‘Want to visit my birth place before I die’

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By: Nisar Ahmed Thokar
Islamabad: Khawaja Noor Muhammad Bhat, who left his home and crossed the Line of Control (LoC) 64 years back to trace the whereabouts of his missing sister, is anxious to visit his birth place in Kashmir to fulfil the only desire of his ailing brother Ghulam Hassan Bhat.
Hailing from Sathubala Barbarshah Srinagar, Bhat is currently settled in the suburbs of Rawalpindi. He applied for a Bus Permit in 2005 shortly after India and Pakistan agreed to open up Muzaffarabad-Srinagar road as part of peace building measure to enhance people to people contacts and to connect the disconnected families of Jammu and Kashmir.
“We have been waiting for last six years, I know it is a cumbersome procedure but for me it is very difficult to convince my impatient father and to make him understand the intricacies involved in it”, says Javed Iqbal Bhat, the elder son of Khawaja Noor Muhammad.
“Since the resumption of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service I applied twice for the permit, first in 2005 and then on the insistence of Lala, my father, I re-applied in 2006. Verifications were conducted by the concerned law-enforcement agencies and they assured us every support in seeking the travel permission but since then there is no response whatsoever from the other side”, Javed said.
While inquiring about the matter, he said, the tour and travel authorities in Muzaffarabad told him that they had sent documents to Srinagar for verification. “When I called my uncle on phone in Srinagar he expressed ignorance about the issue and said that no verification whatsoever was conducted in this regard. It was really shocking for me”, Javed said in a very dejected mood.
“I am very disappointed, after waiting for six long years I am still not able to do anything to get my ageing father’s desire fulfilled”, Javed said.
Lying numbly on a bed surrounded by his grand-children, Noor Muhammad, a septuagenarian, was hearing the conversation that was going on between this reporter and his elder son. He looked at me and asked, “Beta Tuhi Chiwa Kasheer Rozan (are you from Kashmir)?” “Yes”, I replied.
The old man couldn’t control his emotions, his eyes sunken deep into his skull filled up with tears and after taking a deep breath said, “I want to visit my birthplace once before I die, this is what I have been craving for years”. Tears started to roll down from his eyes ceaselessly.
It is noteworthy to mention here that without having an inkling of what will happen to him, Noor Muhammad was just a teenage boy in 1947 when he embarked on a journey and reached Muzaffarabad unwittingly in search of his missing sister who was believed to have migrated to Pakistan from Jammu via Sialkot border. He is now weak and vulnerable. He has lost a lot but not hope. He is still hopeful and believes that the day is not far when he would be enjoying the cool-breeze of Dal Lake and strolling along the streets where he spent his childhood.
“This is just a single incident; let me tell you majority of Kashmiri refugees could not re-visit their ancestral places and nor could they see their near and dear ones, not even once in their entire life”, says Syed Javed, a migrant from Rainawari Srinagar.
“Kashmiri migrants have been quite unfortunate and have suffered terribly after the Indo-Pak partition in 1947. For a long time refuges settled in various cities and towns of Pakistan remained in a state of incommunicado, we were neither in a position to travel back nor did we have any communication facility at that time. There was no phone facility, no wire system (telegram) except postal services system but that too was confined and our letters were screened and instead of forwarding to the given addresses letters either bounced back or were thrown into dust bin,” he said.
“There is no change in the situation even today. Politicians, business community and influential families do visit regularly but for common Kashmiris who are dying and crying to get a glimpse of their homeland and see their relatives have to undergo hectic verifications that takes years”, he said.
“This is time to connect the disconnected and rebuild hopes that refuse to die even after unending betrayals”, says Engineer Nadeem, whose forefathers migrated to Pakistan from South Kashmir’s Islamabad (Anantnag) district. Divided families, particularly the elders, he said, should be allowed to travel on both sides of LOC freely. “There should be no restraint whatsoever on their movement”, he said adding that senior citizens intended to visit their families should be exempted from hectic and time-consuming verification procedures.

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