Kashmir its widow’s & half widows
Lecture by Mrs. Shamim Shawl International Women Union
by Shafi Naqeeb
November 9, 2018
I am thankful to Julie Ward MEP for providing me this opportunity to share the traumatic experiences of Kashmiri women with an August gathering assembled here to discuss “widows of all ages: Discrimination and abuse.
I am here on behalf of those who are suffering under Indian occupation since India and Pakistan got freedom. I will not talk about the historical injustice or the broken promises that made my land the biggest military concentration inflicting untold and unreported miseries on my people, especially the women
I will not tell you the story of Anjum Zamurd Habib whose sufferings are documented in her books “prisoner no 100 and [widows of Kashmir [.
I would also not tell about a woman political activist Asiya Andrabi who has been maliciously implicated on a false charge. I will not talk about the failure of UN, India and Pakistan to implement the UN resolutions to allow us to have our tryst with our destiny.
I am not here to tell you what happened to us during the last 71 years. I will not talk about the paradise on earth that has become a beautiful prison,
I WILL NOT talk about
its waters, its mountains, its lakes, crafts and culture.
I am here to tell you what happened in presence of 700000 Indian troops in Kashmir.
what is happening now?
what occupation has presented and gifted us
let us listen about this human tragedy
we lost 100,000 people in the recent uprising
The world has witnessed Biggest organized genocide in South Asia on 6th November 1947.
we got half widows in this conflict situation
we have widows in thousands
we have orphans
we have missing persons. we have political prisoners
we have women leaders in jail
we have teenagers in interrogation centers.
We have unnamed and unmarked graves according to international tribunal for peace and justice.
we have blind young girls, boys’ men and women. This is called bloom of the dead eyes
we have raped, and molested women brutality targeted by Indian forces
we have villages called half widows villages, orphan villages and villages of raped women.
In absence of men how widows, half widows are living
what is their source of income
what is their social status
what is their mental health
what is happening to them during search and cordon operations
when they are not educated
when they are not mentally fit
when they are under stress
when they are remembering their dear ones
when they have liability of old parents
when they are young too
when they are singing sad songs and these orphans are listening to them
Now they are documenting their tragedies in the shape of ” Do you remember Kunan poshpora.
These are the stories of their mothers and sisters who are widows and half widows
. Kashmir has been always known as the PARADISE on earth. The very land of valleys, mountains, lakes and rivers now see the blood of its people spilled everywhere around
Like any other armed conflict situation, the continuous violent situation prevalent in Kashmir since 1989 has hit the Kashmiri women in every aspect, every day due to the ongoing-armed conflict women continue to suffer. She is a mother grieving for her missing or dead sons, a widow or a half widow fighting for her existence and the bringing up her children and a refugee to find shelter once displaced from her land. The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons estimates 8,000 to 10,000 persons have become victims of disappearances. Every day, women continue to struggle with their life situations and mostly land up with psychological disturbances. The Guild of Service (North India) reported that the widows are witnessing worst socio-economic conditions as their only bread-earners were killed or injured during the course of ongoing armed resistance. Shah Manzoor ul Allam, a researcher from Kashmir, reported that more than 30,000 to 40,000 orphans and widows lead a miserable life, and no one is solicitous about their maintenance. More worrying is the fact that the suicides have increased in the valley, especially among women. The study “Suicides in Kashmir” (2000-2001) reveals that the proportion of females is more than males in suicides and it is more intense in the rural areas while as throughout the world the suicide rate among the males is more and it is more intense in the urban areas
Kashmir has been long lingering issue for seven decades now. Men, Women, Children and every part of the society has suffered in this unresolved issue. The story of grave Human Rights abuses is unending
Women of Kashmir, in particular, have been subjected to grave atrocities. From ” Kunan poshpora to Kathua”, Kashmir has an unending tale of agony to tell
Decades of conflict has produced a new section of women in Kashmir known as “HALF WIDOWS”- the women whose husbands were disappeared by the blood thirsty Indian forces and were never returned back Some were taken in the bright daylight and some behind the curtains of night. The husbands of these women were either taken away by unidentified forces or killed in the deadly skirmishes that would often erupt when Indian troops would bump into civilians or armed rebels Sometimes Indian forces used civilians to lead search operations but not many were lucky to return back to their families. The Hamlet of Kashmir looks idyllic.The wounds of decades of conflict sweeping across the region open up when its hundreds of widows and half widows describe the pain of losing their husbands in course of the ongoing rebellion
“His disappearance is still a mystery,” says Begum Jaan, 52, whose husband Shamsuddin Pasal left home for evening prayers in 1998 to never return again
The Govt doesn’t have a figure on Kashmir’s half widows but Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies (JKCCS) estimates the number of half widows at around 1500
The report prepared after its survey in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district- one of the 22 districts of Indian Occupied Kashmir- also calls on the Indian authorities to investigate the 2700 unnamed, mass graves that we’re identified in 2009
“These men could be buried in mass graves too,” says a civil society activist. “That’s why we are asking the state government and New Delhi to identify the dead in these graves using DNA examination. Apart from half widows, this could also help families of some 10000 disappeared people end decades – long search and ultimately their pain
The unresolved conflict has resulted in untold miseries, including the misfortune that befell the women whose husbands have disappeared without a trace. Since their husbands are not confirmed dead, they are officially not considered widows instead the locals see them as “HALF WIDOWS
FORCED INTO A LIFE OF PENURY
After the disappearance, the responsibility of earning bread for the family is transferred to the women. They are pushed into public spaces which are dominated by men. Most of them are illiterate and hence need to resort to menial low paying jobs like sticking and working as domestic workers. The families are pushed into the life of poverty into the life of poverty due the disappearance of breadwinner
Among the half widows, 98% have monthly income less than 3000 thousand and 65% of half widows live in the houses of minimum amenities
The desolate living conditions and emotional trauma of half- widows’ manifest into severe psychological and health issues. Most of the half-widows are suffering from depression, phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and emotional instability. Sadaaqat Rehman, assistant professor in clinical psychology at Srinagar’s Psychiatric hospital, says
“Many half widows coming these days are hypersensitive and show signs of depression. We treat them with cognitive Behavioral Therapy
The disappearances of their husbands not only took a heavy toll on their mental health but also developed severe mental health issues as they struggled to cope up with the sudden disappearances of their husbands
REMARRIAGE: A RARE CHOICE
Wives of disappeared men often face various socio-economic and emotional uncertainties. Since most of the disappeared men are from rural Kashmir, these widows usually live impoverished lives. And because of religious and societal pressures, most of the half widows don’t remarry
The biggest dilemma faced by the half widows is that in the absence of their breadwinners they have to depend on their in-laws of parents for the economic need with the property and custody rights undetermined
Economic relief such as Ration cards or transfer of husband’s property or bank accounts are also difficult to get as these processes require death certificate which of course half widows generally not have as their husbands are not officially recognized as deceased
ROLE OF THE SOCIETY
The societal role in the case of half widows is limited to that of empathetic spectators. Only in case of few half widows, the society has come forward to help them, financially but in most of the cases, the society’s role in helping the victims is minimal. After the disappearances of their husbands, the attitude of their neighbors towards them has changed. None of them come forward to help them financially
The fear instilled by the disappearances also disallows many people from coming to help victims as they think they might become the next targets of the forces and nobody helped them
International Community should come forward and pay heed to the miseries of the half widows of Kashmir. As state govt and govt of India have neglected them for decades now, Kashmiris have no faith in them
The UN, EU and other International bodies should at least take following steps
Trauma centers and counselling centers for widows and half widows should be created
International bodies should SEND special team of experts to locate the where about of the disappeared men and also look into the matter of thousands of unnamed graves
EU and UN should raise monetary funds under its own supervision to help these people economically
EU and UN should bring the issue to the notice of International bodies working for women welfare such as CSW (Commission on the Status of Women) so that these widows and half widows would be helped, and their voices would be heard globally
5.EU and UN should institute a women advocacy group on Kashmir which should be tasked to identify the need-based requirements of widows and half widows.
6.UN should facilitate women leadership of the widows and half widows to interact with international community
The EU, UN and International bodies should pressurize India to withdraw its troops from IOK and send its Peace keeping forces
EU should put its weight behind the demand of Human rights Commissioner to send a fact-finding mission occupied Jammu and Kashmir
Seminar was hosted by UK MEP Julie Ward in EU parliament Brussels
Others who spoke on the occasion (Moderator) Founder / Coordinator WUNRN Women UN report Network
Violence Berisha URGC, Ambassador, Consultant on Social Reconstruction of War Affected Communities and Soci0-Economic Development
Dr Mhinder Watson Founder of Action on Child Early and Forces Marriage
Ms. Margaret Owmen OBE Founder and Director of Widows for peace through Democracy
With special recorded video contributions from Ms Roseline Orwa, Raan Foundation of Kenya and Ms Lily Thapa Women for Human rights of Nepal