Sheikh Mudasir Amin paints a grim picture of domestic violence against women and backs it up with the disturbing figures of the past seven years released by J&K Police.
The institution of marriage is losing its credibility in the Muslim-majority state of Jammu Kashmir. Suicides and alleged murders over marital disputes, and the burning of brides over dowry have become the order of the day. The courts are choked with such cases. Many died waiting decades without their cases being heard. Nafeesa, now 38-years-old, of K P Road Anantnag had imagined only good things for her when she got married to her high school sweetheart in 2016. And for about two months, life was as she had dreamt. Then, one fine day, her husband did not return home from work. She tried reaching him on the phone but it was switched off. She thought of going to Police but her in-laws dissuaded her. Nafeesa grew suspicious but she was not quite prepared for what came her way.
“I received a call after four days from my husband from a different phone number and he told me to arrange money for him from my parents amounting to lakhs of rupees. He said he would not come home until I did,” she sobbed. “I told him I couldn’t ask for such a huge sum of money as I had married him against my parents’ wishes but he remained adamant. Finally, when he didn’t come home even after eight months and settled somewhere without informing me, my in-laws compelled me to leave home. I was shocked. I went to my parents and told them everything. They refused to pay him and let alone console me, they held me responsible for it all and scorned me. One day, a postman came and handed me divorce papers sent by my husband. I refused to accept them and approached the court for relief the very next day. The matter has not been resolved yet. I am traumatized. I don’t know what to do. I think I am a burden on my family.”
There have been even more egregious cases of domestic harassment and violence that have led to murder.
Only recently, Rehana Gulzar, 35, a Female Multipurpose Health Worker (FMPHW) with the Health Department and a mother of three, was allegedly “burnt alive” by her in-laws in Ahm-e-Shareef area of north Kashmir’s Bandipore district.
She was married to one Lateef Ahmad Baba in 2009.
Her parents said she always complained of being treated harshly by her in-laws but “we never imagined they would go to the extent of killing her”.
“Domestic violence has risen of late in Kashmir owing to dowry demands, extra-marital affairs, especially in towns and cities, and it sometimes leads to murders and bride burning, which is a blot on our society,” said Iqbal Majeed Bhat, Assistant Professor, Social Work, Central University of Jammu. “Domestic violence laws should be made stricter and many changes are needed both in the IPC and the RPC only to make them more effective in curbing this trend.”
According to the official sources of J&K Police, 3960 cases relating to violence against women were reported during seven years in J&K in which 5150 accused were booked.
In Jammu district alone, 638 such cases have been reported followed by Srinagar city with 387, Doda 335, Udhampur 148, Poonch 135, Baramulla 105, Anantnag 79, Kishtawar 76, Kupwara 64, Ramban 58, Samba 51, Reasi 45, Rajouri 40, Ganderbal 32, Budgam 31, Pulwama 31, Bandipora 24, Shopian 24, Kulgam 18 and Kargil 4.
Another case that shocked Kashmir this year was that of Mudasir Aziz, a junior engineer and mother of a four-year-old son who committed suicide by jumping into the River Jhelum.
Her parents alleged that she was driven to suicide by her in-laws who always harassed her for no fault of hers.
Her husband Javaid Ahmad, his sister Naziya Shafi and his aunt Sabeena Majid have since been booked for abetment of suicide, domestic violence, and criminal conspiracy but are currently out on bail, and the case is hanging fire.
Mudasir’s body was fished out after 50 days.
She was a highly-educated woman with an M. Tech. from the University of Kashmir.
“This society needs a complete overhaul. Its courts, religious institutions, familial and social relationships have become worthless. A woman is as important a part of the society as a man, for without her the life will come to a standstill. Yet, she has been waiting for justice for centuries,” said Mohammad Samiullah, a social activist from Anantnag. “There have been many cases in recent years where, prima facie, a woman was killed by her in-laws and driven to suicide. But most of these cases have not been settled by the courts and the criminals are roaming free. In many of the other cases, the alleged murderers have been set free for lack of evidence. If all domestic violence cases are investigated and settled by the courts properly, it will help tackle this great social evil.”
It is not only women who suffer from broken marriages. There have been a few cases of men being murdered or driven to suicide as well. In Nowgam area of Srinagar recently, Police arrested the widow of Aabiro Shafi, a property dealer who is alleged to have killed him with the help of her paramour Tanveer Moulvi.
“Marriage as a sacred institution is losing its weight in our society. We are witnessing cases which, if reported properly, will make the people believe that it is better to die than get married,” said a prosecuting officer of the J&K Police on the conditions of anonymity. “We are investigating a case where the wife allegedly tries to cut off the genitals of her husband in his sleep after she developed an extramarital affair with a neighbour 10 years younger to her. She confessed, saying she had been asked to do this by her paramour. The idea was that the husband would then be compelled to let her have sexual relations with the neighbour so as to conceive. Our society is going from bad to worse. Not a day passes without our courts and police stations have to do with two or three cases of women trying to misuse Section 498-A (alleged harassment of married women) of the RPC against their men.”
Clearly, it is time for the Kashmiri society to take a hard look at itself.