By Khurram Rasool:
The silent tears that gently roll down from Safiya’s eyes under veil speak aloud as to how her life has been all these years waiting for her husband who disappeared shortly after his arrest by Indian Security Forces 20 years ago.
“Life has beenÂ awe full. Nothing can be worse than being in a dilemma and living with it. I have been living with a dilemma whether myÂ husband is alive or dead since the last 20 years,” Safiya narrates amid sobs.
At 37, Safiya from Kursu Raj-Bagh is one among the thousands of women in Kashmir who are referred to as ‘Half-widows’. Safiya’s husband Himayun Ahmed was picked up by 137 battalion of Border Security Forces (BSF) near Convent School Raj-Bagh in 1993.
Safiya vividly remembers even the minute details of the day. “He left home for Lasjan, where he had to meet his aunt that day. He was accompanied by two other friends in his own vehicle. On the way, he was stopped by 137 battalion of BSF near Convent school. They took my husband along saying that they wanted to do some enquiry leaving the other two men who accompanied him.”
In the evening, Himayun returned home along with few members of the same battalion pleading for help from his family. “In the evening, they bought my husband home. He looked terrified and pleaded each member of the family, his mother, brothers and me to help him out. He was so petrified that he asked us to give away all our ornaments to them in exchange of his freedom from BSF,” recalls Safiya.
Considering the condition of Himayun, the family members smelled a rat and instantly pooled in all the cash available at that time to be given to the same battalion.
“After taking the cash from us, they promised us to set him free after couple of days. 20 years have passed.”Â Even after 20 years, Safiya fails to identify the charges against her husband, a Government employee. Besides that Himayun’s maternal home was in Pakistan. Life for Safiya has been a constant struggle ever since. It is uncertainty that has been looming large at her lifeÂ , says Safiya.
“Since then, I have been searching him here and there. All the FIR’s and cases we filed haven’t bore any fruits. I had to sell all my gold ornaments and savings in the struggle to find my husband. IÂ wouldn’tÂ care if only I knew his whereabouts,”Â says Safiya.
Safiya was only 17 when she last saw her husband, Himayun. Married for 1 Â½ year, the couple was blessed with a baby boy only 6 months before Himayun’s disappearance.
“We were married for 1 Â½ year only and had a son who was 6 months old at the time his father disappeared. Today he is in first year of graduation and heÂ hasn’tÂ ever seen his father.”
As per law, if a person is untraced for 7 years, he is declared dead. Islamic law also ordains that a wife can remarry after six years if consistent efforts have been made to find her husband.
However, for Safiya to know the fate of her disappeared husband was more important than remarriage which she believes was never an option for her. Safiya remained strong on her decision not to remarry despite constant pressure from both her parents and in-laws and continues to wait for life partner she couldn’t spend her life with.
“How could I remarry? I always used to think, what if he returns after I remarry. I am still in doubt. How can I? Had he been martyred, I would have known he won’t come back. My case is where I am kept hanging in the middle yearning to reach either way. Whenever there is a sudden knock at the door, I always feel its him. I still hope that one day he will return. I am searching for him, waiting for him and will wait for him forever,” adds Safiya.