Even after amnesty, families stranded in Kashmir
Dozens of women protested in Srinagar early this month, demanding citizenship rights and travel documents to visit their parents, siblings and relatives in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Pakistan.Updated: Mar 17, 2019 11:58 IST
When their mother died three months ago in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir(PoK), sisters Shazia, 36, and Shahnaz Bhat, 32, couldn’t stop crying. They had no travel documents to go to their parental home, just across the Line of Control that divides PoK and Jammu and Kashmir, to attend her funeral.
Their mother had been repeatedly requesting them to visit her since they travelled to the Valley eight years ago from PoK with their Kashmiri husbands, and they had been putting her off with excuses.
“We used to tell her lies, giving one excuse or the other. And when she died, we hugged each other and wept here,” Shazia Bhat, who is now on anti-depressants, said with tears in her eyes at her husband’s modest home in the old quarters of Srinagar .
The two sisters are among hundreds of women from PoK and Pakistan who came to Jammu and Kashmir with their husbands after then chief minister Omar Abdullah in 2010 announced a return and rehabilitation policy for former militants who crossed over from the region and were living in PoK.
Shazia came to Srinagar with her husband, a papier mache artist, in March 2012 along with their three children through Nepal . Shahnaz had come here a few months earlier, in 2011, with her husband and two children. Since then, they have received no travel document, like a passport, to travel abroad and visit their relatives.
Dozens of these women protested in Srinagar early this month, demanding citizenship rights and travel documents to visit their parents, siblings and relatives in PoK and Pakistan.
“We had no idea that we will get stuck here. We were living happy lives there.
Why are we not being accepted by the government here? Why have we been pushed into this fight (between India and Pakistan),” said Shahnaz, a homemaker. Her husband drives a school bus in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
Kubra Geelani,28, who had come here in 2014 and was divorced by her husband last year, is living with a family in south Kashmir and is desperate to go home to Muzaffarabad. She said she visited the Pakistan embassy and was provided a passport, but was not allowed to go across the border by Indian immigration officials at the Wagah border.
Prominent human rights lawyer and president of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), Parvez Imroz said that the women and their children have been reduced to ‘non-persons’ (a state less person) despite the promise by the state in 2010 that those returning will be rehabilitated.
“This is a human issue. They can’t go to visit or mourn their relatives even though the distance between Srinagar and Muzafarabad is less than 200 km,” he said. “Children can’t suffer for what their parents have done. They have no ration card, no admissions in schools, and no passports. I repeat this is a human issue”.
K. Vijay Kumar, adviser to Jammu and Kashmir Gov. Satya Pal Malik, said: The issue has come to the notice of the government and the matter is under consideration.
Omar Abdullah couldn’t be contacted over the issue.
First Published: Mar 17, 2019 11:58 IST