Srinagar: August 9 was the day of reconciling for 63-year-old Mohammad Yaseen Dar who had not seen his family – his two children and wife – for the last one year. Dar was excited to reach home and see his family. The memories of his home and family were pouring in his mind while he was on the way to his home The Logical India reported.
Hailing from the Central Kashmir’s Budgam District, Dar has been an executive member of pro-freedom political outfit Hurriyat for long. His political activities have meant repeated detentions and imprisonments whenever there’s trouble in the valley.
On 4 August 2019, a day before the parliament abrogated Article 370 and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories, Budgam Police visited Dar’s house and took him to the police station. Later, he was shifted to Srinagar’s Central Jail.
Two days later, Dar, along with 20 other prisoners, was directly airlifted to Raebareli jail in Uttar Pradesh – 952 kilometres away from his home. He was booked under the Public Safety Act, which allows authorities to detain a person without trial for up to two years. At Raebareli jail, Dar would spend 369 days in detention.
Dar finally walked free on 8 August 2020. A relative had gone to take his custody after his release from the jail. Once out of the jail, Dar travelled to Delhi with his relative and spent a night there. On August 9, the duo got onto a flight to Srinagar.
Dar’s family along with his son and daughter were waiting for him at Srinagar airport. Tears filled Dar’s eyes after seeing his children waiting for him. He hugged both of them and met other family members. Dar’s wife didn’t come to see him at the airport.
“Where is your mother?” he asked his children, “Why didn’t she come to receive me? I was expecting her.”
There was silence. “Papa she is not well. She is waiting for you at home,” said Dar’s 18-year-old daughter, Safora.
“How Is this possible? She will never sit home knowing that I am coming. Please give me the phone I want to hear her voice,” Dar asked his son after sensing something suspicious.
“Papa she is not well, we shifted her to hospital,” said his 16-year-old son, Mohammad.
Dar became anxious and insisted them to tell him the truth about his wife. Tears rolled down from Azam and Safora’s face.
It was Dar’s brother-in-law who broke the shattering news to him. “She was suffering from pneumonia and was in the hospital for a month. She was very weak and could not fight with her disease for long. She passed away in the hospital,” the brother-in-law said.
Dar’s wife Sakeena, 52, died of pneumonia on 9 July at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh’s Hospital–a tertiary care hospital at Srinagar leaving the responsibility of her two children on her husband who was in jail at that time.
On hearing the news, Dar couldn’t control himself and broke down. “I could not bear this loss. This detention took everything from me. My wife has always been my courage and support. She was a strong lady and has stood by me during my hard times,” he said in a heavy voice.
That Dar couldn’t see his wife one last time before she passed away is something he’s unable to shake off. “I could not see her for one last time, she left me alone in this world. There will be a lifelong regret in my heart that I was not with her when she was breathing her last breath,” he rued.
In October last year, Sakeena had come to meet Dar in jail. It turned out to be their last meeting.
Dar said that Sakeena and Azam came to meet him in jail after getting permission from the Budgam district magistrate.
They were only allowed to meet and speak to each other in front of a guard and were allowed to speak in the Urdu language. They were not permitted to speak in the Kashmiri language.
“I am suffering from various ailments including diabetes, hypertension. She gave me courage when she came to meet me in jail. She told me this time will pass and be strong. I should not worry about home. She will handle everything there. Now I could not believe that she is dead, she has left everything and gone. I have no courage left to visit her graveyard,” Dar said as tears swelled his eyes.
Separation of parents
Azam, who is a class 9th student said that her mother was very depressed after meeting her father in jail. “All the time she used to think of Papa. Something was bothering her inside but she never expressed it with us. We used to give her support but she got weaker day after day.”
Azam said that the siblings had never seen their parents together since August last year. This dream will now forever remain a dream even with their father, not in jail.
“We were longing to see our father and mother together again. My father’s detention just didn’t end. He was only a month late. I wanted to see my parents together for one last time but unfortunately, I couldn’t see it now,” Azam said.
Sakeena’s daughter, Safora, has already decided to live her deceased mother’s dream. “My mother wanted me to become a doctor and I will work hard for it. My mother’s separation has made my father weak mentally. He has been very depressed since he arrived from jail. I can’t see at his face, his eyes are always teary,” she said in a broken voice.
Life in Jail
Being a senior most citizen in jail, Dar used to give moral lectures to the other Kashmiri inmates to give them courage and hope.
“We were allowed for a walk once every morning and evening. We used to spend the rest of the time in separate cells. We were cut off from the rest of the world, no news reached us. Other inmates who were younger than me used to miss their home and family. I used to give them moral education to calm them,” Dar recalled.
Dar took refuge in his religion to bear the trauma of jail. The only book he was able to read repeatedly during his incarceration was the Holy Quran. No other book was available to them.
“Raebareli jail is the largest jail which can accommodate around 3000 inmates. It has its own library. But we had no access to the jail library. We were not allowed to access the library,” Dar said.
Being an executive member of a pro-freedom group, Dar has face repeated detentions and imprisonments.
He was slapped with first PSA in 2011 and had been detained for one year in Kot Bhalwal Jail which was the start of his different ailments.
“I was detained in 2011 and taken to Kot Bhalwal jail where my health deteriorated and I was also hospitalized. My sugar level rose and I have to depend on insulin. My pressure lever has not been stable since then,” Dar informed.
Besides, Dar was usually detained in the local police station whenever there happens to be any untoward happening in the valley.
“My life has always witnessed imprisonments, detention which has changed my life drastically. I have spent most of the time in police stations. My health has been affected badly,” he said.
Back home, Dar is trying to piece together his broken life. He’s sure it won’t be the same again. Sakeena has left the responsibility of the upbringing of children on his shoulders.
“I want to give all my time to my children. They have already suffered a lot at a very young age and I cannot make them suffer more. There is nothing more important to me than my children. Now, I am their mother as well as father,” Dar expressed to The Logical Indian’s reporter.
He said that he has to think about his political career due to the responsibility of his children because he cannot disturb their life anymore.
(Story: Bisma Bhat | Courtesy: The Logical Indian)