The half-widows of Kashmir
A discourse of enforced disappearance
Keywords:kashmir conflict, disappearance, detention, half-widow, psychological trauma, economic distress
Women all over the globe have to struggle for their sustenance as well as for justice. Most of such narratives are common in conflict zones, where women have to bear unfavourable circumstances, indifferent society, absence of laws, poor rehabilitation mechanism and unresponsive government machinery. Women whose husbands have been subjected to enforced ‘disappearances’ are often called ‘half widows’. Half widows illustrate one of the starkest forms of the general insecurity in Kashmir. The wives and mothers of men who have ‘disappeared’, who have been picked up and taken into custody by the authorities, or killed, remain in a tragic state of suspense. They are unaware of their true marital identity and in the complete absence of information on the fate of their loved ones. The half-widows do not get to know about their husbands, whether they are dead or alive and live in the hope that one day they may return home. However, they continue to live their lives, seeking livelihoods, supporting their children financially and emotionally. The absence of any assured rehabilitation measures renders them emotionally bruised, psychologically traumatized, economically disturbed and even physically crippled. These half-widows continue to suffer in silence, the lack of a structured database is painfully evident as no thorough record has been maintained or comprehensive survey conducted to measure the problem realistically. Therefore, in order to seek recognition, and thus redress, this paper documents the saga of such women in the context of liminality and exception.
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