Hajin: Even with five younger siblings to take care of, 18-year-old Maria is reluctant to take the government’s help. “Money can’t buy me father’s love. If the government can release our father, it would be a great favour to us,” Maria said while talking to Kashmir Reader.
Maria has recently taken to tailoring and has started sewing clothes to earn a living.
According to information received by Kashmir Reader, the state government is willing to help these kids monetarily. Many volunteers also have approached this family to offer help, including a group, Ehsaas International, which has offered to fund the siblings’ education. Maria doesn’t have a bank account yet, but now that people are asking her for it, she is willing to open one.
Read more: Father in jail, six children living by themselves for 2 years
Maia has passed the Class 10 Board exams and may appear in the Class 12 exams next year, but she has not taken any coaching classes and is not sure whether she would be able to appear in the exams as it is difficult for her to study in such circumstances.
Her younger sister Sumaya, 17, is also not sure whether she will be able to sit for her Class 10 exams. Household chores keep the elder sisters busy all day.
When this correspondent visited their home, Sumaya was busy making tea in a samovar and in preparing dinner on the daan (makeshift mud-stove) that was fuelled with small wood, some of which lay scattered about.
“We have to take care of everything. Our focus should have been on our studies but we have this responsibility, too,” said the shy Sumaya.
Maria, who is much more vocal than her younger sister, kept asking “Is money everything?” on hearing of offers of monetary help. “Why can’t they release my father? How long can I cope with this?”she asked.
Maria said that the government was angry at her family because Hurriyat leader Masarat Aalam had come to offer condolences when their mother died some years ago.
“Are not all the big leaders enjoying their freedom despite being at the forefront of the Kashmir cause? Mirwaiz, Geelani sahab and Yasin Malik are big leaders, so why is a small leader like my father being held? Forget about papa’s release, we are not even allowed to meet him,” Maria said in anger and exasperation.
“When the last time he was here, I pleaded in front of the DySP and the SHO and I gave in writing that my father won’t do anything untoward, but despite that, he was booked again. They say that his being free is problematic for the law and order situation, but did law and order encounter no problem in this area after his arrest?” Maria asked.
“For petty things, I have to ask my uncle’s permission. How can anyone else understand what it is to be without parents? If we have to take a step out of home, we need to seek permission. Sometimes, money is an issue; we have to cut short our wishes. If papa would have been here, how happy I would be,” Maria broke down as she said this.
8-year-old Osama said he wanted to be a police superintendent. “I have conveyed this to my papa when I met him in jail 4 months ago,” the kid said.
The children’s grandmother, Saja, 85, said she wanted to see her son for a last time before dying.
“I don’t know when I will breathe my last. At least they can fulfil my last wish of seeing my son,” Saja said.
Insha, who is in Class 6, said she wanted to become a lawyer “so that justice prevails”. She said that cases like her father’s which are pending in courts should be resolved on priority basis.
Ulfat, 11, who is not mentally sound, is the only jolly kid in the house. She sings and pokes her siblings all the time, but they remain gloomy. Insha due to her disability cannot study but still goes to school with her siblings.
Sabrina, who is in Class 7, has some difficulty in seeing from her left eye. She wears fat glasses and wants to study if the circumstances at home get better.
With many people asking for bank account details of Maria to offer monetary help, she has submitted documents to the bank to open an account.
When this correspondent was about to leave, Maria came close and whispered, “Is there any news about my father being shifted here (to Srinagar from Jammu)?”