Many of the around 3000 Kashmiri militants stranded on the other side of LoC are returning along with their wives and children. SYED ASMA meets one such family which left everything behind to return home.
Four months ago, the more than two decades of waiting of Asadullah Dar and Phraicha Begum came to an end. Their son Shabir Ahmed Dar, 44, returned home. He had crossed the LoC for arms training and got stuck in Pakistan for all these years.
“He told me he is going out with his friends to the nearby market and came back after 23 years. I gave him Rs 500 when he left,” remembers Phracha Begum, Shabir’s mother and smiles.
The joy of having her son back is visible on her face. All these years she has been waiting to see her son, she says, this wait has taken a toll on her health badly.
Shabir along with his family returned from Pakistan under the government rehabilitation policy for militants stranded in Pakistan, who want to return to their homes in Kashmir. They came to Kashmir via Kathmandu.
The policy allows return of militants, and their Pakistani wives and children, stranded in Pakistan to return after clearance from the security agencies. Their return is allowed through four places viz Uri, Chakkan da bagh on Loc, Wagah (Punjab) international border and Indira Gandhi international Airport New Delhi. However, the returning militants are coming mostly through Nepal route. Police officials say that Pakistan does not allow their return through the designated points.
“It has been a very costly journey via Kathmandu¬. Not every Kashmiri settled in Pakistan can afford to come back on such a huge cost,” he says. It has cost him about Rs 3 lakh.
Talking about Shabir, Asadullah, an excited father says, “When he left he was a clean shaved young boy but now he looks older than me”. He quickly takes out a photograph from a cupboard, which shows a young almost teenaged Shabir. The picture was clicked in 1989, before he left.
The photograph in it has a young boy wearing trendy jeans jacket and a scenery in background. But for today’s Shabir, this photograph is in no way his introduction. He looks completely different. He is bearded, wears a skull cap, has gained weight and probably no more wears these trendy clothes.
Shabir in 1989, like thousands of other young men, had crossed the border to be an active participant in the Kashmir’s armed struggle. “We were young then and thought it is very easy to make our land [Kashmir] independent but it turned out to be difficult, very difficult!” says Shabir.
Shabir was a part of an organisation called ‘Al Mustafa Liberation Fighters’. He left home with 68 member group and it took them weeks to cross the LoC and reach Muzaffarabad. He says they used to stay put during day and move during nights.
Shabir had planned to get trained, come back home and fight Indian forces, he says. But things did not happen as he wanted. He was trained for 41 days but was never sent back home by his organisation. The poor planning of his organisation compelled him to leave it, he says.
“I escaped from the training camp as I felt it (the organisation) wasn’t doing any good to the cause (Kashmir cause) and later I steadily disconnected myself from the whole thing and started to work independently.”
After disconnecting himself from the group and the “struggle” he had to look for other options to get settled in a new place, Muzaffarabad in Pakistan administered Kashmir. And coming back home was not any option then.
“By then the political conditions between India and Pakistan had worsened, there were no ways to get back to home again, though we tried many times but failed repeatedly”.
His first job in Muzaffarabad after leaving his organisation was of a salesman. After few months he left that job and joined a new job. He started working in a hotel owned by a Kashmiri.
He says it was destined! It was in this hotel that he met Zaitoona’s family. He married Zaitoona Naaz in 1991 and now have five daughters. They are all Pakistani nationals but their Pakistani passports were destroyed before entering into the Indian mainland. They cannot move out of India till they get Indian passports.