Every Girl In Turtuk Village Goes To School Today Thanks To Rahima Begum And Her Daughter
- IWB Post
- November 5, 2018
Turtuk is a village in the Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir. It is located in the Nubra tehsil, 205km from the Leh town, on the banks of the Shyok River. While it looks like heaven on earth today, its history stores many stories of separation and heartache that were the consequence of the India-Pakistan tussle over claiming land. Such is the story of Rahima Begum.
She was the first girl in her village to finish school when other girls did not even get schooling in the 1960s. A bright child, Rahima’s parents had high hopes for her. But as per the custom of her village, young Rahima was married to her cousin, Sher Ali, who worked in the Pakistan Army. Life was going okay for her, she would work till sunset in the fields of orchards and in November 1971, she gave birth to a baby girl, Aisha Sudiqa.
But her life broke into pieces when in December that year India captured her village of Turtuk and three neighboring villages of Chalunka, Thang, and Tyakshi on the India-Pakistan border, separating her from her husband who was in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. He wasn’t permitted to cross the border and come to India and Turtuk.
Rahima patiently waited for her husband to return for three years as her daughter grew up without a father. In 1974, Rahima received a letter from Sher Ali in which he wrote that he missed her very much and enquired about Aisha. He also said that he was striving hard to be reunited with his family. The letter spurred Rahima to reach her husband somehow and she set out with Aisha to the Wagah border. But when she reached the border she was denied permission to cross it and no matter how much she pleaded, she couldn’t change their decision. She had to Turtuk and spend two more years, hoping to see Sher Ali again.
In 1976, she received another letter from him. “As-salaam-alaikum. I hope you and Aisha are well. I am upset to bring to you the news that I don’t think we have hope of ever meeting again. I tried many times to cross the border and was rejected. I think it is time to say goodbye. I need to marry another woman. Khuda Hāfiz,” he wrote.
It would be six years this time, when he wrote again, asking for a divorce. Heart-broken, Rahima agreed to the same and the divorce came through. A year later, persuaded by her and Sher Ali’s parents, she married Sher Ali’s younger brother, Abdul Kareem, and had a baby girl named Farida Khanum the next year.
But in the years that went by all she wished was to not let the pain define her anymore. Ten years later, Rahima, a mother of six, took up a government post in Turtuk as an Urdu teacher. As she sent all her boys and girls to school, she wanted others to educate their children too so she encouraged them. After all, she was herself an inspiration being the first girl in her village to finish school and the first village woman to get a government job.
Following in her mother’s footsteps, Aisha became the first girl to leave Turtuk village and enroll in high school in Hunder. She returned to Turtuk as the first woman doctor in the village. Like her mother, she would visit people near her, schools and spoke to young girls about their dreams, motivating to achieve their goals. But in 1995, during Ramzan, she passed away due to anemia, the strain of travel and fasting. The village lost its symbol of motivation but no one could take away the revolution Aisha and her mother had ushered into their quaint little village. Today all girls in Turtuk attend school and continue their higher education in Kashmir or Delhi in big universities all thanks to the two women, Rahima and Aisha.
H/T: The Hindu