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Kashmir: Yearning For Two Yards Of Land For Burial

By Ashutosh Sharma

07 June, 2012

Many elderly people from (PoK) who visited this part of Jammu and Kashmir crossing LoC by newly launched bus service refuse to return, claiming this part of the state to be their origin. They wish to live, die and be buried in their birthplace, writes Ashutosh Sharma from Jammu and Kashmir

Just two yards of land for burial in the land of birth is their final wish. They migrated to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) during the wars of 1947 and 1965 and in certain cases even after that. And, they “returned to roots” through Rah-e-Aman of Poonch-Rawalkot cross Line of Control (LoC) bus service which started in 2006 and Karvaan-e-Aman (Srinagar and Muzaffarabad cross LoC bus service) in April, 2005.

The bus service was started as a goodwill gesture to facilitate meetings between the divided families living on both sides of the LoC.

In the recent years, many writ petitions have been filed in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court under section 9(2) of Citizenship Act, 1955 wherein the petitioners have sought to be treated like any other state subject as they were born in this part of undivided state. India claims entire Jammu and Kashmir as its integral part and therefore by that measure, as they put it, they also belong to India.

Nevertheless, after hearing them in person, the court has given interim relief to many of them by ordering that they should not be deported until the final decision on their applications for the grant of citizenship.

According to present system, the passengers belonging to both sides of the LoC are allowed to travel and stay on the other side on special permits for a stipulated period of time.

Like many other such elderly people, ninety three-year old Anara Begum who was born in undivided Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir and migrated to Baag district in PoK, has been fighting a legal battle for the last three years to get her final wish fulfilled.

Anara Begum migrated to Pakistan along with her husband, Navab Khan alias Babu Khan and three daughters in 1965. However, she could only return after a gap of nearly 44 years on April 9 in 2009. Though the cross LoC Permit allowed her to stay only for a month in this part of the state, she moved the court seeking permission to stay here with her only son, Rashid who lives in Jhullas village near LoC in Poonch district for the rest of her life.

Her life seems to be trail of tragedies so far, as a demure Anara starts narrating her story. Her three children died in infancy. Her husband married another woman. During her stay in PoK, her parents died here but she could not attend their burial rites. She could not participate in the wedding ceremony of her only son. Her brothers and a sister died here but the news of their demise reached her too late across the border. She recalls that when she left for Pakistan her son, Rashid was hardly ten-year old but when she came back, the same Rashid was a grandfather of three children.

“At the time of migration, my husband told me that army was after him in connection with the killing of an army officer. We had no option but to rush to Pakistan. Rashid was chronically ill so I handed him over to my parents and went off with my husband and three daughters hoping that we would return soon,” she explains.

“In PoK we settled in Nazarpur in Reera area of Baag tehsil. With in a few years of migration, the second wife of my husband died. After her death I raised her daughter Sharifa and son, Latief like my own children,” she adds.

“My husband died a decade ago. I had married off my daughters and there was no one to look after me in this age,” she says, adding, “When I reached here, I was almost blind. My son Rashid got my eyes operated and now I can see things clearly. For the first time when I visited the graves of my parents here, I could not see them but I felt them with my hands.”

Adds Anara Begum resolutely: “I spent all my life in turbulence but I want to die peacefully here. I wish to be buried by my son alongside the graves of my parents.”

“My husband would regret his decision of leaving our ailing son here,” she says with watery eyes, adding, “After our relocation, he lived and died with the same sense of remorse.” Besides many other relatives, Anara Begum has a younger brother and a sister who live in the nearby villages.

And Anara Begum is not the only one in such a situation, there are many more with the similar life history.

“The issue needs to be resolved on humanitarian grounds as they are in old age,” says senior advocate and vice president Bar Association of Jammu , Mohammad Usman Salaria

“They migrated to the area under Pakistani occupation during the war of 1947 and 1965 due to different reasons. But today they have no body to look after them there. Moreover, they feel a deep bond with the land where they were born and brought up. I have filed more than eight petitions in the honourable High Court arguing that PoK was part of erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir and India claims PoK as its integral part. Moreover, they migrated from this part of the state in a warlike situation,” he adds and claims: “Their names can be traced in the voters lists and ration cards at the time of their migration.”

In a recent judgment, he said that the court has ordered to club all such cases. “The exact number of such cases in the state is not yet known. But the court has sought counter-affidavits from the state government and the central government,” he adds.

Though the final decision of the Court is yet to come, there are people like Ghulam Mohammad who died during pendency of the case. He came to village Loran in tehsil Mandi of Poonch district in July 2007. However, he died of a heart attack in January 2008 and was buried in his ancestral graveyard as per his last wish.

Another such petitioner, Qazi Illam Din who came to village Rajpura in tehsil Mandi of Poonch district in September 2008 also died in February 2009 during the pendency of case. Subsequently, their writ petitions were rendered infructuous by the court. The fate of those alive continues to be hanging fire.

(The writer’s email is bulawaa@gmail.com)


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