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Bashir Ahmad Balla crossed the line of control in 1990. A crippling accident left him with only one wish – returning home. Majid Maqbool meets the man after his wish was granted
Lying close to the line of control, Dardpora village in north Kashmir Kupwara district was a favourite crossover point in 90s for youth to get arms training in Muzaffarabad. Bashir Ahmad Balla, then 26, ran a grocery shop in the village. As fate would have it, Balla too crossed the line one day, and took a bus to Muzaffarabad.
Fate, however, took another turn as the bus met an accident on the way, killing one of its six passengers. Others suffered injuries. Balla was crippled for life. Sixteen years later, he returned home on a wheelchair to reunite with his family.
He doesn’t remember the events after the accident. He has no idea who took him to the hospital. All he remembers is the hospital complex where he regained consciousness after the accident. “When I woke up I found myself in a hospital in Islamabad. I came to know from the hospital staff that my legs were paralysed for life,” he says.
His family had no news of his accident across the border.
He was provided help and treatment by NGOs and some migrants in Muzafarabad. Unable to walk on his legs again, he was also provided a wheelchair.
Balla says that he had resigned himself to fate after the accident but the thought of his family kept the desire to come home alive. “I wanted to see my children and spend rest of my life with them.” Despite his handicap, he kept his wishes strong. The wishes that finally brought him home.
In a two storey wooden house in the hills of Dardpora Maidan, Balla sits uneasily on the wheelchair he travelled on from Muzzafarabad to home via Delhi in train and bus. Every time he smiles, his eyes almost disappear into their sockets. He needs help every time he has to disembark from his wheelchair. A blue polythene bag – meant to pass urine –remains attached to the wheelchair. His sons, aged 23 and 21, are always around to help him change his posture whenever he feels discomfort. He can’t move around all by himself. His movement is restricted to waking up to sit back on the wheelchair in the morning, and coming out of it as the sun goes down, to sleep on his bed.
Flanked by his sons, who look at him with satisfaction, Balla says he always thought of his children after the accident. During all these years of separation from his family, he would exchange letters with them. And later, when the mobile phone became operational in Kashmir, he would also talk to his family on phone.
Before his crossover Balla was a shopkeeper. For years, when he failed to return home, his rented shop was emptied and closed by his brother. His family struggled to make a living. They had no hopes of his return either.
“I had never thought that my father would return home after 16 years in Muzzafarabad, and we would be able to see him again,” says his 24-year-old son, jobless after completing an MA in Urdu from Maulana Azad National Urdu University through distance education. “We have no means to go to city and earn.”
The family has no means of a secured livelihood. Balla looks towards government for help. But none has come till now. “Look at my condition today. Now that I am not in a position to earn for my family, the government is not helping me in anyway.”
Despite hardships, Balla’s heart always remained at home. His 16 year stay in Muzzafarabad was enough to make him a Muzzafarabad national. Though he became one, he always wanted to return to his family.
So he applied for a visa to travel to Delhi. In 2007, on his wheelchair, he travelled to Delhi. Prior to his departure from Muzzafarabad, he had informed his family about his return. On his way to Delhi he told his story to the fellow passengers on the train. They helped him in filling required forms for further travel. Some of his relatives had also come to receive him in Delhi.
“I had faith in Allah that I will reunite with my family one day,” he says in retrospect as a gentle smile plays on his lips.
On returning to Kupwara, he had to submit all the documents with the J&K police. For 12 days, he was kept in a lockup in police station Trehgam. “I was questioned by some agencies about my return, my documents were checked, and I was asked about my whereabouts for 16 years when I was away from my home,” he says. For the past two years his case for a permanent stay in Dardpora is lying with a court.
Ask him about differences in people on either side of the border, the smile returns to his face and wrinkles become prominent. “People from both sides of the border are the same,” he says. “Two things I noticed are very good there,” he is quick to add. “They have good roads and the electricity supply there is also good.”
With his biggest wish in life granted, his now wishes his children do well in life. “I want to see a bright future for my children now so that my 16 years of absence from their lives is compensated,” he says with a gleam of hope in his eyes.
“I want them to live a happy life.”

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