Dardpora (Kupwara), Dec 9: Nearly a hundred girls who lost their fathers in militancy-related incidents in this north Kashmir hamlet are of marriageable age but there is nobody to take care of them. The village has lost 300 of its men in the last 18 years.
"Dozens of orphaned girls here are waiting for grooms, but nobody is ready to marry these helpless girls. They live in pathetic conditions; I fear that if immediate steps are not taken, it'll bring a catastrophe," Mir Ghulam Rasool Dardpori, a social activist of the area told Greater Kashmir.
Quoting an example, he said, last year a girl, aged 30, "came to me and sought my help in getting married." Her father, the only breadwinner of the family had been killed by the Army 15 years ago. "She told me that if nobody comes to her help she would be forced to take some wrong step. With the help of some village elders, we managed something for her, but such cases are in huge number here," Rasool rued.
His views were shared by Naseema Begum, the widow of Qasim Khoja, who has five daughters. "My husband was killed by the Army in early Nineties and since then I have been virtually begging to feed my family. My two elder daughters are almost 30 but I'm not able to marry them," Naseema said.
Another widow, Gul Jane, said, "I've two daughters who are of marriageable age. But I don't have resources to get them married."
Muhammad Gulzar Mir, a retired employee of the area, said, "On an average Rs 10,000 are being spent here on a marriage. It is a downtrodden village, and to arrange Rs 10,000 is a big deal. I appeal to philanthropists to come forward for helping these girls."
"If somebody wants to donate, he should either come here and donate the money personally or give it to some credible organization," he added.
Besides orphaned girls, Gulzar said there are some 50 young widows. "Though hundreds of women lost their husbands, 50 of them are as young as 20. They too need attention," he said.
Only 31 families of the 300 slain men were paid monetary relief by the government. Because of its hilly terrains the village has almost no agriculture land and only maize is being cultivated which too depends on rain.
Valley's leading sociologist and Head of Sociology and Social Work Department Kashmir University, Professor Bashir Ahmad Dabla warned that it will have disastrous effects if social initiative isn't taken immediately. "There is a need for social intervention to overcome the problem, and elders of the area should intervene and try to find a solution of the problem. Patriarchal authority finishes in the families where head of the family dies, and same has happened in Dardpora," he said.
Prof Dabla said that outside intervention in the area could prove counterproductive. "The village has its own customs and traditions of marriage, any interference could prove counterproductive. Existing realties are that organizations wishing to help should take local elders into confidence to marry these girls according to their own customs."
He, however, advised that instead of giving money to the victims, they should be provided services. "If money would be directly provided to them, they won't utilize it in proper direction. Instead they should be provided things required for marriage according to their custom," Prof Dabla added.