From the safety of his home in Pakistan controlled Kashmir, Mushtaq Zargar, also called as Mushtaq Latram, the head of Al-Umar Mujahideen, recalls in a phone conversation exclusively with The Kashmir Monitor how he teased the then Foreign Minister, Jaswant Singh, with whom he was traveling on a flight to Kandahar, to be a free man again.
Q. Can you tell us about your early life and why you decided to join armed struggle against India?
Mushtaq Zargar: I took arms in the year 1988, because I come from that part of Kashmir where we use to fight with stones. In 1947, India promised to conduct Plebiscite in Kashmir but that was never fulfilled. Many of our seniors fought for it, but they were never given anything. The only way to solve Kashmir issue is through armed struggle, there are no other alternatives. Dialogue is nothing but a time consuming process and it will bear no fruits. If there is any language that India understands, it is the language of gun.
Q. Where were you trained?
Zargar: I trained myself in Kashmir. What is the big deal in learning how to operate a gun? You need to have good muscle power; control on your breath and fingers on trigger. That’s the easiest way. Though, Azad Kashmir was our base camp. I taught myself how to operate gun in Kashmir.
Q. Was Al-Umar part of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front earlier?
Zargar: We were not part of any group. But we were not taking responsibility of attacks till 1990. Whatever strikes we were doing, we were not taking responsibility. We declared Al-Umar militant group in 90s. They were my brothers, but I was separately running my organization.
Q. But according to reports you were also part of the Rubiya Sayeed kidnapping?
Zargar: I was not involved in Rubiya Sayeed kidnapping case.
Q. Do you remember the first attack you carried out in Kashmir?
Zargar: My first strike was in Zaldagar, Srinagar but I don’t remember the day. Then eventually, I carried out many other attacks.
Q. When were you arrested and where?
Zargar: I was arrested on May 15, 1992 at Saraf Kadal in Srinagar. They took me to PAPA 2 and after two months, I was shifted to Tulu Talab interrogation center Jammu and there I was kept for 50 days. Later they shifted me to Central Jail Jammu for one-and-half-months. From there, I was shifted to Jodhpur Rajasthan and I stayed there for a period of one year.
From Jodhpur, I was shifted to Tihar Jail and I spent some 7 years there. I was convicted in one case for five years. When case got over, I was again shifted to Tulu Talab interrogation center Jammu and kept there for one year. Then I was shifted to KotBalwal and from there to Srinagar central jail. Then the hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814 in 1999 took place, and I was released.
Q. Were you informed about the hijacking plan?
Zargar: I won’t tell you that. But when the plane was hijacked, I couldn’t sleep for a full night. After the hijacking I was thinking if something happened, they won’t keep me in any Jail in Kashmir. My heart was telling me that I will be released. The Indian government used to tell me that leave gun and joint politics. But I said, I left home and I will fight for it with a stone or a gun.
Q.Who were the people who came to you to prison and told you to join politics?
Zargar: Many used to come to talk to me. I said my friends sacrificed their lives for Kashmir cause and you want me to join politics.
Q. When you heard about the hijacking, what was your first reaction? How did you get to know?
Zargar: When the whole world got to know, I too heard it. I was in Srinagar jail that time and it was the month of Ramadan. The news came at night and names of three militants, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and Maulana Masood Azhar and me, were announced. I couldn’t sleep that night, I don’t know why.
Q. How did you come to know that you were among the three men that the hijackers demanded to be released in order for them to free the passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight?
Zargar: I was taken out from the Srinagar prison at midnight and taken to Udhampur by road. There my hands were tied behind my back and my eyes were covered under a piece of cloth. I was then put on a helicopter and when the cloth was removed I found myself in Kandahar. I couldn’t see anything. I took Rs 840, which I had accumulated in jail, from India’s then external Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh.
Q. Did you know that you were traveling with Jaswant Singh?
Zargar: I didn’t know with whom I was sitting and talking to because my eyes were covered. If I would have known, I would have teased him.
Q. Tease Jawant Singh! India’s Foreign Minister?
Zargar: I teased him (Jaswant Singh) in the helicopter but I didn’t know who he was because I couldn’t see him. In interrogation centers they used to say that you will never be released, I used to tell my interrogators that your External Affairs minister will release me by his own hand and Allah heard my pleas, and that happened.
Q. Although you didn’t know that your fellow traveler was Jaswant Singh, yet what did you tell him?
Zargar: I told him that free Kashmir will be good for you. A handful of militants were giving sleepless nights to whole India including AtalBihariVajapyee and L K Advani. Why are you forcing your army to get killed? The money you are spending on forces in Kashmir should be distributed among needy and poor Indians. And that we will continue our struggle for freedom till each and every Indian soldier doesn’t leave Kashmir.
Q. After getting down in Kandahar what happened?
Zargar: After getting down, the Taliban took us till border and I crossed the border and reached to ‘Azad Kashmir’.
Q. Who else was with you when you were released in Kandahar? Did you cross over to Pakistan?
Zargar: Maulana Masood Azhar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and me. No we didn’t cross over to Pakistan. Maulana Azhar told me that we are going to land on the soil of Taliban. He asked me to wear a turban but I didn’t have one and then I covered my head with some cloth. From there we boarded a vehicle, and MaulanaSahab went to some other places and I reached Muzzafarabad and from there I crossed back to Indian side of Kashmir.
Q.Were you aware of the hijacking of the Indian Airline flight in 1999?
Zargar: No, I didn’t know in advance about the hijacking but came to know from the media about it just like everybody did. But we did lot of kidnapping cases like Pankaj Kumar Senawho spent a year in our captivity. We wanted to kidnap cricketer KapilDev but that couldn’t happen. After that lot of kidnapping cases happened. That way I knew one day I will be released.
Q. Tell us about your plan to kidnap KapilDev?
Zargar:One of our colleagues was sent to Punjab to kidnap KapilDev in 1996, but he got arrested and was imprisoned for 3 years. If he (KapilDev) had been kidnapped I would have been released long before.
Q. What do you make of the current situation in Kashmir?
Zargar: Will Insha Allah, “throw Indian forces out of Kashmir”. Indian army has broken all limits in Kashmir by blinding and killing innocent Kashmiris. They have called lakhs of army men into Kashmir, but they are frightened by handful of militants. Sometimes they are shutting internet and other time closing whole Kashmir. Kashmir will be solved only through armed struggle and all talks are futile. I want to appeal to Nawaz Sharif to snap all ties with India. They are killing Muslims in India and Afghanistan, why to talk to them.
Q. In a recently circulated video, youth are seen beating CRPF personnel? What’s your reaction on it?
Zargar: They should have killed those men and cut them into pieces. But we Kashmiris are not like them, we left them unhurt. I never see such a coward army anywhere.
Q. What is your take on Hurriyat?
Zargar: They want a political solution of Kashmir and I am in favor of armed struggle. It is not necessary everyone should take gun.
Q. So you feel it is better to fire a gun than throw a stone?
Zargar: Stone pelters are real militants and courageous than those who have gun in hand. I salute them. In 1992, I was also part of stone pelting despite having a gun in hand.
Q. Zakir Musa recently said they are fighting to impose Sharia in Kashmir? What is your reaction?
Zargar: Everybody has a view and Zakir too has his own stand. I favour accession with Pakistan.
Q. You favor accession with Pakistan: Did they support you in your cause?
Zargar: Pakistan supports us politically and morally, rest we do everything by our own .We use to collect money and buy weapons from Indian and Indian forces.
Q. You used to buy weapons in India?
Zargar: Yes everywhere weapons are available. If you have money you will get each and everything. We bought weapons in Gurdaspura, Gujarat and Mumbai in India.We use to purchase one round of bullets for just Rs 10 and AK47at times at Rs 50,000 or Rs 1 lakh.
Q. Are Jaish Muhammad and Al-Umar working together?
Zargar: We all are one and fighting for the Kashmir cause. We have same color and we are all Muslims.
Inside Psychiatric Hospital: How Kashmiri docs, paramedics take care of non-local pateints
Srinagar, March 17:”Get me biscuits and toffees,” said Julie, to a paramedic at Psychiatric hospital Rainawari, Srinagar.
Julie Haider, 20, is non-Kashmiri patient who came to Valley from Kolkata, West Bengal for a domestic help to a family who lived at Saraf Kadal area of Srinagar.
After working for only three-days with the family, Julie who was abandoned by her family was shifted to psychiatric hospital last year because of her aggressive behavior.
According to the hospital staff, Julie was brought to the valley by some agency who provide maids to the families for domestic help. But because of aggressive and strange behaviour she was shifted to the hospital.
“ I want to go home and live with my family. I have three brothers, 3 sisters. We are very poor,” she said.
Though, Julie claims to have a family back home but doctors in the hospital are trying hard to reunite her with her family.
Like Julie, 50-year old OM Prakash from Vijaypora Jammu was too abandoned by his family and is under the rehabilitation of the hospital since seven years.
He was shifted to the hospital by the Humhama Police station after they found him wandering near the Srinagar Airport.
“We have contacted the Jammu police station but could not find his family. He is here from the year 2012,” said Sajad Ahmad, a social worker in the hospital.
He said that Prakash is giving a proper addrerss and he is not changing his statements. He said that the police has named him as Rahim Bakerwal but his actual name is Om Prakash.
Besides them, there are three young non-Kashmiri girls and one men abandoned by their families who are being taken care by the kashmiri Doctors and Paramedics at the hospital.
Sajad Ahmad, a paramedic in the hospital said that they treat these non-kashmiri patients as their own family members. “ We have hindu as well as muslim non- locals here who are abandoned by their families but we properly take care of them,” he said.
He also said that they are searching their family so that these patients who are normal now can reunite with them. “ These people are not now patients, they are normal and can live with their families but nobody is owing them. They are giving their addresses and then we call different police stations outside to find their families. Sometimes we do not get any response back from the police outside,” he said.
He also said that recently we contacted Calcutta police and informed them about Julie. “ We are trying very hard to contact their families. We cannot let them suffer on the roads. On humanity basis we are keeping them here otherwise no hospital would take such person for a long time, ” he added.
The paramedics and Doctors in the hospital has worked hard to treat such patient with a potential mental health crisis and now almost all of them are fine now.
The paramedics have now learned to identify problems, intervene and de-escalate the situation.
After a physical assessment, the paramedics talk to the non-local patients to figure out what, precisely, the issue is, asking also about issues like a patient’s mental health history, drug use and family issues.
They use that information, along with details about resources available, to figure out the next steps for them and try to contact with their families.
Another Paramedic , Tabasum Dilawer said that they spend time with the patients to make them comfortable and secure. They build relationships with them. They take care their physiological needs, ensure safety, providing food on time, maintain hygiene, provide a comfortable bedding and other facilities as per the weather.
“ We give these non-locals a love and belongings which means a friendly interaction, spending time, chatting, keeping them happy. For females we take care of their sanitary needs. We involve them in different activities like volley ball game. They initially had Intellectual deficiency then we gave them speech therapies as well,” she said.
Fayaz Ahmad Rather, a Warden said that he help these non-locals to take bath, provide clothing, provide them food on time. “ We are taking care of them till their family take them back. In fact we have given gifts to some who met their family belonging outside the state,” he said.
Doctors in the hospital said that rehabilitation was very important especially for those who are being abandoned by their families.
“ While safety and rehabilitation helped most non-local patients to recover, the non- locals need more and different treatments because their culture and language is different. We had many non-locals in this hospital before. We treated them, searched their families and sent back to their homes safely,” said Dr Zaid, a Senior Psychiatrist at the hospital.
He said, “ We are keeping these non-locals here on the basis of humanity. Otherwise as per the mental act, after being treated the patient should be discharged. There is no such hospital outside the state where abandoned patients who are normal are being taken care by the staff. But we want to provide safety to them, “he said.
He also said the doctors can provide medical help but rehabilitation part should have been taken care by other agencies. “Looking for the families of those abandoned does not come under our hospital. But we do help these helpless patients reach their homes.”
Dr Yasir Hussain Rather, a Psychiatrist in the hospital said that in some places, efforts to help these non-locals seem to be working. In others, they are stumbling.
“Such abandoned patients in a long run lose their skills. A proper rehabilitation including skill development can help them for a better health,” he said.
The doctor also said that the hospital has collected money to reunite one of the non-local with his family.
The Cuckoo’s nest
SRINAGAR: We all must have seen the Bollywood flick ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’. For those who haven’t, the story is about a small Pakistan girl who suffers from speech impediment. To find a miraculous cure, her mother takes her to a Dargah in India. Unfortunately, the girl is left behind on her way back to Pakistan. Enter our hero who makes a point to reunite her with the family and travels across boundaries in his bid, fighting soldiers and doing comedy… All in all, the movie seems too good to happen in real world.
But while you are pondering on it, here in Kashmir something similar has been happening from many years now with hardly any talk about it.
At Srinagar’s Psychiatric Hospital, a few local and non-local patients who are long cured have been waiting for years now to reunite with their families, whose whereabouts are unknown. Nobody at the hospital knows their real names or the exact place they belong to. As such, the hospital authorities have given the patients new names to identify them and keep their records.
One among them has been mentioned as Jozy in the hospital records and appears like the natives of West Bengal. She would be around 18 years. She according to hospital staff was brought there in January, 2014 by the police. “Police had found her somewhere on the street. After noticing her unusual behavior, she was brought to the hospital. She has shown a huge improvement over the years. We don’t know her real name but everyone calls her Jozy and she too understands that,” a hospital staff member while looking after her in ward No 5 of the hospital said. “She gave some clues about her native village but we are yet to trace her family. We hope one day she will be reunited with her family.”
Similarly, another one has been named Fareeda and is almost the age of Jozy. She too was brought to the hospital by the police in 2013. She speaks a mixed Kashmiri and Pahari dialect. “In her broken words, she is telling something like Drugmul. We guessed that it could be Drugmul Kupwara and contacted some people there but have not been successful in tracing her family so far,” the official said. As per him, both were brought to the hospital in a bad condition. “There has been a huge improvement in their health over the years.”
They may be communicating through words or facial expression, eat on their own and play to each other and assist the other patients but prefer to remain silent to strangers. “For outsiders it may sometimes become difficult to understand them but those who treat, nurse them, understand what they want to say,” the official said.
Dr Arshid Hussain, a psychiaritist, who treats these patients, said these girls are fit to live with the family and can live a normal life. “They responded to the medication very fast but still they need love and affection of their families. We are making all efforts to reunite them with their families,” he said.
In the same ward is a Kashmiri Pandit woman. In her early 40, she hardly speaks to anyone. She was brought to the hospital by Kashmiri Muslims in 1990 after Pandits left the Valley. She too has no connection with her family although they know their daughter is being nursed at the hospital. “Family members occasionally call us to enquire about her but had never come to see her in these 25-years. Her parents told us on the phone that they have full faith on Kashmiris that they will be looking very well after their daughter,” Dr Arshid said.
There is also one male patient whose family is also yet to be traced. He has been named as Rahim Bakerwal, who was brought five years ago to the hospital. He was arrested from Humhama after forces noticed some suspicion about him. After found him mentally ill, he was brought to the hospital. The hospital officials believe that he may be from Rajouri or Poonch area.
The hospital administration has a full faith that they will be able to trace their families one day. Infact, the doctors see it a mission to find their families. Their hopes lie on the fact that earlier too in a similar bid, they have successfully traced out the families of three other patients since 2013, who too had lost connection with their families. “We are making continuous efforts to trace their families so that they get reunited like hospital administration did in the past,” Dr Arshid said.
It was in 2013 when Krader Tripathi, 55, regained his memory and told the name of his native village.
The miracle of reuniting him with his family after 23-years happened following the doctors surfed his village on Google Earth. They finally got in contact with the police station, who then checked the police records and finally conveyed his family. Then Tripathi’s brother and nephew came to Srinagar and took him along to their home. His brother told the hospital staff that the family had thought that Tripathi was dead. “After found him alive, he is second face of Baghwan for us,” he told the doctors. “Had Tripathi been in other state, we would not have traced him. You people have really set up an example that religions have no bonds,” he told a group of hospital staff who had gathered to bid adieu to him.
Even there has been some incidents when some patients by the families after regaining their mental stability. This is what happened with Mathur Bhai Padhiyar of Gujarat when his family was not ready to own him for three years despite knowing he was being nursed at the hospital. He had come along with a group of Gujarati pilgrims to Amarnath cave shrine. After noticing his unusual behaviour, police had brought him to the hospital in 2006.
It was in 2013, Mathur regained his memory and told the name of his village which was then traced through Google Earth. After informing the family, there was no response from their side.
“My papa (Nayim) wife (Madhu) three sisters and a brother will be waiting for my return. Please send me back,” Mathur had said when this reporter met him in 2014. After media highlighted that a Gujarati man regained his memory after seven years, Ghulam Nabi Azad who was then union health minister visited Mathur at the hospital. Azad promised to bear all the expenses needed to shift him to Gujarat. Despite that his family was reluctant to take him home. It was then two years of judicial intervention of District Legal Services Authority that Mathur reunited with his family in April 2016.
Similarly, this year another man from West Bengal was also sent back home who had lost connection with him family and was nursed at the hospital for many years. The doctors too traced his village on the internet and finally he reunited with the family.
Kathua crime: 18 days later, medical report shared with no one
Srinagar, Feb 03: Eighteen days after the murder of Kathua minor girl, the victim family is yet to receive the medical report with investigating agencies maintaining silence over the matter.
The 8-year-old girl, Asifa, was abducted on January 10 and after two days an FIR was registered by the police. Then, after seven days, the girl was found dead in nearby forests of Rasana are of Hiranagar in Kathua district on January 17.
The family of the girl alleged that their daughter was raped before her murder. Although the post mortem was conducted, the family has not received the report so far. “ On February 1st we approached the Kathua police station to know about the medical reports but the police officials refused to provide any information regarding it,” said Ali Jan, uncle of Asifa.
“We have asked the police to know about the awaited medical reports and the case. But they are delaying it. They told us that the family will be given all the reports at appropriate time. But we want to know what is in medical reports. We want the real culprits to be punished,” said Jan.
On Friday, National Conference (NC) working president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah raised Asifa’s issue in Legislative Assembly and said that why medical report of a minor girl who was murdered in Kathua has not come to fore. “Kathua incident was a shock but unfortunately, no medical report has been received by the investigating agency so far. Where is the medical report,” Omar had asked the chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.
Soon after the incident, the government ordered a magisterial probe after the opposition protested in the legislative assembly and lashed out at the police for “failing” to trace her promptly after she went missing last week.
After protests and ruckus, the case was handed over to crime branch for probe.
Alok Puri, Inspector General Of police (IGP) State Crime Branch, said that whenever it (medical report) is required they will release a statement regarding it. “We cannot reveal anything about the case. In fact we even can’t say whether we have received the medical report or not,” he said.
Peerzada Naveed, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), State Crime Branch who is heading the case said that that the department would reveal the information of medical reports at appropriate time.
However, Advocate Talib Hussain, a social activist who is fighting for the justice of Asifa said the rape of minor girl would be established only after receiving the medical report. “But the investigating agencies, police and hospital authorities did not reveal the report and continue to stay mum over it,” he said.
Hussain said that they approached the concerned doctor and asked him to handover the medical report of Asifa to them but, “he refused to hand over it without the permission of police”
“After the doctor’s refusal, we approached the SSP Kathua but he also stopped us from accessing the medical reports. We don’t understand why not the officials are revealing it. They are clearly trying to cover up the case,” he said.
Suleman Choudhary, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Kathua, said that the case has been transferred to the crime branch and he cannot say anything about this issue and the medical reports.