Wounded Womb

Regardless of peace and war, mothers are naturally emotional beings, neutral to every other thing around. What happens when a mother loses a son? Rashid Ahmad traced two mothers separated by 3-km distance and linked by the pain of losing their sons, in separate incidents. Both turned mad. One died in a ditch within three months of losing a son and another is fighting insanity and forgetfulness

Mother of a Special Police Official (SPO) from Shopian who was killed in a militant attack, turned melancholic after getting the news of her son’s killing. Photo: Mukhtar Khan

During the intervening night of September 2 and 3, when Bhats failed to trace Ruqaiya, the family’s eldest lady, not in her bed, they almost jumped out. They knew where she would be – the graveyard.

They rushed and traced her. Wailing near her son’s grave, she had started digging it with her fragile hands. She wanted to take her son’s corpse home. They stopped her and took her home.

Since then, her condition is deteriorating and she has turned almost mad in the longing of her young son. This, the Bhats say was not her first attempt to escape from home and reach the grave of her son.

Adil Manzoor Bhat, her son, was one of the four cops who fell to militant bullets on August 29, at Arhama, in Shopian outskirts. Part of DySP (Hq) Shopian’s escort detail, they had taken a Rakshak vehicle for repairs.

But Adil’s mother is not the only woman in the belt who has landed into intense trauma after the killing of her son. Almost seven months back, same crisis overtook Taaja in Nadpora village after her son Rayees Ahmad Ganai was killed in an army shootout at Ganawpora. She turned completely mad and died on May 14, three months after her son’s killing. The mother-son lay buried in the same graveyard.

Separated by around three kilometres, the two families had their slain sons central to their hope of a good future. With the hopes dashed, they are killing themselves. One died and the other is hoping against a visible hope.

Taja, mother of Rayees Ahmad Ganai, a civilian from Ganavpora, Shopian, who turned mad and died within three months of her son’s murder by the army. Family photo

Taaja had four sons. Two elder ones are settled and living separately in their own nuclear families. Rayees would take care of her and his younger brother. A faithful son, he was known as Avlad-e-salih, in his village, an Urdu word that usually refers to a good and obedient son.

Taaja had woven a big dream around Rayees. She had seen a girl in Sedow belt and plans were afoot to have an engagement ceremony on January 28. But on the eve of it, Rayees was killed.

Khursheed Ahmad Ganie, Rayees’s elder brother was sitting at home when villagers were out in orchards, offices and fields. Since he is suffering from osteomyelitis, a serious bone infection, and has undergone three surgeries on his right leg, he usually stays home.

As gunshots were heard, Khursheed said, his mother shouted in reassurance: “Rayees has gone to Brethipora to get a shave and haircut as he was getting engaged the next day.

“But that was not correct because Rayees had been hit by a bullet and his cousin had taken him to the hospital,” Khursheed said, “She was not familiar about the fact that her son was shot by the army on his forehead. We heard the bad news after about half an hour of the firing.

“Before going to the hair salon, we came to know later, he had gone to Ganowpora to offer condolences to the family whose militant son was killed three days ago at Adoo village.”

Rayees remained in critical care ICU at SKIMS for many days. At home, the family were telling his mother, Taaja that Rayees was fine and was being treated for a leg injury. “For three days, we managed her but Rayees finally lost his battle in the hospital,” Khursheed said. “She lost her senses on hearing about the death of her son and turned mad soon.”

For many days, the long lines of mourners were unending. Rayees was one of the eight young men who fell to the bullets within a week’s time. Mourners would come, recite Fateh and leave without knowing what exactly was happening in the family.

Taaja didn’t spend a moment normally after knowing the fate of her son. He was very dear to her.

Ruquya, mother of slain SPO, Adil Manzoor Bhat, who was killed by militants on August 29, 2018, at Arhama. She is now a serious psychiatric patient and is under medication and tight watch of the family.

Rayees was 19 when he gave up studies in class X. He actually failed to pass one subject. But the real reason was the death of his father, Muhammad Yousuf Ganie in 2013, who was then 55. He died on the day of Eid. His diabetic, hypertensive mother lose the support.

“After giving up education, Rayees went with local cooks to learn Wazwan and earn some money,” Khursheed said. “We have only two kanals of land which in no way was sufficient to fetch us two-time meals.”

With mourners gone, the family landed in a crisis. Taaja started searching Rayees everywhere around the village. “The path Rayees took on that day was her major area to search her son,” Khurshid said. “She was searching him in bushes and orchards and was crying uninterrupted.”

Tahira Jan, Khursheed’s wife, said her mother-in-law would make strange suggestions. “During dinner, she used to tell us to keep food for Rayees,” Tahira said. “We would do it and the dinners would become mourning sessions.” Sometimes, she would ask for keeping the main door open for her son.

Khursheed said they took their mother to SMHS. “Doctors told us she was suffering from a major heart problem and her mind too is suffering from trauma,” Khursheed said. “They suggested us to keep her happy and then only there were chances of her recovery.” She was under observation for some time and had developed cardiomegaly with deranged blood sugar.

Sometimes, she would give the family a slip and start searching for her son during nights and neighbours would see her and get her back.

One night, after three months of Rayees’s killing, Taaja silently left her home again. No one saw her this time. One of her sons was away and the family was in deep slumber. “At dawn, my niece shouted from window saying my mother was missing,” Khursheed said. The family was out, searching. “I was aware of the path she used to take daily in search of her son and I had covered barely 500 meters that I found her lying in a shallow canal with almost no water flowing. I shouted for help and soon we knew she is no more.”

Since then, the three-room, two stories, mud and timber house is locked. Rayees’s younger brother is living with his elder brother. Even he is living a modest life. His main source of income is his cow. The only room that still is in use is that of the cowshed.

After she died, the family destroyed all her diagnosis reports. Later, various government officials came and told them to process the case for compensation but they refused. “We don’t want any compensation either from the government or from the resistance camp,” Javaid said. “We can’t sell the blood of our dear ones.”

Ganowpora is situated barely half a kilometre away from the region’s major army garrison at Balpora where from 12 sector Rashtriya Rifles operates.

Two incidents took place in the village that day. Of the two militants who had been killed in an encounter in Chaigund on January 25, 2018, one belonged to Ganawpora village. People were coming for condolences. On the morning of January 27, a posse of troops from 44-RR came to the cemetery side and removed all the buntings and the banners that the slain militant’s friends had put up. It triggered tensions.

Later, that afternoon, a small convoy of 10-Garwal moved through the village, against the police advisory, and faced stone pelting. Three youth were hit by bullets in the retaliation. Two of them, Javaid Ahmad Bhat and Suhail Javaid, died in two local hospitals as Rayees was shifted to SKIMS in a critical condition. Army said they opened fire in self-defence.

Rayees Ahmad Ganai, a civilian who was killed by army men in January 2018

After the killing, the state government took a stand and went public with a formal case against the army. Police identified Major Aditya in the FIR No 26 of 2018 under sections 302, 307 and 336 RPC. However, on February 8, Kumar’s father Lt Colonel Karamveer Singh approached the Supreme Court seeking the case be quashed. On February 12, the apex court stopped Jammu and Kashmir police from taking any coercive step against the army officer. On March 8, the central government sought quashing of the FIR even though the state government said the officer has been named because he was leading the convoy and not mentioned as accused. The bench ruled that the officer was “an army officer and not an ordinary criminal” and continued stay in the investigations. The stay continued on July 31, hearing.

On August 14, Major Aditya Kumar was bestowed with Shaurya Chakra by the Government of India for “meticulous planning and gallant action” during an “anti-terror” operation in Budgam in November 2017. The announcement came three months after Taaja was found dead in the ditch.

With Taaja laid to rest and her home haunted forever, the belt is watching almost the same situation. Ruqaiya, the slain cop’s mother is suffering from the same trauma that killed Rayees’s mother.

Not far away from Nadpora, Adil’s family lives in a two-story, run-down, old-fashioned house in Zawoora.

Adil, according to his father joined the police department as special police official (SPO) two years ago after giving up his education in twelfth class. His father, a labour, was now unable to manage, because of a disc problem in his back. After the family gave him the consent, he was hired by police for the job and deployed in a DySP’s escort. The services of SPOs are temporary. It also lacks any proper rule for hiring. They are given a lump-sum of Rs 6000, a month. If the SPO does any anti-militancy work, he is considered for formal induction as a cop.

Since Adil’s broad daylight killing, Adil’s four-member family including his parents and two younger siblings, are in distress. All of them are in trauma but two are very serious. According to the family, Adil’s younger brother has suffered two serious brain strokes so far. Ruqaiya has turned almost mad, having absolutely no control over her mind.

“She is unwell,” Gulzar, Ruqaiya’s brother said. “We got her twice from the graveyard where she was attempting to dig him out. She once tried to go to Shopian police lines where her son was deputed.”

Manzoor Ahmad Bhat, Adil’s ailing father for whom he had given up studies, is in serious crisis. “I am the only person who is retaining some sanity,” Bhat said. “Owais, my other son is studying in tenth class but after the killing of his brother, he got multiple strokes. Even Mehnaz, my daughter is in a serious medical condition.” He has kept his son with his neighbour to avoid stress at home pushing him to the next strike.

All the three are on medication. “Doctors have taken samples of her but we are yet to get the reports,” Manzoor said. “Doctors advised us to provide joy to her, keep her away from any untoward incident and wailing.”

Aadil Manzoor Bhat, an SPO, who was killed in a militant attack at Arhama in Shopian on August 29, 2018.

Interestingly, the medical tests of his son and daughter are also awaited. “Doctors suggested us medicines for psychiatric disorders and also an EEC diagnosis,” he added.

Bhats have only two kanals of land that is not going to feed them even for a month.

Nisar Ahmad Khan, next door neighbour of Bhats’ said that recently during a marriage ceremony in the neighbourhood, Owais tried to hammer his head. “People jumped to save him but he still needed hospitalisation,” he said.

Manzoor said Adil would stay away from home, even though the Shopian Police Line is hardly a kilometre away. “The one thing he was passionate about was cricket,” the ailing father said. “Two days before his killing, he took part in a cricket match despite his abdominal pain and I also went there to watch it.”

Barring, the DySP in whose escort detail Adil was, nobody from the police have visited the family. They are yet to receive compensation.

Officials investigating the case said they are “on it” but “cracking it will take time”. They said compensation is also in the pipeline and will come. “It takes some time,” an officer said.

The Bhat family lives in an outdated house, just outside the residence of former PDP MLA, Abdul Razaq Zawoora. Separated by a thick concertina wire from other houses in the neighbourhood, a number of cops guarding the old man are witness to the plight of Adil’s mother.

(A post graduate from IUST Awantipora, Rashid is a Shopian based reporter.)

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