Discovering A Cushion

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After failing in getting their lone breadwinner out of the jail, family members of a ruling party worker started making cushions for survival, reports Saqib Mir

Mohammad Altaf Malik

Mohammad Altaf Malik, a tall man with a flowing beard is ruling PDP’s most known worker. A resident of Sandoo Brakpora (South Kashmir), he would visit every single home to seek votes during elections.

For the last more than 18 months, Malik is behind bars. Since his arrest, at the peak of 2016 unrest, his family is in deep distress as they do not have any other breadwinner.

A PHE daily-wager, he was living with his wife, three sons and a daughter. His daughter is married and settled.

For supporting the family, Malik, according to his family members was working as a plumber during his free time. Sometimes, his son Tufail Altaf, 18, a polytechnic student, would join him as well.

Everything was going smoothly until November 12, 2016. He had gone to purchase cement but returned hastily and then told his family that he has something more urgent to do. For most of the day, Malik did not return calls. By evening, however, he made a call to them revealing that he had been summoned by JIC, Khanabal for questioning. Though he told his family he will be home soon but that did not happen. He was arrested formally, the same day.

After his arrest, the family alleged their home was raided. “One day in a raid, they (police) reported they recovered some grenades from our cowshed,” Tufail said. “The fact is that they did not enter our cowshed at all.”

By then, police registered FIR 256/2016 US 307,302,427 RPC and 3, 4, 5 Explosive Substances Act against him. He was shown involved on September 12, 2016, a grenade attack on the police-post Sherbagh in which a civilian was killed and many cops were injured.

“Since my father was the PDP worker, we approached them all for help but they did not pay any heed to our pleas that he is not involved at all,” Tufail said. He even alleges his father has impaired hearing in one of one his ears because of torture at the JIC. For almost a year, he is in local district jail and is attending his trial.

But the family insists they are in distress. The government, they say, have held up his paltry salary. As they were unable to see any exit from the crisis, the family took the suggestion of their son in law, Sartaj Ahmad Mir seriously and started making cushions.

Now the entire family is into cushion-making. While two brothers manage it for the day, later when their youngest brother Ahsan Altaf, a class three student, returns from school, he also joins his mother. Sartaj who is already in this trade is helping them market the products.

Family of Malik started to make cushions for their survival.

Maliks’ are not alone in this mess. Almost two kilometres from them lives Irfan Ahmad Dar in Nowgam Brakpora village. Dar, 35, is married and was living with his wife and two small children. A brilliant student of his school, Dar, according to his father Shareef Ahmad, was an ex-militant who picked up a gun in 1997 and remained active for a few months.

“When my son joined militancy, we begged him to shun this path and he gave it up,” Ahmad said. “Then he resumed his studies and passed his 12fth class examination.”

However, his routine did not help him become normal as he was on the radar of the security grid. Any untoward incident in the belt would fetch him an immediate summons by the police. Tired, the family invested and set up a shop that he would manage. Soon he was married.

During the intervening night of October 17 and 18, 2016, Dar was arrested after the police barged into their residence. Dar’s father was beaten for asking the police about why they broke the door. While whisking the Dar away for alleged involvement in stone pelting, they even fired a few bullets in the air.

Dar was formally booked in FIR 256/2016, the same case in which Malik was also booked.

Shareef, Dar’s father, after few months of his arrest, he got a call that his son in custody at Cargo was ill. “When I reached there, I found two persons helping my son to walk because he had been tortured severely to the extent that he was not even able to stand on his legs,” Shareef said. “He was then immediately shifted to a hospital in Srinagar where doctors found his back and one of the kidneys severely injured.”

Interestingly the families of Malik and Dar insist the two were strangers to each another and had never talked to one another. It was the FIR that brought them together. Now the two families are together outside the jail as their members are fighting the case in the court.

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