Pakistani women living in Kashmir appealed to the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir government to either grant them Indian citizenship or deport them on Saturday, PTI reported. They married former Kashmiri militants about a decade ago and arrived in the valley along with their husbands under a rehabilitation scheme for surrendered militants.

“It is our right to have the citizenship of the state. We should be made citizens here as is the case with women who marry men in any country. We appeal to the Government of India and the state government to either grant us citizenship or deport us,” said Zeba, one of the protesters, India Today quoted. The women seek intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as well as Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik in the matter.

They have accused the state government for not giving them access to travel documents to visit their families in Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). Another woman Safia said, “Ours is a humanitarian issue. We were promised many things, but nothing was fulfilled. We have no identity here. Many of us are going through depression. There should be initiatives for us like the Karavan-e-Aman (Srinagar-Muzaffarabad) bus service so that we can visit our families.”

The Karavan-e-Aman (peace caravan) bus service runs between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad in PoK. The bus service was started in 2005 on a fortnightly basis as a confidence-building measure between India and Pakistan.

“From giving me electric shocks to accusing me of having affairs, my husband has done everything to me,” a 32-year-old woman who also married a former militant back in the times of militancy and had to come and live in North Kashmir told Scroll. “Whenever I approach the police or authorities for any action, they ask me to bring witnesses. Who will testify for an outsider? I have no one here.”

“It is our right to have the citizenship of the state. We should be made citizens here as is the case with women who marry men in any country. We appeal to the Government of India and the state government to either grant us citizenship or deport us”

Along with the Indian authorities and ministries, the women have also urged Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and human rights organisations to raise their concern over their plight. Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had in 2010 announced a rehabilitation policy for former Kashmiri militants, who had crossed over to Pakistan from 1989 to 2009. Hundreds of Kashmiris, who had crossed the LoC for arms training, returned along with their families through Nepal border till 2016, after which the policy was discontinued by the Centre.

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It was in February that advisor to Governor Satya Pal Malik, who currently heads the state administration, Vijay Kumar, announced that the government had noted the protests and had “asked for reports from certain agencies”. He acknowledged that there was a “humanitarian angle” to the problem.

In March, he said, “We haven’t been able to take a detailed view of the issue yet. I will be having a detailed discussion with the honourable governor about the matter very soon.” A senior official in the home department had also suggested that the plight of these women would be addressed soon, Scroll reported. “It is a human problem and it is being attended to,” he claimed. “I will not say they will get a document or something but there will be a mechanism by which they will get some relief.”

Picture credit- Asian Age

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