Sheikh Imran Bashir
Srinagar: Eight years ago, Abdul Majeed Hajam had to shoulder a responsibility he was not ready for. The onus of supporting his big joint family fell on Majeed, then 23 years old.
Reason: his older brother and sole breadwinner of the family, Abdul Rashid Hajam disappeared from Dandora village in 2002. After a good harvest, the family was expecting a trouble-free journey into next year.
On November 12, 2002, Rashid, then 32 years old, left in the morning to work in his fields as usual. But he didn’t return. The family started a search. Some villagers told them Rashid was picked up by Army personnel while he was working in the fields. “Rashid was picked up by the Army,” his brother Majeed told Agence India Press. “Two boys had seen them pick him up. They even told this to Army officials who later investigated Rashid’s missing.
The next day, Majeed filed a First Information Report (FIR) at Pattan police station. They continued their search. “I searched for him not only in Kashmir valley but also outside,” says Majeed. “I covered every security camp, every jail. I went to Ladakh, Kathua and Udhampur. But I didn’t find him”.
The Army’s own investigation initiated by its 29 Rashtriya Rifles (RR), meanwhile, continued for some time and it, according to Majeed, concluded that Rashid “has been picked by an Army” van. “I received a letter from the (Commanding Officer) CO of the RR. In the letter, they acknowledged that my brother was picked up by the Army van on the day of his disappearance,” says Majeed. The family says Army investigation revealed that Rashid might have been killed and recommended ex-gratia. “However, they asked us to admit that he was a militant,” says Majeed. “How could have we done that when he was not a militant? They told us if you admit, you will get a government job and compensation of Rs 1 lakh too”.
Majeed didn’t accept that his brother was a militant and hence the compensation and government job eluded him. The 28-year-old Majeed supports the family, which includes the three children of his older brother, by doing menial jobs. In spite of the Army investigation revealing that Rashid might be dead, Majeed says, “My mind says he might be dead but my heart says he is alive.