Couple with 3 blind children lives atop a cowshed after 2014 gun-battle destroyed their home

During the gunfight, a bullet hit Begum’s old mother-in-law, leaving her paralysed and now stuck in the cowshed along with the three blind boys.

Their three blind children had learned to move around the single-storey house Rafeeqa Begum and her husband had built for them with a lot of hardship, but now the family is stuck atop a cowshed since 2014 when their home was completely destroyed during a gun-battle.

During the gunfight, a bullet hit Begum’s old mother-in-law, leaving her paralysed and now stuck in the cowshed along with the three blind boys.

Begum wipes the tears of her husband, Muhammad Sadiq, with her scarf as the couple sat inside a dark room beside the paralysed old woman and the blind children.

The entire family was shattered on 8 April 2014 when soldiers killed two armed militants in their home that was completely destroyed during the gun-battle in Zunreshi area of Kupwara district.

Life for them has been a nightmare since.

“We had no place to live in so we turned the upper part of our cowshed into a living room,” Begum said.

Her husband Sadiq had taken years working as daily-wage labourer to put together money and construct a home where his three blind children, now aged 16, 9 and 6 years, could live easily.

“They had started recognising that house with the help of their senses and used to move from one room to another without anyone’s help, but here (room above their cowshed) all the three have had narrow escapes when they came out on the stairs looking for me or Sadiq for the last four years,” says Begum.

Sadiq says the government paid them no compensation for their house destroyed during the encounter in which they had no role.

“I am an illiterate person. I don’t know what the procedures and rules are. I have come to know from several acquaintances that government provides compensation to the people whose houses get damaged in encounters, and to be honest I have not received a single penny,” he said, adding that no one even visited to assess the loss.

But this was not the first time conditions in Kashmir displaced Sadiq.

“I was a kid when we were forced to migrate from main Chowkibal to Zunreshi after army established a camp on our entire village,” he says.

“I get 700 rupees per month as rent from them (army) for that piece of land.”

Sadiq is desperate to rebuild a proper home for their children, but he cannot move far from his children for work and better wages.

“I consider myself as one of the unluckiest persons on earth because I cannot even move to the city to support my children and an ailing mother,” Sadiq said. “Every time I decide to shift to Srinagar or another place I wonder what will happen to the family in my absence.”

The then Member of Legislative Assembly Saifullah Mir, Sadiq says, agreed to give Rs 20,000/- each to his three children “as compensation” when the couple knocked at his door.

“We have not received that amount yet because it was never released,” says Begum, pointing towards the documents related to the compensation hanging from the wall of the cowshed. “I have no one except Allah to ask for help, but if someone wants they can help three blind children and their grandmother paralysed by a bullet.”