Abandoned by husbands, many women homeless in Kashmir
Srinagar: Sara Begum (named changed), 60, stays at Naqashband Sahab shrine in old Srinagar’s Khawaja Bazar for the last two years. She assists the shrine management in carrying out the chores and spends rest of the time reciting the holy Qur’an.
A resident of Eidgah area of Srinagar –three kilometers from the shrine – Sara was divorced by her husband in 2015.
“Happiness was never in my destiny and the marriage was the biggest mistake of my life,” Sara rues, more than three decades after wedlock. “For decades, I compromised for the sake of our daughter but then, things ran out of patience.”
“Every day, my husband used to beat me, taunt me; for not giving birth to son. The violence continued even for silly reasons. He was never happy with me,” she recalled.
She said after the marriage of her daughter in 2015, the violence increased as “I was all alone now”. “Then all of a sudden, he divorced me and threw me out of the house. I begged in front of him but he was unmoved. He didn’t even keep in view my age and the decades we spent together.”
After staying for some time at her brother’s house, Sara realized she was a “burden” for the family, and left. “My brother is an old man and not in a condition to take responsibility of a divorcee sister. I had to leave,” she said.
Sara has kept this as secret from her daughter, who lives in Delhi with her husband, totally unaware of the tragedy that befell upon her mother.
Sara has approached for legal aid to district court Srinagar for maintenance charges. She said besides counseling, she gets maintenance charges every month. “But by little amount, I won’t be able to make shelter for myself, so I spend my days and nights here in the shrine.”
Sara is not alone to walk “tragic journey of life”. There are more many women in Kashmir grappling each day with unsuccessful marriages.
Law officer, District Legal Court, Srinagar, Rahila Tabasum while talking to INS said more than sixty cases under section 488 Cr.PC have been registered in ABR Department for legal aid.
“About 61 cases have been registered for legal aid in the court in which 50 percent of cases involve women having no shelter,” Tabasum said. “These women include both divorced and those who have been denied shelter by their husbands/in-laws. They are receiving the legal aid and this will continue till their disputes are cleared.”
Another case is of a 28-year-old orphan girl Asmat (name changed) who since her childhood lived at Darul Uloom, Bemina, Srinagar. Two years back, Asmat was married to a boy from Baramulla in north Kashmir. Her husband sued to do some low profile job in Delhi.
A year after marriage, she received a shock of her life – her husband was already married to a Hindu girl in Delhi.
“My husband didn’t come home for months and finally confessed that he was married and wants divorce from me,” Asmat said. “Still, I pleaded before him to not to leave me but he was adamant and filed divorce in court,” she added. “I had no option and he divorced me.”
After divorce, Asmat was all alone. She started working as maid in a neighborhood house who provided shelter to her.
“My husband betrayed me and I had no one to share my pain and suffering with. I got shelter but it is not necessary that everyone like me will get it. The government should provide shelter home for women like me.”
Similarly, a 21-year-old girl Rekha (name changed) from Bihar, was also “thrown out” by her 40-year-old husband (name withheld) from Anantnag in south Kashmir.
Rekha says her marriage was forced due to which things turned from bad to worse. She too has approached for legal aid at district court Srinagar and her case is under process.
She said by court orders, she has been sent to Women’s Police Station Rambagh, Srinagar, till the dispute is cleared.
Law officer, Rahila Tabasum said the District Legal Court provides legal help— counseling to such victims but are unable to provide them a proper shelter.
“Many of our lawyers provide temporary shelter to them at their homes but this is not a permanent solution,” Rahila added. “The government should at least provide temporary shelter to these women till their disputes are resolved as they feel ostracized by the society.”
She also rues the lackadaisical approach of State Women’s Commission which “is showing no interest” in these cases. “Now, we are trying to approach the NGO’s and hope the sufferings of these women are mitigated,” she said.
Chairperson of the State Women’s Commission (SWC) Nayeema Mehjoor told INS that the commission was “well aware about such cases.”
“We had passed the proposal for shelter home for such women in 2015 and government has promised to establish it soon,” Mehjoor said. “Government is looking for constructed buildings for shelter home. We are planning to have two temporary shelter homes – one in Jammu and another in Kashmir.”
“Till the cases of these women are not resolved, they will get counseling and legal aid,” Nayeema Mehjoor added.