Widows of Dardpora: A Photo Essay

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Dardpora, Kupwara is commonly known as Widow Land since the area bore the brunt of armed conflict in the early 90’s. Dardpora is the last village in district Kupwara, tehsil Kupwara. It lies in the North-West of Kashmir at an altitude of 1589 meters above the sea level, at the lap of the hill called Haam in local parlance. People in Dardpora speak Pahari, Gujri and Kashmiri. Approximately, 10,000 people live in Dardpora and mainly grow Maize and Rice. Though the area is drought prone, people grow fruits like Pear and Walnut.  Besides agricultural activities, people are very poor to help themselves. The area being in proximity to Line of Control (LoC), it has faced many problems since the onset of militancy.

There are approximately 280 widows in Dardpora of which 110 (quite young at that time) are directly hit due to armed conflict according to Mir Dardpori aka Gh Rasool Mir, a teacher by profession and an author, poet from Dardpora, since 1990s to 2005.  Mir Dardpori is the key person who has witnessed the gruesome dance of death since the onset of armed conflict. Conflict has its own stories and the area has earned a distinction of having good number of widows and a crop of orphans. People of Dardpora are victims of conflict; there is a widow in every house and it’s Generation Next ‘Children of Conflict’.

The situation in Dardpora hasn’t gone unreported but there is immense pain apparent from the eyes of people, especially women and children. There are enormous stories of desolation and despair from Dardpora and Bilal Bahadur has tried to capture the agony of only three women from the famous widow land, Dardpora, Kupwara.  He has been able to capture the agony of Lal Jan and her daughter in law, Hajiri and other two women Gul Jan and Hussaina Banu and imprisoned their pain in his camera so that their pictures could narrate their stories without blending reality with his own notions.

View of Widow Land (Dardpora, Kupwara)

View of Widow Land (Dardpora, Kupwara)

Lal Jan and her daughter in law, Hajiri: Hajiri, w/o Sadiq Khoja lives in Dardpora. Sadiq Khoja was a militant and was killed by the army in 1991. After four years of Sadiq’s death, his father Yusuf Khoja was murdered in the village over a land row by unidentified men. In just five year span, Lal Jan had to bear the immense pain of double loss.

Lal Jan and her daughter in law, Hajiri: Hajiri, w/o Sadiq Khoja lives in Dardpora. Sadiq Khoja was a militant and was killed by the army in 1991. After four years of Sadiq’s death, his father Yusuf Khoja was murdered in the village over a land row by unidentified men. In just five year span, Lal Jan had to bear the immense pain of double loss.

It was, indeed, an unbearable pain and a horrendous episode of events to live with. 22 years have gone by, yet Lal Jan’s wounds are green.

It was, indeed, an unbearable pain and a horrendous episode of events to live with. 22 years have gone by, yet Lal Jan’s wounds are green.

Lal Jan doesn’t need to express anything to the outer world as her eyes recount everything.

Lal Jan doesn’t need to express anything to the outer world as her eyes recount everything.

Lal Jan’s daughter in law, Hajiri was all alone with five children – two boys and three girls, when Sadiq Khoja was killed in an encounter. Her Son’s death left an intolerable pain in her eyes.

Lal Jan’s daughter in law, Hajiri was all alone with five children – two boys and three girls, when Sadiq Khoja was killed in an encounter. Her Son’s death left an intolerable pain in her eyes.

Even now Lal Jan hasn’t come out of the pain and memories of her son are lurking somewhere deep in her wet eyes.

Even now Lal Jan hasn’t come out of the pain and memories of her son are lurking somewhere deep in her wet eyes.

Hajiri’s elder daughter, Parveen is trying to find a missing link from her childhood to girlhood. Parveen, who studies in 12th std. dreams of becoming a teacher.

Hajiri’s elder daughter, Parveen is trying to find a missing link from her childhood to girlhood. Parveen, who studies in 12th std. dreams of becoming a teacher.

Gul Jan, another victim of the conflict lost her husband Peer Khan some 20 years ago. Peer Khan was killed by the army in 1990s. Peer Khan left behind five children including three girls and two boys. Khan was the only bread winner in the family.

Gul Jan, another victim of the conflict lost her husband Peer Khan some 20 years ago. Peer Khan was killed by the army in 1990s. Peer Khan left behind five children including three girls and two boys. Khan was the only bread winner in the family.

And after the death of Peer Khan, Gul Jan and her five children faced plethora of problems financially. There was no one to hold their hand, so were left alone. None came to their rescue other than villagers. This despondency left immeasurable pain in the eyes of Gul Jan.

And after the death of Peer Khan, Gul Jan and her five children faced plethora of problems financially. There was no one to hold their hand, so were left alone. None came to their rescue other than villagers. This despondency left immeasurable pain in the eyes of Gul Jan.

Gul Jan has many questions in her sullen eyes and a dominant question is why she and her family had to endure the mistakes of her husband. Since last 20 years, Gul Jan has lost her right to live a dignified life. Poverty and paucity has become her destiny.

Gul Jan has many questions in her sullen eyes and a dominant question is why she and her family had to endure the mistakes of her husband. Since last 20 years, Gul Jan has lost her right to live a dignified life. Poverty and paucity has become her destiny.

Walking down further, this lense man met another widow, Hussaina Banu. This tall and plump lady appears full of life. She has learned the art of living despite odds in life. Like a typical Kashmiri, Hussaina is hospitable and entertains her guests with a bubbly smile.

Walking down further, this lense man met another widow, Hussaina Banu. This tall and plump lady appears full of life. She has learned the art of living despite odds in life. Like a typical Kashmiri, Hussaina is hospitable and entertains her guests with a bubbly smile.

Hussiana also lost her husband Sherwali Khatana in 1998. Khatana was killed by the army in an encounter. Sherwali was associated with Hizbul Mujahideen outfit but they also turned their back from her. Hussiana has five children – two girls and three boys.

Hussiana also lost her husband Sherwali Khatana in 1998. Khatana was killed by the army in an encounter. Sherwali was associated with Hizbul Mujahideen outfit but they also turned their back from her. Hussiana has five children – two girls and three boys.

She is in sheer pain which is difficult to overcome, yet she survives for her children.

She is in sheer pain which is difficult to overcome, yet she survives for her children.

Hussiana’s second son is epilepsy patient and does nothing. Poverty has engulfed Hussiana in such a way that she is unable to put her son on medication.

Hussiana’s second son is epilepsy patient and does nothing. Poverty has engulfed Hussiana in such a way that she is unable to put her son on medication.

Bilal Bahadur is currently Media Fellow with Indo-Global Social Service Society’s (IGSSS) Media Fellowship Programme under European Union’s EIDHR project jointly implemented with Welthungerhife in J & K. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect views of European Union, Welthungerhilfe and Indo Global Social Service Society.

7 Comments

  1. Ahmad Kashmiri (Dubai) on

    Assalamu Alaikum,
    In a population of 10,000 of that village and among millions of Kashmiris, why can we find some MEN who can marry these widows. Why cant there be some MUSLIM sisters who can share their husbands by accepting them to take 2nd wife. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Kashmiris can help themselves many ways. India and Pakistan are not going to come to y/our help, at least in this regard.
    Please wake up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • why cant these women marry other men of their own choice? if it was men in their places they wouls long have done it. why this victimhood mentality? there are many sufferers and sufferings in this world. move on.

  2. Dear author you have done the commendable job to raise the issues of poor peopl . Can you organize some how source to help them in financial matter or some other supports directly or you can identify the people with some address where some one can help on monthly or quartet basis instead of going them the opinion to get marry. This is good for islamic point of view to marry the widow but we people living in social society where you can’t think like that.
    I think in my opinion if Mr Bilal or his colleague chould write some people who ar well off and get help these families consistently
    Or minimum on some ocaalssionaly espcially for eid or any other festival which chould bring some colors in their life and they can feel that there are still humanity is there instead of just writing the stories.
    Top of that if author get TE address f individual with their bank account or id then thy can collect some money from money teenager or western union or any other money transfer agencies who should transparent and help these needy people.
    TE utmost important attention towards ppl who ask them to marry … My friend can you imagine if this tradegy happend to your immediate family then what ll he your feelings .
    May allah bless these people
    These are really assests and this is world (paradise) for non Muslim and our paradise ll come in hereafter and these people who are living with patience and reliving of Allah giving are happy. Allah ll be happy with teir small deeds in hereafter and they ll be the best owners if paradise
    Stay blessed reshi am Bilal

  3. Dear Kash,

    Thanks for your inputs. I will surely convey your view to my organisation. Our basic aim is to unveil what lies hidden. However, your views are welcome.

    Regards,
    Sumera

  4. yes if we can find a way to gv tham financial help that will be realy gud I am ready to help if you guyz guide me how can i reach tham thanks

  5. Pingback: Village of Widows: the tale of Dardpora village in Kashmir – Kashmir Image

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