Dream Deferred: A Kashmir Refugee’s Longing For Home

Dream Deferred: A Kashmir Refugee’s Longing For Home

6 January 2014
Express Tribune


Muzaffarabad: As Kashmiri refugees settled in Azad Kashmir rallied on Sunday to commemorate the Right to Self-Determination Day, one such refugee waits quietly for death, all the while hoping to be re-united with his long lost family across the Line of Control that divides the dispute Himalayan state. On January 5, 1949, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution granting the people of Kashmir the right to self-determination. However, India never implemented the resolution. Every year, the day is marked by the Kashmiris to draw the international community’s attention towards the UN resolution. A dark, rented room with dilapidated walls and peeling paint appears to be the final home of 75-year-old retired daily-wage worker Abdul Karim, a Kashmiri refugee. But in what seem to be the last few years of his life, the ailing elderly man yearns for the home he hasn’t seen since he was a young boy. Karim migrated at the age of 13 from Karnah, a town close to the LoC in Kupwara district of Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir, and spent more than 40 years working as a labourer in different areas of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). “My last wish is to die in my ancestral area,” he says. “I hope that the Pakistan and Indian governments honour my last wish.” He was married in the early sixties; however, despite a happily married 49 years, he had no children. Last year, Karim’s wife passed away and he was left to face isolation, with twice as many hardships. He mourns the loss of his life companion and moans that he has no one to look after him. The hospital administration refuses to admit him without an attendant, he says. “I need a glass of water to take my medicine; but who will give me that?” he cries. “At this age, I need help even to use the washroom. Sometimes, when I try to take the few steps to the washroom, I tumble down to the floor as I cannot control myself. It is too painful,” he tells The Express Tribune as tears roll down his shrivelled cheeks. Karim dreams of returning to Karnah, Kupwara, in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir to pass his last few days with his relatives. “My last wish is to be in my childhood home, close my eyes and say goodbye to this world. I want to be buried close to the graves of my father and mother in my ancestral graveyard,” he sighs. Karim urges the governments of India and Pakistan to allow him to be taken care of by his relatives on his mother’s and father’s side back ‘home’. “They are waiting to look after me. They feel the sting and want to help as we share the same blood.” He appeals to human rights organisations and other humanitarian bodies to assist thousands of Kashmiri refugees and divided families settled in different parts of Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir to meet their loved ones before they breathe their last. “Many people wish as I do,” he says. “I want nothing more than to die in front of my nearest and dearest ones.”