Kashmir Widows, Orphans Worst-hit

Kashmir Widows, Orphans Worst-hit

23 January 2012
Gulf News


Jammu: Officially the figures are 9,000 widows and 25,000 orphans, but activists claim the figures are much higher. Women and children have been among the worst hit in the more than two decades-old terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir. Providing them relief and rehabilitation is now 'among the priorities of the state government,' a state minister says. Sakina Itoo, the lone woman minister in Jammu and Kashmir who looks after the Social Welfare department, said: 'I am personally monitoring it, we cover almost all those rendered widowed and orphaned by militancy under aid and assistance and rehabilitate them.' Rough estimates with the Jammu and Kashmir Rehabilitation Council suggest there are nearly 9,000 women whose husbands were killed in militants' strike and about 25,000 children became orphans. But Nigat Pandit, who runs an NGO in Kashmir Valley, contests this by saying the number of widows is much higher. She says: 'If on average ten people were killed daily from 1990 till 2000, and 50 per cent of them were married, then one can see how many were widowed.' Sakina, whose father Wali Mohammad Itoo, a veteran National Conference leader, was shot dead by militants in March 1994, does not contest the point that the number of widows could be higher. The Rehabilitation Council is giving monetary help of Rs750 (Dh54) to 51,267 widows registered with it. Around 2,866 aged persons whose earning son-s got killed and 1,067 rendered handicapped in militancy are also getting financial help. 'Besides this, we are giving money for studies of those orphaned.' The Rehabilitation Council was created in 1996 and has to date spent about Rs500 million in such aid and assistance. The minister also pointed there are more than 3,000 widows of killed militants 'whom neither their parents nor in-laws are accepting. We do not have any provision to help them under the pension scheme.' But Sakina said such women could get loans from the Women Development Corporation (WDC) to start their own enterprises. However, many widows and orphans complain they have not got any aid or assistance from the government. Hamida Begum, 30, was widowed in 2006. She could not manage to get government help. 'Now I am cleaning utensils in three households to survive.' Told about such cases, the minister said: 'Such widows and orphans who have been harassed by officials can straight come to me. My doors are always open for them.'