Brides and Brats

A young student travels to Pakistan as early as 2009 as part of his curricular activities and then marries a young Karachi lady with whom he was connected through Orkut, a social networking app. He brings his bride home, celebrates and raises a family. Almost nine years later, when the couple has three kids – of whom one died, the man takes his bed-room squabbling to an unprecedented level. He tweets India’s External Affairs Minister and later Home Minister and talks about the “security breach”, obviously attempting invoking his wife’s Pakistani nationality to get her out and away.

Conjugal life is generally seen as a compromise. Those managed through the virtual world will have real challenges, especially if they have cultural and border issues involved. But there is always an exit route, especially for a Muslim. But using somebody’s nationality after almost a decade of relationship is something that has brought a bad name to Kashmir. A young woman, literally disconnected from parents, marrying somebody against their wishes, mothers his child and finally being publicly scandalised is not even acceptable to the wild of the human races. The man must pay for the damage.

But this Karachi lady’s tragedy is just the tip of an iceberg of what Kashmir’s Pakistani daughters-in-law face in the valley. They must be around 300, if not less. Most of them came with their Kashmiri husband’s after the government announced a ‘package’ for the youth, potential militants, living on other side of the LoC.

Most of these women fell to the charms of the Kashmiri lads who had gone to become warriors. They all are from better socio-economic backgrounds. Some of them are elites in their own right, educated and working.

But once they returned “home”, they faced a two-pronged crisis. Firstly, the systems that encouraged their families to return to Kashmir stopped thinking about them once they drove in, mostly through Nepal border. Almost all of them created at least one news story as their husbands were arrested in Bihar, UP, Delhi, Jammu and finally in Srinagar. As they “settled”, they started facing the music – they were divested of their passports and they lost their identity; their kids were not granted admissions and they had no system that would enable their husbands to get a job.

Secondly, they faced a crisis – most of them, if not all – from their in-laws. Some of them were not accepted and in many cases, the rightful inheritance was denied to their husbands.

This situation led these women to come on roads, more than once in last few years. There have been cases of suicides, serious depressions and abject poverty. In their protests, they said they were living happy lives back home as the government was providing their husband’s subsistence allowances. They also demanded that if the Kashmir society, government included, does not require their presence they should be permitted to go home. None of them is in a position to cross the Wagha or the twin windows on the LoC, and see their parents or condole deaths of their relatives. This is absolute inhumanity.

Some of these women have picked up certain trades and are working as model earning individuals. Some teach, some sew clothes and some work in the private sector as attendants and helps. Right now when the Karachi lady’s crisis has brought a spotlight on the entire issue, the policymakers in the state and Delhi, and the leaders of all hues must think and take a call on this. Ideally, it should have been settled much earlier as it is a woman heading the state.

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