Until the sufferings end, the search goes on

I, Suhani begum, 30 years old, am a mother of three children. My husband Ghulam Nabi Khan was arrested in 1997 in Handwara and till date it has not been ascertained whether he is dead or alive. Since then I have been leading an existence of a half-widow.

After my husband’s enforced disappearance, me and my in-laws moved from pillar to post to locate him, an FIR was lodged and a case registered. I also pleaded the case with State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in 2001 but all efforts proved futile, as substantial evidence of his whereabouts were not known. I looked for him everywhere (within J&K and outside) and sold my property, as well as my jewellery to pursue the search but it continues.

Illustration by Muskan Raina

Illustration by Muskan Raina

This scenario took heavy toll in my family; my brother-in-law (husband’s brother) couldn’t bear the loss of his brother and he died of shock, survived by wife and three minor children. My father-in-law had already died leaving behind an ailing wife. Today I live with my three children, my sister-in-law and her kids and a sick mother-in-law.

The irony is that there is no male member in my family. I have to strive for own-self and my family; making two ends meet is a harsh task for me. Being illiterate, there are no means of employment except the menial jobs I do like washing dishes and other kind of odd work, which doesn’t even satisfy my financial needs.

I consider myself as a case women’s emancipation in Kashmir, with no male help. I am living and trying hard to strive in this world. For me, emancipation means sustaining my family somehow. After all these years of struggle and pain, I am still hopeful that one day my husband will come and all the pain will cease.

I am not a sole exception of the misery of being half-widow; thousands of women share the same plight. There is my friend Sanam, whose husband disappeared many years back and together with her children she is waiting that the doors of fortune will open and bring in her husband one day. Saman and me may have different names but the pain is the same.

Already the people of Kashmir are suffering here and some unscrupulous elements are out to en-cash on their sufferings. Some quacks posing as peers (saints) and sages cheat the gullible people especially women who are more susceptible to exploitation, being very emotional.

Often people who know about our tragedy, deceive us, promising us that if we pay a sum of money, sometimes huge amount, our dear ones will return back. Or if we perform certain rituals for which they charge money, our work will be done.

But in spite of all the things, our dreams remain dreams and the disappeared never ever come again. But that does not stop us from pursuing these means.

Trading on our suffering has become so common that people come up with brilliant ideas and strategies to cheat the victims I.e. us. Suffering people like me are already vulnerable & these quacks easily exploit our softness.

Women in Kashmir like me are suffering; a mother has lost a son, a sister has lost a brother, a daughter has lost a father and a wife has lost her husband. Yet we all are living and braving all oddities that life has thrown at us, hoping some day our dear ones will arrive and all the sufferings will end. And this speaks volumes about women’s emancipation in Kashmir.

Until the sufferings end, the search goes on.

– Ronak Bafna


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