Srinagar: On a cold February night, Bilquees, 40, was beaten black and blue by her abusive husband before being thrown out of her home along with a 15-month-old daughter.
Hailing from Srinagar outskirts, Bilquees was unable to decide where to take shelter and who to contact. She went to one of the neighbor’s houses to spend the night.
“My parents are no more. My first marriage proved unsuccessful as my husband abandoned me along with a son. I gave my son up for adoption. Later a cleric married me to another man but my second marriage also proved unsuccessful,” she said.
Bilquees had a daughter from her second husband but he too was abusive and violent. “He used to beat me every other day and finally a few weeks ago he left me with a 15-month-old daughter. I have taken a room on rent and am living with my daughter. I do not know how I will pay the rent,” she said.
Kashmir Women’s Collective (KWC), an NGO, came to her rescue and decided to take care of the woman and her daughter. “Since she has no source of income, our members contributed and provided her food. We will manage her room rent as well,” Mantasha Binti Rashid, Founder of KWC said.
Another woman, Posha Khan was duped by a person who took all her money with a promise to invest in the business.
A Pashmina artisan, Posha, 55, was living with her brother since she had not married. “I left my brother’s house as he was not ready to take my responsibility anymore. I came to one of my friend’s home but I don’t want to become a burden for her. KWC is helping me a lot. However, their office is closed because of the lockdown and I have nowhere to go,” said Posha.
Mantasha said there are hundreds of such women who keep longing for the shelter, but it goes unreported.
“We have come across many such cases. It is very difficult to move out and help these women,” she said.
Social Activist, Ezabir Ali said if the government can arrange shelter homes for beggars, why not for abandoned women? “It is necessary to have shelter homes for such women so that they overcome emotional and psychological trauma,” she said.
Director Social Welfare, Ruksana Gani said they have taken up the matter regarding setting up shelter homes with the higherups.
“We are hopeful that the government will make a decision soon. In the meantime, we have been directed to hire rented accommodation for such women. But it will take time to set up such facility,” she said
Special Secretary Social Welfare Department, Rifat Arif said they don’t have any data available on the abandoned women in Kashmir. “No government department has conducted any survey. However, the process is on to set up shelter homes for destitute women,” she said.