Srinagar, Aug 30 (Adil Latif):
Hajira’s three sons have been killed while one remains missisng.The wrinkles on her old face looked like the trenches dug in war.

Her face seemed an abandoned battlefield. Between the deafening noises of the city, Hajira’s silence perhaps echoed only in her heart as she squatted on the winter grass in a park on the International Human Rights Day in Srinagar. Her journey to attend a sit-in protest organized by the ‘Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons’ (APDP) began at dawn from her home in north Kashmir’s Bandipora. “I had no money to come to shahad (city), I borrowed rupees hundred from someone, and came here,” says Hajira, who appears in her seventies.

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Her battle began with her third son going missing after being picked up by army’s 14 Rashtriya Rifles. Her three sons have been killed. Hajira doesn’t remember the dates of killings or detentions, but as she begins to speak in a low note it becomes clear that she hasn’t forgotten their face.

She remembers: “My eldest son Nazir Ahmad Sofi was a militant and was killed in an encounter with army. Among all my sons, only he was married.” Nazir left four children, two daughters and two sons, and his wife. “I don’t remember the date, but his killing occurred sixteen years back,” she recalls.

The Sofi family was still in mourning, when ‘eleven days’ after Nazir’s death her second son Muhammad Rafiq Sofi, who was also a militant, got killed. “Eleven days after Nazir’s martyrdom, Rafiq died in an encounter with Fauj (Army),” she remembers while struggle to recall the date of killings.

Her battle against forgetfulness ended in sobs. There were no tears. She counted years on her fingers but failed to recollect the time between the day Rafiq was killed and her youngest son Bashir Ahmad Sofi was picked by the army. All she remembers is he was picked from his shop. “We are bakers, one day Bashir was on his shop. Army’s 14 RR came and they whisked him away.”

She says they met Bashir once while he was in detention. “We were permitted once to meet him at Chatarnag.”

She remembers the tryst vividly: “They started to beat him ruthlessly and after that we never met or saw him. Korukh Gaeb (He was subjected to enforced disappearance).”

After losing her three sons, Aijaz Ahmad Sofi, her youngest son, became the apple of her eye. But, even he was ‘snatched’. Aijaz went to search his younger brother, Bashir, but he could not trace him nor did he return. “After his brother was picked up by Army and went missing, Aijaz went to trace his brother, but he too was picked up by Fauj”.

“They took him on mountain, and then shot him dead,” she says and adds: “Even his body was not returned to us.”

Despite losing her four sons, her husband took care to keep the pot boiling, but five years back, Hajira says “He died of cardiac arrest.”

“Nobody nobody comes to my house. No leader came to my house nor did I approach anyone,” she says. Her granddaughter has filled in for her grandfather’s shoes, she says. “She is a tenth class student.  She has no cloak, no new shoes to wear. I live in extreme poverty. It costs hundreds on my medicines per month. But I have no source, How can I afford?” she questions.

“In the morning, I along with Taja left from Bandipora. We haven’t taken even a glass of water,” Hjira says, while pointing towards Taja, whose son has also gone missing.

Hajira says: “When I borrowed hundred rupees from a man of our village to come here he said someday, you will die on the way, while attending these useless meetings.”

Hajira and Taja were whispering. They wanted to have tea, but had no money. They also had no bus fare to return to their home. Somebody was going to pay them, they mentioned, while talking.
Courtesy- Kashmir Dispatch

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