An ordinary auto rickshaw driver showed a good presence of mind and helped in rescuing two children who were ‘abducted’ by a mentally sick woman from old Srinagar city. While the society has portrayed the sick woman as an outcast, the doctors say a medical intervention is required on her to get her back to a normal life, Syed Asma reports.
Bashir Ahmed Shah is about to begin his day. An auto-rickshaw driver by profession, he is walking towards his garage where he parks his auto. It is a few steps away from his home. As he makes his way towards the garage, he meets his group of friends. A casual chat starts. All the friends live at Dangerpora, Narwara area of Srinagar city.
The friends are discussing last night’s police raids in their locality. Bashir joined in as well. “It was about Amina again,” said one of the men among them. “I heard she has kidnapped two children from Rainawara,” another man added. In her twenties, Amina, a resident of Rainawari, has a maternal uncle who lives in Narwara in Bashir’s neighbourhood where she has spent most of her childhood.
Bashir, 38, knows Amina very well, “I have seen her growing up. She looks normal which she is not. She is a bit mentally disturbed,” Bashir says hesitantly.
After the chat with his friends which lasts for a couple of minutes is over, Bashir proceeds to drop children living is his neighbourhood at their school. This is his daily routine. Over the last 12 years, he has been driving the auto-rickshaw. To earn good money for supporting his family, he picks and drops some school children living in his locality. For rest of his day, Bashir takes his auto on busy roads where he looks for passengers, as other auto rickshaw drivers do.
After he dropped the children at school, his friend, a canteen owner at Lal Ded hospital in Srinagar phoned him and asked him to drop by at his canteen. He had to get vegetables and other essentials for his canteen. “The news of the missing children was still in my head and I felt bad for their family,” says Bashir.
It was on last evening that two children, Mohammed Mutayib, 5, and his sister Mehnoor, 3, had gone missing from their home. Their family suspected Amina’s hand in the disappearance as the children were last seen playing with her. “It was evening and we were going out to Masjid to offer prayers. These two followed us and they were playing right outside the main door,” says Mohammed Salim Naqash, the duo’s uncle.
Around same time, Amina has passed by the area and had taken Mehnoor along with her, the duo’s mother, Mehrooba Naqash, claims. Mutayib says when he saw that Amina took his little sister, he had to obey and walk along.
The explanation that the family puts forwards for these children to go along with Amina is that she was known to them. “Being a close neighbour and seeing her almost each day, she was not a stranger for them,” says Mohammad Salim. Amina had even offered a chocolate to them, Mutayib had told his mother.
After getting a call from his friend, Bashir, the auto driver, reached Lal Ded hospital where he was surprised to find Amina along with two kids in a nearby tea stall. Without much wait, he called up Amina’s cousin who advised him to keep an eye on her.
After a few minutes, Amina’s cousin came along with the police and arrested Amina. The two kids were handed over to their family. Bashir was given Rs 1000 as a reward for his presence of mind and helping the police to trace the children. He will also soon be awarded with a certificate of being a “responsible citizen”, says Raja Tasmeem Ahmed, SHO Rainawari.
Amina was taken into custody but the police could not go ahead with their investigations because of Amina’s medical history, says Tasmeem. “After getting proper permission from the magistrate, we have admitted her at Government Psychiatric hospital as she is in need of a proper treatment,” he says.
“Amina is not mentally stable,” says Dr. Arshad Hussain, a renowned psychiatrist of Kashmir valley who is presently treating her. “Though we are in the middle of her diagnosis and cannot say much, but after noticing her behaviour from past few days and after reading her earlier medical reports present in the hospital, I am sure that she has some psychotic disorder,” Dr Arshad says.
Dr Arshad recalls that Amina had visited the hospital earlier in 2011 but had left without completing treatment. The doctors who are treating her in the hospital complain that her family was not cooperating with them. “To do her diagnosis, we are required to check her level of intelligence for which we should know her exact age which her family is reluctant to share,” he says
The state government has a provision for providing compensation for disabled persons in Jammu and Kashmir, “Without knowing her proper age, we declared her mentally ill as she could receive compensation from the Department of Social Welfare. But now we have to be very cautious before certifying her mentally ill as an FIR has been lodged against her and she is accused of kidnapping two children,” the doctor adds.
Amina, says Bashir, has had a disturbed life and was not well since she was born. She has spent most of her life in her maternal uncle’s home in Narwara. Her mother, a divorcee, remarried. Their neighbours say the family usually have disputes, fights and arguments. They are certainly not having good relation with each other, a next door neighbour claims.
The doctors and nurses who attend Amina say that it is usually her maternal uncle who comes to see her. After the recent accusation of kidnapping, the elders in the locality have decided not to allow her and her mother to live there. “We have many apprehensions about both of them. So, to avoid more menace in our locality, we have decided that they should not be allowed to live here again,” says an elderly man in the area.
A few years back, Amina had run away with a one-year-old baby of Narwara who was recovered near Zakura. “The police should properly investigate the matter as this may lead them to a nexus of any kidnapping racket, if any, going on in Kashmir,” says Mehnoor, “Amina is not mentally stable. Maybe she is being used by any gang and each time she gets away because of being a certified mentally ill,” she says.
The family of the kidnapped children have many apprehensions after they listened to the story of the five-year-old Mutahib when he returned home. He says that after Amina took them away, she advised both of them to call her ‘mama’ if any stranger queried. Besides, she had strictly warned them not to shout or cry. As per the story narrated by Mutahib, she had first taken them to Lal Ded hospital and then to Soura. But seeing the crowd at both places, she did not enter any of them.
“Then she took us to some place in some locality and gave us an orange juice to drink. Then I do not remember,” Mutahib has told his mother. Mehnoor also alleges that when the children got home, they were almost unconscious and did not take any meals for days.
While the police are unable to proceed with the investigations in the case, they have rewarded Bashir and are encouraging other locals to help them in a similar way. Bashir says it is not the only humane act that he has done. Earlier, he spent a day with one of his woman passenger to recover her ATM card which she forgot at a shop who disagreed to return it. “I staged a long drama to recover that ATM card and the hand bag of that woman,” says Bashir.
Bashir was fifteen years old when he lost his mother. He left school and had to marry early as there was no one to take care of the family. He is presently living with his wife and two daughters. His father passed away some years ago.
Sounding quite content with his earning, he says he wants to spend every penny he earns on the studies of his children. His daughter, Mehak Bashir, 14, wants to be a judge while Sadiya Bashir, 13, wants to be an engineer, he says with excitement. Both are very good are at their studies, he adds, but not as good as Arsalan was.
Arsalan Bashir, 5, his son, passed away two years back. His mention brought tears in Bashir’s eyes and a silence of few minutes followed. They all used to go to the same school but Arsalan was the sharpest of them all, Bashir says. “He wanted to be a doctor,” Bashir says with smile, “In fact he had saved his name on my mobile phone as Dr. Arsalan.”
Arsalan was found hanging inside a room on the top floor of his house. “I can never even imagine that such a smart boy can commit suicide. He was not mischievous at all and could never think of such things,” says Bashir. Bashir had not allowed the police to carry out the post-mortem of Arsalan’s body, “I could not tolerate more pain on his body. I pleaded the police to hand over the body and close the case,” he says.
The case could not be investigated but Bashir believes Arsalan became a prey to the family dispute between him and his brother.