Srinagar, August 23 (KMS): In Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, since her husband had disappeared, 45-year-old Gulshana Bano felt terrified and lonely during the night as visits by the government forces to search for her husband had become more frequent.
For Gulshana Bano, 17 July 2020 was just another day till her 48-year-old husband Abdul Hamid Chopan, a woodcutter, did not return home in the evening from his day’s work in the nearby village.
After she realized that Abdul Hamid Chopan’s phone was switched off, the realization of what had happened kept coming in the form of flashbacks from 2017, when her 18-year-old son, Aadil Ahmad Chopan had gone missing in a similar way and in 2018 when her 35-year-old brother, Mohammad Maqbool went missing.
Four days later, Bano along with her other two sons went to a nearby police station and filed a report for her husband.
With Abdul Hamid Chopan’s disappearance, the Chopan family had not just lost a member but also the head of the family who was the only breadwinner looking after his wife, a daughter, and two younger sons left after Aadil.
A few days after her son went missing on 7th March 2017, Bano received a letter and soon she was informed that he had joined ‘militancy’. “He had asked us to stop looking for him. He was so innocent. He barely even had a beard on his face,” said Bano, adding that she cried out of helplessness after reading the letter.
Around nine months after writing the letter, Aadil’s body was brought home after he was killed on 20 November in Seer village of Tral.
That night, countless people gathered in the compound of Bano’s two-story modest house as Bano sat next to her son’s body till the next afternoon when he was taken away for burial.
Three years later on 15 April 2020, Bano’s brother, Maqbool ran away from his home after he was scared by the army. “His house was frequently checked and my family was told to bring him forward,” she said.
Less than two months after the incident, Maqbool was killed during an operation in Saimooh village of Tral on 2 June last year. He was buried in Baramulla’s Sheeri graveyard.
Bano said that the family is not allowed to stay at the graveyard for more than ten minutes even now when they visit. “It happened because of our silence,” said Banno. “If Kashmiris had spoken things might have been different. When someone from the police is killed, isn’t their body returned?”
After losing his son and brother-in-law, Abdul Hamid suddenly became quieter with each passing day as the grief had become too heavy for him to handle and he would “keep regretting what had happened”. “When a parent loses his innocent child, he continues to feel that pain,” said Bano
After her husband had gone missing, Bano’s 19-year-old son Omar Hamid Chopan said that he had been beaten up and taken to the police station for questioning many times. “They beat me with sticks and even gave me electric shocks several times,” said Omar.
Once Omar was called for questioning after two guests visited their home and he was “slapped”. “I felt humiliated that day and I told them that I will not forget these slaps till the day I die,” he added.
Omar believes that he had to become the head of his family at an age when he was supposed to study. “This is what they do with boys. It is better to die once than to die every day,” he said.
For Banno, many such families have completely been shattered while others remain unaffected. “Azaadi is for every Kashmiri and not just for those who sacrifice their lives. In this process, some families just become hollow,” she said.
Since he went missing, Banno tried to find some hint regarding her husband’s whereabouts but failed. The search ended on 21 August, when the police killed three persons in a gunfight in Tral forests – one of them was Abdul Hamid Chopan, her husband.
The Chopan family has only three members left now, and Bano is scared of losing the other two members too. “The fear is constant. I am scared for my sons’ lives,” she said.