• In Kashmir, mothers long for a glimpse of their sons

    Kamran Yousuf

    February 7, 2020

    Srinagar: Several Kashmiri mothers are awaiting the return of their sons who were picked up by the armed forces ahead of the August 5 announcement altering the constitutional status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The arrested men have been moved to faraway jails in various states across country.

    As per the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), 412 people were charged under the Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows preventive custody for two years without trial or charges, after August 5 last year and majority of them have been moved to jails outside the Valley.

    Zaina (80)

    Son’s name: Lateef Ahmad Dar
    Date of arrest: August 1, 2019
    Resident of Bello, Pulwama

    80-year-old Zaina hobbles through room, sits quietly in a corner and takes out a picture of her son and stares at it without blinking her eyes. After a while, she wraps a piece of cloth around the picture, kisses it, and puts it back.

    “They have expunged my heart. I am restless. He is the light of my eyes. I am suffocating inside,” she wails. She has not seen her son in past six months after he was picked up by armed forces from his home in Southern Kashmir’s Bello village.

    “Only god’s name is with me now. I do not know what to do. I am helpless,” she says.

    She was not home when her son, Lateef Ahmad Dar, was picked up by the Army from his home in Southern Kashmir’s Bello village.

    Next morning, she rushed to her home and headed straight to the Rajpora police station to see her son, “When I saw him, he pretended to be alright. His face was pale and his voice suggested he was unwell. We hardly talked. We looked at each other’s face and wept,” she says.

    The police officers there told her that he would be released soon. But that did not happen.

    Instead, he was first shifted to central jail and then to Agra, “I visited central jail, where I was thoroughly frisked, almost stripped. “They looked inside my clothes and asked me to remove my pheran (a knee-length dress that Kashmiris wear during winters). It was humiliating. I tolerated everything for my child. Even if I have go through the procedure thousands times for the sake of my child, I would not hesitate,” she says.

    She says she was then told that he would be released after August 15. “I was making arrangements for his return, but he did not come,” she says.

    Naseema (56)

    Son’s name: Mamoon Pandit (18)
    Date of arrest: August 4, 2019
    Resident of Karimabad

    56-year-old Naseema looks downcast. She could not gather courage to meet her son in the police station. She says on August 4, the Army scaled the wall of their house and barged inside, “they locked me and my daughters inside a room and enquired about my son,” she says.

    The last she saw her 18-year-old son was when he opened their door and pleaded for their safety, “I have not seen him ever since,” she says.

    Her head becomes heavy and her heartbeat increases whenever she misses her son, “My veins tighten up and my head feels heavy. I weep day and night without letting any know about it. In fact, every member of my family weeps secretly,” she says.

    She says the thought of her son sleeping on a bare floor keeps her awake, “how can a mother enjoy a cosy bed when her child is sleeping on floor. It keeps me awake whole night,” she says.

    Naseema says her son has never been away from his home even for a single day. “He would not spend a day without me. None knows about his likes and dislikes. The mere thought about it tears my heart into pieces,” she says.

    He used to change his clothes thrice a day, “I have heard he doesn’t get good food and clothes there. What will he do there,” she says, knowing well that travelling to distant jail is a tough call for her.

    Atiqa (55)

    Son’s name: Faisal Aslam Mir
    Date of arrest: August 5, 2019
    Resident of Maisuma, Srinagar

    Atiqa, 55, sits on the verandah of her mud house with her gaze fixed at the door hoping that someday her son will open it and emerge from there. She says her son is the only person left in her life. Her husband died a decade ago and she was living with her son. He was the sole bread earner of the family.

    On August 5, Atiqa had sent him to run an errand to the market in Maisuma but did not return. Instead, somewhere between his home and the market, Faisal was picked up by police.

    “He went out to buy medicine for me but was picked up Central reserve Police Force on the way,” she says.

    Her son has been booked under the draconian Public Safety Act. Faisal Aslam Mir, 30, runs a business.

    According to his mother, he was detained for three days at a local police station and then shifted to the Srinagar Central Jail until August 21, after which he was moved to a jail in Agra in Uttar Pradesh.

    “I am only alive for my son. Otherwise, I have no other reason to live,” she says, with tears in her eyes.

    Sara Bano (late 40s)

    Son’s name: Fayaz Ahmad (26)
    Date of arrest: August 4, 2019
    Resident of Pahoo, Pulwama

     A few kilometers from the Southern Pulwama town, Sara Bano, in her late 40s, is inconsolable. “I am unable to bear your separation please come back. I am dying inside. I tell no one but I cry silently behind haystacks in the field, in the bathroom and in your room,” she wails. Fayaz, 26, was among hundreds slapped with the PSA and shifted to Bareilly in UP after he was charged for ‘stone-pelting’, as per his dossier.

    Fayaz was in the middle of his completing his PhD in Arabic, having completed his Master’s from the University of Kashmir.

    According to Sara Bano, Fayaz was falsely framed under prior charges and was “just keeping himself busy with a tractor — which was his part-time job”.

    It has been six months, and she has not only been able to visit her son even once. “Since the past six months, our son has not able to work or study. And as a result of him being jailed, our financial condition has worsened,” she adds.

    Rubeena (45)

    Son’s name: Munner-ul-Islam
    Arrest date: August 4, 2019
    Resident of Karimabad, Pulwama

    Rubeena, 45, remembers the last glimpse of her son before he was taken away by the Army from home in Karimabad area of Pulwama. “I only had half a glimpse of his face. I remember that from fear, his face had turned dark. That face still swims in front of my eyes,” she says. She tried to run after him but was scared away by the Army personnel.

    “They fired a few bullets at the door. I was scared. They took him away,” she says.

    Rubeena’s financial conditions did not permit her to meet him, “I am poor and cannot afford to travel outside,” she says, adding “all my savings have been exhausted.”

    Since the past four days, Rubeena has been running from pillar to post to gather money for her visit to her son. “My cow is sick and I don’t have money to even buy medicine for her. Only god’s name is with me,” she says.

    She believes her son was picked up by the Army for keeping long hair. “His hair was cut with a knife. How would have his hair harmed them?” she says, adding “He is innocent. What will government achieve by arresting him”.

    Jana (75)

    Son’s name: Bilal Ahamd Dar
    Place of Arrest: Karimabad

    Jana, 75, says that she has no option but to only wait for the return of her son. “Even if I wish to meet him in jail, my health will not allow me to do so. I have problems in my back and knees,” she says.

    Gulshan (70)

    Son’s name: Shameem Ahmad (32)
    Arrested: August 4, 2019
    From his house in Ratnipora, Pulwama.

    Gulshan, 70, is suffering from multiple ailments which prevent her from moving outside, “I have not seen my son in the last six months. I have problems in my back and knees and cannot travel long distances,” she says.

    In the absence of her son, she says, she is dying inside and often cries when she is alone. “I have no other option but to seek help from the god. I cry whenever I miss him. Why is government snatching our sons from us. Don’t they know how important a son for a family,” she says.

    Gulshan says she does not know what to tell her 5-year old granddaughter who wants to know where her father is. “I have no answers for her. And I am sure the government has no answers either,” she says.

    The other thing that is keeping her away from meeting her son is her family’s economic condition. “A visit costs Rs 10,000-20,000. Where will I be able gather so much money from? He was the only source of income for the family,” she says.

    All the mothers have requested government to release their sons immediately as they are old and infirm and not in a condition to travel long distances, just to catch one glimpse of them.


    First published in Newsclick

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