Approximately 350 such Pakistani women residing in Kashmir have no citizenship rights or travel records. All of them desire to go back and join their parents but are denied permission. For the past 10 years, they have been staging objections in many parts of Kashmir to ask for citizenship rights and travel documents to visit Pakistan. “We have now lost hope of getting citizenship rights. Now they should declare us illegal immigrants and deport us back to Pakistan along with our husbands and children,” they told in Srinagar last week. They also warned to march towards the LoC to highlight their situation.
Many such women in Kashmir are fighting to make both ends meet and are encountering tremendous mental trauma and pain. Nusrat Begum of Athmuqam of PoK, who came to Kashmir in 2008, is facing economic captivity to bring up her children after her marriage ended up in divorce.“Women go to parents’ home after divorce. But where will I go? I am alone here. Please deport me back to Pakistan,” says Nusrat, who is living in a rented accommodation in Kupwara town and works in a boutique managed by Saira.
One such Pakistani bride committed suicide in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district in 2014. Most of these women along with their husbands came to India through the Nepal route without a visa after moving to Kathmandu on Pakistani passports. In 2017, Jammu and Kashmir government notified the assembly that 377 ex-militants along with 864 family members have returned to Kashmir via Nepal since 2010. Even Pakistani women with original passports have encountered difficulties in visiting their in-laws in Kashmir. In 2006, Asma Khan Lone, wife of Kashmiri politician Sajad Gani Lone, was rejected a visa to visit India by the government.
Recently, questions were also advanced over the assistance of such women in the electoral process in Jammu and Kashmir, though some of them have become sarpanch in the past. The officials halted the counting of votes in two district development council seats in Jammu and Kashmir after it came to the fore that two women from PoK married to Kashmiris were contesting ballots. Somiya Sadaf from Drugmulla and Shazia Aslam from Sonawari, both inhabitants of PoK, which India regards as its essential part, were contesting polls from these parts. The officials are yet to determine whether their aid was legal or illegal.
In 2010, Omar Abdullah-led National Conference and Congress government revealed a policy to promote the interest of youth who belong to Jammu and Kashmir and had passed over to PoK for arms practice, but have given up the revolutionary exercises due to a diversity of heart and are willing to return to the state. All those who had crossed into PoK and Pakistan between January 1, 1989, and December 31, 2009, were qualified for remuneration under the policy. Under the policy, Wagah-Attari, Salamabad, Chakan-da-Bagh, and Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, were reported as approach limits for the return of the youth.
Nevertheless, most of them reached through the Nepal way, which was not named as an entrance spot under the policy. The policy permitted wives of such youth to enter India but endured silence on giving rights to them.“The spouses and children who are dependents of the returnees, who wish to accompany them would be considered for entry into India as per the existing laws. The entry of all such persons into the country would be communicated by BOI (Bureau of Immigration) immediately to J&K Police/ CID from the entry point,” read the policy.