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We have become specimens, you sold our tragedies: Kashmiri ‘half-widows’

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Dardpora (Jammu and Kashmir):  Lying near thick deodar forests, terraced cornfields, apple orchards and jagged mountains, the hamlet of Dardpora looks idyllic. But this Kashmiri village nurtures deep wounds from decades of conflict and hides within its fold a substantial number of what has come to be known as “half-widow”.

This term may be unique to Kashmir, describing some 200 of the women in the village whose husbands have disappeared but not yet been declared dead. Probably this is the largest concentration of such women in a single village.

They have to live with the uncertainty of not knowing what happened to their spouses, in addition to the deep pain felt by about 100 other women in the village whose husbands died in the conflict.

The disappearance of such men have often been linked by activists to police or security forces’ action.

Dardpora, literally means “abode of pain”, is almost 140 km north of the state’s summer capital, Srinagar, and lies in Kupwara district close to the Line of Control (LoC) that cuts Kashmir into two parts – one in India, the other in Pakistan.

The central government puts the number of those missing in the past 20 years of the Kashmir conflict at about 4,000 while victims’ groups say the actual number is almost double.

'Half-widows' and missing husbands on the wallOn December 26, 2013, following an initiative by Ehsas, a civil society group in Kashmir, six religious clerics decreed that Kashmir’s “half-widows” could remarry if their husbands do not return for four years after disappearance.

That may have appeared to be some sort of a solution to a major social problem, 22 years after the first disappearance and seven years after the last.

But for many of these “half-widows”, the decision means little. Some have for decades waited for the return of their husbands and they say it’s too late for them to start afresh.
“I’ve a son who has a disability. I couldn’t have looked after him if I had married another man,” Bano Begum told IANS.

Wives of disappeared men often face various socio-economic uncertainties too. 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 re-marry.

Shamsuddin Pasal, Begum Jaan’s husband, left home for evening prayers in 1998 to never return. “It has been years since he is missing and I am too old to remarry now,” said 54-year-old Begum Jaan.

“I have a son and a daughter. What will be their future in my absence?” she asks.

One of the biggest problems is that the property and custody rights of such women go into a limbo. In the absence of their family’s bread-winners, they have to rely on their in-laws or parents for their economic needs.

Economic relief such as ration cards or transfer of husband’s property or bank accounts become difficult as these processes require a death certificate, which they cannot get as their husbands’ death is not officially recognised.

Under Islamic jurisprudence, a widow with children gets one-eighth of her husband’s property. A widow without children gets one-fourth. A half-widow, till her husband is declared dead, gets nothing.

“Second marriage is considered a taboo in our society. There is a social stigma attached to it. And when it comes to property issues, it is always the death of husband that makes a widow eligible for property rights. In the case of half-widows such an option doesn’t exist,” explains Sheikh Showkat, who teaches law and human rights at Central University of Kashmir.

Showkat says under the Dissolution of The Muslim Marriage Act, 1939, such women “the whereabouts of whose husband have not been known for a period of four years” may pursue divorce.

“If after the second marriage, her first husband arrives, the first marriage is not valid,” he says.

However, there are scholars who dispute this. And the force of tradition and religion is pretty strong in these areas.

According to prominent Islamic scholar, Mufti Abdul Rashid of Srinagar, a woman whose husband has disappeared has to seek help from a Muslim judge in locating him for a year.

“If the judge fails to trace her husband, he can dissolve the marriage and allow her to perform another Nikkah (marriage),” argues Rashid, who comes from the Deobandi sect of Sunni Muslims. “If the first husband appears after her Nikkah, the second marriage will be dissolved.”

Earlier, according to the Hanafi sect of Sunni Muslims, the wife of a disappeared person was supposed to wait for an impossible 90 years after which she can remarry.

Mufti Qamar-ud-Din, another Islamic scholar, however, says the waiting period now stands reduced (as agreed by Islamic scholars) to four years and 10 days.

But the religious scholars have no good answers for the possibility of a reappearance.

“A women can remarry after this time. But if the first husband appears, the second marriage will automatically break. She will have to abandon her second husband and live with her first husband,” he explains.

Rights groups say they have not known any disappeared person to return in 26 years of conflict.

Meanwhile, the “half-widows” continue to be at the receiving end of an injustice perpetrated by the government, society and the religion. They are fed up with the attention given to them, but no effective solution.

“We have become specimens,” says Bano Begum. “Hundreds of people with cameras, pen and copies have visited our place, interviewed us and then never returned — like our husbands. They have sold our tragedies. We are fed up with giving interviews. Will your report bring back my husband?”

The anger in her voice soon dies down; what lingers is her suffering in this abode of pain.

(Muhammad Zulqarnain Zulfi, IANS)

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US Designates Hizbul Mujahideen as Foreign Terrorist Organization

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Hizbul Mujahideen, terrorist-organization
The Hizbul Mujahideen has been referred as a terrorist-organization by the U.S. Department of State. Twitter
  • Hizbul Mujahideen, formed in the year 1989, is one of the oldest as well as the largest militant groups that is operating actively in Kashmir
  • The militant group of Hizbul Mujahideen is known to have claimed the responsibility for multiple attacks

Washington D.C. [United States], Aug 16, 2017: The Hizbul Mujahideen has been referred as a terrorist-organization by the U.S. Department of State, under the Immigration and Nationality Act of section 219.

A statement by U.S. State Department reports that “these designations seek to deny HM the resources it needs to carry out terrorist attacks. Among other consequences, all of HM’s property and interests in property subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the group,” ANI reports stated.

ALSO READ: ‘Blood Stained Hands’ Plan to Take Over Pakistan’s Political Reigns as Terrorist Organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) Prepares to Enter Politics

It further added that “today’s action notifies the U.S. public and the international community that HM is a terrorist organization. Terrorism designations expose and isolate organizations and individuals, and deny them access to the U.S. financial system. Moreover, designations can assist the law enforcement activities of U.S. agencies and other governments.”

According to ANI reports, Hizbul Mujahideen, formed in the year 1989, is one of the oldest as well as the largest militant groups that are operating actively in Kashmir.

The infamous militant group is led by Mohammad Yusuf Shah, the Specially Designated Global Terrorist, who is also referred as Syed Salahuddin. He was named as Global Terrorist by the US a couple of months back.

Reportedly, the militant group of Hizbul Mujahideen is known to have claimed the responsibility for multiple attacks which includes the explosive attack in Jammu and Kashmir that left 17 people severely injured, in the month of April of 2014.

Salahuddin had vowed in the month of September 2016, to bar any sort of peaceful conclusion of the conflict regarding Kashmir. He further gave threats to train many more suicide bombers in Kashmir, and that he would turn the valley into a complete graveyard for the Indian Forces.

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PM Narendra Modi Condemns Religious Violence on 71st Indian Independence Day, Warns “Will Not Accept Violence In The Name Of Faith”

PM Modi pitched in the slogan of "Bharat Jodo" (Unite India) this Independence Day.

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Narendra Modi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation. VOA
  • India celebrates 71st Independence Day
  • Indian PM Narendra Modi addressed the nation from the Red Fort
  • “We cannot accept violence in the name of faith,” said PM Modi in his address to the countrymen

New Delhi, August 15, 2017: As India celebrates its 71st Independence Day, the countrymen alike waited for the dynamic Indian Prime Minister’s address to the nation. Pitching for harmony and peace in his address today, the Indian Prime Minister condemned violence in the name of astha (faith).

Following the unfurling of the national flag at Red Fort, Prime Minister Modi began his address to fellow Indians with the aspiration of building a ‘new India’, emphasizing that the country dwells upon concepts of equality and no distinctions should be made amongst people.

Throughout his address, the Indian Prime Minister touched upon issues that have been relevant in the Indian Diaspora in the last couple of months including the turmoil in Kashmir, Gorakhpur tragedy, demonetization, and triple talaq.

Referring to the persisting unrest in Kashmir, PM Modi spoke about the gali (abuse) and goli (bullet) association, asserting that these will not help resolve the issue. He emphasized on the need to embrace all Kashmiris.

Talking about violence, he also added that the country will show no mercy to terrorists, however they are free to enter the mainstream and have their issues addressed. PM Modi further stressed about countering the ill plaguing the world today saying that with India’s rising stature, it is supported in its stand to fight the menace of terrorism by the entire world.

ALSO READ: India Celebrates its 71st Independence Day: What People Want Freedom From?

In his nationwide address from the Red Fort, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also asserted that violence in the name of astha (faith) will not be accepted, calling casteism and communalism “poison” for the country.

This comes in a context where an increasing number of mob lynching cases have taken place, witnessing outrage in the country.

Touching upon the issue of casteism and religion, the PM asserted that India is a country of “shanti, ekta and sadbhavna” (peace, unity and goodwill) and that distinction on caste, community or religion, will not help us in our entirety.

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As part of religious violence, religion acts either as the subject or the object of violent behavior. It is either motivated by, or is a reaction to religious beliefs, texts or doctrines. Contrary to popular notion, religious violence does not only refer to acts committed by religious groups, but also include attacks on religious groups. In the last few months, there have been significant such cases reported in India, including cases of mob lynching and attacks by cow vigilantes.

“There is no place for intolerance in today’s India; this is the land of Gandhi and Buddha” said PM Modi underlying that it is in the culture of the nation to walk collectively and peacefully on the path to development.

In his address, the Indian Prime Minister also asserted that the country had previously operated on the lines of “Bharat Chhodo” (Quit India) but now, that has transformed to “Bharat Jodo” (Unite India).

 


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Protesters coming to rescue of militants is becoming a dangerous trend in Kashmir

Kashmir Valley is facing a serious challenge in their anti-terror operations with a new trend of stone-throwing protesters coming out to rescue militants from shootout sites.

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Kashmir
Protesters vs Security forces, (representational Image) Wikimedia

-By Rohit Srivastava

New Delhi, Feb 17, 2017: Security forces in the Kashmir Valley are facing a serious challenge in their anti-terror operations with a new trend, which has almost become a phenomenon now, of stone-throwing protesters coming out to rescue militants from shootout sites.

Military officials and security experts admit it is a dangerous trend with Army Chief General Bipin Rawat even warning locals against supporting militants.

NewsGram brings to you latest new stories in India.

Earlier, Kashmir police had issued advisories, asking people not to come close to shootout sites between militants and security forces. The district administration prohibits the gathering of four or more persons around the areas where gun battles are on.

Despite that people came out throwing stones at security forces during at least three gun battles in the valley.

The trend began in South Kashmir last year when dozens of people came shouting slogans and throwing stones at security forces in a village near Pampore town. The trend has now spread to other parts of the valley.

On Sunday morning, stone-pelting protesters came close to a gunfight site to help militants escape when security forces were fighting them in South Kashmir’s Kulgam.

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Two days later, when forces cordoned off a village in North Kashmir, a mob marched towards the militant hideout throwing stones at police and the army.

A similar incident was reported in North Kashmir’s Handwara where people took to streets to help militants escape.

Army officials told IANS that these were diversionary tactics by overground workers to help the besieged militants get out, giving a nightmare to security forces in their efforts to minimize collateral damage in their nearly three-decade of unending counter-insurgency operations in the valley.

The officials, however, clarified that the army chief’s warning wasn’t directed generally at the people of the Kashmir but definitely against those who were supporting militant activities and trying to protect terrorists.

“We are with the citizens of the valley and the chief’s statement was for the people who support terrorist. The army’s role is only to create a situation for a civilian government to function,” a senior army official told IANS, requesting anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

A former commander of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps Lt. Gen. Ata Hasnain told IANS that the army’s “inability to engage with youth (in the valley) beyond the peripheral contacts makes it the key problem”.

“The absence of grassroot political activity is the other. The last is the nuanced information operations launched by Pakistan and the separatists using social media and networks besides the local mosques,” said Hasnain, who has served as the top army commander in Kashmir heading the corps that is the nerve center of all counter-terror operations in the valley.

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Brig (retd) Gurmeet Kanwal shared the view. “As a nation, we have failed to integrate Jammu and Kashmir with the national mainstream even after 70 years of independence. Deep sense of alienation exists in the valley.”

Speaking on the army chief’s statement on engaging the overground workers who obstruct army’s operations against militants, Kanwal said: “The army will only target who are interfering in the operations and firing at the army. They will use utmost restraint.” (IANS)