LoCked In A Warp: 97-yr-old PoK Man Dreams Of Kashmir
17 March 2005
The Times of India
Srinagar: Pakistan is a country across the frontier, India is not ready to own him and so he waits for death as an outsider in the very land that he has loved, looking forward to the bus service that can ferry his daughter from Muzaffarabad and ensure that he closes his eyes in peace. For 97-year-old Raja Mohammad Hussain, living means not just battling with life, but also his identity, which was sundered by the Line of Control that divided Kashmir 58 years ago. And yet in his mind he is clear about his loyalties. He is only a Kashmiri and wants to die like one. Hailing from Muzaffarabad, Raja first came to Srinagar for studies in 1925. He joined the then Maharaja Hari Singh's state police in 1930 and settled down here, marrying a girl from his native village Ambor (Muzaffarabad) in 1935. Visiting his native place remained a regular feature of his life, though. However, he was separated from his parents, brothers and sisters after the Indo-Pak War of 1947-48. The Line of Control had rendered him a citizen of Indian Kashmir while his kin were in Pakistani Kashmir. Raja came to terms with his new identity. Retiring in 1966 from the state police, he started his own company in Srinagar. However, the longing for his brothers and sister in Muzaffarabad remained. He finally managed to visit them in 1984, along with his wife Shehzada Begum and three children. After six months, his wife returned as she had ailing children to look after in Srinagar. Raja and the other children stayed back to settle a property dispute. Raja had no inkling he was never going to see his wife again. Since he had overstayed, the Pakistani government asked him to surrender his Indian passport and accept a Pakistani one. Meanwhile, his children got married and settled down in Muzaffarabad. Raja could not but accept the government's offer. In 1996, the news that his wife was dying made him want to cross over again. But he could not reach Srinagar to bid her goodbye. 'I was restless and guilty and could not stay back,' Raja recalled. From that day he was on his toes, for a visa to visit his home in Srinagar. It took him five years to finally reach Srinagar, in 2001. And by that time, he had asthma and old-age ailments. Surviving on an oxygen cylinder, Raja was in for more trouble as the Indian authorities would not let him overstay. Raja appealed in a court of law, only to have a verdict against him. The court said he should be deported as he had willingly accepted Pakistani citizenship. 'But this did not deter me. I have applied in a higher court and I will fight till my last breath. Because even the Pakistani passport says that I am a state subject and citizen of Jammu and Kashmir state,' Raja argued. 'Everybody wishes to go to heaven after one is dead. And my heaven is here in Kashmir. I want to die here, want to be buried next to my wife,' he said, even as he waits for his daughter settled in Muzaffarabad to visit him on April 7, the day the bus service is launched. 'She has applied for the permit today. I want to see her and then close my eyes,' he said.