10 yrs on, she doesn’t know if she is a widow

For the last 10 years, Tasleema Afzal has been seeking answer to one question - should she consider herself a widow?

Men in uniform had picked up her husband Mohammad Afzal Shah, an Imam in the city mosque in 1996. Since then she had been making rounds of all the prisons, police stations and security camps but only to return clueless each time. She even knocked the doors of the judiciary to get a reply.

Shah's family, living in a rented house at Dalgate, came in for a rude shock when a group of men in uniform from Srinagar barged in and dragged the Imam away on the fateful night of April 26.

The family suspects the men were from the BSF. "Some men in uniform forced their entry inside our house at Kohnakhan," says Tasleema. "They dragged him (Shah) away. When I tried to save, they shoved me and bolted the door from outside."

Next morning, the family along with their neighbours began a search that till today didn't yield an answer.

Tasleema searched in every security camp, interrogation centres and jail of the Valley but there was no trace of her husband. Shah was another addition to the list of thousands of missing persons in Kashmir.

Distraught by the unending search, the family had only one hope - judicial intervention. Tasleema filed a petition in J-K's High Court asking for whereabouts of her missing husband. The J-K High Court directed the various security agencies, intelligence agencies and police officials to furnish whereabouts of the Imam. But there was no response.

The court then asked the District and Session Judge to inquire about the disappearance. In its report the judge stated that BSF has denied arresting Shah and concluded: "It cannot be specifically inferred that he (Shah) was arrested by BSF. Uniforms are worn by all security forces, which include BSF. However, it is established beyond doubt that Muhammad Afzal was taken into custody by forces for which local people approached the Nehru Park Police Post".

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