Half Widows of Kashmir
the Struggling Motherhood:
Half –widows and Widows of J&K
‘Half-widow’ is a poignant term used only in Kashmir for a woman whose husband is taken away by militants or by the security forces and has never since returned dead or alive. Nothing is known about him. Half- widows and widows are the worst sufferers of conflict, militancy and counter-militancy operations in Jammu and Kashmir. It is upon these wives and mothers that the entire weight of the conflict with all its brutality and trauma has fallen. Their sense of self-esteem does not allow them to petition or ‘apply’ for any help. Their emotional, economic and social rehabilitation needs to be addressed in a manner that does not violate their dignity, does not make themmere object of pity and charity. Helping them is preceded by relationship building. Because we feel their pain, therefore we stand by them. The present estimates vary from 300 odd to 1500 to 10,000 to 40, 000. A serious approach to this problem is needed. Where every other house is a sufferer nothing can be final, nothing should be doubted.
Reaching out to them with love and compassion helps protect them and their growing up children from their political exploitation on the one hand; and , on the other from vulnerability of a traumatized and emotionally wounded mindset. Swaraj Peeth has collected information about a hundred and thirty of them to whom it wishes to help through raising private individuals’ support.
What Needs to be Done:
- Sustained help for their children’ schooling and education; tuition fees, books & tools. uniform, transport;
- Normal, special and emergency medical help, physical and trauma related;
- Organizing long-term dignified means of livelihood, vocational training for things they can do;
- An area-wise survey of Half-widows and widows
- Regular meetings for emotional and social support
One needs a heart of stone not to break down listening to the stories of their husbands’ brutal, violent abductions; torture and disappearance..; wife, mother, running after the abductor wailing and pleading; or seething in pain and despair while tied down or gagged as husband was being dragged, beaten and taken away; bitter frustrations at denial of justice…days, weeks, months and years after years of endless waiting for the father of their children –two, three… four… five- the only bread earner and protector of the family. Life in darkness, trauma and depression; poverty and hunger; problem of education health and security…As women they have faced in their lives the brunt of the violence and conflict; but, as mothers their stories are profiles in courage, inner power and strength that only women and mothers posses. Each one is a story of that immense strength. None has allowed their children’s life to be destroyed or to take a wrong path, though the silent, suppressed bitterness, frustration and pain burns them day and night.
Though extremely inadequate and irregular, some of them have received Rs 500/-(less than $10/-) a month as social welfare.