In Depth

One in the grave, another in depression: Conflict-torn fate of two sisters in Kashmir’s Kulgam

Oblivious of the new twist in her dead sibling’s case, a depressed sister is still grappling with the ‘grave’ reality of her life. While the longing has already put her on medication, her condition after the demise of her loved one is a reminder of the silent suffering of Kashmir’s conflict-torn families.

Ever since she saw her sibling falling to a bullet, Khushboo Jan, 18, has lost her normal state of mind. Her wretched looks, feverish eyes and trembling hands make her trauma obvious.

She’s often taken out of her room with puffy eyes. During nights, she keeps battling flashbacks related to her 12-year-old dying sibling.

Four months ago, just outside her residence, on a turbulent day in her hometown of Redwani Kulgam, her kid-sister’s farewell look stunned her—and gradually pushed her into depression.

As she recalls the details of the day, she often turns to her 45-year-old father, Ali Mohammad Alai — who has been nursing her disturbed thought process since losing his youngest daughter to the Indian army’s shooting.

“Khushboo is in deep shock,” Ali says, while taking a long and kind look at his daughter. “She sometimes shivers during the night. Both Andleeb and Kushboo used to spend time together. They were enjoying life together.” Andleeb was a shy girl, Ali continues, who used to ‘respect elders and do household chorus alone’.

While everyone in the family is devastated over the loss, it’s Khushboo who has been diagnosed with depression. Although on medication, she often retires to her room, to mourn all over again.

Betraying this gloom, the sun is shining over Redwani’s harvested paddies and orchards. Nestled around 71km south of Srinagar, the village witnessed the killing of three young civilians this past summer.

Inside his single-storey house made of mud and bricks, Ali, donning a typical Kashmiri outfit, looks hopeless. He has been told about a new twist in his daughter’s case, but he doesn’t seem to pin hope on anything.

Ali Mohammad Alai, and Khushboo Jan, father and sister of Andleeb.

“What should I say? I had already told everyone including the police that my daughter was not a part of any ‘unruly mob’,” says Ali. “But nobody can expect justice in Kashmir.”

A new twist in the case involving Andleeb Jan, a 12-year old schoolgirl shot down by the Indian armed forces near an alleyway, a few meters from her house on July 7, 2018 came recently when the police filed its response to the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC).

After Andleeb’s killing, a Kashmiri rights activist Muhammad Ahsan Untoo had approached the SHRC to seek an investigation into the details of the killing of the minor. He filed the petition identified under SHRC/227Klgm/2018.

On October 4, three months after Andleeb’s killing, JK police in a response to Untoo’s petition informed the SHRC that “16-year-old girl Andleeb Jan was part of an unruly mob” and the army men “fired in self-defence”.

Alongside Andleeb that day, two other civilians Shakir Ahmad Khanday and Irshad Ahmad Lone were killed in Kulgam’s Hawoorah. Among them, 21-year-old Shakir was Andleeb’s cousin.

The police response also states that the concerned police station of the area received reliable information that a patrolling party of Indian army was pelted with stones by an “unruly mob carrying lathis [sticks] and their intention was to kill the soldiers”.

However, Untoo dismissed the police claims—saying that Andleeb was looking for her cousin Shakir when she was shot dead. He demanded a fresh probe in the case by a High Court judge.

“My daughter Andleeb Jan wasn’t a teenager as the police said in its report,” says Ali, patting Khushboo’s head. “Her date of birth was June 20, 2006. She had turned 12 just 17 days before she was killed.”

Amid this recollection, Khushboo continues to sit wretched, lost in her own thoughts. Apart from sharing the same room, the siblings used to sit, eat, play and read together. They lived more as friends, Ali says, than sisters. In longing of her sibling, Khushboo keeps tossing and turning on her bed during the nights, the father says.

“Andleeb’s killing has badly impacted Khushboo’s mind. A doctor lately told me that she will take some time to regain her normal composure. She’s still passing through irregular bouts of depression and shock. All this makes me wonder now—Who made these bullets that ravaged so many families in Kashmir and broke so many hearts!”

Bullet marks on the wall where Andleeb was shot.

Lately, Ali’s second daughter, Khushboo reluctantly appeared for her Class 12th exams, with an unsinkable feeling of her sister’s death at the back of her mind.

According to villagers, on July 7, Indian army reached Hawoorah just a kilometre away from Redwani at 10:45 a.m. The army vehicles were pelted with stones near the government high school. Chasing the protestors, the army entered the school, snatched a teacher’s cellphone and picked up a 9th class student who was attending a class, as per the school officials.

“The stone-pelters were outsiders. They ran through our school lawn,” says a school official. “When they dragged our student inhumanly, we pleaded before them. They were livid with rage.”

When the villagers heard the commotion, they gathered and staged a protest. As per eyewitnesses, the army opened fire on the protesters, and 22-year-old Irshad Ahmad Lone got seriously injured.

Andleeb’s cousin, Shakir Khanday, who as per his family was returning from the nearby graveyard, tried to retrieve the body along with others villagers. The army opened fire again, and this time Shakir was hit with bullets.

Alleyway, where Andleeb Jan was shot-2

Shakir’s home is adjacent to Ali’s house. His family went outside, and found him lying in a pool of blood, on the road, a few meters away from his home. 

“Shakir was alive and lingering. They did not allow us to pick up his body,” says Ali. “Then women from the family went outside for help. Among them were my three daughters.”

When Andleeb heard that her loving brother Shakir was still alive, she took a glass of water with her. “When they reached the spot, the army fired on them too,” says Ali. “Andleeb received bullets in her thigh.”

After the situation thawed a bit, the family picked up Andleeb and kept her at home for 5 minutes before some boys could take her to a nearby hospital. She succumbed on the way. Shakir and Irshad met the same fate.

Throughout this narration, Khushboo looks down. When she finally lifts her head on her father’s request, she first bursts into tears, before recalling the tragic scene, as she witnessed it.

Dead body of Andleeb Jan.

“We rushed outside together,” says Khushboo, while Ali hung his left arm around her shoulder with tenderness. “Andleeb had a glass of water in her hand. When we reached the spot, the army opened fire and everyone ran for cover.”

Sounding guttural, Khushboo clears her throat and wipes out her tears before continuing. “I too decided to run, but I found someone clutching my leg. When I looked downwards, it was Andleeb,” says Khushboo, choking. “When I bent myself to pick her, I saw her bleeding. I tried to pick her up, but I couldn’t. She was looking into my eyes — as if saying a final goodbye to me!”

She breaks down, again. Ali and other family members come forward to calm her down.

“I loved her more than I had ever loved anyone,” Khushboo says, in a wailing voice. “She wasn’t just my kid-sister, but my secret-keeper, too. I’ll miss her till my last breath!”

 

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