Unending search

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She doesn’t know if her husband is dead or alive. She gave up search of her missing calligrapher husband who disappeared in troopers’ custody to concentrate on raising her children. She did a good job: her son is a doctor and daughter pursuing post-graduation. Mohammad Afzal Sofi reports.

(Calligrapher Mohammad Sidiq Shoulouri’s wife who raised his family against odds.)

In a dimly lit room of her single storey house at Krankshivan Colony, Sopore, Aisha Begum, 55, is thinking about the future of her two children. That has been her aim besides searching her husband since her calligrapher husband disappeared in BSF custody.

Aisha is one of the hundreds of women in Kashmir, who live in a limbo between the status of a married woman and widowhood. She is a half widow. Aisha’s husband, Mohammad Sidiq Sholuri was picked up by Border Security Forces (BSF) and disappeared in the custody. Even nineteen years later she has no clue of her husband’s whereabouts.

Sidiq a resident of Sopore worked as a calligrapher with many news organizations including the then monthly magazine ‘Takbeer-e-Nau” when personnel of 5th Bn. BSF picked him up from his rented room at Batamaloo Srinagar on March 25, 1991, after a heavy exchange of fire between militants and BSF.

“After the firing BSF men picked him up along with many other persons of the locality. They were all released after some time except my husband. Since then we don’t know his whereabouts,” says Aisha.

Aisha went to almost all BSF camps in the city to know her husbands whereabouts. But she did not get any clue, Aisha says, so she approached the then Divisional Commissioner and Director General of Police, who “assured” her that “her husband would be released after proper investigation’.

“After few months with the intervention of police, I approached the investigation wing of BSF who told me that my husband was released on April 11, 1991 along with 18 other detainees through police control room (PCR) Srinagar. I was shown the list of the released persons on which my husbands name existed at serial number nine,” said Aisha.

Surprised over the BSF’s claim, Aisha filed a case in Jammu and Kashmir High Court. The court directed Senior Superintendent of Police Srinagar to file a case against the accused BSF personnel and directed District and Sessions judge Baramulla to conduct an inquiry into the case.

The police during its investigation called all the persons in the list released by the BSF. Police investigation, Aisha says, concluded that some other person in Sidiq’s name was released by the BSF. The person was released by BSF only on the condition of not revealing his real name.

“Some of the released persons told police that my husband was brutally tortured in custody and his physical condition was so worse that it was impossible for him to move out or to stand on his feet. He was perhaps killed in the custody,” said Asiha. She wants to know whether her husband is alive or dead.

“I don’t know what happened to my husband in custody but at least they should make it clear that he is no more,” she sighed.

Sitting by the side of her mother, Ruqaiya, who does not remember her father as she was only two years old when her father disappeared also wants her father to be declared dead. “We have waited for long time. Now we want that he should be declared dead,” says Ruqaiya who is now a university student.
In 1997, the High Court after a judicial probe established the custodial disappearance of Sadeeq and ordered police to register a case but nothing substantial happened.

Initially, Aisha tried hard to seek the whereabouts of her husband and in the process went to every concerned authority. But her resolve weakened with the family’s deteriorating financial position. “Due to my weak financial position I had to stop pursuing the case,” she recalls.

Even after two decades of her husband’s disappearance she is yet to get any ex-gratia compensation.

The disappearance of Aisha’s husband made life a challenge. She had to look after her two very small children. She decided against marrying again. “I still remember the days when I had no money to feed my children or pay for their studies. It gave me nightmares. The future of my children and their education was my priority,” she said.

After three years of rigorous struggle she got a class fourth (lowest level) government job. “The job brought back hope of a better future of my children. I would be always grateful to the person who helped me in this regard,” she said.

Aisha may have failed in tracing the whereabouts of her husband but she did not fail in caring for her two children and providing them quality education. Her son, 28, did his MBBS from Aligarh Muslim University and her daughter is pursuing Masters in psychology at Kashmir University.

Aisha remembers Sidiq as a religious, virtuous and soft-spoken person.

“Besides being God-fearing, he was a very talented and hard working artist. Apart from working with news organization he has compiled several books, pamphlets and cards in several languages. He has also written Bismillah in more than two hundred different forms and shapes,” says Aisha adding that he was punished for a sin he never committed.

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