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The abode of pain

Located close to the line of control in Indian administered Kashmir, Dardpora has around 300 widows mostly widowed by the conflict. Shahnawaz Khan travels to this village of widows that echoes the times Kashmir has been through.

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Dardpora, Kashmir
Mar 07, 2006:

Dardpora couldn’t have a better name. Translated into English, 'Dard' means pain and 'Pora' the abode. Most of the residents of Dardpora are poor. Add to it around 300 widows, mostly widowed by the conflict in Kashmir.

For the sheer number of widows Dardpora is at times referred to as the ‘village of widows’. Most of the widows here are ones whose husbands were militants and killed by Indian armed forces in anti insurgency operations. There are also a good number of widows whose husbands, were killed by militants on charges of being informers for the troops.

“When the movement broke out in Kashmir it came as a doom for this village” says Haseena, 40, a widow in Dardpora referring to the anti India insurgency that broke out in Indian administered Kashmir in 1989. Unofficial sources say more than 80,000 people have died in the ongoing conflict in Kashmir.

Haseena’s husband, Sher Wali, a militant was killed by security forces in 1993 leaving her alone to fend for their four children. Her daughter Saima 15, has developed a tumour in the stomach.

“She has returned incurable from Mahrashtra” says Haseena pointing towards Saima, who she says was taken to Maharashtra for treatment by a local NGO.

“Only God knows about our condition. I tell other villagers that we are fine. What will I get out of lamenting? No one is going to help me.” says Haseena, adding most people in the village were too poor to help them.

Haseena has raised loans many a times on her land to take care of her family. She hasn’t repaid any installments.

“How will I pay the installments? I have no source of income. In the end I will lose the land meant for my children. jayyegi zameen yateemo ki. (The land of orphans will go)” she says, adding she has already sold some of the land.

The Jammu and Kashmir government pays an ex gratia relief of INR 100,000 to the kin of people killed in the conflict. Haseena doesn’t qualify to receive the money as his husband was a militant.

“Pakistan can’t pay anything to us. India doesn’t pay anything to us. Whenever I apply for any kind of assistance from the government, the applications are returned from Delhi, saying he (my husband) was a militant"

“My husband was a militant. But my children are not. I never picked up gun. Why are my children punished? Why am I punished?” asks Haseena.

Like Haseena, none of the widows of militants received any compensation from the state. Only the widows of men killed by militants received the ex gratia amount. Haseena however adds the condition of those widows too isn’t any better.

“1 lakh ki hota hai sahib, aap ghar chalatein hain, jante hain ek saal ka kharcha hai. (What is 1 lac (100,000) you know, just enough for one year).”

In Dardpora Haseena’s is just one story repeated every few paces. Jannati, 45, has seven children, among them five daughters. Her husband, Mohammed Sadiq Mir, a militant was killed in 1994. “He had gone to Kralpora, a nearby village. He was arrested there and killed the next day” says Janati.

Janti relies on menial jobs and help from her neighbours to feed her family. She says she has no resources to marry off her elder daughters. She did not raise any loans fearing she may lose the little land she has.

Naseema, 30, was widowed one and a half year after marriage. Her husband, Syed Noor Hassan Shah a cadre of Hizbul Mujahideen was killed in 1997. Physically challenged Naseema is dependent on help from neighbours and relatives. She has also raised a loan for the education of her son.

55 year old Shaha’s husband was killed by militants. To add to her tragedy, her 10 year old son whom she sent to Punjab never returned.

“The person whom he had gone to work for told us that he had left for home. But he never reached home. What happened to him we do not know.” Says Shaha.

Rehmatullah Khoja, 60, resorts to begging to take care of his grandchildren. His son Ghulam Qadir Khoja was a militant. His eyes shine as he relates the tale of his son.

“He always gave a slip to the army,” boasts Khoja, adding he eluded the troops for eight years.

Khoja’s daughter in law remarried and left her children with him. Khoja’s second son lives with his family.

“He has had five surgeries. He has a family. What will he give to me. He hasn’t enough for himself” says Khoja.

After the armed anti India insurgency broke out in Kashmir, a large number of youth crossed the line of control to take up arms.

Dardpora was one of the favorite crossover routes to Pakistan administered Kashmir, says Mir Ghulam Rasool a retired school teacher in Dardpora.

“As many people would take this route to cross over to the other side, the youth of Darpora were also vulnerable, perhaps the reason for so many causalities in the village.” Mir says.

Mir claims the villagers are too poor to help the widows and the large number of widows scares away those who come to help.

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