to be heard. Their plight has left them in a state of trauma and they have protested a number of times to request the present dispensation to have mercy on them. The administration must bring out loopholes in the rehabilitation policy of 2010 and make those leaders accountable who were at the helm of affairs at that time.

 

 

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