The spring of 2002 was approaching but the temperature was still low. All of us slipped under our cozy covers to sleep. None of us imagined that the night of March 5, 2002 could be so freezing, terrorizing and scary.
A knock outside disturbed our sleep.
‘Who could it be? A patient?’
‘No he would have said Doctor Sahab’
Someone was hitting our main gate hard. All the voices were masculine. Finding no response, they started jumping over the wall into our lawn as we were peeping through the curtains. My mother, father, aunt, sister and cousin, could sense something was wrong. My aunt made an attempt to peep out through the window and see what was going outside.
She saw three persons wearing `Pheran` and loaded with weapons!
By now it was clear that the matter was really serious. They started approaching our inner entrance. We could now sense their intentions and prepared ourselves for the worst. My aunt suggested hiding my father in the attic while my mother was trying to make us feel comfortable. In the meantime we managed to creep downstairs and assemble in the corridor.
They started banging the door.
After few forceful pushes at the door, my aunt decided to reply back. Gathering whatever courage she had, she enquired,“kus chuu(who is it). The voice echoed through the silence of the night and reverberated.
After a moment of silence a bold heavy voice replied back, “Doctor sahib cha, tamis seati che kaem” (Is the Doctor available? We have some work with him). All the faces, I could see, were terrified and blank not knowing what would happen next.
We were sure they would break the door. My father could clearly see them through a small window of the attic. We were left helpless. We would have called someone and asked for help but technology like mobile phone was not at disposal.
But how could I forget our landline! With all hopes we went near the receiver and my sister picked up the phone to call `mamu` (mother’s brother).
But all in vain, as the phone had been disconnected!
How was it possible as we had attended the last call just before going to sleep? The disconnected phone made our thoughts scarier.
Who are these people?
Was that a part of their plan so that we couldn’t contact anyone?
All the negative thoughts started rocking our heads!
“Get me a knife”, my sister was saying repeatedly and my mother brought the knife to make her feel safer! It was a big knife with an orange handle. The voices from the other side of the door started becoming louder as they were insisting my aunt to open the door to which she kept resisting.
My aunt didn’t give up. She was trying hard to convince them that my father was not at home and if they had really something important to talk about they should come during the day. The man on the other side of the door knew that my aunt would not open the door and let him in.
So there was a change his approach.
Now he asked my aunt to come to the window that was next to the door so that he could talk to her. The situation became worse. Tears were rolling down our eyes. Only God could save us now!
My aunt refused the offer.
“If you really need to talk, come back tomorrow morning”.
After a long conversation and a slew of negotiations, the man decided to leave and he said, “I will come back tomorrow”.
He started moving away from the door. His footsteps were loud and clear and in the silence of the night, they seemed unending. We started moving towards the attic. My father was watching the men moving out through the main door. By the time we reached the attic, the men had started moving down the main road. We could see their shadows.
My father insisted to stay in the attic till we could see them fade away.
Suddenly a car stopped in front of the shadows. They stepped into the car and disappeared.
The night was not over yet, it seemed getting longer. It was about 4 in the morning. It was too early to move out of the house in those circumstances.
We settled down back into our beds to beat the cold but our eyes and minds were wide open to sense every single sound that came from outside.
Finally, the call for morning prayer from the mosque made us feel better and relaxed. The sun could be seen coming out from behind the mountains.
It wasn’t day yet. We decided to stay inside till the sun was high up. People and vehicles finally started moving on the road. The presence of light along with people satisfied us.
The main gate was left open by the ‘unidentified gunmen’.
Suddenly we heard the sound of our gate opening. My mother peeped through the door to see who it was.
Aslam (name changed), our neighbor entered. We heaved a sigh of relief as some known face was coming. He entered into the kitchen and saw our tired and worried faces and asked, “what happened, everything alright?’
My father narrated the whole incident and in the mean time a relative arrived who lives a few steps away and the story was repeated again. Now, we had two more people with us. It was broad day light. No one could enter inside with weapons openly.
Again, an unknown face opened our gate and started approaching.
His one hand was tucked inside his ‘pheran’ in the other he was holding a white paper. My mom opened the door and enquired, “Yes dear, what do you want? The man replied, “This letter is for Doctor Sahab, from the men who had visited you last night.”
The letter had a clear heading: HM (Hizbul Mujahideen) Chief and followed by a long note asking for money.
My father quickly asked our relative and neighbour to follow the guy. They went out and inquired from the shopkeeper outside about the whereabouts of the man who had just left from our home. He pointed out to the clear fields on the other side of the road and said, “Over there, can you see those two people walking. He is the one.”
They started following them. After a few kilometers they reached an army camp and both of them entered the camp.
The followers were watching them as they, supposedly the ‘messengers of Hizb’ entered the premises of the Army camp!
All this remained a mystery till 2006.
That year my mother had a near death experience when she was hit by an army vehicle. All her ribs were broken, her thigh bone fractured, shoulder displaced plus she suffered a major brain injury.
An army major visited my mother at the hospital. He took my father to a closed room and offered him a hug packet of money to compensate his guilty and our pain.
My father outrightly refused his deal and told him, “It was her destiny. She could have been hit by some other vehicle. It was God’s will. Just pray for her recovery”.
Major told my father to inform him when my mother gets discharged.
After a few weeks my mom was home and the Army Major came to visit her along with another officer.
They sat down for couple of hours and talked endlessly about Kashmir, its people and the issues at hand.
In between the conversation, the Armyman told my father, “Do you remember that a few years ago few people came to your house during night”.
The ease and comfort was broken.
The other officer took out a dairy out of his pocket. He read out a name and an address of a person who lived a few miles away from our house and said, “This was the man who gave us the information that you give money to rebel groups.”
“We had send our people to cross check the allegation and we had told them to shoot you if you opened the door,” he added.
The mystery of 2002 ended in 2006.
One thing still haunts us all.
What if we had opened the door and let them in…