Kashmiri woman’s 15-year wait for husband

Srinagar : Whenever a postman enters this village in Kupwara district of Kashmir, Jameela Rayees cannot stop herself from rushing to the door in anticipation. What she is waiting for is her passport, so that she can go to Pakistan and look for her husband Shakir.

Shakir Ahmad Rayees fled to Pakistan along with a group of people in 1995 when militancy broke out in the state.

“I want to meet Shakir once before my eyes close forever,” Jameela, 42, told this correspondent.

The last time she saw her husband was in 2004, some months after India and Pakistan agreed on a ceasefire along the border. People from both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) were allowed to assemble on either banks of the Kishenganga river, from where they could see their separated loved ones and even toss gifts across the stream.

“I saw him in 2004 when he came on to the bank of the river. I burst into tears. He too was crying. I pleaded with him to come back home,” she remembers.

The facility was withdrawn by the two governments in 2009, and Jameela has no information about Shakir’s whereabouts ever since. Her fate is similar to many in the state — where passports are denied due to unsatisfactory security credentials.

According to a media report, around 3,000-3,500 Kashmiris are living in Pakistan- administered Kashmir and Pakistan after crossing over from Jammu and Kashmir. Police, however, were unable to give any such data.

Jameela’s passport application has been rejected four times as the police verification report mentions that her husband and some other relatives have migrated to Pakistan.

“I am illiterate and don’t have any political approach,” Jameela lamented .

Remembering her old days, Jameela said: “My marriage with Shakir was solemnised in 1988. But then militancy broke out and our lives were disrupted, perhaps forever. I don’t even know why he fled to Pakistan…perhaps he wanted to return after some time, but couldn’t.”

Life is tough for Jameela and her two kids Yasmeena and Tamheed, who study in Class 12 and 10 respectively.

Yasmeena was just 18 months old when Shakir left. Tamheed was expected. Jameela says she is at a loss for words whenever her children ask about their father.

“Whenever they ask about their father, I tell them that he will come the next day and they would easily believe me. Each day they await their father and each day they are disappointed. This has become a schedule for them.

“Whenever they are sad, they tell me – ‘If abbu was here, all our problems would be solved and he would care for us’,” Jameela sighed.

She said her in-laws care about her and the kids a lot, but Shakir’s absence during festivals and social gatherings is still heartbreaking.

“If it is written in my fate that I will meet my husband, then nothing can stop it, even these borders…,” she added.

The government has undertaken a rehabilitation policy for Kashmiris who had crossed over down the years and would now like to return.

Jameela’s case is typical of how political divides have sundered the lives of ordinary families. Kashmir has been in the throes of a bloody insurgency since 1989. While things have calmed down to a great extent, people like Jameela continue to feel a vacuum in their lives to this day.

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