Kashmir’s ‘Stateless’ Women Live In Limbo

File Photo of women of Pakistani origin protesting in Srinagar 

By Syed Burhan

Srinagar: For nearly a decade, Misbah Junaid has felt stranded in Kashmir, the land of her ancestors — as a citizen without a state.

She grew up in Islamabad, Pakistan and arrived in Kashmir in 2012, along with her Kashmiri husband. Since then, she has never been able to meet her family.

“It has been so many years, we have no documents, we are not allowed to meet anyone,” said Misbah, who described her life as “if we are living in a jail.”

Misbah is among the few hundred Pakistani women of Kashmiri origin who returned to Kashmir along with their spouses, young Kashmiris who had crossed the LoC for arms training but gave up the idea there.

Having returned to Kashmir under the 2010 surrender and rehabilitation policy, these women remain to be assimilated into mainstream — sans citizenship documents.

Women like Misbah have continued to protest and press for their demands for travel documents and other identity papers but to no avail.

On Monday, a group of women of Pakistani origin held a press conference in the Kashmir Press Club to reiterate their demands. Misbah was present, along with other victims.

In absence of state subject — and no other document to avail a domicile certificate — they and their children remain ineligible for government jobs and welfare schemes, said Misbah.

“If the government is not ready to provide us legal documents, they are free to deport us,” she said, adding that they were offered passports by the Pakistani High commission but they “are not being allowed to own that as well.”

“We request the government to kindly allow us to take a Pakistani passport so that we will be able to live legally in this country,” said Misbah. “We wrote a letter to the Honourable lieutenant governor as well but we received no response.”

Nadiya Yusuf, who was born in Karachi married a Kashmiri man in 2001. Five years after the policy was announced by the Omar Abdullah led coalition government, she returned to the Valley in 2015 along with her family.

“After the policy was announced in 2010, we waited for a while to see how the government would react,” said Nadiya. “According to the policy we had to cross the border from Wagah. I kept applying for a visa for two years but my visa application was rejected so we decided to come from Nepal.”

Several women like Misbah and Nadiya pointed out this as a flaw in the rehabilitation policy, the refusal of visas and the compulsion of travelling through an unrecognised route.

As per the policy, the government recognises the border route through Wagah and arrivals at the IGI Airport in New Delhi.

“Upon our arrival in India, we were questioned and later released,” said Nadiya, visibly distressed. “Why is it that after so many years we are still denied documents?”

Nadiya longs to see her family back in Pakistan, hearing news of their passing away from a distance. “My father died two years ago, My mother is severely ill. What will happen if my mother also dies” she wondered.

‘In Pakistan they know us by our Kashmiri identity but here in Kashmir the administration does not own us,” said Nadiya. “We have lost our identity and are stateless.”

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