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Book Review

Painful resistance of half-widows in Kashmir


IQBAL SONAULLAH | New Delhi, May 26, 2011 10:37
Tags : Widows and half widows: Saga of extra-judicial killings in Kashmir | struggle of Kashimiris | J&K government | missing persons | youths | widows | half-widows | financial struggle | pain | locate disappreaing people | Judicial killings in Kashmir | orphan | deprived | turmoil | round 10 | 000-highest total in the world | Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons | fake encounters | half dead |

Book Review: Widows and half widows: Saga of extra-judicial killings in Kashmir

Author: Afsana Rashid
Publisher: Pharos Media
Language: English
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 190
ISBN-10: 81-7221-048-9
ISBN-13: 978-81-7221-048-9

It is pain. It is faith. It is deceit. It is denial. It is the tale of a shattered father whose daughters are yet to be married. It is the tale of a lonely mother who died before she could locate her only son. It is the tragedy of an unfortunate woman who once had four proud and brave sons. Then three were killed; one was made to disappear, thereby rendering her a living dead-body. It is barely anything short of the tale of “Other People”. In the devastated terrines of Kashmir valley – the land of hierarchical deceit and resistance – people do not simply die, many vanish as silently as if never existed.

At the very first place, the ‘book’ under review – Widows and Half-Widows: Saga of extra-judicial arrests and killings in Kashmir – is not a book at all. Though it is quite a determined attempt to document the pain and suffering of widows and half-widows living in Kashmir, it is a mere compilation of stories embossed with a newsy structure, where the author has used her opinion to a bare minimum. The weird translation of the direct quotes, the naive flow and continuity in the writing, and the missing thread, which is otherwise significant to hold the interest of a reader, limit its acceptance.

Although the ‘book’ conveys the message that author has been trying to put forth, it is just short of appeal. It is simply a document of case studies, where a reader is moved by strong stories in the beginning and then loses interest because of the similarity of their content. The ‘book’, however, demonstrates a massive issue that apparently seems to be a victim of deliberate negligence.

Since the emergence of armed resistance movement in Jammu and Kashmir, thousands of children across the Valley have been rendered orphan; deprived of their parental love and care thus. Owing to the phenomenon of the enforced and involuntary disappearances, there are thousands of families reeling under the pain of separation of their beloved ones. Though each case of disappearance is as miserable a story in its own, the women, whose husbands have been made to disappear, are the worst sufferers of endless tale of tragedies. They are caught in a situation where they face identity crises. Not to say that people whose family members are killed, suffer any less. They don’t. And in such a wretched situation, nobody really does. But then, after a period of time, the pain and agony of loss gradually fades as one adjusts within the situation.

Kashmir Valley holds a status in enduring the atrocities. During the past two decades of turmoil around one lakh people have been killed. There are around 10, 000 others who have fallen to the misfortune of enforced and involuntary disappearances – the highest total in the world. By the virtue of its existence, such a situation is bound to be followed by emergence of ‘solution-finding agencies’. In the land of ‘Others’, that never happened though. However, it gave a rise to the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons that keeps a record of such cases.

The ‘book’ unveils the apathy and indifference of authorities in solving the case of enforced and involuntary disappearances in Kashmir. Maybe, the government too is helpless before such a situation. Or maybe, they are too anxious to remove the shroud from a horrific wound. Who knows the situation of those who are being subjected to enforced and involuntary disappearance. There are dozens of cases of fake encounters, after all. There are hundreds of mass graves. Who were these people killed in fake encounters? At least, they were not ghosts. And in case of militants, a fake encounter simply serves no sense. Every time there is a fake encounter the identity of killed is not necessarily ‘unknown’; it is just that people are unaware about whose turn it was among the 10,000 who have been made to disappear. Deep inside the minds of authorities, the truth stands naked, but they prefer it with clothes on. May be the Kashmir press will soon coin a new term for the disappeared, “half-dead”.

The past of half widows is desolation. Their present is a painful nostalgia. And they don’t care about their future, for there is nothing really in their lives to care about. For them, life’s happiness has been transformed into a sudden defeat and seclusion; their eyes are filled with the sleeplessness and their nights with obscurity.

The ‘book’ audaciously presents a mass of case studies pitching the story. It delves into the lives of people – women in particular – who even after years of the disappearance of their loved ones are still on a daily search for them, striving to discover their own identity. Each time the mothers of missing gather to commemorate the pain of their loved ones; their despair is surrounded by sore hopelessness. Not that they are fed-up with the routine of monthly assembly without any apparent outcome; in that case they are stubbornly determined. It is just that sometimes the wait stretches so long that their life falls short enough to see the end of what they fought for.

The struggle of Mughli – the elderly mother who fought relentlessly to trace her only son – is a painful illustration. Her life has been an epitome of struggle for the parents of disappeared in Kashmir. Though she struggled for nearly two decades, Mughli didn’t live long enough to see the closure of her case. With her death, a tale of pain suddenly comes to an end. But at the same time, it opens a wound too. God has, perhaps, sent these people to this world just to suffer! Yet, their resolve to “fight till the last breath” is a triumph in its own; and their monthly assembly, perhaps, is the festival of their painful resistance.

The unending resistance is their religion which is less about a definite outcome and more about hope, pride, and a sense of belonging. But if resistance is the death of evil, one wonders, how long is the evil going to survive? How long will the court give adverse decisions? How long will successive regimes brush aside the suffering of widows and half widows? How long will society continue with the indifferent attitude towards their people?

All these may ignore the voices wretched by desolation – may be, they prefer not to hear it at all – but who shall command the skylark not to sing?

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017