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‘We have new clothes now… haven’t been able to get them stitched’

Since the government introduced its policy for return and rehabilitation of “misguided Kashmiri youth” from Pak and PoK in 2010, 1,253 people have returned to J&K using the Nepal route.

Written by Arun Sharma |
Updated: December 27, 2015 10:08:05 am

Mohammed Aziz, 90;
Rashida, 70; Hafiza, 27
Returned to ancestral village in J&K from PoK illegally

At a time of much confusion, Mohammed Aziz and his father Maukam Din set out on a 660-km journey that would take him 66 years to undo. Just before Partition, the two left village Salwa in Poonch, near the border, to visit Aziz’s two married sisters living in Rawalakot. The war that followed made it impossible for them to return. Din died in 1948 there, his daughters in 1976. In 2013, eight years after the opening of the Poonch-Rawalakot bus route, Aziz came back to Salwa for the first time since he left.

Last month, now 90 and desperate to come back to his ancestral home, as well as worried about what would happen to his wife and daughter when he died, Aziz took a 9,000-km route via Islamabad, Bangkok, Nepal and Delhi (by road and air), along with Rashida and Hafiza, to reach Salwa. After a few days spent in jail for illegal entry, the three were released on bail.

Money was short, and Aziz’s health failing, so they travelled light on the journey:

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Their passports

Aziz sold his house at Panjera village in PoK to get passports and a visa to Nepal. They boarded an Islamabad-Kathmandu flight via Bangkok on November 9. At Kathmandu airport, their passports were taken by an official. Hafiza says she does not know why, but police have a clue. Agents arrange these passports for PoK residents to illegally visit J&K using the Nepal route instead of the Poonch-Rawalakote or Uri-Muzaffarabad roads.

They spent a nervous two days in Kathmandu and then rode a bus to the Indian border. They boarded a train to Delhi on November 13, and they travelled to Salwa by road, landing on November 15 evening.

Surah Yaseen (a chapter in the Holy Quran)

“The verses helped us, especially my aged and ailing parents, keep calm and composed, particularly during the two days when we were unable to cross over to India from Nepal,” says Hafiza. With their status still uncertain — intelligence officials continue to visit them and they are required to appear before court frequently — the 27-year-old reverts to the verses daily.

A mid-range cellphone of Pakistan’s QMobile company

While it had no SIM card — Hafiza says she discarded it at Islamabad —the phone was seized by police when they arrived at Salwa, to verify the account of their journey.

An extra pair of shoes

“We were afraid the footwear we were wearing wouldn’t last the journey,” says Hafiza. The family was wearing plastic shoes, not made for wear and tear.

An extra pair of clothes

That was a precaution as the family was not sure how much time it would take for them to reach Salwa. Their relatives have provided them new clothes since, but they haven’t been able to get them stitched.

Since their release from bail, the family has moved into the house of Aziz’s nephew Gul Mohammad. Gul has been advising Aziz to get Hafiza married, so that a son-in-law could take care of them.

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