A story published in a magazine Sunday Guardian on December 27 about a marriage between a J&K girl Suman Devi and a Maharashtrian Army man Ajit Patil has claimed that before the scrapping of Article 370 no Kashmiri girl could marry outside the former state and that “only Pakistani and Kashmiri boys were allowed to marry Kashmiri girls”. The story adds that Devi and Patil are now man and wife, “but that wouldn’t have been possible if Article 370 wasn’t scrapped from Jammu and Kashmir”. Ajit is also hailed as the “first son-in-law of Kashmir”. Nothing can be farther from the truth and that a magazine would give this patently fake news a pride of place on its website is deplorable. A formal publication is expected to give their readers a rigorously fact-checked story. It is not social media where every account holder is a publisher and can post anything. But stories like the one about the marriage between Devi and Ajit and using it to peddle a patent lie on Kashmir is a graver violation of ethics and professionalism than even the fake news on social media.
As for the truth about the marriages between Kashmiris and outsiders, they used to take place always. And even the consequent loss of family property by a woman marrying outside J&K, a line of argument against Article 370 plied by a vocal section of opinion in India, is not based on fact. The truth is that the woman didn’t lose property rights. This is something that the J&K High Court had settled a long time ago. The former chief minister Omar Abdullah is on record to have said that his sisters, who are married outside the state, own property in Kashmir as much as he does.
According to the High Court order in 2002, the Kashmiri women would not lose their residency rights if they marry men from another state. Also, a Pakistan man would not get Kashmiri citizenship if he married a Kashmiri woman. The case titled State and others vs Dr Susheela Sawhney and others was settled by a full bench of Jammu and Kashmir High Court in October 2002 by laying down that the women marrying outsiders would not lose their permanent resident status. The judgement read: ‘In view of the majority opinion, we hold that a daughter of a permanent resident marrying a non-permanent resident will not lose the status of permanent resident of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.’ Later the judgement was reproduced in the document prepared by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.
But despite these facts, a narrative persists that Kashmiri women lost their right to property when they married non-state subjects. The reason for this is the propaganda designed to achieve political ends and the false reporting carried by a section of media that manipulates and shapes a hostile public opinion about the region. It is thus important that such false reporting about Kashmir is called out.
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