VIPs' Daughters Lose Rights
6 March 2004
Srinagar: Daughters of the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, and the former Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah, are among scores of women who will lose their rights for opting to marry outside the State. While being champions of the State's special status guaranteed under Article 370 of the Constitution, Mr. Sayeed and Dr. Abdullah are forced to ignore the rights of their own daughters who are married outside the State. The issue has been under discussion for many decades in the higher echelons of power since a number of girls from influential families have chosen to tie the knot with grooms outside the State. Though the rights were never guaranteed to such women under the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, by which the unique title of 'State subject' is granted to a citizen of the State, the High Court had ruled that women marrying outside the State would have the same rights as men. This necessitated the tabling of a Bill, which was passed in the Assembly yesterday. There have been strong protests against the passage of the Bill, but what makes it more significant is that among the losers is Mr. Sayeed's daughter, Rubaiya Sayeed, who is married to a man from Chennai. Two daughters of Dr. Abdullah have also married outsiders. His youngest daughter, Sara, recently married Sachin Pilot, son of Rajesh Pilot, and the elder is married to a British national. However, his eldest daughter, Safia, is married to a Kashmiri and lives in Srinagar. The National Conference has also vociferously supported the Bill and even criticised the Government for withdrawing the special leave petition filed in the Supreme Court against the High Court order. However, according to the Law Minister, Muzaffar Hussain Beig, it was done to facilitate legislation. Both families were guarded in reacting to the development since they have been supportive of the move. When contacted, Dr. Abdullah told The Hindu , 'I do not have any reaction.' The People's Democratic Party president, Mehbooba Mufti, who is another daughter of Mr. Sayeed, also avoided a direct reply saying, 'Yes, she (Rubaiya) will lose her rights.' Not only the daughters of these two families, Rubina Malhotra, grand-daughter of the former Jammu and Kashmir 'Prime Minister' (as the then chief minister was known), Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad, is married to the son of the former Punjab Governor, Surinder Nath. Jehan Ara Naqshbandi, daughter of a Kashmiri judge, has also married an outsider. Besides, there are scores of Kashmiri women who are married outside the country, mostly in Pakistan, and are worried about their status. However, there are many women married outside Jammu and Kashmir but settled here and nobody knows how they have acquired property in the State. The daughters of a former Ambassador, A.G. Goni, and an educationist, Sahibzada Mehmood, were married to non-State subject IPS officers, Azhar Nomani and S.S. Ali, but continue to live in the State. Questions are also being raised in regard to women whose marriages have broken and have nobody to look after them. The new law is silent about this.