‘We feel suffocated in Kashmir, aren’t able to attend last rites of our parents, our children are denied admission in schools, husbands are jobless, 2010 policy was a trap’
Srinagar, June 15: Scores of brides from Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) Monday staged a protest in Srinagar and urged the Government of India to repatriate them back along with their husbands and children or to give them citizenship rights so that they can live with dignity.
In 1990, hundreds of youth went across the LoC for arms training but changed their mind there and ended up in various jobs both private and government. Majority of the Kashmiri youth who deserted their families and went across LoC didn’t pick up arms and soon after getting jobs, they married to PaK women there, majority of whom belonged to Muzaffarabad.
In 2010, the then Chief Minister of J&K, Omar Abdullah announced surrender-cum-rehabilitation policy for the youth willing to return from other side of LoC along with their families and children. Taking advantage of the policy, some 450 youth along with their wives and children returned to their homes.
However, all the youth who came back under the policy remained under the radar of security agencies, while their wives and children faced immense issues especially citizenship rights. Ten years on, these ill-fated women continue to protest to seek the citizenship rights for them and their children stating that “Government of India should repatriate them or else given them citizenship rights so that they can live with dignity.”
Today, they staged a protest at press colony Srinagar to press again for their demands. “My father passed away and I could see him for the one last time. I have no travel documents, my passports has expired a long back. We aren’t even given the citizenship rights, tell us where would we go,” Mishbah, who originally hails from Muzaffarabad area of PaK, told news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO)
Another woman protestor, who identified herself as Safiya, a resident of Muzafarabad, PaK said that she married a Kashmiri man in PaK and came to Valley along with her three children. “Today situation has reached a point where I feel suffocated to an extent that at times I want to go for self-immolation,” she said. “My sister got married in Muzaffarabad and I wasn’t able to participate in her marriage. Earlier, my relatives died there and I couldn’t even visit them and see them for the last time.”
Toiba, another PaK bride, is married to a Kashmiri man in Baramulla district. “First, we found it very difficult to gel with the Kashmiri families (in-laws) as we couldn’t speak Kashmiri language. Somehow, we managed to settle down but then our husbands were denied jobs both in private and government sectors and our children were denied admissions in schools on the pretext that they were born in other side of LoC and had birth certificates from Pakistan administration.”
She termed the 2010 surrender-cum rehabilitation policy a trap. “We didn’t get even a single benefit mentioned in the policy. Majority of PaK brides are suffering from depression and many have tried to commit suicide,” she said, adding that the policy had promised incentives to their husbands but to date, not a single penny has been provided by the government.
The protesting women made a fervent appeal to the Prime Minister Narendera Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan to issue them the travel permit so that they can return to PaK. “We don’t feel safe here and we don’t want to live in the hell anymore. We urge PM Modi and PM Khan to get us out of this living hell as soon as possible,” they told KNO, adding that “If this isn’t possible, we should be given citizenship rights at least and travel permits so that we could visit our parents in Muzaffrabad at least once a month or twice in six months.”
Many protesting women also complained that some of them have been divorced by their husbands and are now living in rented accommodations. “We are homeless at present and somehow we are managing our room rent. We will keep on protesting till our main demand of facilitating our safe return to PaK is agreed upon by both the countries,” they said.