This wait is not over!

Insha Bint Bashir

Disappeared

With each passing second, I am drawn closer to the past of my caged land. Today when I am standing at the last moment of my teenage, scores of realities have seeped inside my senses. And now, I know it all—the heap of nightmare, which has now become our default legacy!

For me, it all started in 1995, the year I was born. That year, I later knew, a high-profile kidnapping case of the foreigners surfaced in the valley. Like thousands, whereabouts of those western souls were never found. ‘The Kashmir kidnapping that changed the face of modern terrorism,’ the foreign authors, Adrian levy and Cathy Scott Clark, bookmarked the event in their book.

As a child I have heard stories from my mother, my granny, and from my other relatives about crackdowns in villages during 90’s. And all those disturbing details—killing youth in front of their families; raping women in front of their children; torturing men in their own homes while keeping the rest of the members outside to hear their screams. Like scores in my homeland, I too have grown up listening to these harrowing tales. And now, I have come to accept the feeling that we are the worst sufferers of decadal conflict.

I, right from my childhood, used to read the newspapers—from which, I came to know about the plight of torn, bruised and shattered Kashmiris.

In 2010, I watched a movie, New York, and again my mind struck to one fact: that why 9/11 changed the mindset of western world. The level of suspicion against Muslims in general has become such that even if you carry the best secular credentials, but if your passport reads a Muslim name, you have to be subject of surveillance. I am not an Arabic scholar, neither do I speak nor read this beautiful language that brilliantly. But I am thankful to my Dad who bought an English translation of the Holy Qur’an. I have yet to find a single Ayaat where anyone is allowed to use violence against innocent people. There is no such term used there in the Holy Qur’an, which clearly warns us “….Killing a single human is like killing an entire mankind.”

But still we are terrorists for the rest of the world. My suggestion for the world will be: have a good look at our condition and recognize us full well. And realize how much pain and suffering has been beard by Kashmiris.

And that pain is exhibited in every 10th of the month in summer capital, when family members of those who were devoured to restore order stage a silent sit-in.

Quiet often, I came through this word in newspapers, APDP, but I hardly ever pondered over this. But one day, I asked my Dad about its full form. Replying to which, he said, ‘Association of parents of disappeared persons.’ At the same time, I came through numerous cases of custodial deaths, tortures, illegal detentions, extra-judicial killings, also known as fake encounters, and found it impossible to brush them away. I pondered over one fact that thousands of people can’t disappear accidentally. It has happened with a design!

And then, on Feb 15, 2014, the protest in Srinagar’s Pratap Park about the Pathribal Fake encounter and Chattisingpora massacre by APDP caught my attention. And the lady who was spearheading needs no introduction, Parveena Ahanger.

Later when I returned home, I started searching details about APDP formation, its members, its motives and what not. By delving deep into details, I was felt shattered! My heart started aching and creases on my face developed.

I came to know that APDP founder, Parveena Ahangar, was an ordinary Kashmiri until 1990. In August that year, her son Javed Ahmed Ahanger, a 16-year-old boy was arrested by NSG Commandos. While running from pillar to post to secure her son’s release from the Commandos, she was once told, her son is in a Govt. hospital, where she never found him. She single-handedly started tracing the whereabouts of his son.

During her frantic efforts, she came across other people like her, whose near and dear ones were disappeared in the custody. Today APDP has created an international attention.

On reading one of her interviews, Parveena says, ‘Eventually, I found it difficult to fight for justice individually. With the pace of time many others like me formed a family and got untied.’ Today, APDP has more than 600 families under its umbrella. She was often asked by the government to drop the case but she refused to sold herself, and chose to fight. ‘How can a mother sell her son? Can any mother ever do that?’ She was quoted as saying. Parveena has promised many others like her to continue searching their dear ones. Pain has now united them.

It is no revelation that women are the worst hit in the tragic landscape of Kashmir. Their sons and husbands were taken away from markets, homes and streets. Their fate was often not known. Most of those who disappeared were non-combatants. And consider, how many people are directly affected by the ordeal of a loved one disappearing. It is torturous. Perpetual trauma goes to their heads. Half-widows are even the worst hit of turmoil as they can’t go for second marriage. Though, of late, some sermons have seemingly came to their rescue. But given the circumstances they are living in, not each one of them can think about new life when old wounds are still bleeding, and that too, profusely!

If a member dies, we mourn and are forced to move on. But when someone disappears, the entire family, community is disrupted emotionally. They all join the search. When does it end? No answer. Recently half-widows observed one day hunger strike on Jan 28, 2014 but the day met the same fate as earlier ones.

The use of discipline and death as a regulatory mechanism has left our society traumatized. And, it now exists in virtual limbo. Parveena may appear brave for the rest of the world. But the pain in her eyes for her lost child is too overt. One can clearly imagine her pain, her mourning. But she isn’t alone in her search. Scores like her are frantically searching the signs of their loved ones. But at the moment, their unending wait appears futile!

Will our disappeared ones return? Are they alive? Are they dead? These questions have been raised countless times. Emotions will be resurrected at the end, will they be? A new reading of text will free pain with meaning. Freedom will then be a movement within without existence of grand exterior, will it be?

Ever since going through the name APDP, I am having colourless nights. I am novice to their pain and I am already troubled. But what about those whose sons, husbands are untraced for years? Their pain might be colossal for them. My heart sinks every time I think about it. What about them: whose dear ones were their future? Will we be able to defeat our fate? Will our mourning be the anthem to write a new history of our disappeared ones?

And amid the lingering and agonizing wait, the parents of disappeared ones look upbeat. The passion to question; aspiration to struggle; imagination beyond norms; idea to transcend life; hope of an unshackled Kashmir; faith that their sons, husbands are alongside and the wish for impossibility keep them going.

Kashmir has always been a sensitive issue. The broken homes and the daily travails of life in the valley are missing from the imagination of most of the people living outside Jawahar tunnel. Kashmir is the victim of domination, denomination and desperation. The new generation needs the questions to be answered. We are less afraid to speak up. We have realized that we have to get past the rhetoric, rise above it.

The struggle for justice is a long way; journey is full of challenges and excitements. Endless voyage of realization and reflection are there where many stations and passengers are present. We have to be a station where one cycle of justice is completed but there are many more cycles to be completed, and so many stations need to be covered and created.

In this spirit, it will be there to remind us always that the journey is long and full of challenges. And while justice might go some way toward healing wounds and advancing closure, it is unlikely to bring son home or to ease their parents anguish. Perhaps Ghalib’s couplet summarizes our plight:

Ranj se khugar hua insaan to mit jata hai ranj,

Mushkilien mujh par pari itni ke aasan ho gayien!

(When one is used to sorrow, sorrow sheds its sting;

So many troubles have I [we] born, they leave me [us] unperturbed)

(A photography enthusiast and an aspiring writer, Insha Bint Bashir is a literature student from South Kashmir’s Islamabad district. She has recently qualified her Class 12)

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