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'Who is Mufti to decide who I marry?'

Last updated on: March 12, 2004 21:09 IST

Women from Jammu and Kashmir married to 'outsiders' and settled in Mumbai have expressed strong reservations against the Permanent Residents (Disqualification) Bill passed in the state assembly this week.

The bill seeks to bar women from Jammu and Kashmir who have married non-locals from inheriting property in the state.

Also read: J&K's perverse legislation

"Why discriminate against women?" asks Yasmin Sheikh, a 26-year-old Srinagar resident married to a Mumbai-born journalist. "What wrong did they do? Why are we being treated like second-class citizens? The government's objective is so shameful that it is not possible for me to describe it in words," she adds.

"If my husband needs money after my death then he cannot sell my father's property to support himself," points out  Sakina Khan, who is married to a travel agent. "This is also applicable to my children. I think (J&K Chief Minister) Mufti Mohammed Sayeed should rethink the matter," she says.

In an interview to on Tuesday, Mehbooba Mufti, president of the People's Democratic Party and the Mufti's daughter, said, "What we had done was merely to reintroduce the bill in the House, which seeks to protect the rights of the state subjects over their properties. This bill was introduced by Maharaja Hari Singh at the instance of Kashmiri Pandits and the Dogras of Jammu who felt that outsiders married their women in order to grab their properties."

But the Mumbai-based Kashmiris say they are surprised that the same rules will not apply to men in case the bill, which has now been referred to a select committee of the J&K legislature, becomes law.

"Kashmiri girls never dreamt of marrying someone from Jammu 20 years ago," says Pratibha Sharma, who works in Bollywood and is married to a Punjabi. "They only married people from Kashmir. But they are now forced to marry people from outside the state as many of them left the valley after militancy broke out," she adds.

She feels Kashmir Pandit girls "will suffer the most because of this bill. There are hardly any Kashmiri Pandit girls living in Kashmir. The chances are that many of them will end up marrying people from other states."

"It is better to marry a person I know rather than marry a Kashmiri I don't know. Who is Mufti Mohammed Sayeed to decide who I should marry?" asks Sakina Khan.

Some names have been changed to protect the women's identities

Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Mumbai