Kashmir’s lost boys

Time and again, women in Kashmir have always been subject to immense suffering due to insurgency and also the ongoing conflict disrupting many lives. Some hearts of women swell with pride about their son’s joining insurgency, while some still mourn and struggle to cope up with the reality of their sons, reports Safina Nabi

Mourning moms, Families in Kashmir continue to mourn the deaths of their young ones in anti-militant drive

This is unfortunate that how women are at the receiving end of protracted subjugation by the conflict and insurgency in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and is direct or indirect victims of its fallout. Women have lost their loved ones-fathers, mothers, husbands, brothers and sons, some of whom were killed in the encounter and some never returned to the home.

Since the summer unrest of 2010, around 500 local youth have joined the militant ranks in Kashmir valley. As the government forces continue with the anti-militant operations, more local youth continue to join the militant ranks as families continue to mourn the deaths of young ones.

Most of the active militants are highly educated and belong to well-off families. When they leave homes, they take nothing with them, except for a pair of clothes and sleepers.

As the youngsters leave behind their families, it is their mothers who feel the pain of their separation. Among these militant mothers, some are swollen with pride, about their son’s decision while some are not able to find out the reason why their son took up the violent path where the only end is death.

The brave hearts

On June 3, 2018, Tehelka member along with a local went to Adil Ahmad Sheikh’s home. Adil’s brother Nayeem Ahmad Sheikh was a militant. Nayeem was killed during a gunfight with the government forces. By the time Nayeem was killed, Adil had already made up his mind to join the militant ranks. Adil left home only after 20 days of Nayeem’s killing and was active for three years and 8 months.

“He told us he too wants to join the ranks. We would repeatedly plead with him not to take any such step. I already had lost one son,” explained Adil’s mother

One evening, Adil left home and never returned. When he came to meet his parents, after three months, he had joined the militant ranks and came to visit them along with his associates.

Adil was active for more than three years. He would often come home to meet his family and mother.

“Both my sons were efficient at studies and have principles as well. I never questioned their decision neither I have cried after they were killed,” said Adil’s mother.

Adil’s mother showed us a photograph. The picture was a collage of Nayeem and Adil, properly laminated and wrapped in a white colour handkerchief.

As we (Tehelka member and local) started to leave, Adil’s mother handed us a purple bag full of nuts and toffees. “You have come here in the memory of my beloved sons how can I let you go empty-handed,” she said.

In a similar way, 20-year-old Sameer Ahmad Bhat too left home and was killed on April 18, 2018, in Pulwama district’s Drubgam area, which was also the hometown of Sameer. Security forces gunned him down after a six-hour gun battle.

Sameer was famous for his looks – long hair with beard and a well build body; a school dropout who hit the headlines in November 2017 and emerged as another poster boy after the death of Burhan Wani in July 2016.

When Tehelka reached Sameer’s home, we saw posters of deceased militants pasted everywhere — outside and inside the house, and in rooms. ‘Sameer Tiger’ was written on these posters in colourful texts.

While entering the home, we saw a huge black stone with ‘Sameer Tiger’ engraved on it with golden ink. The whole family encircled us and spoke to us at length. His likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc.

“He was never afraid of anyone and was daring. He was here at home for continous 16 days before he was killed,” said Sameer’s mother

The aggrieved hearts

During the time Sameer’s mother conversed with us, not even for a single time she addressed her son as ‘Sameer’ but ‘Tiger’. She showed us a video on a cell phone. In the video, Sameer was helping them to pluck apples in their apple orchid.

Rayees was an engineering graduate who had graduated from the University of Haryana. He was teaching in IIT Rafiabad, Baramulla, around 60 km sfrom Srinagar. His mother, in her late 60’s, still mourns his death and the path he chose.

On reaching Kakapora, Tehelka with help of a local was looking for Rayees’s house. A lady was sitting on a bench outside a medical shop. She was constantly wiping her tears and looking at the nearby graveyard.

With all our strengths we greeted her and while greeting back she pressed a kiss on our foreheads. When we mentioned that we want to meet the parents of Rayees Ahmad Dar, she pointed us towards a grave — that’s his grave and I am his mother.

She asked us to tag along with her through narrow lanes and by-lanes that led to her house. She opened a door and brought cushions for us.

“He was the brightest among all my children. Whenever he used to come home he would take me up in his arms and cajole me like a child,” she said.

Rayees, who would come home once in fifteen days, was confined within the four walls of his house due to the continuous shut down for almost six months.

Like others, Rayees also left home one evening to never return.

His mother opened the door of a cupboard to show us two formal suits hanging inside which were decorated with garlands.

“I have only one wish in life that I too die soon so that I can meet him,” she said in a choked voice.

Another rebel from the same area was Shakir Ahmad Gujoo also known as ‘Abu Hanzala’ was a class 12th student. He had cleared his class 12th board exams and was all set to leave to Chandigarh for higher studies. Besides, he was also helping his father to run his shop.
Shakir who was the native of Kakapora, Pulwama, was chased by police when he ran away and never came back.

His mother Shameema showed us his luggage that is still packed lying in a room corner and a sheet spread over it. She opened up a closet and showed us his school I-card, smartphone and a picture.

Although, she didn’t speak a word till this time but,her dry lips, wrinkled face, and sunken eyes were explaining her pain and grief that she still is in.

“I went to every police officer, every place where I heard he is but I was not able to trace him,” she said.

Shameema was 17 when her brother too died in an encounter. Soon, she was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Her parents married her in order to make some changes in her life.

“When Shakir arrived in our lives (me and my parents) we were healed. We never knew how and when Shakir became Abu Hanzala”, said Shameema Shakir and his associates were holed up by the army in the new colony of Kakapora on June 21, 2017.

Shameema called up everyone from police to relatives to help her to reach the spot. She wanted to plead to Shakir to surrender. “I ranged SHO, begged him to accompany us to the spot but he refused and said the operation is headed by the army.”

The only thing Shameema regrets, “I never saw Shakir even once after he left home; he never came to meet us.