Kashmiri mothers ‘suffer most’ as families denied final rites

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Zeba, Riyaz Naikoo's 50-year-old-mother, could not see her son for the last time even though he was killed in the proximity of her house in Pulwama district, South Kashmir, June 5. (Arab News photo)
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The encounter site in Pulwama where Hizbul Muzahideen chief Riyaz Naikoo was killed on May 6. The photo was taken on June 6. (Arab News photo)
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Updated 20 June 2020

Kashmiri mothers ‘suffer most’ as families denied final rites

  • Bodies of those killed in encounter with security forces are neither allowed burial in native villages nor handed over to families
  • “Denial of dead bodies to the family is the denial of their rights and the denial of dignity and justice to the dead and their families”

NEW DELHI: Forty-year-old mother Habla cannot get over being denied permission to see her son one last time before he was buried.

It was June 2018 when she last saw her 25-year-old son Suhail Ahmad Wani alive, and she has always hoped to meet him again.

“It pains me so much. The incident left me so traumatized that sometimes I feel I should avenge his killing,” she told Arab News.

“It was a double injustice for me. First my son was forced to become a rebel because of police atrocities, and when he died a second injustice was done to him by denying him a dignified burial in his native place,” said Habla.

Habla,mother of the rebel Suhail Ahmad, who was killed in police encounter in Alialpora village of Shopian in South Kashmir. She could not see the body of her son as he was buried far away. June 17, 2020. (AN Photo)

On June 10, Wani was killed in an encounter at Alialpora village, in the Shopian district of south Kashmir.

He had left his home two years ago to pick up arms and fight for the rights of Kashmiris.

“He was harassed and detained many times by local security forces. The constant harassment forced him to become a rebel. For him it became hell to survive as a normal human being,” his mother said.

Wani, along with three of his friends, was buried 130 km away in Sonamarg.

Habla, mother of slain rebel Suhail Ahmad , lives in pain because police did not give the dead body of her sone to the family and he was buried in Sonemarg,130 km away from his native village in Shopian, south Kashmir. June 17, 2020. (AN Photo)

“We got to know the next day that our son was martyred. We finally managed to reach the graveyard where my son is buried, but we could only see the grave instead of his face,” she added.

According to protocols introduced by the local administration in Kashmir in early April, bodies of militants or anyone killed during encounters with security forces are neither handed to their families nor allowed a burial in their native village, a departure from previous practices.

Kashmir’s Inspector General of Police, Vijay Kumar, failed to respond to requests for comment.

Last month Kumar said the new measure is designed to prevent mass gatherings, including funerals, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The new measures were put in place to ensure that lockdown guidelines were followed,” he said.

“If we allow for identification at encounter sites and permit burial in their native places, huge gatherings may spread the disease,” the police chief added.

He said: “As per several orders of the government of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir in view of the Disaster Management Act, we have to ensure strict lockdown even during burial. To avoid such situations we are doing burials in safer, isolated places. Being police chief of Kashmir, it is my legal duty to ensure the safety and security of people.”

But Habla questions why these measures are not enforced for funerals of policemen or security personnel.

“Denial of dead bodies to the family is the denial of their rights and the denial of dignity and justice to the dead and their families,” she said.

Some mothers cannot bear the pain of not seeing their son for the last time.

Shakeela suffered a heart attack 12 days after her son Adil Ahmad Wani was killed in an encounter in the Pulwama district of south Kashmir on May 6 this year.

Like Habla, she was also denied permission to see his body, which was buried in Sonamarg, 100 km away from his native Padgampora village in Pulwama district.

“On May 6, we all traveled to Sonamarg to see our son despite the restrictions. We managed to see him one last time but the denial of a decent burial in the village bothered Shakeela and the pain became so heavy that she suffered a heart attack 12 days later,” Manzoor Ahmad, Shakeela’s husband, told Arab News.

Zeba, mother of Hizbul Mujahideen chief Riaz Naikoo. She could not see her son after his death as his dead body was not handed over to the family. June 5, 2020. (AN Photo)

Zeba is the mother of Riyaz Naikoo, who was head of the militant group Hizbul Mujahideen. He was killed in a separate gunfight the same day and buried in the same graveyard as Adil. Zeba was also denied access to her dead son.

Zeba said: “Some people cajole us that parents whose sons get martyred and win a place in heaven. But do you know what parents go through, how much they suffer?”

“The killing of your son tears your heart apart. The pain is like being burnt alive,” she told Arab News. “In Kashmir mothers suffer the most.”

Deeba Ashraf, a Srinagar-based lawyer, said the government is using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to change protocols and suppress the voice of the people.

“The Indian government claims that only a small minority of the Kashmiri population was radicalized and that people in general are supporting the abrogation of the special constitutional autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, but the funeral procession of militants attracts a huge crowd that shows a different picture from what the government wants the world to see,” Ashraf told Arab News.

“The lockdown has been used as a tool by the government to blank out popular support for militants and rebels,” she said.

“It is a violation of basic human rights to deny people the bodies of their dear ones for burial,” she added.


Rome suspends flights from Bangladesh after virus cases

Updated 16 min 31 sec ago

Rome suspends flights from Bangladesh after virus cases

  • Of the 225 arriving Dhaka passengers on Monday, 21 tested positive for the disease, Lazio’s top health official Alessio D’Amato said on Tuesday
  • Lazio has sought to offer more testing for the community of Bangladeshis which numbers about 30,000 in Italy’s capital

ROME: Italy’s health minister ordered the suspension of flights to Rome from Bangladesh on Tuesday, after a spate of coronavirus cases within the community that authorities worry could expand.
On Monday, the Lazio region surrounding Rome issued a special decree calling for passengers from Dhaka to be given virus tests upon their arrival at Rome’s Fiumicino airport.
Of the 225 arriving Dhaka passengers on Monday, 21 tested positive for the disease, Lazio’s top health official Alessio D’Amato said on Tuesday, calling it a “veritable viral ‘bomb’ that we’ve defused.”
Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a statement that a one-week suspension of flights had been ordered.
As of Monday, 32 coronavirus cases had been reported within the Bangladeshi community, Lazio president Nicola Zingaretti wrote in the decree. It was unclear whether that number included the positive cases among the passengers who arrived Monday.
Seventeen of the 32 cases were “imported” from abroad and 15 involved people in contact with those imported cases, the decree said.
It added that a two-week quarantine for passengers from Bangladesh had been insufficient to contain transmission of the virus.
There are currently 870 coronavirus cases in Lazio, with 14,709 in Italy overall, according to the latest official figures.
Since the crisis erupted in Italy in late February, 34,869 people have died of coronavirus, but the rate of new infections has slowed considerably, leading the government to roll back most lockdown restrictions.
Still, Speranza has warned of a possible second wave in the autumn, and has cautioned Italians to wear masks and avoid crowds, among other measures.
“The objective is to prevent the outbreak that is currently seen in Rome in the Bengali community from multiplying,” Francesco Vaia, health director of Rome’s Spallanzani hospital, told news wire AGI.
“It’s essential to put under control airports, ports and stations and activate a health surveillance on citizens coming from the non-Schengen area and in particular from countries where the virus is spreading.”
Beginning last month, passengers from Dhaka have arrived on special flights intended to bring Bangladeshi nationals residing in Italy back to their European homes and jobs following the coronavirus lockdown.
Italy’s borders are only open to those passengers coming from within Europe’s Schengen zone, as well as those from another 14 countries — a list that does not include Bangladesh.
Lazio has sought to offer more testing for the community of Bangladeshis which numbers about 30,000 in Italy’s capital, but only three people showed up at a special clinic offering free testing on Monday, Il Messagero daily said.
About 45,000 Bangladeshis reside in Italy, according to national statistics agency Istat.
Migration from Bangladesh to Italy has grown in recent years and many within the community work illegally in low-paying jobs.
Other cases involving Bangladeshis with links to flights from Dhaka have also been seen in Tuscany, according to news reports.