Half-widow is a unique term given to married Kashmiri women of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) whose husbands have disappeared and are still missing since they have not been declared deceased. The term was coined sometime during the decades of conflict in Indian Occupied Kashmir when Kashmiri men disappeared, mostly in the custody of Indian security forces. Unfortunately, these innocent women are called “half-widows“, since they are officially not considered widows and they have no idea whether their husbands are alive or martyred. The situation of these ill-fated women depicts the sad saga of human rights in IOK.

It is most noteworthy that several internationally credible newspapers and media channels such as “The Guardian” and “Al-Jazeera” have published comprehensive reports highlighting this dreadful issue comprising of interviews of several half-widows, which aim to highlight human rights abuses particularly, the miseries of half-widows in occupied Kashmir. The heart-breaking stories narrated by the victims in their interviews are earth-shattering.

There is a criminal silence regarding this issue on part of the international community in general and the world governing bodies in particular. The failure of the United Nations to help half-widows of Indian Occupied Kashmir has increased the sufferings of Kashmiri men and women. The failure in taking appropriate action against Indian atrocities has encouraged the Indian security forces to further violate human rights with impunity.

Kashmiris in occupied Kashmir have faced illegal detentions, extrajudicial killings, gang rapes, intimidations, humiliations and most horrible laws. The Indian security forces are empowered with unique powers under draconian laws that permit the Indian forces to storm houses, and rough up the unarmed residents, including women and girls. Terrorism has in-fact taken on an exclusively different meaning in Indian Occupied Kashmir; what the United Nations Security Council resolutions categorically say is the right of self-determination (holding free and fair plebiscite to decide the question of accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir), Indian government propagates that it is terrorism despite the fact that it was the Indian state led by the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehruw ho took the Kashmir issue to the United Nations Security Council that led to the grant of right of self-determination to the people of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

In reality, India is sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan. The confessional video statement given by a serving Indian Naval officer namely, Kulbhushan Yadav says enough about Indian State sponsored terrorism in Pakistan. He said “I was hired by RAW in 2013 as the head of operations in Baluchistan and Karachi and assisting BLA was also under my responsibilities…….I was assigned to give financial support to Baloch insurgents, killing of Pakistanis, destroying the sensitive installations in Baluchistan, and conducting bomb blasts”. He was arrested by Pakistani intelligence agencies (Bravo!). Undoubtedly, it is a huge success for Pakistan.

It is most noteworthy that Article 1(1) and 1(3)of the “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” (Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966 entry into force 23 March 1976, in accordance with Article 49) is of great significance in respect of the Kashmiris’ right of self determination. The Article 1(1) stipulates:“All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”. And the aforementioned Article 1(3) stipulates: “The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations”.

The movement in Kashmir cannot be dismissed as acts of terrorism. Kashmiris are not terrorists. It is a struggle for independence of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It is a movement for gaining the right of self-determination which was pledged to the people of Kashmir by the United Nations. Indian army is mercilessly killing pro-freedom activists, including young men and women. Indian establishment is scared of the natural alliance between the people of Pakistan and Kashmir. Therefore, Indian establishment is all out to crush the Kashmiri Freedom Movement with brutal force in the garb of countering terrorism. However, in this age of modernity, India cannot camouflage the gigantic peaceful demonstrations comprising of unarmed men, women and children.

It is praiseworthy that many Indian intellectuals and rights activists have categorically condemned Indian aggression against the people of occupied Kashmir. For instance, renowned and respected Professor S.A.R Geelani (Former Professor, Delhi University) took principle stance against the unprincipled hanging of Kashmiri activist Afzal Guruand the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union President Kanhaiya Kumar has also strongly condemned human rights abuses committed against women in occupied Kashmir. Now these brave men like many others are paying the price of speaking the truth. They were arrested on sedition charges and are now facing criminal cases in the Indian Courts. They have committed the offence of exposing the actual face of the Indian establishment.

In 2009, the Guinness Book of World Records declared Kashmir as the “planet’s largest militarized territorial dispute”. The disappeared men could be buried in mass graves(The mass graves of occupied Kashmir - Another forgotten issue), labeled as foreign rebels because the Indian troops are paid rewards and honored with medals for killing (alleged) foreign rebels.

The book titled “Kashmir: Happy Valley, Valley of Death”, authored by Prof. William Baker sheds much light on the plight of the innocent Kashmiris living under Indian oppression. The unresolved Kashmir issue has resulted in untold miseries, including the misfortune that befell the half-widows of occupied Kashmir. The Indian forces (approximately, 700,000 soldiers) stationed in occupied Kashmir are continuously committing heinous crimes against humanity. However, still the nations that are purportedly champions of human rights and democracy prefer to remain silent (obviously, for commercial reasons) over the human rights abuses committed in occupied Kashmir.

The half-widows in occupied Kashmir are still awaiting their husbands. Justice delayed is justice denied. Undoubtedly, these women have been denied justice for years. It is a matter of human rights of the thousands of disappeared men and their half-widows. Therefore, the civilized citizens of the world(including upright Indian writers, lawyers, journalists, students and rights activists) should not remain silent spectators anymore. Every enlightened person should strive for the protection of the human rights regardless of the religion, ethnicity or nationality of the victims. Therefore, let us sincerely pledge to remind the international community in general and the world governing bodies in particular (via all modes of communication including twitter, facebook and other social media websites) that there are thousands of half-widows awaiting justice in Indian Occupied Kashmir.