In a congested neighborhood of old decaying houses in Sopore, a muddy lane passes towards a thick forest covered with Chinaar trees. Fundamentalist run their writ in this ancient Kashmiri town. No one can raise a voice against their bigotism in fear of danger to their lives. They decide code of ethics here. They are fighting a long battle with Indian forces. These fundamentalist want a free Kashmir governed with Shariya (Quranic) law. There are old looking houses both sides of the lane which passes through middle of the town. In one of these houses lives Fareeza. Her single story building is covered with wooden roof with cemented stairs working like a bridge between lane and the building . It is friday evening, Fareeza is sitting beside Chimni in a old revolving chair. Her face is pale, eyes are exhausted with deep circles underneath. Her age has a left a conspicuous mark on her face. She waits for her only son Jeelani in her 8 and 10 fit room with wires hanging from its low ceiling and rough cement walls turned black suddenly seems to have become big for the family that was always cramped for space. Her eyes are constantly looking at a corner of a room. There is a table where she has placed a framed photo of her daughters, Akhtara and Arifa. Whenever she looks at her daughters, smiling in photo frame, a deep fear shivers down her spine. She picks up the frame and place it near her chest. She put her hand on photo with tears strolling down on her cheeks. In a moment, she is lost in thoughts.
It was a lively house when her both daughters were alive. Her elder daughter Akhtara was introvert, only going out of house to bring vegetables and fresh meat. She would clean fishes with chatting a neighbor girl Reshma. She was favorite child of her father Gulab Nabi Dar, a daily wage laborer who works in local Iqbal market. Dar would bring unwashed fishes from market and Akhtara would wash those fishes for a mere 20 rupees per hundred. She had just passed high school from a girls college and forced to discontinue her education because there was no Intermediate college in Sopore. She could continue her education if she moved out to Srinagar where her maternal uncle Imran was posted in a government department. She refused as she wanted to help her parents. Her younger daughter Arifa was a bubbly, unrestrained child. Fareeza loved her very much. She was flamboyant, always wrapped in a red frock, her eyes twinkling like little stars. She would move her hands like a little bird flapping its small wings. She was in high school and wanted to be a doctor. She would accompany Aktara when she would go to market to bring goods and vegetables. The sisters would roam around the market at the dusk , laughing and chatting. Little Arifa would bring her father’s mobile with her. She was very fond of mobile, it was sent by her uncle Imran, who wanted to be in touch with Dar family. Near Iqbal market was a army camp. It was established years ago as a challenge to undergoing terrorist activities in town. Sopor is still very sensitive town, it was a hotbed of insurgencies in 90s so Army had every reason to keep a vigil on this town. Near army cap was bus shed. Here Akhtara and Arifa would sit and wait for her friends to meet. Occasionally they would talk to army men who were getting down from buses belongs to state transport department. As it was a orthodox and communally charged Muslim town where people would not like girls talking to strangers. They suspected as both girls were spying for army. People had apprehension that the mobile girls were using had been given by army. People often would come to Fareeza and Dar and would complain about their sisters. When they saw their complain was not making any effect on girls’ parents, they decided to warn girls directly. Once a group of men stopped Akhtara and asked her to mend her ways else she would pay a heavy cost for her immoral act of being a informer for Indian Army. There was a also palpable feeling in girls’ parents, as people started alienate their family. But both Dar and Fareeza believed that their girls were doing nothing illegal and warning them would not make any difference. But here they made a mistake.
One day, at around 7.45, Arifa was cooking rice in the kitchen of her single room. Akhtara was upstairs with Rashma cleaning the fish. Their father had gone to mosque. Their Farzeena, who could no longer walk because of arthritis, was sitting with her son, when the door suddenly opened and three masked men clad in phirans walked in. One of them asked Farzeena to call her daughters out. Farzeena was bewildered, She didn’t know what her daughters had done. She called both their daughters. Arifa was in red frock as always and Akhtara was in brownish salwaar-kurta. Fareeza fell at those men’s feet, begging them to tell if her daughters had done something wrong. But they said they just wanted to ask a few questions. Outside their home, it was like a crackdown. Almost everyone heard the noises but no one came out. They asked girls to come with them. They warned other if they tried to follow them, they would shoot these girls. Jeelani, younger brother of those sisters, hovered around for sometime, unable to understand what to do. Sometimes begged the gunmen to leave his sisters alone, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. Those masked men took girls away. They left horror and uncertain fear back. Dar along with his wife Fareeza was praying for safety of his daughters.
Fifteen minutes later, gunshots shattered whatever little hopes the family had left. When Dar and his relatives rushed towards daughters out of fear, they found bodies of both girl. One was riddled with six holes, other with four, including one through the head. A day later, some posters appeared all over the town claiming responsibility for the killing. Posters claimed the girls were killed because their behavior was improper and they were involved in degraded activities like spying for Army.
Now Farzeena puts down her daughters photo, tears falling from her eyes. She can hear evening Namaz coming out from a nearby mosque. Now she doesn’t believe in Allah, who could not save her daughter’s life. Tears still rolling down from her eyes.