Saturday, March 28, 2009
By Binoo Joshi
Jammu, March 28 (IANS) Not all marriages are made in heaven. Some are solemnised at the point of a gun - as many women and teenaged girls in Jammu and Kashmir will tell you.
Forced marriage to militants has wrecked their lives in the insurgency-wracked state. Fatima Bi, now 16, who belonged to Chatroo, a mountainous village in Kishtwar district, told IANS over telephone that she was just 12 when she was abducted by militants.
She was studying in Class 7 in a local government school when one day a group of four militants led by Sher Khan, then divisional commander of Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami (HUJI), barged into their house and kidnapped her.
“I was studying at that time when they abducted me,” she said.
“They took me to their hideout in the nearby forest where they beat me and tortured me for eight days. They hit me with rods on my thighs and threatened to kill my family if I did not marry Hashim Ditta,” she said.
She said Ditta was a close friend of Sher Khan and a helper of HUJI.
“She was forced to marry Ditta at gun point,” said a police officer in Kishtwar.
Fatima wanted to study and become a teacher. “But my dreams were shattered after they abducted and forcibly married me to Ditta,” Fatima said. Ten months after her marriage she gave birth to a son and her “childhood was snatched away when I delivered this baby”.
A “happy moment” for Fatima came when Sher Khan along with his two associates surrendered before the security forces last year.
“Except for bearing Ditta’s child I never took him as my husband and there never was any such feeling as it was a forced marriage that ruined me,” she said.
Sher Khan was sentenced to imprisonment for eight years. Fatima took this as an opportunity and fled Ditta’s house along with her infant son.
Ditta’s parents, however, lodged a missing person report with police. Fatima went to her relatives in an adjoining village and fell in love with a farmer.
Her second chance at life was however not so easy as the local clerics said even if it was a forced marriage, Fatima would have to live with Ditta until they got legally separated.
Similar is the story of 18-year-old Chana whose nightmare started in early 2007.
A Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA) militant called Farid fell for her when he saw her grazing cattle in the Chicha area of Kishtwar district. She too was forced to marry at gun point.
“I too had dreams of getting married to a well-to-do person with all the rituals,” said Chana. “But in forced marriages like ours it is just a couple of militants and a maulvi who form the marriage gathering.”
A few months later, a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant, Khalid, operating in the area, wanted to marry Chana and asked Farid to divorce her. But when Farid declined, the LeT militant shot him dead and also shot Chana in the left leg.
She was forced to marry Khalid and now lives with him along with her and Farid’s infant son.
-Indo-Asian News Service