Malik Nisar and Sajad Gul
Dusk is falling in the Kashmir valley and Zoona Begum makes sure she closed all the doors and windows of her house before she goes for bed. It’s been three years since her husband and two sons were detained illegally for allegedly sheltering militants.
“People seem afraid. Very few people have visited their house since their father and two brothers were detained. And hardly do they bother about their sufferings “ said Aliya, a distant relative of Zoona.
Grief stricken, Zoona has hardly stepped outside her house for the last three years. Initially, the family was reluctant to recollect the horrid details about the incident. But then, Zoona’s daughter, Nusrat offered to share some details.
On June 29, all the family members had gone to bed after dinner, as they usually did. In the middle of the night gunshots broke the silence of the night. “Our eyes were so closed with sleep that we woke up only after our door was knocked by forces outside,” Nuzhat remembers.
A cordon was laid in their village, Chakpora. And police forces had barged into their private rooms, searching for the hiding militants. But to their surprise there was nothing except the family members.
Bashir Ahmad Khan, was detained along with his two sons Mudasir, 26, and Muzaffar, 28, by the police after a gunfight in their locality in central Kashmir’s Budgam, Kanipora.
The police have claimed that the militant was hiding in Khan’s house and a case was registered against Bashir. Another case was registered against the brothers for working and pricing aid to the militants.
“My husband and sons were illegally picked by government forces and were labeled as militant sympathizers for allegedly giving shelter to a militant. The militant was killed some 500 feet away that day and there was not a single bullet mark during the ensuing gunfight,” said Zoona Begum “it’s an ongoing battle for me and my daughter, as uncertainty looms large.”
Recurring memories from the day and its aftermath lead to sleeplessness, disbelief and fear.
After the family lost their men to prison, Begum and her daughter Nusrat have to stay alone at home even in nights feeling crushed by the government’s false labeling.
Nusrat vividly remembers how after 8 days of the gunfight, army came to their house and started searching their house and in a matter of thirty minutes they claimed to have recovered arms and ammunition from the second storey of the house and started photographing them.
Shattered by the false charges one after the other, the family has lost hopes in the justice delivery system.
Nusrat, a tailor by profession and presently the only source of income of Khan family recalled that a local DYSP of the police threatened her that he will not let her marry any and used to raid their house in the middle of the hight. “They used to come regularly with the excuse of checking and blaming us for sheltering militants. Those remarks scared me a lot when he told me I will not let you marry any,” Nusrat shared how her family is threatened.
Zoona, however, says fear is no solution. “What happened to my husband and two sons is unbelievable,” she admits, but in order to avoid such things in a conflict zone like Kashmir in the future, justice should be delivered to them to see the light of the day.
Mir Urfi, a young female criminal lawyer, who is also working on UAPA cases in Kashmir, calls it an injustice with the family that they booked three different family members from a single-family. “Many of the witnesses of the case have failed to provide proof, and they are failing one by one,” she points out.
It is pathetic that the police have involved different family members in various activities. For example, a father was involved in sheltering militants, his son a hardcore militant and another one termed as OGW. Urfi says,”we are hopeful that they will be released soon.”
Meanwhile, while commenting on the rising UAPA cases against the people of Kashmir, she says that it is much abused, which is illegal and gives them the full authority to control Kashmiris.