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Mother’s wail hits a wall
- Across Kashmir, tales of lost sons

Srinagar, Dec. 11: Mughli Begum, 68, has passed one more year in solitude with memories of her missing son Nazir Ahmad Teli, her only companion.

Nazir, whom she had brought up single-handed after her husband died when the child was nine months old, has been missing for 16 years after security forces took him away.

“I keep on reciting Ha Myani Dardilo Pyaran Chaseyo Walo (Oh my loved one, I am still waiting for you). Others may get bored but these walls are not,” she says, in her kitchen. “This is how I spend my nights, talking to myself and these walls.”

Mughli lives in the kitchen of her three-storey house in Srinagar’s old locality of Habba Kadal. All the other rooms are locked.

“He was arrested by forces and there is no trace of him since. He was a government schoolteacher,” she says. “Ask anybody in my locality and they will tell you that he was not associated with any militant or political organisation.”

Mughli is just one of the growing number of people who lost some or all their men to violence.

As Kashmir showed symbolic concern for their plight on World Human Rights Day yesterday with protests here and seminars there, the families mourned the dead.

“Of my four sons, three were killed and the fourth turned insane and disappeared,” sobs Syeda Begum, a widow from Daresh Kadal, a locality some distance away from Mughli’s house.

“If they were alive, they would all have been married and I would have had their children around,” she says. “But today I have nobody to look after me and my only daughter. I earn my livelihood by spinning yarn or through alms.”

Syeda was widowed more than two decades ago. “Instead of marriages, I had to see their funerals,” she cries.

Her eldest son Nazir, a fruit vendor, was killed in 1990. “A BSF party was attacked here (by militants). After the militants left, they (BSF) killed my son near my house,” the mother says.

Tariq was the next to die. He jumped into the river Jhelum to escape an exchange of fire between the forces and militants.

“I do not know who killed Mushtaq. Some people said he was killed because he was a mukhbir (police informer).”

The deaths of his brothers were too much for Nissar. “He turned insane. I do not know where he is,” says Syeda.

No one knows the number of such families that have lost their sons. “But they are scattered across the blood-stained landscape of Kashmir,” says human rights activist Khurram Parvez. “The problems faced by such families are enormous.”

Parvez recounts the story of a widow at Handwara in Kupwara district. “Her husband and brother were killed and with no male member in her house, she had to earn her livelihood…. But while working, different allegations started pouring out again- st her. She was killed by unidentified gunmen.”

Bashir Ahmad Dabla, head of the sociology department at Kashmir University, said psychological problems overwhelm such families. “They need the help of society but in many cases, it is not forthcoming.”

Even as Mughli and Syeda continue to suffer, one more family was plunged into grief yesterday.

Manzoor Ahmad Wani, a shopkeeper from Qazigund, is battling for life in a Srinagar hospital after he was fired upon allegedly by troops. The incident triggered protests, forcing police and the army to launch an investigation.

Police said the accused armyman has been arrested and the military has promised to punish him if he is found guilty.

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