5 Missing, 5 Griefs Apart from a rare depiction Apart from a rare

  • Publish Date: Jan 19 2016 3:05PM
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  • Updated Date: Feb 17 2016 5:28PM
5 Missing, 5 Griefs Apart from a rare depiction Apart from a rare

Apart from a rare depiction of harsh realities of suffering of people in a militarized Kashmir in a mainstream Bollywood flick, Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider shed some light on the issue of enforced disappearances by security forces in Kashmir.

But far away from the mesmerizing landscape of Kashmir in Bhardawaj’s Haidar and unknown to the beautiful traditional Kashmiri dresses of the reel half widow, Gazala, played by Tabu, Kashmir’s real half widows live difficult, unglamorous and lonely lives. Unlike the half widow on the silver screen who comes to know of her disappeared husband’s grave in the film’s second half, these women have been stopped from even building an in-absentia memorial graveyard for their missing husbands. In fact, there isn’t any half widow whose life story resembles the Gazala of Haider.

The families of the missing persons have even formed an organization Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and every month the relatives of the missing persons assemble inside Municipal Park in Srinagar city to highlight the issue of disappeared persons.

J&K Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a civil society and human rights group too has been at the forefront of the fight for justice for the families of disappeared persons. Their survey across the state has put the number of missing persons at more than eight thousand.

The government too has put out its statistics. On February 25, 2003 the then Minister of State for Home during Mufti Mohammed Sayed’s government Abdul Rehman Veeri put the number of missing persons at 3744 since 2000-2002; 1553 in 2000; 1586 in 2001 and 605 in 2003. In July 2003; then deputy chief minister Muzuffar Hussain Baig put the number of missing persons as 3941.

Parveena Ahangar:  Face of the disappeared in Kashmir.

Fifty five year old Parveena Ahangar is the face of the struggle against the enforced disappearances in the Valley, heads APDP. A housewife, she went out into streets, police stations; interrogation centers; and various jails after her son Javid Ahmad, a class XI student in 1990 was subjected to custodial disappearance. Over the years, Ahangar has not only looked for her own son but gathered around her hundreds of other families who are looking for their missing loved ones.

Nominated for different awards, Ahangar has come to represent the struggle of the mothers of Kashmir’s disappeared persons. But since past 24 years she has not been able to locate her missing son.

Mother looking for her son

“My son was picked by NSG men from Dhobi Mollah Batamaloo from his uncle’s house where he had gone to study along with his cousin. At the midnight, NSG raided the locality as they were looking for some JKLF commanders. My son was beaten up and then taken to unknown destination. Since then there is no word about him,’’ said Parveena, while sitting inside the office of APDP located in uptown Hyderpora..

Every morning she visits her office and meets relatives of missing persons, she even takes care of wives and children of the disappeared persons who come to meet her from far off places.

She still remembers names of the officers who according to her were involved in custodial disappearance of her son. “My son was picked up by NSG personnel headed by Captain Katoch, Captain Dhunush and Major Gupta,’’ she said, adding that soon after her son’s disappearance, her long search for justice began and is still continuing. “I left no stone unturned to trace my missing son. I have met security officials, politicians and human rights groups but was not able to trace my son as the security forces were not cooperating,’’ she said, adding that few days after her son was picked up, the police informed her that her son had suffered injury in the custody and is being treated at BB Cantonment hospital. “I went to BB Cant hospital but couldn’t find him.”

After losing the faith on the government officials and army in 1992, Parveena filed a habeas corpus petition in the High Court. “On court instructions, the army informers were interrogated and they revealed that officials had told them they have released my son. Later army officials were also summoned by the court. The case is still awaiting sanction from the centre government for prosecution of the officials.”

She said that during court trial she was offered money by the army for closing the case. “I refused and wanted whereabouts of my missing son.’’

While searching her missing son, Parveena formed APDP, an organization of relatives of missing persons in 1994. She has travelled several foreign countries to highlight the plight of missing persons in Valley. Despite facing hardships and personnel tragedy Parveena is also helping half widows by sponsoring the education of their children and in recognition of her services, her organization has started receiving funds from the United Nations also.

“I know the pain of separation and hardships that I had to face,” she said adding that like family members of other disappeared persons she too has hopes that one day his son will return. “There are many secret jails in India and I think my son along with other missing persons of the Valley has been kept there.”

Parveena said that she would continue her fight till the end of her life. “Since the formation of APDP not a single missing person has been traced; but due to our struggle, army police and other security agencies think many times before subjecting any person to custodial disappearance.”

 Father looking for his two sons

A resident of Maharaj Gunj in the old city; seventy year old Abdul Ahad Rah lives along with his family. The family is running their own business in Srinagar. Abdul Ahad Rah is still searching for his two sons – Mohammed Shafi (35) and Mushtaq Ahmad (30) who left Srinagar in 1995 to run a leather business in Katmandu Nepal. Both brothers were not married and in August 2000 the local police of Nepal arrested both of them. Since then the family has not seen them and even as more than one decade has passed the father is still searching for his sons.

The Kathmandu Police had arrested 27 people in some cases and the two brothers were among them. Though Rah doesn’t know the real reason why his sons were arrested but he only knows that a newspaper published the news mentioning the names of Mushtaq and Shafi – arrested by the police following a hijacking of an Indian airliner.

The father, who now usually remains unwell, said that he searched in all the jails of India and even travelled to Nepal to find his sons, but all in vain. Some Kashmiri people who were working in Nepal informed the family in Kashmir about the arrest.

“Soon after I came to know about the arrest I along with my elder son went to Nepal and the police there informed us that they have been handed over to the Indian Police,” Rah said.  He said that Nepal police only told him that both the brothers have been handed over to Indian police and in India they came to know that his sons are in Jodhpur jail.

“In year 2000 I went to Delhi and then to Jodhpur Jail where the jailer informed me to get the documents from the court in case I want to meet my sons.” Even after getting the court documents from Srinagar, the jailer didn’t let him to meet them.

“We were threatened by the CBI and they asked us to leave Jodhpur immediately,” he said while displaying the travel bills.

Rah said that he is sure his sons are safe. “I am a Muslim and my religion doesn’t allow me to lose hope,” he said. “I am sure they are safe and one day I will meet both of them”.

Rah said that the family even paid money to a television channel to broadcast report about his missing sons on the television. “We have paid 15000 to a news channel in Delhi so that we could get justice,” he said. “I travelled almost all the jails in the India and even the state to find my sons.”

From Supreme Court to Jantar Mantar in New Delhi to the doors of all the bureaucrats and ministers, the family has tried everything to search their loves ones but failed. Now the family is ready to give the property and even the house to get one glimpse of their two sons. “If anyone in India would promise us a glimpse of my two sons, I am ready to give everything that I have with me,” Rah said

Brother looking for a brother

Shabir Hussain, then 17 years, was picked up by Indian Army in April 1996 from his shop in the outskirts of Srinagar. Initially after his arrest it was his grandmother and then his father who were searching for Shabir in the jails in the state and across the country. And after they passed away, it’s the unemployed brother Shafiq Ahmad who is now looking for his disappeared brother.

Ahmad, left his education halfway when he was studying in eight standard due to financial problems. He was earlier into leather business, but after he failed to earn enough, he changed his profession and started working as a painter. Since last few months he is jobless.

Ahmad said that Rashtriya Rifles personnel led by Major Raman Thakur picked his brother from Bemina on 27 April 1996. At 5.00 Pm when they came to know about Shabir’s arrest, whole family went to Sharifabad Army Camp but the army men denied that Shabir was arrested by the battalion.

It was Shabir’s friend who was along with him who informed the family about the arrest. Ahmad  says that his family still doesn’t know why the army picked Shabir.

“We  have spent a lot of money searching for our brother,” said Ahmad adding that once a surrendered militant asked to a get us a costly Shahtoos Shawl for the Army Major to get information about my brother, but we couldn’t afford that.

“Last time government said that they will go for DNA profiling, but if they are serious to trace my brother, they can easily do so because we know the details of the army officer who picked him,” he said.

Though High Court has informed the family recently that Shabir has died but Ahmad has yet to reveal this to her mother. “I can’t believe that he has died. He is alive for us and I am sure that one day he will come back,” Ahmad said.

Ahmad said that his father passed away in January after he failed to locate his son.” During the last moments of his life, he remembered Shabir and his disappearance was the only cause for his heart disease,” he said.

Ahmad said along with his mother Raja Bibi, he travelled everywhere to search for his son. “It was very difficult for me. I knew that the entry in the jail is not possible, so I would wait for any relative who would go inside to meet their loved ones and request them to take me along,” he said.

Although entry was possible for everyone, but since the family had no information about Shabir, they were denied entry into the jail by the officials.

Ahmad now is planning to reopen his brother’s case. “I don’t have money to reopen my case in the court. But I will not stop and will do something to reopen the case to keep the search on for my brother,” he said.

Children looking for their father

On January 20 in 2002, Jana and her four children were shattered when her husband Manzoor Ahmad who owned a chemist shop was dragged by the army from their house in Rawalpora  and never returned. Ahmad was  taken by the army and no charges were framed against him. The family lodged an FIR against the army in the Sadder police station.

Jana and her two children still remember the night when army came to their house after scaling the walls. “We were having tea when Army entered our house and picked our father, for the reasons not known till date,’’ said 21 year old Ajaz, Ahmad’s younger son.

Manzoor’s wife Jana, then 35, searched every nook and corner of the state, but couldn’t trace her husband and now she is a half widow. After Jana’s health started deteriorating with hypertension, thyroid and cardiac ailments her two children took on the struggle to look for their missing father.

“We have been suffering since past 12 years,” says Ajaz. “I looked for my father everywhere. I even pleaded before the army men to return him to us even he if has been paralyzed due to torture. But they did not listen to our requests.”

Ajaz, 24, who runs a chemist shop, says his father had a dream of seeing him become a doctor. “My mother says that my father would often call me Doctor Sahib. I was studying medical till my class XII, but couldn’t realize dream of my father as the pre-medical examination books would cost more than our income,” said Ajaz who was sitting besides her sister Bilquees and mother.

Jana lives in the single storey house in Rawalpora and in the same compound her three brothers-in-law live in palatial houses. “See all these houses,’’ she says “they are my brother-in-laws. They have grown up and their houses too have grown beautiful with time. Mine is the same and even more empty”.

The family could not forget the hard days when they used to search their father with the financial assistance of their relatives. “Army men used to come and harass us. They used to shout and abuse at our gate,” said Bilquees who is married now.

She said that along with their mother, they knocked all possible doors and even filed a case against army officer responsible for disappearance of her father.

Wife looking for husband

Naseema Akthar is playing with her 11-year-old daughter Shazia in her rented two-room house at Fateh Kadal.  It is calm inside and the silence of the house is broken by the occasional laughter of Shazia. For the past over a decade, she has been searching for her missing husband Syed Anwar Shah, an auto driver who went missing from Lal Chowk in 2002. Soon after Shah’s disappearance, she became the mother.

Recalling her life with her husband she said Syed had migrated to Srinagar looking for a job.

After Akthar and Syed got married they started living a peaceful life and rented a space in a locality in old city, but the peaceful life lasted for three years only.

“My husband didn’t return one day from his work.” She said. “Along with relatives I searched for him everywhere but couldn’t find him,’’ After three days, she informed the police at a local police post.

Akthar said that she had also filed a case in the court but does not know what happened to it.

“My life is full of hardships and after my husband went missing I had to face hostile conditions,” she said. “But I bear every hardship for my only daughter who is studying at a private school, I want to give her good education. That is my only dream now.”