Betrayed!

Arrested on his way back home, Liyaqat Shah became the latest crisis between New Delhi and J&K government. The case NIA is now investigating is keenly watched on either side on LoC where his three wives and four children live, Mudasir Majeed reports.

On a small plateau in Kupwara’s mountainous Dardpora Lolab village, a decrepit, wooden house makes its presence known by the rush of people visiting it these days. As I enter the house, a group of men and women are sitting on a worn-out mat, circled around a newspaper, anticipating the events that may happen in coming days to the case of their kin, Syed Liyaqat Shah.

Liyaqat crossed Line of Control in 1995 for arms training in Pakistan administered Kashmir. He had left home to become a militant, leaving behind his first wife, Ameena Shah, and two small children, Shabeer and Sadaam. But he ended up settling with his two new wives, Naseema and Akhtar-un-Nisa in Pak.

Contrary to the reports that have appeared in a section of Delhi-based newspapers that Liyaqat returned home in late 1996 (Holi Terror plot: Too many holes in Delhi Police story by Praveen Swami), his family strongly maintains that Shah never crossed back to Kashmir. “These are blazing lies. He could never make it back. Once he left, he married there and settled down with his two wives,” Liyaqat’s angry family and relatives repudiate in chorus.

Ameena says she had to grapple with worst after her husband left. She was excited to see him after a gap of 18-year. But her excitement fell apart as she heard about her husband’s arrest in Gorakhpur. “He was desperately waiting for the day to get his visa. We communicated on phone last year. He said that he wanted to return, to be with his family for the rest of his life. He had got his visa. Everything was in order. I had submitted the documents (Application No: 74) in SP office Kupwara for his return under Government’s Surrender/Rehabilitation Policy in February 2011,” says Ameena.

“Six days before he was to depart from Muzafarabad, he called me saying that he would leave on March 17 for home. He also told me that he would bring along his third wife, Akhtar-un-Nisa and Jabeena, Akhtara’s daughter from first husband. I was delighted to hear this, so I replied ‘Bring them too, but come’. This wait was no different than one for crescent of Eid. Now was the time for us to celebrate,” Ameena told me.

“Rehab-Policy had enlivened the hopes of my children to join school again. After my husband left, I begged to feed and educate them. But they had to leave in Class 10 to run the home because my health worsened. I don’t know what to do now. Our happiness was cut short by his arrest,” says a distressed Ameena.

Akhtar-un-Nisa forthrightly disapproves Delhi police’s claim that Liaqat was a Hizb-ul Mujahideen operative sent from Pakistan to execute major terror plot in Delhi on Holi. She maintains that he had long ago given up the militant activities and was running a small poultry shop in Tela-bandi area of Muzafarabad.

“It’s a staged conspiracy of Delhi Police aimed to frame my husband in a case which has no basis,” said Akhtar-un-Nisa. “I repent now why we came here. We had a peaceful life in Muzafarabad. We had no house there, just a tent, but it was peaceful.

Akhtar-un-Nisa says that had it not been about Liyaqat’s long wish to see his family in Kashmir, she would not have allowed him to come back, “What was the need to return to this troubled land. Is this what you call heaven? Muzafarabad offers a far secure life than this. Despite having no relationship with anyone, we were loved, respected and assisted by people.”

Akhtar-un-Nisa was first married to her cousin, Syed Noor Hasan, a Hizb militant, who was killed by Army in 1995. To an already high number of widows of Dardpora Kralpora village, she was one more entry. After her husband’s killing, there was no one to look after Akhtar and her deaf-mute daughter, Jabeena. She told me that the death of her husband had induced an immense emotional harm in her. “He was arrested by Army. They took him to Harai Kralpora camp. A deformed body was sent to us later. His flesh was ripped open. Nose, ears, eyes, they were torn. His was a terrifying death,” says Akhtar.

“I would have managed home by some way, but the Army didn’t let me. Every day they would come and threaten me. They would show gun to my daughter and tell her that ‘your mother keeps the same gun’. My brother was beaten ruthlessly many times. This thing continued for a long time,” she says.

Akhtar-un-Nisa says that she feared for her and her daughter’s life. “It was straining me and my parents gravely. I asked my father and brother to help me in getting a visa. I had planned to go to Pakistan along with my daughter and settle there for whatever time we had left. They refused straight away. In 2001, I got our visas and we went to Muzafarabad,” she recalls.

“No one abandons their homes happily. Repeated humiliation and threats from Army forced me to leave Kashmir. In 2006, I married Liyaqat Sahib in Muzafarabad. He already had a wife, Naseema Begum, in Manshera Bafa, Pakistan. We settled in Muzafarabad. The people gave us money. They admitted my daughter in a school. My husband opened a poultry shop. Life was so peaceful. He (Liyaqat) would manage houses, Naseem’s and mine, smoothly,” Akhtar-un-Nisa says.

“I am ready to go back to Muzafarabad to my small ‘tent’ if Indian government allows. My husband is innocent. I only pray they release him soon,” says a vexed Akhtar.

There are at least fifteen families in this hamlet in north Kashmir who have applied for the return of their kin under the rehabilitation policy. After Liyaqat Shah’s arrest, they have grown apprehensive too. They say if Liyaqat wasn’t released, they wouldn’t ask them to come back.

“I too applied in 2011 under Rehab-Policy for my son’s return. He is in Muzafarabad. But now I fear if he returns, they may create the same story again and trap my son in a similar, baseless case,” says the father of a youth who is in Muzafarabad.

I asked Ameena if she will allow Akhtar-un-Nisa to stay in her house, “I will be so happy if she stays with us. I will not in any way object to her entry into this house.” Lal Shah, the uncle of Ameena, quotes a Persian verse of poet Shiekh Saadi to answer my question, “Du Tan Yakhshun Dushkunund Kohira (If two hearts meet, they can make way through any mountain). Akhtar is our daughter like Ameena. No one can object to her entry in this house.”

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