Widows of kashmir are our subject of concern in the second part of the series Roaring Bullets And The Eerie Silence.
“Photo khechne aatey hai yeh log. Hamari lachari ka mazak banaya hai. Photo bech ke, khud paisa kamatey hain (These people photograph us and sell them for a profit. They are mocking our misfortune), accused Begum Khatana, a Gujjar widow with five children.
Think of a girl who takes her first step into womanhood to begin a journey of her own. Few steps down the road, she is jolted by the murder of her husband by the hands of the militants. Well-being of her son, his support and everything else related to him is now her aim. Few years later he is detained by army for his alleged links with terrorists. All is lost for her, yet she gathers her life out of the ashes and walks on when she is intervened by social miscreants.
This has become a part of the day to day life in Dardpora, a border village in Kashmir. Dardpora cannot have a better name. Translated into English, ‘Dard’ means pain and ‘Pora’ the abode… thereby meaning “abode of pain”. For the sheer number of widows, Dardpora is at times referred to as the ‘village of widows’. The village has about 300 orphans and 122 widows. Dozens of orphaned girls are aged 30 years or more and are waiting for grooms, but nobody is ready to marry these helpless girls. They live in pathetic conditions and if immediate steps are not taken, it’ll bring a catastrophe. Families whose members are killed by armed forces under the pretext of being militants are dubbed untouchables and what follows next is quite thinkable. Dardpora is without electricity, proper water supply and has only one middle school.
This village has almost become like a laboratory where people from within & outside the state keep pouring in for various research and survey work. They make tall promises but to this day, the villagers say, they never came back after their research was over. The villagers are so wary of outsiders that they do not trust them and do not want to talk about themselves.
Deaf and dumb Zaytoon’s story is a story of pain and anguish. Her husband Samad Khan died in Aug 2003 and has left behind three children, two daughters, Shakeela 11 years old, Parveena 3 and Farooq 5 years old. Shakeela, the eldest holding her siblings in her lap says, “my father died due to the incessant torture by army, every time he was arrested, he was tortured brutally and one day he turned insane, and finally, he died.” Death may have relieved Samad from pain but his family, wife and three children, continue to live and suffer, Zaytoon begs for a living. The upper (Pahari) Dardpora inhabitants claim their ancestors of Pakistani origin had migrated here for greener pastures for their cattle. But the grass is not always green on the other side of the fence and the progeny of Pahari Dardpora seem to have learnt it the hard way.
The village is too poor to help its widows and the large number of widows scares away those who come to help.
What shall we expect in a village, where live hundreds of widows and orphans almost double their number? Yeah it is Dardpora, the name itself conveying the meaning. Everywhere, there is pain & grief. The unending saga of tails of woe has no panacea.
It is said:
“A Hand That Rocks The Cradle Rules The World ”
But Dardpora seems to be a world different from the rest.
The writer is a Special Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.