Born Orphan

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Every child born in Kashmir during 90’s opened his eyes in hostility. In most of the cases the first thing they witnessed was death, destruction and tears. There is large number of such kids who were orphaned hours before they opened their eyes into the world. Bilal Handoo reports the struggle of such kids and their families.

Javeed Iqbal Rather and  Gowhar Bahadur

Javeed Iqbal Rather and Gowhar Bahadur

April 1993

On April 7, 1993 a newly wed couple were having tea in the lawn of bride’s home in Batamaloo. Suddenly a mine blast at Batamaloo bus stand left them terrified. The area was soon cordoned off by Border Security Force (BSF). Next day, soon after the morning prayers, loud speakers of local mosques made announcements instructing, “Everybody is ordered to step out of their homes and gather at the bus stand.” People instantly knew that it’s a crackdown.

Among scores of people, Gowher Amin Bahadur, 21, of Danderkhah, Batamaloo also stepped out of his home.

The crackdown went on till 3.00 PM in the evening. It was relatively hot and humid that day which made people feel thirsty. Bahadur, a readymade garments vendor, couldn’t withstand it and got up to provide drinking water to people. His action instantly irked BSF personnel on the spot, who questioned Bahadur’s move. Bahadur told him that it is a sacred act to give water to thirsty. This followed by an argument after which he was bundled in a gypsy along with Javaid Ahmad Bakshi of Baranpather, Batamaloo.

“Both of them were taken to Banpora, Batamaloo to a cowshed where they were killed,” Munawara Sultana, 42, widow of Bahadur says. “During crackdown I heard three gunshots, but I hardly knew that two of them were aimed to silence my groom.”

The body of Bahadur was later found at Police Control Room, Srinagar. His body had gunshots in head and chest. “Soon after killing my husband and Javaid, BSF lifted the crackdown, vacated all bunkers in the area and fled from the spot,” Sultana, who had been married to Bahadur for only four months at the time of his killing, recalls.

As mourning was still on at Bahadur’s residence, the accused 4th Battalion BSF filed an FIR no. 65/1993 at the Shergari police station claiming that two unidentified militants were killed during a cordon and search operation by various battalions of the BSF and some arms and ammunition were recovered from the spot. “This FIR was subsequently closed by declaring the accused, commandant GS Shekawat and deputy commandant Sanyal Singh of 4th Battalion BSF, as untraced but later was reopened,” Sultana informs.

After one week of her husband’s killing, Sultana says, the area was again put under crackdown. “Under the garb of crackdown, all earlier vacated bunkers in the area were restored,” she says.

In between, she lodged an FIR no. 74/1993 at Shergari police station. The FIR stated that the “victims” were picked up and killed; besides they were not part of any militant organisation. “The FIR was filed following an application to the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Srinagar,” Sultana says.

The post-mortem report of April 17, 1993 confirmed that the cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds.

Five months after Bahadur’s killing, Sultana gave birth to a baby boy, Anees Gowher on Sep 21 1993. Anees is studying in BA first year and looks like a carbon copy of his slain father. “His father was killed just for fun by the BSF,” Sultana says.

For last twenty years, Sultana is in struggle for justice. Her jet black hair when she first entered into the premises of Srinagar’s High Court has now turned into salt and pepper, but she hasn’t, yet, lost hope to punish the killers who made her to live a life of a destitute one.

“My only sin was that I married,” she says while wiping her watery eyes. “But I won’t rest till my husband’s killers are punished.”

During last twenty years of struggle, she fought like a lone warrior. She rejected scores of marriage proposals for the sake of her slain husband’s son,  sold her jewellery to sustain the livelihood all these years and hardly missed any hearing of her husband’s murder case either in Srinagar’s Lower or High Court. But then, Sultana nearly succumbed two years ago when she consumed poison to end her life.

“You see,” she says, “sometimes it hurts and it hurts very badly when you find yourself fighting alone a battle with the system that denies you justice for twenty long years in spite of having all evidences against the wrongdoers.”

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