SRINAGAR: Saeda Begum, 80 year old woman from a remote village of Aloosa in district Bandipora, often sit on the balcony of her four-room mud-house, quietly looking out towards the graveyard where her sons lie buried.
She lost all her sons to the Kashmir Conflict. The old woman has now lost her memory too. Sometimes she cannot make sense of her tragedy. Shocked old woman at times forgets who died first, leaving her alone.
Two of Saeda’s sons, who were militants, were killed by the army in the early 90s, while the other two sons disappeared, including her son-in-law.
In 1992, Muhammad Ayub Bhat was her first son killed in a gun-fight with BSF troops in Bandipora village. In the same year, a month after the death of Ayub, Bilal Ahmad, another son was arrested by the BSF troops and was then allegedly killed in a fake encounter. In the same year, Saeda’s youngest son, 16-year-old Azad (Abdul Aziz Bhat) disappeared after he was allegedly harassed by the security forces about the whereabouts of his militant brothers. There has been no trace of Azad since then.
The tragedy for Saeda does not end here. After losing her four sons, Saeda’s husband, the only male member left in the family, passed away in 2008. Saeda now lives with her elder daughter Shakeela Bano who has five kids to take care of. The family is living in poverty. Both mother and daughter have been on medication for the past 10 years now.
After Saeda lost all her sons, and since no male member was left in the family, she got Shakeela married within her relations. Riyaz Ahmad Malik, who married Shakeela in 1993, moved to Saeda’s house to take care of the remaining family. But another tragedy was befall on the already devastated family, when in the summer of 1993, Riyaz left home to work in his field and since that day he is missing. “There has been no trace of him since then,” says Shakeela who waited for him for years to come back.
Now again having no male member in the family, still Shakeela waits for years for her husband; latter in 1996 Shakeela was again married to another man who moved into their house. Shakeela, however, says he is more keen to grab a share in their property than taking care of their family. Shakeela has six children, five from her second marriage, and one from the earlier marriage with Riyaz.
There has been no help from any quarter. No minister visited their house. Saeda receives a paltry widow fund of Rs 200 every month from the social welfare department.
Saeda is concerned about her elder daughter now, and her kids at home. “What will happen to them after I die?” she asks. In between long pauses Saeda speaks about her beloved sons who are no longer with her, then touches a different topic altogether. Sometimes she talks about other things which don’t make any sense. The tragedy has taken a toll on her mental health.
At times she falls silent, unable to recount all the details about her sons. Sometimes she asks questions, like: ‘why have you come here? What do you want from an old woman like me?’ Sometimes she is unable to summon all the memories of her sons. Saeda has been unwell since she lost all her sons. She has been on continued medication since then.
All the photos of Saeda’s sons have been kept away from her. Saeda often goes to the nearby graveyard where her two sons are buried. She often prays at their graves and weeps inconsolably. Sometimes Saeda forgets to come back home.
It is very shocking that a mother who has scarified her four sons to the Kashmir Conflict is in this state of affair. Shocking all these years no one from this so called civilized and united society has come forward to provide her a helping hand, especially now when she is very old to work.