Human Rights

Orphaned Kashmiri women — Caught between ignorance and legalities

Srinagar: It has been a long fight for 24-year-old Shaista Bilal, a resident of Chakloo in north Kashmir’s district Baramulla. She has been struggling hard to get her father’s share in the ancestral property. Caught between ignorance and legalities, she finds herself abandoned and helpless.

Shaista was hardly two months old when her father, Bilal Ahmad Peer, a surrendered militant, was allegedly kidnapped by some unidentified gunmen from his home in 1993. His whereabouts remained untraced since. It has been a long struggle for her all these years but she hopes to get justice.  

As the whereabouts of her father were unknown for long, along with her mother she went to live with her maternal grandparents, as happened in majority of such cases. After waiting for seven long years, her mother remarried and she has four children from her second marriage. Shaista argued that her mother could not stay in herfirst husband’s house for long after his whereabouts went missing. A notion runs deep in the society here that if father passes away before grandfather,former’s children get no share in the property as they (the children) become what is locally known as Aizal. Same happened in her case and she was denied any share in the property that her father would inherit.

Turning emotional, Shaista lamented that the children who lose their parents at young age should have no right to live as they face innumerable problems at every stage of life. Shaista was fortunate to have her maternal grandparents around and they looked after her. Her grandfather, who was a contractor, provided her all the support to acquire higher studies. “My grandparents looked after all my needs. But still a void remained….” Shaista recollected how her grandfather took her to school and tried to fulfill all her needs and wishes. She loved to study as she had been told by her mother that her father wanted her to excel in studies. “Ilm badee dulat hai… Padhnae se toh izzat hai aur woh meray papa ka khawab bee tha (Education is a real treasure and you earn respect as well. Above all it was my father’s dream).Currently, she is pursuing her bachelors in education and post-graduation in Public Administration through IGNOU. She aspires to be a teacher/professor or make her career in public services.

Shaista said that her maternal grandfather has grown old and weak and over the past few years has been unable to financially support her. “Now instead of supporting me, he himself needs support,” she emphasized. She is trying hard to get SRO-43 sanctioned in her favour but her parental aunt creates obstacles for her on one pretext or other. The aunt wants her to give up her share in her parental property. “Money is not everything, relations too mean something. Kis kaam ki hai insaniyat if it does not help needy and orphans.” She added that all formalities and documentation (police and CID verification etc.) related to SRO-43 was complete, still her file was pending in the office of Deputy Commissioner Baramulla. Her grandfather had been contesting the case over the past two decades and Shaista thoroughly followed it over the past five years. 

Shaista’s parental family owns around 20 kanals of land and Shaista would be happy even to get just three kanals of land as her share. “That is my right and I should get it. With this all my financial instability would end and I too would lead a decent life. My (maternal) grandparents are now too old to look after my needs and other responsibilities.” She does not want to tie a nuptial knot at this stage but wants to develop a career for herself. However, deep in her heart she knows that marriages incurs a lot of expenses and she or her grandparents cannot afford it. Her mother seldom visits her but cannot support her due to her additional responsibilities.

Being denied any share in the property, Shaista’s grandfather had approached the court in 2003 but the case was dismissed in the District Court Baramulla. Later, she filed a case here in the office of Financial Commissioner Revenue claiming a share in the property. Her next hearing in the case is next October and she hopes to get justice. Her parental grandfather passed away in 1997.

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