Kin of disappeared persons refuse to abandon hope
SRINAGAR: Meema traveled from Botengo village of north Kashmir’s Sopore area to Srinagar on Wednesday in her long quest to trace her missing brother Muhammad Shafi Najarwho was apprehended by Border Security Forces (BSF) on January 20, 1992 and was never seen again by his family and friends.
On August 30, marking the International Day of Disappeared, the 40-year-old took part in a protest demonstration in capital Srinagar highlighting the plight of the kin of those subjected to enforced disappearances. She said Najar (then 18-year-old) had gone to the market to buy something. “There was a huge cry in our area that 195 battalion of BSF had taken him away, I immediately left the house and took some men and women from our area to the concerned army camp so as to get him released,” she said.
Meema said that in last 25 years of long search for her family member she went to various army camps and police stations in and outside the state. “Har kunih jaye gayas sirf ne registan (I visited everywhere except the deserts)” she said with a lump in her throat. “I had no one in family except him and he too was taken away by the cruel forces. I saw forces taking him in a Baktarbandh (armored vehicle) when he was circled by dozens of troopers. None from the village was allowed to go closer to him,” she added.
Meema said that Suresh Gupta, the then Commander of 195 battalion denied Najar’s arrest saying he was not in his camp for more than 30 minutes. “Every time I spoke to Gupta he replied that another party from Wodura had detained him and he was with them,” she said adding, “Three months after my brother went missing I convinced Gupta to look for my brother inside his camp. I literally looked under their mattresses, lockers and everywhere else I could but he was nowhere.”
“Before I could leave the camp I saw a small room in the basement where four men were kept. They were dressed in army uniform, their eyes were covered with a black cloth and their hands were tied on the back side,” Meema revealed adding, “One of them lifted his head and I immediately recognized that he was my brother. I tried to call him but a trooper present there shut my mouth with his hands and dragged me back to Gupta’s office.
Gupta asked me how I recognized Shafi? I told him my brother had a tuft of white hair from his birth and I could clearly see that white patch when he lifted his head, That was the last time I saw my brother,” Meema said.
Meema said that neighbors took care of her in absence of his beloved brother. “The father of my childhood friend fed and provided shelter to me for four years until I got married. Only God knows how I spent those four years in constant fear and loneliness,” she added.
According to Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons around 10,000 people have been subjected to enforced disappearance since armed conflict erupted in 1989.
On the occasion of International Day of Disappeared, people from all walks of life such as businessmen, lawyers, teachers, students and filmmakers took part in the sit-in-protest organised by APDP at Pratap Park in Srinagar to express their solidarity with the family members of the disappeared persons.
Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front Chairman Yasin Malik along- with many other members of his organization also participated in the protest. He said that international community has failed people of Kashmir as it has not fulfilled its obligations vis-a-vis Kashmiris. “Our human rights are being violated on a daily basis but no one seems to care as international community is more concerned about their economic and business interests than human rights and human values’’ Malik said.
“Today jails, police stations and interrogation centers are filled with thousands of political prisoners, young boys and children who are being tortured and terrorized for speaking truth and crying for justice,” he added.
Chairperson of the APDP Parveena Ahangar while addressing the media appealed international community to put pressure on Indian state to stop all forms of violence against the people of Kashmir. “We have sacrificed lot of people and their families do not know where their loved-ones are buried. The parents of disappeared people are living in pain because they don’t know where their beloved ones are. I have been saying it from the very beginning that DNA testing of the mortal remains of the persons buried in mass graves should be conducted so that we come to know whether those people belong to us or not,” she said.
Another protester a 70-year-old woman Hajira from Byarepora area of north Kashmir shared her heart-wrenching story with Kashmir Reader. She said that among her three sons two were killed by Jammu and Kashmir police party who knocked the door of her house during the dead of night. “We were a happy family and lived a normal life but on a certain day police party arrived and took all the three sons with them. They told us that they will send them back after they help the party to cross the river,” she said with tears rolling from her eyes.
Hajira said that a week later her two sons Mohammed Amin Dar and Mushtaq Ahmad Dar’s bodies were recovered and Ghulam Nabi Dar is still missing. “Mohmmad Amin’s dead body was recovered from a government school building while as Mushtaq Ahmad’s body was fished out from the river” she said adding “On that very moment when both the bodies were brought home my husband suffered a brain hemorrhage, we had to bury three young men together in a single grave”.
Hajira alleged that the police party had mutilated their body. “There were torture marks on their body. The bodies had been ripped apart with bullets pumped into stomach area,” she said.
Hajira lived amid sufferings only to sustain her four daughters who worked did household chores at various places in Handwara to keep the family pot boiling. “I’m suffering from multiple ailments. It is my daughters who toil hard to earn money and keep me alive. But for them, I would have died long back,” she said.
Hajira said that she would not stop but continue to fight to know about the whereabouts of her missing son. “It is a sin to give up hope. I can’t say whether he is alive or dead but sometimes I believe Ghulam Nabi must be resting peacefully somewhere in a grave because police did not leave his brothers alive,” she said amid sobs.
I have left no place without searching for my son. We will continue the fight. After my death, the APDP and my daughters will keep the search on,” she said.