Survey on orphans and widows in Kashmir | india | Hindustan Times
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Survey on orphans and widows in Kashmir

There is some ray of hope for those who have lost everything in the last 20 years of militancy in the Valley. The government of the state plans to reach out to the widows and orphans of militancy and rehabilitate them.

india Updated: Apr 28, 2010 11:40 IST
Toufiq Rashid

There is some ray of hope for those who have lost everything in the last 20 years of militancy in the Valley. The government of the state plans to reach out to the widows and orphans of militancy and rehabilitate them. The department of social welfare plans to launch a survey to know the exact number of widows and orphans. The state administration, which includes police and district commissioners, has been asked to track down each FIR of killing during militancy years.

"We will check about the kin of those killed, either during encounters, cross firing or by militants. This way we will get to know the exact number of orphans and widows and try and get funding for their rehabilitation," said Sakina Ittu, minister Social welfare.

"We plan to have a proper rehabilitation scheme for these people. This will entitle the widows to pension and the children orphan due to militancy in these years to an educational scholarship. We want to reach out to the people so that they don't feel alienated," Ittu added. The plan even includes children of militants who were killed during encounters with the army.

"The widows of militants are not entitled to pension but we can provide scholarship to their children. A child cannot be made to pay for the wrong committed by their parents," she said.

According to the figures available with the government, there are 27,000 widows and 22000 children orphaned during militancy. "I don't believe the numbers, if we say one lakh people have died the numbers don't corroborate," she added.

However independent sources have put the numbers much higher. According to Prof Bashir Ahmad Dabla, head of the department of sociology, university of Kashmir, the figures of orphans are three times more than the government estimates. "According to our study there are 32,400 widows and 97000 to 1 lakh orphans in the valley. I completely stand by the numbers," said Prof Dabla.

The study by Kashmir university which has been published as a book, says ``the number of widows grew up from 16000 in 2000 to 32400 in 2008''. "It says sudden death of male members has shattered thousands of families leaving behind impoverished and emotionally traumatized widows and orphans," Prof Dabla adds.

However, the study reveals that condition of widows and orphans of security forces was better as compared to those of militants or civilians. "The widows and orphans belonging to military, security and police forces have been taken care of properly by providing pension and other monetary benefits to widows and scholarships/fellowships and reservation for orphans by their respective organisations. But at the same time, dominant majority of widows and orphans belonging to ex-militants and common people suffer extremely."

"Neither state nor NGOs have been able to help them in an organised and systematic manners. The tragic aspect of the situation is that the state has not adopted any specific social policy and programme in this regard. Their problems accumulate and intensify day-by-day," the study says.

"Since 1989 all governments have been saying a survey was being planned but nothing has happened so far," adds Prof Dabla.

Dr Arshad Hussain, consultant psychiatry, government medical college in Srinagar, who worked in various orphanages across the state from 2003 to 2005 says due to lack of rehabilitation programmes most of the children are bought up in orphanages which is not healthy for the children. "I have visited almost all the orphanages and I think most of the orphanages try to do their best to fulfill the physical needs of these children. But nothing can replace the mothers lap. She might even keep her child hungry for a whole day, but the child still loves her, so does the mother. In an orphanage, if a child doesn't get food for one day, the orphanage people would be called "brutal." But that would never be said for a mother. This is natural, this can't be changed; a mother is a mother after all. The children do get a good physical care in most of the orphanages, and of course it has been found in some exceptional cases that the care provided to the children was not optimal and there were a lot of health issues as well," Dr Arshad said.