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‘Deport Us or Grant Citizenship’: Kashmir’s ‘Pakistani Wives’ Long for Home

In the last decade, a few of them have died by suicide, some are divorced, and many are battling depression.

Published
India
4 min read
‘Deport Us or Grant Citizenship’: Kashmir’s ‘Pakistani Wives’ Long for Home
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“Fifteen years ago, I came to Kashmir with my husband for a small visit. But I got stuck. All my efforts to return home to Pakistan have not yielded any results so far,” says 44-year-old Saira Javid. She curses the day she crossed the border and came to the Valley.

In the year 2001, Javid, a Pakistani woman who was born in Karachi, married a former Kashmiri militant, Javid Ahmad Dar.

In 1990, Dar had crossed the Line of Control (LoC) for arms training. But in 2007, he left militancy and returned to Kashmir, along with his wife.

Dar was one among the thousands of Kashmiri youth who had crossed over to Pakistan illegally in the 1990s for arms training.

Javid currently lives in the Kupwara district of north Kashmir with her husband Dar and four children. “I am living fine with my husband here, but since I am not able to get citizenship, there are hardships at each level. The future of my children seems bleak,” said Javid.

She added that she arrived in India via the Wagah border in 2007 with documents, three years before the rehabilitation policy. While herself stuck in Kashmir, she has lost eight family members back home in Karachi. “I lost my father, my younger brother and other relatives. I remained stuck in Kashmir and could not see them for one last time,” she says.

Javid was arrested with her husband in 2007 while entering India. Both remained imprisoned for three months and their documents were seized, effectively rendering Javid a stateless citizen.

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The 2010 Rehabilitation Policy

In 2010, when the Jammu & Kashmir government announced a rehabilitation policy for Kashmiri militants in Pakistan who were willing to give up arms, Altaf Ahmad Bhat left militancy and chose to return to Kashmir with his Pakistani wife, Bushra Farooq.

In 2012, Farooq came to Kashmir along with her husband but could not return home. “I have moved from pillar to post to return, but unfortunately, no one is listening to my problems. During all these years, I used to fight with my husband for bringing me to Kashmir. The daily brawl ultimately resulted in divorce in the year 2019,” she said.

Farooq lives alone in Kupwara. She has also lost custody of her children and is battling hard to earn a livelihood. The 31-year-old distraught woman, currently living in Kashmir’s Pattan area of Kupwara, asks, “For which sin are Pakistani wives being punished by the government?”

Javid, who now runs a boutique where she provides work to other Pakistani wives, says that there are roughly around 350 Pakistani women like her who married in Kashmir and are unable to visit their families back home.

Government figures reveal that 377 former militants, along with 864 family members, have returned from Pakistan since 2010 under the rehabilitation policy. The policy was announced by the National Conference government led by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in 2010.

However, both Javid and Farooq blame the rehabilitation policy for focusing only on the return of former militants and making no provisions for the wives and children.

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Documents Destroyed

Upon entering India, at certain designated points, the Pakistani passports of these “stateless” women were immediately destroyed. No other legal documents were given to them either.

In the Valley, these women are colloquially called “Pakistani brides”, ie, wives of former militants. During the past decade, a few of them have died by suicide, a few others are now divorced, and many are battling depression due to prolonged separation from their families.

All those who crossed the LoC and entered Pakistan between 1 January 1989 and 31 December 2009 were eligible for consideration under the rehabilitation policy. Under the policy, Wagah-Attari, Salamabad, Chakan-da-Bagh and Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, were notified as entry points for the return of the youth.

However, most of them came through Nepal, which was not designated as an entry point under the policy. “We tried our best to fulfil the criteria and come to Kashmir under the rehabilitation policy, but we were not allowed to move. Ultimately, we decided to come via Nepal where my passport was immediately destroyed,” said Farooq.

Farooq says that the day she arrived in India, her in-laws tore up her passport to prevent the possibility of her returning to Pakistan along with their son and grandchildren.

Similarly, another Pakistani woman, Ambreen Rehman, came to Kashmir along with her former Kashmiri militant husband, Abdul Majeed Ahangar. “In 2013, I came to Kashmir with my husband. But I never knew I would be stuck in Kashmir. Only 20 days ago, I lost my mother back home in Pakistan and I could not attend her funeral,“ said Rehman, who lives in the Dragmulla area of Kupwara.

She added, “The government, by denying us citizenship, is spoiling the future of our children. We have been lodging regular protests to ask the government to either give us citizenship documents or deport us to Pakistan.”

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'Matter Is Sub Judice', Says Women & Child Rights Commission

In 2020, two such Pakistani women, Somiya Sadaf from Drugmulla and Shazia Aslam from Sonawari in northern Kashmir, were allowed to contest polls from these segments. But the administration quickly announced that it had received complaints about their citizenship, and so, it deferred counting in both seats.

Vasundhara Pathak Masoodi, a former chairperson of the Jammu & Kashmir State Commission for Protection of Women & Child Rights, says that many such Pakistani women have approached the Commission but nothing happened because their matter is sub judice. “The mandate of the Commission is that it can not take up the matters that are sub judice. However, my personal opinion is that since it is a policy matter between governments, it should be handled by the government as quickly as possible," said Masoodi, who is a practising Supreme Court lawyer.

(Irfan Amin Malik is a journalist based in Kashmir. He tweets @irfanaminmalik.)

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Topics:  Kashmir   Pakistan   Jammu and Kashmir 

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