Living in a small dhok in the outskirts of village Nagni in Doda, Altaf Ahmed Mir 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 his early 20’s, Altaf lost his job when some of his local rivals accused him of stealing & smuggling woods from the jungles to prepare hideouts for terrorists.
With this Altaf lost his earnings, self-respect & the acquaintances he had developed in Nagni.
It is the winter 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 at a 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 erupted, police listed Altaf as ‘missing’ and followed through on every anonymous tip & even checked unidentified bodies at Doda Bhaderwah 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 2000’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 health than his myterious 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 and 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 meagre salary of Rs. 250/month.
The Real account of Altaf’s dissappearance: 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 that read “Jameel best Mistir of Muzzafarbad” across the camp where he was training along with other armed teenagers, he immediately realized that he his past had been erased from that point, his only reality would be his present.
Altaf worked tirelessly to prove himself in the ‘training’, only so that one day he could 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 even ask. One once said to him, “kath seth cxe basaan cxe 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 social & administrative challenges with the tag of belonging to ‘missing terrorist’s house’. Every now & then. the police, SF & locals started suspecting them. 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.
Muzzafarabad Camp: The fateful day arrived 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 the main town. After almost 8 yrs, Altaf knew who he was; where it had 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 with a myriad of thoughts running in his mind at the same time.
After two unsuccessful attempts, Altaf and his team finally infiltrated with only one survivor. Altaf was explicit in his thoughts with no malicious intentions against his homeland but with 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 the International border.
In the mean time, Zarifa & Junaid had no clue about Altaf’s custody with the SF. It was mid night when someone frantically knocked on 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 a moment Zarifa was stunned and 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 helps families that suffered terrorist inflicted atrocities.