From the HAJY group— widely considered to be the first among hundreds of Kashmir boys to pick gun in late 1980s— Sheikh Abdul Hamid crossed over the Line of Control between the Indian and Pakistan Kashmir months before his three friends: Ashfaq Majid Wani, Javed Ahmad Mir and Yasin Malik. Credited with the launch of an armed insurgency in this Himalayan region, Hamid died while fighting the government forces in 1992 on this day. Kashmir Dispatch correspondent Adil Lateef visited the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front commander’s Danderkha home to see how his family has moved on.
Picture: Shahid Tantray
The only trace of revolution are the three framed pictures hanging on a wall. The feeble light wafting through the old windows, it appears, casts his shadow. Its bone chilling cold outside, but inside Zoona, his mother, is preparing tea in this three-storey house. “The guests would arrive soon. Hamid’s father will be on his way. He had gone to Martyrs Graveyard to offer prayers,” she says.
Hamid, a founding commander of JKLF, was killed on this day in 1992, along with his comrades while crossing river Jhelum in Aali Kadal in Srinagar’s Old City when government forces fired upon their boat. None of them survived; all six died. Twenty years later, his family— social outcast as his parents wash the corpses before burial for living—struggles to keep the pot boiling. “I had four daughters and two sons, Hamid was martyred, now only one son is left,” says Zoona.
Mymoona, his elder sister, is a widow with three girls and lives with them. While his brother is in his teens, his younger sister is yet to be married. “Her husband was killed after government forces hit him on his head in 1992. He was hospitalized for months, but couldn’t survive,” she says, adding, “After her husband died, she stayed with us. Now it is our responsibility to marry her daughters.”
As we talk, a tall old man with a cold face enters the room. “Hamid Saeb’s father,” Zoona says as her face lights up. In his seventies, Abdul Kabeer, looks much older. He joins us and says: “I give the funeral bath to the dead, this is my only sources of income.”
He says: “No one pays me, no organization or group feeds or helps me, not even those, who were once my son’s close friends,” adding, “whatever I have, it is my own, no one can claim he is feeding me.”
The family says they “sacrificed everything for the cause of freedom— monetary and as well as other forms”. Zoona claims “the gold which belonged to her widowed daughter was sold and guns were bought”. “We have four unmarried girls, who will get them married, we have to do something so that they could get married,” says Zoona, who along with her husband has served detentions during early nineties. “I, with Ashfaq Saeb’s father and many other people were detained in Sheergari police station during those days,” says Zoona.
She says when her son was a militant she was beaten by a woman station house officer. “But I was not afraid, I slapped her back. She threatened me with dire consequences, but I said I have Allah.”
The family is ‘disheartened’ as how people have forgotten their son. “We feel sad and our hearts fill with sorrow, when we see those people who were once companions of Hamid, not looking towards us. Even, they don’t visit our house. We don’t need anything from them, but they forgot everything,” says Kabeer.
Tears roll down as he lists the hardships they face. He says “On last Eid-ul-Fitr, I had no money for paying Sadqai Fitr, and still some people think Hamid’s father receives aid from outside. My son sacrificed his life for freedom of Kashmir, how can I sell his sacrifice?”
The family has remained a social outcast owing to their profession and their son being a militant. He says: “Various hindrances are coming in my younger daughter’s marriage. People say, her father gives bath to dead ones, now what will I do?” “Recently, I repaired my house, we painted it. Its walls were hit by hit by bullets and stones. Window panes had no glasses. It was the prime target of forces,” he says, “but on my own”, he repeats.
Both husband and wife are suffering from multiple ailments. “I have multiple ailments, I am diabetic, and my wife (Zoona) is also suffering from different ailments. I avoid medical examination as I know many other problems exist and that mean more medicines and more money, which I can’t afford. Already our medicines cost two to four thousand rupees per month,” says Kabeer.
Despite hardships, Kabeer is ‘proud’ of his son. “Today I am being recognized by Hamid, people respect me because of my son’s sacrifice,” he says, adding, “he was sincere and even today we have people who are sincere and are carrying the mission forward”.
As the time passed, guests started to arrive. By afternoon, the room was filled and Zoona directed her daughter to serve tea. His parents painted the house recently. They say the bullet marks on the walls were a stark reminder. The walls are painted now; the revolution is in oblivion.