SRINAGAR (Shafaq Shah): “Pull down the curtains. Put the door on latch. Where is Fehmeeda? Don’t allow her to venture out…Army will be coming anytime,” 55-year-old Mohammad Sidiq Dar tells his wife Khaira Begum in a hushed tone while reclining on a hospital bed in Sinagar. Begum gently combs his hair with her fingers, nods and heaves a sigh.
“Don’t worry. We are at hospital. These are doctors around you, not the soldiers,” she tells her husband.
Dar often has flashbacks of the turbulent period of the 1990s, when he was frequently tortured by the army. More than the torture inflicted on him, he is haunted by the memories of mass in his far-flung native village, Kunan-Poshpora.
The safety of his disabled daughter, wife and other women of the village is always at the back of his mind.
“Our daughter saved her honour by jumping from the first floor. She broke both her legs,” Khaira said, while narrating the horrific events of the night when 40 women of her village were gang-raped by soldiers of 4 Rajputana Rifles.
Dar hesitantly opens up to narrate his woeful tale. He says everyone in his much-talked-about village has a story to tell.
“I was in my mid 20s when the armed struggle erupted in Kashmir. Several fellow villagers joined the militant ranks and many of them were my friends. Army often picked me up and question me about their whereabouts but how would I give away my childhood friends?” he said.
“One day, on way to my relative’s place I was picked up and tortured in an army camp. I was given electric shocks and repeatedly hit with rifle butts. For a week, my family did not have a clue as to where I was,” he said.
Dar does not want to discuss the horrors of the fateful night when the Indian army swooped on his village Kunan and the adjacent hamlet Poshpora.
“All men of the twin villages were huddled in a hutment and savagely beaten up. We had no inkling of what was happening inside our homes,” he said.
Khaira Begum vividly recalls how she managed to save her chastity when the men were not around to save them.
“They (soldiers) were pouncing on women like wild beasts and raping them. I and my daughters were hiding in the corner of a room. We were reciting the verses of holy Quran and beseeching God to save us,” she said.
“When the army barged in our house my younger daughter hurriedly went upstairs and jumped from the top floor. Both her legs are paralyzed since,” she added.
“While my daughter lost her limbs her father was being tortured. Can you imagine what would been our state of mind?”
Dar says that his rib-cage fractured when three soldiers pressed their jackboots against his chest while his private parts were subjected to electric shocks.
Three days after his release, he reached home only to be told about the horrors of the mass rape.
Repeated tortures took a heavy toll on Dar, who did odd labour jobs to feed his family. He had to go to hospitals more often that working the fields.
But this did not stop his ordeal. In 1997, on Eid, army raided his house and tortured him in presence of his family.
“I remember he was taken to hospital on a bed he was lying on for many months. He could not stand on his legs,” Dar’s son Abdur Rashid recalls. In 1998, he was subjected to third degree torture again.
“The tortures changed his life. He always complained of body ache. He couldn’t restart his life and became irritable and reclusive,” Begum said.
“In fact he cannot sit alone. He feels the presence of army everywhere. Sometimes when he goes to washroom he tells me to come along for he fears army might pick him up again and torture him”.
Dar is undergoing treatment for severe infection at the SMHS Hospital.
“His condition has worsened because he has left the treatment midway. We cannot associate Sidiq’s illness with repeated tortures but we cannot rule out that tortures might be the reason that his body is in such a bad shape,” a doctor examining Dar said.