On 29th May, 2009, the dead bodies of two women Aasiya & Neelofar were discovered in Shopian district of Kashmir valley. It was alleged that they were gang raped and then murdered by Police and Army.The Government appointed a commission and then the case was handed over to CBI, who dismissed the case as that of mere drowning in a small canal with ankle deep water. Here i have tried to recreate a scene with their same names, but the imagination is fictional.
Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander
“Abu, who is this man in uniform, with baton in one hand and gun in another?” enquired innocent Suzzane from his father Shakeel Ahangar while pointing to this textbook. “He is a Policeman”, replied Shakeel. “He looks so strong and dreadful! What does he do? Maintain line of students during school assembly”, added Suzzane while partly supplementing the answer. In his world baton was used in school by some teachers to discipline students, but he couldn’t understand why the policeman was carrying both Gun and Baton??
Shakeel avoided the inquisitive question of Suzzane, with a faint layer of water visible in his eyes. He himself was at his wits end, about the answer of this innocent query. What does a policeman do in a conflict situation like Kashmir? He began to look at the caricature of policeman in the textbook of Suzzane, which labeled him as Zaalim.
It seemed to be a long time since 2009, when his wife Neelofar and sister Asiya, in her teens went missing only to be discovered later on murdered and….. The thought of the double tragedy made Shakeel restless, agonized and deeply disturbed. He felt his head going round and round, feeling heavy and dizziness overpowering him. He didn’t know when he got unconscious. But on regaining consciousness, he desired more for such unconsciousness that was worth invaluably in contrast to wakefulness. Shakeel longed for the ecstatic unconscious experience again, but how long it would evade him, he wasn’t sure.
While he was unconscious, he met a beautiful damsel (houri) about whose existence till now he was in doubt. The houri guided him towards a mansion. It was the most beautiful he had ever seen. It’s walls were glazing, shining and twinkling with precious stones of varied hues and colors. As he entered the mansion, he was received with great reverence. A whisper was doing rounds, that some dignitary was on a personal visit to meet the owners of this Mansion. All the houris and gilmaan were in rapt attention.
Shakeel was still in dilemma, about the status he was accorded and bestowed with. His mind was flooded with a fresh crop of ever new propping questions. Were it not for the awe of this environment, he would have untiringly questioned the beautiful houri. At last, he reached a big hall with a grand golden throne installed at an elevated end. What he witnessed, he couldn’t believe!!
His dead wife and sister were not only the owners but Queens of this mansion too!! All these houris and gilman were under their tutelage. He couldn’t control his emotions which translated into action making him run towards them, while being a witness to this spectacular moment. He threw the decorum, which a few moments before he was so conscious and respectful, to winds, while rushing forward to meet and hug them. The heavenly souls all around too weren’t an obstacle to this meeting.
“Mahlan Mahlan” (Wait, Be Patient), commanded his wife Neelofar, prompting Shakeel to stop abruptly, which made him stagger but eventually he saved the situation by not falling down. He was shocked and surprised too at the words of Neelofar, she promptly replied back in order to dispel any grievance by stating that Shakeel can’t touch them in such a state. He is composed of flesh and blood, unlike the heavenly souls. Shakeel for the first time felt sorry for being constituted of such elements which were an obstacle here!!
The first question which Neelofar posed to Shakeel was about the welfare of their son Suzzane!! Though she was aware of their every move and monitoring each step, being witness to it from above. Still she wanted to listen from Shakeel’s lips and mouth. “He is doing well. He missed both of you, particularly you (Neelofar) during the first few months of your ……” Shakeel stammered and then stopped. Whatever happiness and joy he had accumulated in his existence vanished in thin air. He became aware of the fact that the beloved souls with whom he was in conversation, were long gone. This bizarre reality made his eyes swell with pearl like tears.
“Don’t grieve over what has happened”, uttered Neelofar, thinking that these words will console Shakeel. “You have to move forward and struggle for the better future of Suzzane”, she added. Shakeel remembered all hopes they had pinned and the dreams interwoven about the future of Suzzane together, a thought that was making him deeply agonized. Was it not Suzzane, he would have long before given up, as his survival and existence had lost its purpose and meaning with the murder and ….. Shakeel stopped himself from getting ensnared in the web of paralyzing thoughts.
“Suzzane has the habit of forgetting his lunch box, do keep it in his bag, do accompany him to the bus stop where his school bus picks him up, as he is not accustomed with walking solitarily, do complain to his concerned teacher as a fellow student was bullying him, plus keep a track record of his academic excellence and do regularly check his homework” commanded Neelofar in one breath and if Shakeel wouldn’t have cut her short she would have shot out numerous more. “How are you doing?” enquired Shakeel in a fearful tone, as if he didn’t want to disturb the continuity of the conversation.
His sister Asiya, spoke, “Bhaiya Jee, we are very well here. Don’t you experience how well we are taken care and revered by the Almighty”, she replied. “But the place, you came from is still reeling under darkness, ignorance, exploitation and injustice”, she further added. “We were a witness and victim of these grossly inhumane acts of hedonism of man! Aren’t you aware of it, Bhaiya Jee”, Asiya stated firmly.
Shakeel was aware of all these brutally honest comments of Asiya, and thought it as the best opportunity to enquire from them, “Who did it, I mean who are the culprits of your murder and …..”, a stammering and staggering Shakeel tried to complete his query. “They were many dark devils”, replied both in unison. “It is not essential who they were, as the crimes and sadist pleasures that made us victims, still prevail in your society. Everyday Neelofar and Asiya are being victimized. Some make it to the news, others remain unsung in oblivion”, replied Neelofar.
“Bhaiya Jee, it has nothing to do with men but mindset, which still is deeply patriarchal and structurally biased against women”, supplemented Asiya. “Yes, little one, I am aware of these brazen facts and have a personal experience of this prejudice and bias even in the higher echelons of power, which are supposed to dispense ‘Justice’ among the wrong victims”, Shakeel retorted back. “We know how the Justice was murdered by those who claim to be its upholders. Still we are not bothered about the topsy turvy of Justice towards us, because those who victimized us and committed gross atrocities against us will surely reach their fateful end as it has been promised to us by Almighty”, spoke Neelofar blatantly.
“But, please don’t give up your struggle for Justice, as it will let the dark devils prevail over the rest of the society. You must save all others from falling prey to these forces of darkness. What happened with us should happen to none, after us. Promise us you will not give up the struggle for Justice”, commanded Asiya. Shakeel’s commitment to Justice was reinforced with these inspiring words of his little sister, whose views he used to dismiss as childish. He nodded his head in affirmative.
Asiya further stated, that if she would have been living among them, she certainly would be studying medicine, to chase her dream of becoming a doctor. She would have tried to be an honest, dedicated and best doctor, while trying to rectify the mess the ‘professionals’ had retrograded it into.
Asiya further told his brother, “Do pay my regards to my friends and tell them to study hard”. Neelofar was saying something, despite her facial expression and moving lips, Shakeel couldn’t listen and decipher even a word of her’s. He was in such a state when he heard, meek sounds of Suzzane, Abu Utho (Get up Dad); Suzzane was again pointing to the textbook, demanding, what the man in uniform actually does??
Shakeel was himself yet to discover the answer to this query. What really does the men in uniform do??
(Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander is a Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect BH’s editorial policy.