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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lifted from Katmandu, Srinagar trader untraced since Aug 2000

Dehumanized politicians like Omar, Mehbooba, Mirwaiz and Gilani, do least care for ordinary Kashmiris: Traumatized mother Zubeda

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Apr 23: Zubeda of Safakadal, a downtown interior in Srinagar, has left no stone unturned to trace her eldest son, Ghulam Mohammad Sofi (46), in the last 12 years. But her sighs and sobs before the who’s who of Jammu and Kashmir politicians have lost in futility. Traumatized by the continued disappearance of her son, she views all of them---from Dr Farooq Abdullah to Mufti Mohammad Sayeed; from Omar Abdullah to Mehbooba Mufti; from Syed Ali Shah Geelani to Mirwaiz Umar Farooq; and, from Professor Gani to Yasin Malik---as “dehumanized politicians”.

“Their politics and activities are limited to their personal agenda of making money and building fortunes for their own sons and daughters”, 65-year-old housewife Zubeda complained to Early Times. She claimed that all of the state’s “self-styled leaders” remained unmoved and many of them even posed to be concerned but none of them provided her an iota of support in regaining her son. A voluminous folder of documents she carries in an extreme state of distress speaks how she ran from pillar to post in search of Ghulam Mohammad but none of the individuals and institutions helped her get a look of her son for over a decade.

During her untold tribulation, Zubeda not only filed habeas corpus petition in Supreme Court of Nepal but also knocked at the doors of National Human Rights Commission. Separatist politicians like Geelani told her it was none of their business to call for shutdown over the Kashmiris disappeared in countries other than India. Mirwaiz and Malik assured her “falsely” that they were striving hard to find her son. Mehbooba obliged her by writing a chit to the IG CID during PDP-led coalition government, Dr Ashok Bhan. Omar Abdullah, then Minister of State for External Affairs, told her that he would get Mohammad traced “in 10 days” but he did not keep his word even after becoming Jammu and Kashmir’s “Chief Minister” 10 years later.

Then Deputy Chief Minister, Mangat Ram Sharma, according to her, was the only politician who took pains in searching her son and wrote forceful letters to then union Minister for External Affairs, L K Advani, and AICC chief, Sonia Gandhi. All of them told her that they would contact people from Delhi to Katmandu and return her son to the agonized family. That, however, happened never.

Sonia Gandhi gave her a patient hearing and asked one of her aides to write down her facts and pull up all concerned. Zubeda was asked to return to 10-Janpath after 10 days. “When I visited there again on the due date, I was curtly sent back with the reply that Madam was not present at home. Later, I learned that she was very much there. Nobody bothered to keep his or her word”. Her meetings with incumbent union Home Minister, P Chidambaram, proved no less futile.

Parallel to her shuttling between the offices and residences of politicians and Government officials, Zubeda was cheated by touts at Delhi’s Tihar Jail. Two men assured her there that they would arrange her meeting with Ghulam Mohammad if she coughed up an amount of Rs one lakh. “I didn’t have enough cash. I disposed off two of my gold bangles and arranged the money. They took the cash and vanished”, she narrated. She was, nevertheless, all praise for the jail superintendent who got all the deteues paraded in an open orchard to the best of her satisfaction. “Ghulam Mohammad was not among them”.

During the thorny course of her unyielding search for the son, Zubeda’s husband has died. Two of her sons are still looking after their shrinking business---two shops selling Kashmir handicrafts and one more leather goods. Third of the siblings has left both Nepal and India and settled at Boston in USA, where, she said, he was working with a company. In 1995, Zubeda has shifted her residence to Gulbarga Colony in Barzulla area of Srinagar and the only male member in her family is her young domestic help. Alongwith her second son’s young wife, she has been shuttling between Srinagar, Delhi and Katmandu.

Officials in J&K Police refused to make comment on a case of ‘involuntary disappearance’ that had occurred in a foreign country. They still insisted that neither CID nor the local Police Station of Safakadal had anything adverse in their records about any member of the Sofi family of Shahkadal (Watalkadal) in Nawakadal area. Ghulam Mohammad’s story of “custodial disappearance”, as narrated by members of his family, has appeared not only in Urdu and English dailies in Srinagar but also leading newspapers and magazines, including ‘Nation Weekly’ in Katmandu.

Zubeda swore by the Holy Scripture that neither Ghulam Mohammad nor any other member of her family had any kind of connection with militancy or state agencies. According to her, Ghulam Mohammad had lived entire of his life in Mumbai and Katmandu while first working with the leading Kashmir handicrafts export firm, Cottage Industries Exposition (CIE) and later establishing his own business in Nepal. “He came just two or three times from 1975 to 2000 to Kashmir and stayed here briefly on occasion of a relative’s death or marriage. He would return quickly as he felt suffocated in the turbulent valley”, she asserted.

 According to Zubeda, Ghulam Mohammad, who lived in Katmandu alongwith wife Rosy, one young daughter and a son, besides three more brothers, was picked up by men of Nepalese Police (media believes they were from National Investigation Department) when he was enjoying a treat with a friend’s family on the festival of Gai Jatra on August 16th, 2000. His younger brother, Wazir Ahmad, was picked up for another place and detained for 10 days. They were asked questions: why two of Kashmiri speaking militants had visited their shop and taken a tea. “It is a fact that two Kashmiri strangers, possibly militants, had appeared on Ghulam Mohammad’s shop and asked him about his father, who, according to them, knew their grandfather”, Zubeda admitted. She claimed that the duo neither made any shopping nor traded anything.

“I and my husband rushed to Nepal and after listening to details from Wazir and Mohammad’s friends, approached senior Police officials. “Everybody, from Home Minister Koirala to DGP, IGP and DIG remained tightlipped. Some of them later maintained that Mohammad had been handed over to the Indian High Commission. “Embassy officials told us repeatedly that they had passed Mohammad to the Indian Police. They advised us to contact Delhi Police. We even went to Supreme Court in Nepal. Judge expressed his helplessness and said that he would order a police raid if the family identified any person or place. We said how can we”, Zubeda revealed.

Back in Delhi, she shuttled between different offices, ministries and departments. Among others, she met then MP from Srinagar and union MoS for External Affairs, Omar Abdullah. “He assured me that he would recover my son within 10 days. Ten years on, he is still untraced through Omar Sahab is now Chief Minister”, she said. “All of them, including Advani, Jaswant Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, Ram Vilas Paswan, Farooq Abdullah, Mufti Sayeed cheated us. They told me lies and did not make a feeble attempt to trace my son”, Zubeda sobbed.

“I approached Geelani Sahab and requested him to highlight the disappearance of my son through a shutdown. He told us that he was not for enforcing strikes on the disappearance of Kashmiris in countries other than India. I begged before Mirwaiz Umar and Yasin Malik. They were equally inhuman, told me lies. Mirwaiz even came to Nepal for a conference. He assured me that he would take up the matter with the Nepalese, Indian and Pakistani authorities. He did never”, Zubeda narrated, bitterly. “They are concerned only about influential people, not the poor, ordinary Kashmiris”, she observed about the state’s mainstream and separatist politicians. “Most of them told me they would look into my complaint and recover my son within 10 days. They never kept their word”, she added.

Die-hard Zubeda approached NHRC with a petition on 24-07-2001. It was admitted on 18-09-2001 and case No: 135/9/2001-02 was registered. On 26-09-2001, NHRC issued a notice, asking senior officials of the respondent state to appear in person with a detailed report with three months. They neither appeared nor submitted a report in the last 11 years. “Even my son is a murderer, don’t I have a right to see his face, talk to him in jail”, Zubeda exclaimed in a fit of emotion, tears trickling down her cheeks. She complained that neither Amnesty International nor International Committee on Red Cross (ICRC) helped her find the missing son.

Meanwhile, Ghulam Mohammad’s daughter Mariam has reached her Class 12th and son is a student of Class 10th in a Katmandu school. They were just kids when Police wiped out shelter, shortly after a royal family member gunned down a dozen of his family at the nearby Palace.


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