Srinagar: A group of Pakistani-origin women who are married to Kashmiris on Monday said the government should charge them as “illegal migrants” and deport them to their native country as they have lost the hope of being granted citizenship rights after spending over a decade in the region.
More than 350 women, many of whom belong to Pakistan administered Kashmir, have been living as ‘stateless’ citizens of Jammu and Kashmir since the Omar Abdullah-led government of the erstwhile state announced in 2010 a policy to rehabilitate former militants, who had crossed over the Line of Control (LoC) as young men with an intention to train as militants. The youth travelled back with families including children with the hope to be rehabilitate, but that never happened.
Saira Javed, who lives in North Kashmir’s Kupwara town with her Kashmiri husband and four children, told NewsClick that her children are being punished by the authorities for her marrying a Kashmiri, which she referred to as a ‘mistake.’
“We do not want to live here anymore. I was brought by my husband after he saw hope in the government’s rehabilitation policy. He insisted on coming back for his family, friends and relatives but it turned out to be a nightmare,” Saira said.
Saira was accompanied by several other women who are living in different parts of the valley and they spoke to the media about their plight in Kashmir. They claimed their lives have been made difficult by administrative sanctions and they do not feel safe there.
Taibah Ajaz, who lives in Pattan, said since the government has not given them the rights of citizens for over a decade after coming to Kashmir, they should be then treated as “illegal immigrants.” “Ours is a humanitarian issue and if the government is not willing to accept us, they should then deport us or treat us as per immigration laws,” she said.
According to the group, many of such women have died, and at least one of them, Saira Begum committed suicide in 2014. Many of these women have been divorced and at least two widows are working for Saira Javed, who owns a boutique in Kupwara. “There is no life for these sisters here as they have been abandoned by their in-laws. Many more are on the brink of committing suicide, which is why we are requesting the government to intervene,” Saira said.
Saira is heart-broken as she could not see her father who died two months back. She has not been able to travel back since she arrived. “I am devastated as I could not see my father for the last time; now I miss everyone back home,” she said.
Notably, two of the women—Somiya Sadaf and Shazia Aslam–had recently contested in the District Development Council (DDC) polls from North Kashmir’s Drugmulla area of Kupwara and Hajin area of Bandipora respectively. But, as the elections concluded, the results in both of these constituencies were put on hold because of the two candidates’ citizenship issue.