For women, 'true freedom' will come this Independence Day
By VISHAL GULATI
Jammu, Aug 12 (IANS) Caught in the law and traditions, liberation for the women in real terms came with Jammu and Kashmir becoming the unions territory. A section of women feel that for them freedom has come 72 years too late, after the countrys Independence following the decision on Article 370 on August 5.
"We got freedom in the true sense now," an elated Radhika Kerni, a local resident, told IANS on Monday.
She said earlier women were "forced" to get married within the region only for, if they married someone from outside the state, they would lose their inheritance, including ancestral property rights.
"Now with the abolition of Article 370, we can proudly say we are residents of India, not of Jammu and Kashmir," an elated Kerni, who was born and brought up in Katra and married to Sanjeev Kerni of Jammu, said.
Another local resident Sangeeta Gupta said Article 370 abrogation would end discrimination against women.
"My first cousin lost her inheritance rights as she is married to a man belonging to Pathankot, which is located just on the border of Jammu and Kashmir. Now, I hope she can claim her rights on ancestral property which was earlier denied by her two brothers," she said.
She earlier surrendered her property rights owing to her helplessness. "Now the scrapping of Article 370 has restored not only their dignity in the real sense but also their rights," Gupta added.
As per the prevailing customary laws, a woman automatically loses her permanent resident certificate (PRC) or citizenship if she moves out of the state after getting married.
But if a man marries a woman belonging to the state and prefers to stay within the state, the bride continues to retain PRC status, but not her bridegroom. Their children born in the state will be automatically entitled for PRC status.
The "outsider" bridegroom is also entitled to buy land and property anywhere in the state, including Kashmir, in the name of his wife.
Added Sapna Sethi, a college student: "The Modi government has given the daughters, wives and mothers freedom from the prevailing inheritance law, which not other government in the Centre even thought about."
"Earlier, women would have to literally depend on the mercy of male members of the family. Now we have the right to inherit ancestral property…we can live with dignity," she said.
Political parties told IANS the male-centric law is going to be obsolete now.
"Our Constitution gives equal rights to both men and women. This was earlier applicable all over the country, minus Jammu and Kashmir. Now our government at the Centre has given equal rights to both men and women as enshrined in the Constitution in this state too after 72 years of Independence," BJP's Mahila Morcha President Rajni Sethi told IANS.
She said women like her would celebrate the country's Independence Day this year in the true sense.
Social activist Seema Mattu said the condition of deserted women, widows and spinsters, who belong to the state but settle outside the state after marriage, is deplorable.
"Some of them have to literally depend on the mercy of other members of the family to get their father's property rights. Now they will automatically get the right to inherit property, they can live with dignity even after marriage," she said, adding this will now open employment opportunities for the women too.
Earlier, she said there were fewer opportunities in the private sector for women. "There is also disparity in salaries between men and women employees. Womenfolk were given less salary compared to men. Now we expect there will be an end to discrimination with the women at the workplace."
The local unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants some restrictions to be in place in the state on the purchase of land by "outsiders" as well as their appointments in the government jobs.
"We want a safeguard like a domicile certificate so as to protect the interests of locals in respect of land and state jobs," senior BJP leader and legislator Nirmal Singh said.
(Vishal Gulati can be reached at email@example.com)