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The Half Widow

Over the past three decades or so Kashmir has experienced political, social, economic and cultural turmoil and has suffered enormous hardship. The Kashmir freedom struggle and the state response to it have turned what once known as a paradise on earth into a warzone.

As the multi-cultural, synergetic Kashmiri identity was torn apart, the escalation of conflict made women the most vulnerable group of both, the patriarchal and traditional Islamic society and militarized state. Over the last two decades or more, the women of Kashmir have gone through immense turbulence, torture and trauma. The militancy and militarisation have produced a landscape of widows and half-widows, approximately estimated to 20,000 and 1500 respectively. Since the beginning of the insurgency, thousands of Kashmiris have gone missing. Among the disappeared men, there were many who were married and the wives, they have left behind who are now known as 'half-widows'.

The term 'half-widows' refers to women who do not know whether their husbands are alive or dead i.e. women whose husbands are 'missing' and the legal position of their status is yet to be clarified both by the clergy and the law. There are references that 'half-widow' is a term coined by the Kashmiri press to describe the women, the whereabouts of whose husbands are not known.

Over the years, many national and international media reports have highlighted the issues of half-widows. Informative articles published on popular websites and blogs have focused on the issue of women of Kashmir with special reference to half-widows. Various kinds of socioeconomic hardships affect half-widows which in turn deeply influence their children, family and society at large. Larger issues including psychological, economic, physical, social and legal problems of half-widows have received attention in gender focused studies dealing with the broader perspective of women and conflict in Kashmir.

This series of photographs were shot as a part of a research study, conducted on the half widow community by the Indian Social Institute in collaboration with AMAN Trust.