Wives of disappeared persons in Kashmir can remarry, rule scholars

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 Kashmir 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 said.

"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.

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