By Sheikh Saleem
She spends most of her time in her kitchen garden at her father’s house in Bankoot, Bandipora. She lives in one of the rooms of this three-room house. She sells vegetables to run her household. She has five kids, to take care of. Their father is missing since the past eight years. This is one of the stories of the hundreds of women who are called “half Widows”.
Halima Begum, 35, is waiting for her husband, Manzoor Ahmed Baba to come. Eight years ago, Manzoor, a carpet weaver, left his home and never returned. Halima still hopes that one day he will come back. ”Su eyee wapas, yem bach kamis travith gasi (He will return. To whom shall he leave these kids?),” she cries.
“My husband was peace loving, busy weaving carpets at his home without interfering in outside matters. On January 20, 2003, he left for Srinagar at about 2 pm and never came back.” Halima sobs, “We searched for him in every nook and corner, in every jail, camp and interrogation centre, but all in vain.”
Halima is also a member of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP). In search of her husband, she visited government offices. She complains that the top police officials disappointed her. “The only thing I received from government offices are false promises,” she adds.
Halima is not able to understand, why, despite pleading before police and civil administration for years, no one is ready to help her. “They don’t want to pursue my case because I can’t grease their palms,” she alleges.
Halima says that she is too poor to seek any legal help to search her husband. “I belong to a poor family and can’t afford to bear legal expenses. I sell vegetables to bear the expenses for schooling my kids. The so called State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) also refused to pursue my case as I failed to present a death certificate.”
“I approached Bandipora, police station to get a death certificate. People there asked me to pay 5000 rupees, so I had no other way except to work hard for my family,” Halima adds.
“Officers on helm of affairs are vicious and exploit every person who is in compulsion in one or other way, like me,” says Halima, “Like me hundreds and thousands of widows and orphans are being exploited while seeking justice during past twenty years of turmoil in the state. I will grow up my children to help people, especially half widows, who are facing exploitation at the hands of the government while seeking justice.”
Human rights organisation claim there are nearly 10,000 persons from the valley who have gone disappeared since the militancy started in Jammu and Kashmir. The parents of these persons and human rights organisation believe that number of disappeared persons have been killed and are buried in the unmarked mass graves which again came into light when the SHRC produced a report. The fact of the unmarked mass graves came into light when SHRC officially acknowledged the existence of 2,700 unmarked graves from three districts in Kashmir and thousands of other graves in other districts of the state are being reported.
Halima is determined to educate her children– a daughter and four sons. She is tired of fighting for justice and hopes that her children will continue her struggle. “I want to provide them best education and hope by the time they grow up, they will be joined by their Father,” she says.
Photos: Sheikh Saleem