“If I had no children, I would have killed myself long ago”

Jana Begum
Jana Begum
Jana Begum

In a single storey mud-brick house, she lives with her two daughters and a son. Fifty-one year old Jana Begum is one of those women whose family was caught in world’s most militarized zone, Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir. She lost her four sons and her husband in the last seventeen years. Another son has been disappeared since he left home to visit his in-laws place.

In 2012 summer, I went to meet Begum at her village, Devar Lolab- 120 kilometres north of Srinagar, the region’s summer capital. The village has a population of 5000 inhabitants and has been largely affected by the on-going conflict. There are thirty-seven cases of fake encounter victims from the village and several are involuntarily disappeared.

Kashmir or Indian-controlled-Kashmir has been witnessing an era of violence since its youth crossed over to the other side of the Line of Control (LoC) – a de facto border dividing the region from Pakistan side, after the political resistance to end the Indian rule was muzzled. More than half-a-million Indian troops are currently stationed in the region and more than 70000 people have died since the armed movement started in late 8os.

Sixteen years ago, Begum’s second son, Muhammad Lateef War, 20, was killed at home. At 9 pm, he was sitting on the windowsill in the kitchen and was repairing his wrist watch that had stopped functioning, when someone from outside the house fired two bullets through the window. The bullets hit him and he fell in the pool of his blood.

“We don’t know who fired at him, whether they were troopers or militants. God knows better who killed him. He couldn’t make it and in just a few minutes he fell down, cold,” his mother tells me, in a room with green distempered walls.

Lateef was a student in a seminary at Srinagar. After his death the police had arrived but it was never found who fired at him. Begum has vivid memory of that day but pauses to think while narrating. “I remember all the incidents which followed after that. Two years after Lateef’s killing, government gave us one lakh rupees as compensation but that too was taken away,” she says.

The compensation money was put safely in the cupboard, Begum says, and a few days later the Special Task Force (STF) and the Border Security Force (BSF) men cordoned the house for search. STF is a counter insurgent force in Kashmir, formed to fight the militants. “They took away the compensation money from the cupboard. The men were led by two officers; Jasrotiya of BSF and Gulbadan from STF. They arrested all of us. We were interrogated and released after a few days,” she says; pointing towards the plywood cupboard.

After the death of her son and theft of the compensation the family returned back to their normal life. But the normality didn’t breathe for long. In 1998, her two other sons, Mohammad Sharif War and Bakhtiyar War, had left for Srinagar to shop for the wedding. Shareef was getting married after a few weeks. They had gone away for two days and didn’t return.

After waiting for two days, Begum went to Lalpora village (in Kupwara district) in search of them. She went to several other neighboring villages but couldn’t find her sons anywhere. Then she went to the area police station and lodged a missing report. In the police station, she met Ghulam Mustafa, their neighbor. Mustafa told her that he had seen some clothes and a photograph, in which one of them was her son.

“I went to meet Ghulam Hassan, the Station House Officer of the police station where he showed me the clothes and the photograph.The clothes were the ones which my sons were wearing on the day they left.Police told me that they buried them in a graveyard in Handwara [a neighboring district],” she says. After a brief pause, she adds that it was after eight days since her sons had left that she found them buried. She went to the graveyard and saw the graves of her sons, buried as Pakistani militants.

Begum couldn’t stop herself from seeing their faces and started digging the graves to take out the bodies. “I tried to get them out but police didn’t allow. On seeing I digging the graves police stopped me. Police didn’t let me take the remains of my sons,” she says, sobbing.

The family believes that two of them were killed by Special Task Force (STF) and Border Security Force (BSF) men who would rule the village. In the official records at the police station, they were branded as “foreign militants”.

Tragedies in this family didn’t stop there only. Her husband,Abul Karim War, 60, was picked up by BSF and STF personnel from Kupwara bus stand and was tortured continuously by them, she says. “After the torture,he was not able to walk or eat by himself.The torture led to several ailments and he remained bedridden. On hearing that his other two sons are also dead his condition deteriorated.”

After eleven days, when Begum found graves of her sons, her husband died on bed. He died due to torture and shock, she says.

Now, Begum had two more sons and four daughters to live with. Shareef-ud-Dinwas her married son. In 2000, Shareef left home to visit his in-laws house because a relative had died there but he never made it. “I thought he was at his in-laws place and they thought he was at home. However, he neither reached home nor to his in-laws. Since then he is disappeared,” she says. “He has one son who now lives at his maternal home and his wife remarried.”

“None of my sons had any connection with the militancy. During that time our village was full of militancy, if they asked for anything we would give them. I could never know why Lateef was killed. He didn’t even have enmity with anyone,” she says. “My sons were innocent. They never harmed anyone but still they were brutally killed.”

[pull_quote_center]If I had no children, I would have killed myself a long ago. Whenever I think of doing so, it comes to my mind that what will happen to my son and daughters when they would need clothes and food. Who would take care of them?[/pull_quote_center]Two of her daughters are married. “Our situation is very bad. We have to struggle to get meals and my children had to bear all the sufferings. Twenty days before Eid I travel to Srinagar and beg for money and then we celebrate the festival,” Begum says, surrounded by her daughter, Tahira, and youngest son, Bilal.

Bilal studies at a government school in class 5. Begum says that nobody has ever come with help. “Bilal is paid a relief of 100 rupees per annum by local Jammat Islami committee while he needs notebooks, books, uniform and annual fee for his studies. How can we manage all this? No leader came to our rescue. Only Parvez Sahib [Imroz] and his people come here to help us.”

Parvez Imroz is a prominent human rights lawyer who has documented torture, enforced disappearances and killings for several years. It was Imroz’s group, International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir (IPTK) that unearthed nearly 6000 unmarked mass graves in which people were buried after killing them in fake encounters. In 2012, the group also released an extensive report, Alleged Perpetrators: Stories of Impunity in Jammu and Kashmir, naming higher officials of police and Indian forces for human rights violations. The report highlighted 214 cases of human rights violations involving Indian army and paramilitary forces and police under the impunity provided by the draconian law Armed Forces Special Powers act (AFSPA).

Begum and her children still feel threatened and live in trauma. “A few days back a team of television news channel came. They visited many places and came to my house too. Two days after that a search party [of army and police] came to search our house and we were beaten up,” she says.“Armymen asked questions regarding the videos which the cameramen recorded. STF men claimed that there were militants in our house that is why media came here to take pictures and videos.”

Going through such phases of life, Begum sometimes thinks of killing herself. “If I had no children, I would have killed myself a long ago. Whenever I think of doing so, it comes to my mind that what will happen to my son and daughters when they would need clothes and food. Who would take care of them?”


 

Photograph by Muhabit ul Haq

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18 COMMENTS

  1. The tragedy of this woman is really sad. I hope the Jihadi killers of J&K realise what insane living hell they have brought upon the believers. This so-called freedom struggle is fasad, kufr, blasphemy. It is against human rights, liberty and freedom itself. Give it up guys, lest you want to account for your sins on the day of judgement and burn in hellfire!

    May Allah continue to bless India! :)

      • @ sheikh

        Yours is just another comment attacking a person instead of countering his/her views. You would make a great politician. Try it.

        If you have an argument against what I stated, please put it forth.

        Personal attacks and vague, derisive statements against me will be of little help. They will certainly not get a reaction from me, except may be a hearty laugh! :)

        • That is not a personal attack dear friend…

          allow me to elucidate; you are a poopy head..your breath smells like poop, your face looks like poop with corn (thats maize for you) in it..

          That was personal. A human beings request to kindly act like a human being is not a personal attack. We are all part of the species, its not personal.. but your poopy head head is :)

          • Ha ha ha! That was so funny. Please stop, lest I die of laughing! :)

            Actually, I was just being polite.

            Can we get on with the discussion now? Please address the points in my comment.

  2. Usually I do not learn article on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very forced me to take a look at and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thank you, quite nice post.

  3. Its shameful on part of my country n all those son of bitches who r deputed their in the name of security and doin thing contrary to it..they hav become a mojor source of insecurity. If this is wat indian democracy means i wish all those institutions who represent this democracy shud b burnt down n all those who r vocal abt it shall b shot down…this democracy has becom pugnacious n repungunt 2 those who have witnessed its brutal face…….i hate my country…..

    • I am touched to see your devotion. You actually went and named yourself after your hero? Wow! Not many in this world would do it. May he become the PM of India and fulfill your wishes! :)

  4. @sanjeev

    Let it be known from this day onwards. I and others like like myself are up to the challenge of refuting every word of venomous filth you claim to present as facts.

    • I missed you so much!! Don’t ever leave me and go again, ok? :)

      Except when you want to cross the LoC and go for training!

      Until then, please use a name. I like to call my friends by names, as against calling them names, which is the Jihadi style! :)

      • Yes this is copied & pasted from previous posts.

        Where ever you try to spew hatred this message will follow it in’Shaa’Allah

        The Holy Quran is the most read Text in the world, it is also the most mis-read, i.e people read it without knowledge of the meaning.

        If the Holy Quran is read with meaning and understood then In’Shaa’Allah many problems of this world will cease to be.

        Currently our ummah is divided and without a clear path. In’Shaa’Allah the ummah will come together soon and lead the way once again.

        Nothing escapes aakhira.. we all must atone and face Allah, this is the only truth in the world.

        I do not believe in the violent means by which our religion is being labeled, but I do believe in fighting against tyranny. for what good are my legs if I am made to kneel forever.

        These attacks against what is being said in the defense of Kashmir & Kashmiris are just that.

        One has to also wonder about the timing of this backlash against Kashmiris by the likes of Sanjeev and the many names the person uses to pander. The BJP run on the platform of division, this is what I see these people doing.

        My message is clear, a believer (a MUSLIM) until he/she interpret the Holy Quran in full meaning and applies that to their life, we will continue to suffer.

        The uneducated and ignorant are easily brainwashed, this enables clerics and muftis to take advantage of a desperate situation.

        If only one person reads this and passes it on to others then Sanjeev & the Kind have done us a service since this message has gone through to someone.

        Let us thank him/them.

        The compulsion to try and get in the last word is well defined in Psychology, known as ‘Takers.’ Islam also prohibits us from trying to get in the last word within an argument.

        My aim here is not to get in the last word, rather present the readers with an option.

        • Wish you had given out your name.

          Though your comment is a copy-paste job, I think it deserves a reply. My comment below is not a copy-paste job, though it is a reiteration of my views previously expressed on this forum. Besides, I have never used any other name to post comments.

          1. I have nothing to do with BJP or any other political party. But even if I did, it should make no difference. What matters is my views.

          2. I do not think anyone would disagree with your following Allah’s path etc. Please note that Indian govt has never interfered in the religious practices of people of J&K. If one instance comes to your mind, please tell me. Therefore, this so-called Jihad is mere mischief.

          3. The terror movement in J&K which claims to be an Islamic struggle is actually a crime against Islam. Islam does not believe in territorial boundaries. Therefore, it should make no difference to Those Following Allah’s Path (!) which country they reside in. Their religion is their own private matter, just like it is for people of other religions.

          4. As for the political aspects of the J&K issue, I will be happy to counter your arguments, should you so wish.

          • here this is where I will spam you now…..ready here it is..you know why spamming you is relevant? To denounce the denouncer..ol man :)

            If you do not want personal attacks on yourself get the fuck out out the kitchen pal..you bring it upon yourself by spewing hate & dividing people ..your ideology is fuckt!

            Ran out of lies, deception, coercion and innuendo ??

            Or perhaps you are busy with planning that yamraj visit :)

            Mr Sanjeev Patwardhan

            HAHAHA …. Too much…

            Here Im gonna do it again…you klutz..I feel sad …no I don’t never mind..

            My life is fine, thanks for your sarcastic concern. As a Harvard Alum I enjoy life in more ways than you can imagine.

            Like I said that fast approaching door to senility & retirement has made you go loony..Keep you your loony tunes ..ol man :)

            Oh did I mention..eat a dick you parasite !!!

            :)
            Sanjeeev is a Liar, deceiver, & a Charlatan. Confront him with anything he will label your argument as a ‘jihadi’ etc etc.. Him & the like are only in here for to spread malcontent. They are the sort that after the army kills bystanders, terms it ‘alleged killing’ while on the same hand when a few ‘mighty’ gun trotting jawans are killed you hear from them “jawans were butchered” another ploy of the hegemonic beast. He is nothing but a tool.

            what scholarly work has he done, all he does is denounce scholars and those that speak out against the brutality.

            Soon he will be visited by yamraj and be born again as an e-coli inside a homosexuals rectum. This he may enjoy ….here is a smiley face ol man :)

            Btw I use your name to prove a point, well…call it a test..

            If there are truly Jihadi elements about India, the bogeymen which you have been conjuring..well it cant be that difficult for them to track you and then…the ol yamraj :) this will prove you correct ol man :) but alas you will not be around to celebrate, as you will be getting a hot load across your cell membrane in the rectum you will back in :)

          • The above comment contains nothing other than personal attacks. It fails to take the discussion forward in any manner. Qualifies as spam and hence not worthy of a reply.

          • Spam? spam? excuse me who are you to say what is and what isnt spam…there you go labeling again ..I guess it is an Old habit of yours..to just go ahead and deny deny deny..

            so once again

            STFU grandpa sanju!

            You are getting old and senile…Go to your BJP Bhajrang Dal people & tell them ..shit is hitting the fan.

            Mr. Sanjeev Pathwardan.

            The fact that you are still alive proves your conjuring of Jihadi bogeymen as a moot point.

            Yet here you are responding?? Trying to get in nothing but a last word. You deserve all of those personal attacks, for what you have perpetuated here.

            It’s a little shady to me, as it should be to others that you have been missing from this Particular Forum since the inception of the Kistwar/ Jammu riots.

            To Reiterate..

            Mr. Sanjeev Patwardan has time & again shown to be a divider not a Uniter, he fuels the flames of separation & hatred. His posts speak for themselves.

            Do not be taken in by his double talk & his charlatan approach to responding.

            His clever labeling & demagoguery are all just a ploy, simple attempts to save face.

            STFU ol man.. :)

            You have no legs to stand upon. GO TO HELL ! & Eat a Dick.

            Warm regards :)

  5. A warning to steer clear of people such as those that go around spreading hate and demagoguing the kashmiri voice. These so called ‘takers’ are discussed below.

    What are some of the qualities present in most takers?

    25 Warning Signals That You’re Dealing With a TAKER

    They act entitled to whatever they’re taking from you.
    They treat you as an extension of themselves.
    When they hurt or disappoint you they don’t experience guilt, shame or remorse.
    They won’t apologize to you, but will expect you to apologize to them.
    Their wish is your command, and if you don’t comply, you don’t love them.
    They believe their problems are someone else’s fault.
    They believe that you and everyone else are in this world to make them happy.
    When you give to them, they don’t feel compelled to say thank you or be grateful.
    If they feel taken from by you, they become outraged and entitled to become enraged.
    They don’t regret taking from you, but they regret not taking even more from you.
    They need to have the last word in conversations.
    They don’t take turns well.
    They are impatient and hate to wait.
    They interrupt or butt into conversations.
    They act as if they are always right.
    They act as if they are never wrong.
    When they’re frustrated, they feel justified in doing anything to make themselves feel better.
    They won’t tell you specifically what you are doing wrong or ask you directly for what they need— they expect you to read their minds.
    They are stubborn and you may confuse their stubbornness for strength and be attracted to them because of it.
    They aren’t motivated to know, care or do anything unless it gets them something.
    They are quick to ridicule or laugh at others, but have little ability to laugh at themselves or tolerate being laughed at.
    They either cannot or will not put themselves in another person’s shoes.
    They hold everyone else accountable, but evade being held accountable.
    They talk much more than they listen.
    They’ll expect a second, third and fourth chance from you when they hurt you; but they won’t give you a second chance when you hurt them.

    • The above comment contains nothing other than generalised slander. It fails to take the discussion forward in any manner. Qualifies as spam and hence not worthy of a reply.

  6. oh watch out voiceofthe this sanjeev patwardan is labeling you as spam..

    Meanwhile he pulls out ‘facts’ from his arse

    Nothing….NOTHING Mr Patwardan gives you the right to label this as spam..oh by all means keep copying and pasting and spreading lies & hate. On this site it will be refuted by your so called spam as a warning to the reader.

    People know what it is..it is a warning against you and the like.

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