With the Kashmir conflict coming under the spotlight after years of pain, misery, and deaths on both sides of the border, let’s talk about a term that originated from the Kashmir conflict and is solely reserved for the Kashmiri women.
Who are the “Half Widows”?
There is a very high rate of arrests and abductions among the Kashmiri men, who are not necessarily involved in the fight for freedom. Indian army stationed in Kashmir has the complete right to detain anyone or shoot anyone on sight.
The term half widow is reserved for the women whose husbands are reported as “missing” due to the ongoing conflict. They have no way of knowing whether their husbands were killed or are being detained. There are no records available to check the status of any person under custody.
The Tragedy of Being a Woman in Conflicted Region
The snow-capped Kashmir has been in turmoil ever since the armed rebellion and the Indian army breakdown began in 1989. Over 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the disputed territory claimed and many more remain missing.
In 2009, the Guinness Book of World Records declared Kashmir as the “planet’s largest militarized territorial dispute”. In 2019 when India took away the special status of the conflicted territory and proceeded with a complete lockdown of the valley, the situation worsened.
There are reports of rape, abductions, and killings by the Indian army of the local people. According to the women, their husbands are not always involved with the freedom fighters, sometimes they are only acting as guides, or simply going to work, and yet they fall victim to the brutality of military personnel trained to curb the freedom fighting using any method necessary.
Life of Half Widows
Imagine your husband leaving for work one day and never returning. The constant fear that these women must live in for the lives of their husbands and sons is unfathomable.
Many women continue to wait for years, most spend their entire lives as “half widows”. A special ruling by Islamic jurisprudence allows half widows to remarry after a waiting period of four years. It has no real meaning in the lives of families waiting for any news of their loved ones. Men also find it problematic to remarry a half widow, for chances of their husbands coming back.
What Needs to be Done?
First off, the Indian government needs to ensure they make an accountable policing system. Having the soldiers working free of any accountability or from answering for their actions, has led to the deteriorating situation of peace in the Indian Occupied Kashmir.
Throwing the blame on the Pakistani government every time Kashmiri militants target your soldiers is not going to resolve the real cause. There needs to be done something to prevent the obstruction of justice and neglect of basic human rights to the locals.
Secondly, while human rights commissions around the world were kind enough to coin and recognize the term “half widows”, little is being done to ensure any kind of closure to the women waiting for their husbands.
The woman and children wait for years, not knowing if their husbands are buried in a mass grave somewhere, or alive and in custody, being tortured. Pakistan and international organizations need to pressurize India to end these human rights violations in Kashmir.
It is difficult to imagine even in the 21st century there can be such a massive oversight of human rights in a small, conflicted territory. The people never had any say in how they want their region to be governed, and above that, they are being killed or abducted without any liability.
Kashmiris deserve the right to self-determination. They don’t need your pity, or armed help, or brutality to make them quietly accept your rule, they simply need the right to decide what they want to do with their homeland. It’s a great thing that Pakistan is trying to get the international organization’s attention for the Kashmir conflict.