Kashmiri Women Survive Forced Marriages To Militants, Tell Tale

9 February 2009

Kishtwar: Young girls and women of Jammu and Kashmir, who are surviving forced marriages to militants, allege that the ultras and their associates married young girls at gun point. Sixteen-year-old Fatima Bi of Kishtwar district narrates how the militants abducted her from her house four years ago. Fatima today has a child to take care of. She says that Sher Khan, the then divisional commander of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), a Pakistan militant group and his associates tortured her for eight days until she gave into their demands and agreed to marry Hashim, a HuJI worker. The teenager however was able to escape from the hideout of the militants and sought help of police after Sher Khan had been arrested. 'There was this one Bilal, then another one named Ansari, there was a third man also, I don't remember his name. They used to keep me in a room and beat me with iron rods. They used to tell me that if I don't get married according to their will and wish, I would have to face dire consequences. I used to tell them I want to get married to a man I chose for myself. Sher Khan used to head these people,' said Fatima Bi. Fatima says that there are many such incidents taking place and need to be checked by the authorities. 'Sher Khan used to abduct girls from our region on a regular basis. He got another girl from my area married to a militant,' added Bi. Fatima's in not an isolated case. Shehnaz of Doda district, other victims of forced marriage has a similar tale to tell. 'These militants they are dreadful people. They come to our village, sit and eat here, utter bad words for women, abuse them. But now the police is with us. I am sure we can also hit back at them,' said Shehnaz. She also said that the future of girls like her is in dark. Many have children to take care of. The militant husbands are arrested and the society sees them as outcast. The police in the region say that they are trying to tackle the issue. They say that many a times, like in the case of Fatima Bi, cases of wives running away are registered and it is only later that they get a version of a forced marriage from the girls. 'The girl has given a very different story. She has given a nerve shaking story in terms that she was forcibly married to a person against her will when she was a minor girl. It was done by a Sher khan and his associates who were running a HuJI organisation in this area,' said Haseeb Mughal, superintendent of police, Kishtawar district. Police officials say that the militants get married in order to mingle with the locals.