Sopore: There is an empty grave in Brath village in Sopore which was dug for a man allegedly killed by the army in the village in 1995.
After killing the man, the villagers say, the army took the body and declined to return it.
“The grave which we dug for my husband was lying open for 11 days, but when the army officer declined to return the body, we closed it by burying some clothes in it, as suggested by a local Mufti,” said Sharifa Begum, widow of Nazir Ahmad Mir (then 32), a resident of Mir Mohalla, Brath.
Villagers describe the day as one of the darkest in their memory when an unarmed, innocent civilian of the village was ruthlessly beaten up, dragged, tortured and killed.
It was on the 9th of June, 1995, Sharifa says, that her husband, Nazir Ahmad, was working in his fields when Major A K Chatterjee of the 9 Gorkha Regiment from Seelu camp, an officer who had terrified the village, swooped down on him, dragged him, beat him ruthlessly and took him away.
Sharifa only came to know of the incident in the evening, when Nazir didn’t return from the fields.
“I was worried for his safety because that officer would come to our village a number of times a day. Arresting, beating, harassing and killing was common for him,” Sharifa said, adding that the next morning she along with her mother-in-law lodged a complaint in Police Station Sopore.
“The same day, the army officer came with his men to our village along with my husband and took him to another Mohalla, where my husband’s cousin lived. The officer dragged my husband’s cousin from his house and beat him ruthlessly in front of the village before he released him. We thought he would release my husband too, but instead of releasing him, he and his men shot my husband, killing him on the spot,” Sharifa recounts.
After killing Nazir, Sharifa said, he ordered villagers to put the body in an army vehicle.
“The villagers did what he asked them to because everyone was scared of him; he was like the devil to our village. He took mu husband’s dead body with him,” she said.
A devastated Sharifa was left to wait for a last glimpse of his husband’s face, but Major Chatterjee declined to hand over the body.
“He denied that he has taken any body, but when villagers confronted him, he threatened them and told them that he would pay monthly wages to the family but we were to forget the body. I was shocked to hear this,” Sharifa said, breaking down before of her elder son, Irshad, who works as a labourer at a saw mill.
The grave dug for Nazir, she said, remained open for 11 days, after which the family buried a few clothes of Nazir in it.
“I didn’t have the chance to even see my husband’s face and cry on his dead body. Now my kids who were too young then visit their father’s grave in which his clothes are buried. I wish that officer dies the ugliest death if he is alive,” she said.
Irshad has no memory of his father as he was only four years old then.
“I came to know from my mother that my father was killed by an army officer and that his grave lies empty, with only some of his clothes in it as that army officer didn’t give my father’s body back. It makes me angry, but I cannot do anything about it,” Irshad said.
Sharifa’s trials don’t end here. Seven years after the killing, she married her brother-in-law, Nazir’s brother. But four years into the marriage, and after an SRO (compassionate appointment) job landed in his lap, his new husband divorced her and married another woman.
She has two children from her second husband who live with their father and two from Nazir who live with her on a plot of land given to her by her in-laws after her divorce.
Irshad, 26, left studies to support the family after passing his 10th standard, while the younger one is still studying.
“Neither did the police try to find out what happened to my husband’s body nor did the villagers attempt to reopen questions to the horrendous officer as he threatened them with dire consequences. As soon as the SRO job was given to my brother-in-law, my ex-husband, everything ended,” Sharifa said.
An FIR is registered in the Sopore police station under No. 207/95 against Major Chatterjee of the Gorkha regiment (9GR) under sections 307, 342 RPC.
Sharifa keeps a passport-sized photograph of Nazir close to her in a wallet as this is her only remaining keepsake of her husband.
“Hundreds like Nazir have been killed in every nook and corner of Kashmir. Their relatives are also deprived of justice, just like we have been deprived,” Sharifa said.