ROMUT NAFAR: A MISSING MAN

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Altaf Ah Mir lived in a small dhok in the outskirts of village Nagni. Altaf was a carpenter at the local ‘chaan lettar’ & had an alternate seasonal profession in the orchards as a worker. A gentle, soft spoken docile man married to Zarifa with a 10yr old son, Junaid. In early 20’s Altaf lost his job when some of his local rivals accused him of stealing & smuggling woods from the jungles to prepare hideout for the terrorists. With this Altaf lost his earnings, self-respect & acquaintances he had developed in Nagni. It was winters of 2002, Altaf left his home early for the first day at his new job. The entire family was elated that he found a job as foreman of mail carrier at the nearest Dak Ghar. Ordinarily the walk would have taken about 30 mins from the Dak Ghar to Nagni but it is 11:15 PM on the clock, Zarifa hesitantly reached out to the neighbours who too had no idea why Altaf had not reached back home yet. As this news burst out, police listed Altaf as missing and followed through on every anonymous tip & even checked unidentified bodies at Distt Hospital. SI Jahangir was assigned to head the investigation, Jahangir knew that Altaf was a man of probity & openness since the two attended the same Masjid for Namaz. Jahangir was partially convinced that Altaf’s disappearance had nothing to do with wrongdoings since it was quite common in early 20’s with so many terrorist groups trying to establish their dominance in the valley.

In Altaf’s absence “for weeks” Zarifa’s sister recalls, “Zarifa walked the house wrinkling her hands praying”. She agreed that Altaf could be a victim of amnesia or any such disease & worried more about his heath than Altaf’s disappearance. Zarifa was sustained by her deep trust in Allah. She felt that one day Allah would provide an answer to her supplications. Zarifa remained alone in the house waiting, soon after Altaf’s disappearance, Zarifa realized that she had to earn a living. She started working at Nagni primary school as housekeeper with a salary of Rs. 250/month.

During his walk back from work to Nagni, Altaf was abducted by three men, who blind folded him on gun point. After a week, the next thing he knew was that he was in Muzzaffarabad PoK, a place he had never visited before. Seeing an advertisement sign board of a mechanic shop (Jameel best Mistri of Muzzafarbad) across the camp where he was training along with other armed teenagers, he immediately realized that he had no past from now onwards, his only reality is the present. Altaf proved himself in the training so that one day he can see his family. He next worked as craftsmen instructor imparting knowledge about carpentry skills to improvise hideouts. After a year, he established himself at the camp. Altaf never talked about his past & his companions didn’t try also. One once said to him, “kath seth sech bhasa ch asak Rajwar sidok (from your accent, you must be from Rajwar)” Altaf replied; “kash ye ase pose (I wish that was true)”.

On the other side Zarifa & Junaid started facing societal & administrative challenges with a tag of missing terrorist’s house. Every now & then police, SF & locals started suspecting them with wrong doings. But Zarifa and Junaid faced it all as their fate and never quit. Junaid directed his aguish & grief to studies, remained in the same village & house in Nagni waiting for Allah to provide an answer to their supplications.

The day came in 2009 when the Launch Pad Commander ordered a group of 3 young terrorists with ill intentions to infiltrate through Lipa to Rajwar area. Altaf was assigned with the task to guide them through the treacherous terrain to main town. After almost 8 yrs, Altaf knew who he was; where it has all started; firstly; the feeling of revenge from the people who tarnished his image. Secondly; He knew his village & family “are they alive? Has Zarifa re-married? If not how will they greet me?” Altaf gasped. After two unsuccessful infiltration attempts, Altaf and his team successfully infiltrated with only one survivor. Altaf was explicit in his thoughts with no malicious intentions against his homeland but, few people. Altaf reached out to the nearest Army camp unarmed and explained his innocence. He helped security forces to nab the survivor and also provided classified information about his stay across. After a week’s cross questioning, SF understood Altaf’s compulsions during his entire stay across.

While in the mean time Zarifa & Junaid had no clue about Altaf’s custody with the SF. It was mid night when someone frantically knocked the door, Zarifa thought “khudaye wo gouch nah poch aasun (this is not a good time for a visitor)”. Junaid opened the door and peered at the man standing behind the security forces with grey beard. For some moment Zarifa couldn’t speak. Altaf said “Salam Zarifa”, “Altaf” she gasped “yecha pose (is it true)” panting, followed by embraces & tears. They began to talk trying to fill in the gap in time in tears, exhausted & happy. Altaf later in his dairy wrote “Each day we are together”; “makes the time I spent across apart seem shorter”. Junaid continued with his studies, now working in Baramulla as Asst Professor & runs an NGO with Altaf who help families that suffered terrorist inflicted atrocities.

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