June 22, 2008

Girls Intercepted

Forced marriages and honor killings are serious problems in Pakistan. Anyone who reads international news of substance knows this. Officers of the Indian Army ought not to be an exception. For one, forced marriages are not unheard of in India, although not with as violent consequences as they are in Pakistan. More importantly, it's about a matter of international scorn for their arch rival. When a woman crosses over into India from Pakistan, seeking refuge from a marriage that is forced upon her, what would you expect? In any other country that minds its national interest, it would be instant fodder for international propaganda. If nothing else, it'd have been worthy of a couple of thunderous speeches by human rights activists in the World Socialist Forum!

The land of Gandhi is not a nation that preys on the plight of innocent civilians, you say. Doing an Elián Gonzáles on refugees seeking asylum will not be consistent with the founding father's dreams. Fine, the incident won't find its way into the grist mill then, but what would you expect from a humanitarian angle? IANS reports:

Jammu: Two teenaged girls from Pakistan-administered Kashmir entered Indian territory crossing the Line of Control (LoC) Saturday apparently to escape forced marriages back home, army officials here said.

They said the two girls, in their late teens, approached Indian troops in the Rajouri sector, saying that they had come to the Indian side to escape forced marriages being arranged by their families. More details were not available.

The officials said the girls, who say they are sisters, would be handed over to the Pakistan Army after questioning.[emphasis mine]

Handed over to the Pakistan Army after questioning? You must be kidding!

To be fair, it's quite possible that the ladies are bluffing their way into India. Perhaps, they are ISI spies. No, that doesn't make sense; why would India return suspected Pakistani spies to the Pakistan Army? They are minors, and the Indian law demands that they be returned to their parents/guardians. May be, but it's a matter for the Indian courts to decide the right course of action, and not the Indian Army. What if, on questioning, the army officers found out that the two girls crossed the LoC to watch B-grade Bollywood movies banned in Pakistan? Well, it wouldn't be such a bad idea, shielding young and impressionable minds from the corrupting influences of Himesh Reshammiya and Salman Khan, would it?

Kiran Bedi, Madhu Kishwar, and Medha Patkar, where are you when your voices need to be heard the most?

  1. I am not sure what the Indian Army should be doing in this case - hold them in custody until someone from their family comes over to take charge - the very family which was forcing a marriage on them and where they are no longer safe?
    Bring them into India as asylum seekers? Can we claim better status for women in this country if they were to come and live here - may be not forced marriage but in other aspects especially for two refugee women?
    It is SOP for the army to question people who cross over and hand them back to the army if they don't seem like spies or terrorists right?

  2. Usha:
    I don't know what the Standard Operating Procedure for the Indian Army is. I hope it does not include the handing over these two hapless women to the Pakistan Army.

    The two have, on their own volition, sought refuge in India, a supposedly secular, democratic country that has signed on to a multitude of international resolutions pertaining to women's rights. The least that I'd expect the army to do, is to hand them over to a GO or an NGO that professes to be engaged in women's welfare and protection services.

  3. You will not find the celeb activists here. After all, they get invited for the kebab parties in Rawalpindi and Lahore, don't they?

  4. I hope they don't hand them over to Pakistani Army! Why not give them asylum? At least women have some rights here. Did not hear about this...but isn't this a sad, sad proof of how terrible life for women in this region?? How safe are the girls with any army...Manorama case and many other such cases,...I hope the girls achieve whatever they wanted- probably asylum.

  5. Well, well. Such bleeding hearts!! :D


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