Ufaq Fatima

Sordid ordeal of a mother whose son disappeared in thin air

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Jameela Khan holding picture of her son Irfan Khan who disappeared in year 1994.

Srinagar, Apr 22: Political conflicts often reduce women to being the “symbols of suffering”, and in Kashmir too the situation is no different. Here too thousands of women have lost their dear ones –fathers,  brothers, husbands and sons — to the conflict that has been raging for nearly three decades now.

While the trauma of those who have seen death devouring their loved ones is visible, those unfortunate souls whose kin have disappeared without a trace remains invisible and unfathomable!

Jameela Khan, 58, is among many such mothers in Kashmir.

In the year 1994, Jameela’s only son Mohammad Irfan Khan, who was a 14-year-old kid then, left his home to visit a local market in Safakadal area of old city Srinagar – and he never returned.

Recalling the fateful day when she saw her son for the last time, Jameela says that her son Irfan had gone to a nearby market at around 5 pm and till date he has not returned.

“That day never ended for me. Every knock on the door even today sparks a hope of my son’s return,” she says.

“After my son went missing we had sought help of police to trace him, but to no avail,” says Jameela. with moist eyes.

According to Jameela, in the year 1995, a year after Irfan’s disappearance, he was seen with the Army during a crackdown in Batamaloo area. “People present in the crackdown had alleged Irfan of being an informer.”

“Some people informed us that he was spotted during a crackdown. They told us that Irfan was seen pleading before the forces to let his family know that he is alive and not a Mukhbir (informer),” Jameela told ‘Kashmir Images’.

She says that after hearing the news that Irfan was alive, “it gave my family a new hope of his return. We contacted the army but they completely denied that Irfan was in their custody.”

“It is very hard for me to give up hope of my son’s return. The trauma has taken a toll on my health and shortly after Irfan’s disappearance I was diagnosed with  neuro-blastic tumour and underwent a surgery in Delhi,” says Jameela.

Jameela currently lives with her husband and with them are living their divorced daughter and her two children.

Rubeena, sister of Irfan says: “We were happy in our small world but with the disappearance of my brother, Irfan, our whole world was turned upside down and since then our miseries have only multiplied. Forces used to interrogate my father which affected his health badly. I too was divorced which brought a heavy burden on my ailing father.”

Jameela says that Rubeena is suffering depression and is presently undergoing treatment. “She was not able to continue her studies after the family was caught in the agony. The sole earner in our family  is mu husband, who works as an ‘occasional’ wood carver — because he keeps unwell most of the times.”

Case of Irfan is registered with the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) under UNHPR/APDP/SRG-19.

According to the family, APDP helps with medicines every month.

APDP puts the number of cases of enforced disappearances around 8000-10,000 in Jammu and Kashmir.

Jameela’s struggle is not only to seek justice for her son, but her challenges also include feeding her family. The minimal monthly income of the family does not suffice their need .

Jameela says that each month people like her assemble at the Pratap Park in Srinagar, under the banner of APDP, to demand the whereabouts of their lost ones.

“I have not seen the dead body of my son. He is alive. He will return,” says a hopeful Jameela.



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