MUZAFFARABAD: Relatives of women living with their spouses in India held Kashmir (IHK) staged a demonstration here on Saturday, calling upon New Delhi to issue travel documents to their kin so that they could visit their families in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Pakistan.
Holding placards, they lined up along the boundary wall of the Central Press Club under the banner of what they named as “Women Support Committee” for about an hour.
“Women and children from Azad Kashmir and Pakistan living in occupied Kashmir be provided travel documents to meet their parents and siblings here,” read one placard.
Around 200 such women moved across the Line of Control under ‘surrender policy’ of 2011
“The prime ministers of Pakistan and AJK should use their good offices for provision of travel documents to our daughters and sisters,” read another placard.
Although exact data is not available, newspaper reports and a rights activist claim that more than 200 women from different parts of AJK and some Pakistani towns had moved across the Line of Control (LoC) along with their spouses after the announcement of the so-called “surrender policy” of the Indian government for former militants in 2011.
According to reports pouring in from across the divide, some of them had become patients and had even attempted to commit suicide due to serious marital problems, including separation or divorce.
But those who have a smooth marital life are also under stress because of long disconnection from their parents and siblings in AJK and Pakistan, reports say.
Aniqa Bano, who heads ‘Women Support Committee’, said her daughter Sarwat Jehan Tariq felt sad because of her inability to revisit her parents despite a content married life.
Ms Tariq got wedded in April 2012 and within a month of marriage moved to IHK with her spouse Pervez Ahmed Bhat via Nepal.
Seven years down the line, she had not been able to make a single visit to Muzaffarabad because she had not been issued an Indian passport despite renouncing her Pakistani citizenship, her mother said.
Ms Bano said she had herself been able to make it to IHK through Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service, but her spouse and two other daughters were not granted travel permit due to some technicalities.
“My husband is in a state of depression and my younger daughter has also refused to get married unless the event is attended by her elder sibling,” she said, wiping out tears.
Mohammad Riaz Lala, a junior scale public servant from Rara village near here, said his daughter Maria was married to one Bashir Ahmed Shah at the age of 17 in 2008, four years before they moved to IHK.
Meanwhile, in a related development, leading Pakistani human and civil rights activist Ansar Burney met AJK President Masood Khan on Saturday and sought his help in bringing back the women stranded in IHK after dissolution of their marriages.
Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2019