Women in Kashmir, whose husbands went missing during the over two-decade long militancy, can remarry if their spouses remained untraced for four years, a group of prominent Muslim scholars in the Valley have held.
The decision has been welcomed by human rights groups, which said it will bring relief to over 1,500 so called 'half-widows' in Kashmir whose husbands have allegedly disappeared during the last two decades and many of whom are living in pathetic conditions due to lack of clarity on issues of re-marriage and inheritance.
The decision on re-marriage of such women was taken by various scholars from different schools of thought at the conclusion of consultations over the issue, organised by 'Ehsaas' -- a civil society group -- in Srinagar on Thursday.
Mohammad Saeed-ur-Rehman Shamas of Anjuman-e-Nusratul Islam said a detailed 'fatwa' or religious decree in this regard will be issued soon.
The 'ulemas' (scholars) reached a consensus in the light of Islamic teachings that any half-widow who intends to remarry can do so if their spouse remains untraced for four years, he told PTI.
"We discussed the issue threadbare in the light of Islamic teachings in accordance with different schools of thought and reached a conclusion that any half-widow who intends to remarry can do so after their husband remained untraced for four years," Shamas, who was among the scholars at the meet, said.
The ulemas also resolved that the issue of property in respect of such women should be resolved according to Islamic law, Shamas said.
The decision assumes significance as there had been no consensus among the local Islamic scholars over the re-marriage and property rights of the "half widows", a term used for women whose husbands have gone missing and it is not known whether they are alive or not.
The state government has established a screening committee under an order which says ex-gratia relief can only be accessed by "half-widows" after a period of seven years of disappearance of their husbands.
However, as per the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act 1939, a married Muslim woman is entitled to obtain a decree for the dissolution of her marriage if the whereabouts of the husband are not known for a period of four years.
This remedy is also available if the husband has neglected or failed to provide for her maintenance for a period of two years or the husband has been sentenced to imprisonment for a period of seven years and more and finally if the husband has failed to perform, without any reasonable cause, his marital obligations for a period of three years.
Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society and Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons praised the decision, saying the guidelines have brought the issue of half-widows back to focus.
"The half-widows were living in pathetic conditions and so far only two women whose husbands have gone missing have re-married.
"These women (half-windows) have devoted their whole life in search of their husbands and taking care of their children. I am not sure they would remarry. But there has to be guidelines to address the issue of re-marriage and addressing property and inheritance issues," APDP chairperson Parveena Ahangar said.
JKCCS coordinator Khuram Pervez said there are over 1500 half widows in Kashmir and the decision of the ulemas is a welcome step.
Image: Naseema Dar holds a photograph of her missing husband Mehraj-ud-Din Dar, in her house in Srinagar
Photograph: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters