Srinagar: Since the past few days the government has enforced a night curfew in the Valley, adding to the difficulties of the common man. So strict and obstinate is this curfew that there are men who haven’t been able to attend even their children’s marriages because of it.
56-year-old Ali Mohammad, a resident of Srinagar, was stuck in a curfew at Budgam for so long that he could not attend the wedding of his daughter on August 24. “I had gone to my sister’s house to invite her for the wedding. The government forces did not allow me to return back. I missed the wedding of my own daughter,” he rued.
Ali Mohammad tried to return umpteen times, but failed to convince the troops, who, he says, were not allowing even medical staff to travel. “I tried every route that leads to Srinagar, but unfortunately somebody somewhere would always stop me. I pleaded that I had to go for my daughter’s marriage, but instead of letting me travel, they abused me. They said that if you are seeking Azadi then why are you marrying your children off? First take Azadi and then think about your daughter’s marriage,” Ali said.
The date of the marriage had been set a year ago, Ali said; it could not be changed at the last moment. “As is the tradition in Kashmir, the date for the marriage was set almost a year ago. Also, the groom works in a foreign country, so he had taken leave especially for the marriage. There was no possibility of changing it, otherwise who would want to get their children married during this turmoil,” Ali said.
The disappointment of not being present at his daughter’s marriage will always hurt him, he said. “Although the marriage was solemnised in a simple manner, the pain of not being present when my daughter needed me the most, will always haunt me. I hope no other parent has to undergo what I suffered,” Ali said.
He said his daughter had initially refused to get married without his presence. “All the while she cried and was adamant of not marrying until I returned. But her brother intervened and told her that it would be against our honour, after which she obeyed,” Ali said.
Syed Manzoor Shah, who lives in the outskirts of Srinagar, could not see his 2-year-old daughter Maria for a month due to curfew. Manzoor said that his wife went to her father’s home in Pallar (in Budgam) with her daughter and then the curfew happened. “Many times I tried to reach her, taking alternative routes, but I was stopped everywhere,” he said.
One day, Manzoor started the 35-km journey on his bicycle in the evening, but he ran into night curfew. “I was stopped at Saki Dafar by troops. I tried invoking the sacred bond of father and daughter to persuade them to give me passage, but they paid no heed. Instead, they abused me,” Manzoor said.
On one occasion, Manzoor was beaten at Bemina when he was trying to walk all the way to Pallar. “That day I tried my luck by making the journey on foot, but I failed again as I was stopped at Bemina. I tried explaining my situation to them but they beat me and ordered me to leave the spot, else I would be killed,” he said.
Finally, after a month, father and daughter were able to meet. To Manzoor’s horror, the little girl had forgotten her dad!
“When my wife told Maria that Baba had come to see her, she responded by saying “Kus baba? (Who?),” Manzoor recalled.
Bashir Ahmad of Lal Bazar is another victim of the day-and-night curfew. He could not participate in the funeral of his 35-year-old cousin who died of stomach cancer. “The government forces did not allow me to go to the funeral. I told them that my sister had died but they were adamant. They also hurled all kinds of abuse at me,” Bashir said.
He said that not being able to participate in his sister’s funeral will be something that will disturb him all his life. “Perhaps even in my grave I won’t be able to find peace,” he said with tearful eyes.