14 May, 2021

She Speaks The Azadi Tongue

Fed up with troubled marriages, women in Kashmir are seeking divorce and getting it—from regular and Sharia courts

Narendra Bisht
She Speaks The Azadi Tongue

Standing on a pile of rubble in the verdant landscape of Lolab Valley flecked with apple and walnut trees, Shaheena, a 34-year-old social worker with hazel-green eyes, says she’s happy to be finally free—of the fetters of yesterday in Lolab town, the land of sweet water, in northwest Kashmir. Her confident gait and exuberance mark her out in the little village of Lalpora as she des­cends from a pile of debris wearing a thick black coat on a freezing January morning. “You see, that’s where I live with my son,” she says, pointing to the burnt-orange building that has been her home for the few years since she declared independence.

Later, sipping kahwa in rusty silver cups, Shaheena pours out her story. Married to a distinguished maulvi from her village in 2001, she had hoped for a contented life after a year-long courtship. “I thought he’s well-read and would keep me happy, but within six months of marriage, I realised he’s two-faced,” she says. “Manzoor would abuse me physically and was...

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