Srinagar, May 30, 2014 (PPI-OT): “Look what happened to us! Imagine how worse it’d be for the others”, she tells me while we sit in a dimly lit room of their two-room house in Fatehpora area of Khwajabagh in Baramulla, writes Abdul Qadeer, Executive Director of Voice of Victims after meeting the mother of a disappeared son.
“How do you explain it? Kirti Chakra (she tries too hard to pronounce it) to the father and enforced disappearance of the son!” Abdul Qadeer quotes the mother, which explains to him her usage of the words ‘us’ and ‘them’ at the beginning of their conversation.
Perhaps a Kirti Chakra awardee’s son would be spared, one might think; but it was not to be. It was 5 a.m. on one March morning in 1994 when Khadija Begum’s 22 year old son Riyaz Ahmad Dar, a labourer, was picked up by the B.S.F. He was the second of her five children, others being a daughter and three sons.
Her husband Mohammad Dar had served in the army for over twenty years. “We all were here when they took Riyaz. My husband went to all camps to search for him. Since he had served in the Army, he was easily allowed into the camps, but it was of no use. They told us they had taken him to Galibal Kandi but he escaped from them. Do you think anyone can run away from them? They’re always ready to pounce.” Khadija’s husband passed away in 2002 carrying the grief of his disappeared son.
In one corner of the room, Riyaz’s elder sister is saying something under her breath. A couple of times Abdul Qadeer looks at her, thinking she is addressing him, until her mother speaks out, “She is talking to herself. She lost her mental balance after Riyaz’s disappearance.
She’d just roam around searching for her brother.” Haseena had been married before Riyaz’s disappearance but when her husband noted her deteriorating mental condition over the years following Riyaz’s disappearance, he decided he didn’t have anything to do with her and sent her to her parents’ house, along with her one son, keeping their other son with himself.
Haseena continues mumbling incoherently, perhaps having no idea of what they were discussing. “So much money is spent on my medicines, her medicines. My sons are in their early twenties, they are still directionless. What am I to do?” Khadija laments.
The neighbours remember Riyaz as one of the most pious people in the area. “He would always be armed with a smile, used to pray five times a day, such a dedicated guy, tragedy after tragedy befell the family after he was gone”, a neighbour tells him.
As Abdul Qadeer got up to leave, Khadija accompanied him outside; and when he says his goodbyes, she looks at him and asks, “Will you write about this? About him? It has been 20 years, do you think he’ll return? I still hope he’d. Or if he’s dead, show me his grave at least.”
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