Srinagar: Asif still remembers the day when, at the age of six, he was admitted to an orphanage. Asif had cried bitterly, kept away from his roommates, and did not sleep for days.

But today, after spending 11 years at the Jammu and Kashmir Yateem Trust orphanage, Asif does not want to return home where his mother, siblings and grandparents live. He wishes to pursue his education and become an IAS officer. Asif’s father was a militant killed in a gunfight with troops 12 years ago.

In Kashmir, 90 percent of orphans living in orphanages have family, including mothers. The fatherless children are sent to live in orphanages due to poverty.

“If I go home, I will have to quit education as my family is very poor and cannot afford my studies,” Asif says, adding that his mother wants him to support the family by doing manual labour.

“I want to be an officer,” he says, “bring new life to my family, which is not possible if I go home.”

The worries of Asif do not end here. Having completed his matriculation, he has been running from pillar to post to find lodging and seek admission in high school as orphanages in Kashmir do not provide these beyond class 10. Orphans are then mostly sent back to their homes or left to fend for themselves.

“The orphanage where I lived has asked me to leave. I am now looking for accommodation and admission in school. I am also trying to get some financial aid from NGOs,” said Asif.

Eighteen-year-old Saqlain has the same worries. After passing his matriculation with distinction, he is looking for a part-time job to support his education.

“I don’t want to be a labourer like my friends.”

While orphans like Saqlain and Asif are struggling for education, the majority, roughly 80 per cent of orphans in Kashmir, give up, ending in car workshops, factories and brick kilns, or eke out a living doing manual work.

Zahoor Ahmad Tak of the Jammu and Kashmir Yateem trust says, “We face a lot of problems with adult orphans. No orphanage here offers education or lodging to them. We sent them back home.”

Professional education is out of reach for orphans.

The state government offers pre- and post-matric scholarships to them, but the formalities are time-taking and no one benefits, rues Tak.

Educationist A.G Madhosh says that the government must have an education policy for orphans, while sociologist B.A.Dabla condemns their continued treatment as outcasts, denied every right.

“Their childhood and talents are wasted.”