Kashmir: The moral dimension

Civil society in India needs to awaken to the colossal dimension of the humanitarian crisis that confronts tens of thousands of young widows and orphans in the violence-hit Valley

Over the past two years, through regular visits that I have made to Kashmir, the abandonment of the ordinary Kashmiri, caught in the crossfire between militants and security forces, has come starkly to me. Each visit has made me guilty, when I see the absence of any involvement by Indian civil society in the plight of the ordinary Kashmiri.

The present conflict has gone on for almost 13 years now. The consequences of violence in Kashmir are enormous in terms of human and social costs. Look at the staggering figures — 50,000 dead, several hundred missing, around 30-40,000 young widows and about the same number of orphans. No one really has any authentic figures since proper, independent surveys of all the districts in the Valley as well as Jammu region have not been made.

Having been involved in the relief and rehabilitation process following the Mumbai riots and the serial bomb-blasts in December ’92–January ’93 and March 1993, I was keen to find out how rehabilitation work, if any, had been handled in J&K.

About 16 months ago, a visit to five villages in Baramulla district proved shattering. Of the 35 widows whom we actually met, only two had received the compensation of Rs. 1 lakh, an amount the family of a victim is entitled to. In response to our inquiries we were told that many of them had made several visits to the concerned authorities, spending a lot of time and money. In the end they were informed that there were 8,000 applications pending in the file and there was no money to pay them.

However, at another level, the chief secretary denied that the families of victims were not paid compensation or that there was no fund for this purpose. Some time ago, the state’s Rehabilitation Council was set up to address all these issues. However, the Council, strapped as it is for funds, has not made any significant interventions.

Following my repeated queries, the chief secretary arranged a meeting with the district commissioner of Baramulla. It was at this meeting that I understood the root cause of the frequent complaints. Under the government scheme, families of militants killed are not entitled to receive any compensation. This excludes a large number of widows right away. As for the others, the procedure is so complicated and cumbersome that a lot of people simply give up pursuing it.

The Divisional Commissioner of Baramulla explained the procedure involved in giving compensation to victims of militancy-related violence as described below –

  • Families of those killed in crossfire are entitled to full compensation of rupees one lakh.
  • Owners of houses destroyed during the action are entitled to receive 50% value of the house. This should not exceed the amount of rupees one lakh.
  • For those injured during encounters, the compensation is: Rs. 75,000 for those with permanent disability, Rs 10,000 for those with grave injury, Rs 1,000 for those with light injury.
  • A widow intending to remarry can receive Rs 10,000. This is apart from whatever other compensation she may receive. This provision has been made with a view to socially rehabilitate the widows.
  • The families of the militants are not entitled to receive any compensation.
  • Ø Those who harbour militants are not entitled to receive any compensation.

Twice a month, in each district, the District Level Coordinating committee (DLCC) holds a meeting. The district commissioner is the chairman of this committee. Other members include a brigadier or colonel from the army, a brigadier or a colonel from the Rashtriya Rifles, a DIG or local commandant of the BSF and the SSP of the J&K police.

The committee reviews, discusses and takes decisions regarding different issues –

1. The number of dead or injured during militancy-related violence and private or public property damaged during the month. The local units of the specific security agency operating in that area, as well as the police who have to register every incident, each give separate reports to the DLCC. Only after these agencies give no objection and the DLCC approves, do the district authorities give compensation money through a bank draft to the victims or their families.

2. Location issues – If government buildings such as schools or colleges are occupied, they are gradually to be handed back.

3. If security forces are occupying vacant houses of migrants, this is discussed at DLCC meetings and rent is fixed.

4. Civic Action – Organising medical camps, setting up of community centres, addressing drinking water and irrigation problems.

The rupees one-lakh compensation to the victim’s family does not automatically go to the widow. This is distributed according to Mohammedan law. It means one eighth going to the father of the victim, another eighth to the mother while the rest is divided between the widow and her children. If the victim has a dependant brother or sister they too get their share.

The division of compensation money is carried out by the administration according to how many members in a family are claimants. This money is put into a fixed deposit. However, this is not a fixed term deposit as is the case elsewhere in the country. In the case of the families of victims during Mumbai riots, they were not allowed to touch the fixed deposits for ten years.

In Bombay or elsewhere in the country, the compensation money was not divided amongst the family members. In Kashmir, this division has been unfair to the widows since as the amount they finally receive is very small. The widow also loses out on the interest that could have been earned, had the entire amount been put into a fixed deposit in her name.

Members of civil society from within and outside Kashmir could help the families of survivors to access rehabilitation and compensation. Today, widows and other members of survivor families are victims of terror and trauma, which prevents them from responding adequately to the humanitarian crisis they face.

In 1993, the National Foundation for Communal Harmony was set up by the then Union home minister, SB Chavan. It gives scholarships for the education of children who are orphaned during communal riots. Unfortunately, orphans of the Kashmir conflict are not included under this scheme. If we want to decontaminate the future from the poison of hate, anger and revenge, do we not need to invest in these orphans? Would our neglect and indifference not lead them to become future militants?

Archived from Communalism Combat, January-February 2002 Year 8  No. 75-76, Special Report 1



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