Kavita Suri

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Pakistani Woman and her Daughter born in Jammu Prison

Parveen Kousar symbolizes tragedy of two divided 'Kashmirs'

Mubin, 6, is chattering non-stop for the past two days. Her big beautiful eyes, her infectious smile and her innocent queries has charmed everybody in the household of advocate A.K. Sawhney where this India-born girl has been putting up with her Pakistani mother Parveeen Kousar for the past two days since their release from the Jammu District jail after seven long years.

Born and brought up in various jails in the border district of Rajouri situated near the Line of Control (LoC) and then in Jammu, Mubin cannot stop wondering as to why she is not living in a small dark dingy cell for the past two days. For since she was born, the young girl hasn’t seen anything but the four walls of the District Jail, Jammu also known as Amphalla Jail located in the heart of Old Jammu City. 

A dream shines in her eyes as she tastes freedom for the first time in her six years, refuses to go back to the Jail when asked if she would like to go there. “Jail Ganda Hota hai” (Jail is a dirty place) ,replies the girl flatly and start laughing.…..Yeh Kya Hai (What is this?), Who Kya hai(what is that?)……To her endless queries, the Sawhney family replies with much poise and patience for the young girl has become too attached to the family including the two sons of advocate Sawhney especially Aseem, the elder one who himself is an advocate. Infact, Aseem only had later filed another PIL in her mother’s case for their release from the jail.

Mubin and her mother Parveen Kousar , from Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir were recently freed by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court in a landmark judgement on Thursday last when a Division Bench of Jammu and Kashmir High Court had ordered release of Parveen  alias Shahnaz, a Pakistani national, arrested in 1995 and jailed since then, and her six year old daughter born in Jammu prison. The judgement stated that the minor was being detained for no fault of her and she was entitled to a free life and so far as mother is concerned, she has already endured enough punishment for the illegal act committed. Besides ordering the release, the bench also directed the state to pay a sum of Rs 3 lakhs as compensation to Mubin who is a minor.

Just outside the house of advocate Sawhney who has given a temporary shelter to the mother-daughter duo, Mubin even springs more surprise to me by saying that she would have all the toffees in the shop, she has rarely eaten any . Hardly would anybody come to meet them in the jail during all these seven traumatic years.

Mubin’s mother Parveen Kousar of village Abbowalla in Azad kashmir(PoK), tehsil Kotli, Mirpur was married to Mohammad Younis of Village Ambdewalla in tehsil Bhimber of Barnala . Parveen says she had been married only for three months to Mohammed Yunis, when she decided she must die. Denying that she was ill treated by her husband or her in-laws, she said she was under tremendous depression and just wanted to end her life. Eventually, she tried to do so.

Life was going on at its own pace when one fateful day, in her bouts of depression, she  just went to the Pandori Dariya, the river that divides Poonch into Indian and PoK territories enters Poonch-Rajouri from Pakistan , with the intention of committing suicide. But destiny had something else in store for her which she too agrees. “Madam ji , Mere Naseeb Ch Kuch Our Hi Tha,” she speaks in her Pahari-Punjabi dialect spoken in most of the border villages of India and Pakistan. She, however, was swept to Indian side, picked up by the security forces in Laam sector of Poonch-Rajoui and stayed in army hospital for three days. Then she was taken for interrogation as forces were apprehensive that she could be a Pakistani spy. 

Later, after being satisfied that she wasn't, she was handed over to the police in Poonch that registered a case under section 2/3 Ingress and Internal Movement (Control) Ordinance. She was sent to judicial custody for trial and eventually sentenced to 15 months in prison for entering the country illegally. She was convicted on November 15, 1995. Later, she was handed over to Police.

“Parveen was arrested on 6 October, 1995 inside the Indian territory and a case registered against her under Egress and International Movement Control Order. She was convicted on 15 November 1995 to undergo one year imprisonment with a fine of Rupees 500. In default, she was asked to further undergo sentence of three months and was lodged in District Jail Poonch and thereafter shifted to Central Jail on 28 January , 1996,” informed Mr A.K.Sawhney.

“Under the Passport Act, the judge could maximum give her punishement for one year, which he did. Besides,as she could not pay a fine of Rs 500 along with this one year punishment, thus her sentence was increased to three more months,”informed Mr Sawhney adding that except for all these 15 months in Jammu jails, here rest of the detention period was totally illegal and state government is responsible for it.

Incidentally, during her detention, her life was to change forever. She was raped by one Mohammed Din, a resident of Surankote village in Poonch and Jail Warden of District Jail Poonch and gave birth to a Mubin- her female child on 6 October, 1997. She could not muster enough courage and tell anybody about the rape. However, informed Mr Sawhney, during the bi- monthly health check ups of jail-inmates, the doctors found that she was pregnant. Though her jailmates and some of the authorities suggested her abortion, she decided against it. An investigation was launched by the then Additional Director General of Prisons Mr Veerana Aivilli who held the inquiry and a case got registered against the jail warden for raping the Pakistani women. However, the warden who had in person confessed that he had raped Parveen, later denied when his challan was produced in the court. He is still undergoing trial in the court

Meanwhile, in a hush-hush manner, Parveen was shifted to Jammu District Jail without the knowledge of higher ups. Here only , she gave birth to her baby girl in Nari Nikatan, Jammu, on October 6, 1996. After she completed her jail term, she was shifted to a Nari Naketan on January 8, 1997. She remained there till August 8, 2000 when authorities shifted her once again to the Jammu's Central Jail. 

Though few people and organisations had been fighting for the release of Parveen, yet nobody had seriously pursued her case the way Mr Sawhney did. The man who also runs an English daily “Journeyline” from Jammu, and is also a leading lawyer, was interested to know about her after ready her story in one of the newspaper. As he started taking interest in the developments related to her case, he was greatly moved to learn that the lady was under illegal detention for all these years as she had already completed the punishment for 15 months.

Immediately, he decided to take up cudgels on her behalf, went to meet her, talked to her, asked if she would be happy if she could be out of the jail and can make a future for her and her small daughter outside the four walls of the jail. Parveen simply couldn’t believe that she would be out of the prison as she had lost hope during all these years. After acquiring her consent, Mr Sawhney who laid his hand on this extraordinary case in April early this year, worked non stop - finding clues , conducting this own investigations, trying to locate papers of her detention….. Ultimately he succeeded after three months of hard work this Thursday when Parveen and Mubin were released by the Court.

In this much publicized case of the illegal detention Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) women and her six year old minor daughter (conceived during detention), the Division Bench of the State High Court comprising Justice T S Doabia and Justice S K Gupta not only ordered the release of both mother and daughter but also ordered a compensation of rupees three lakh and some other facilities in their favour, including Government accommodation till they are putting up in India. The direction was passed in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Mr A.K.Sawhney, wherein the Bench observed that the six year old minor girl child is being detained in jail without any authority of law and for no fault of her.

In the 19-page judgment, written by Justice Doabia for the Bench, the Court observed that so far as the mother is concerned, she has already been punished and her further stay in India is not of her free violation and thereafter to keep her in custody would not be apt. "It is precisely for this reason an order of detention (passed by the Special Secretary to Government Home Department, whereby the lady was detained under Public Safety Act for a period of 24 months on alleged connection with militant activities), passed on August 3, 2001, which has been passed mechanically and without application of mind, is accordingly quashed", the DB ordered.

While ordering the release of Shenaz, the Court directed the State to pay a sum of rupees three lakh as compensation to be deposited in the name of her minor daughter. The interest out of this amount would be spent on the welfare of the minor, the DB said, while ordering that the State would be at liberty to recover this amount from Din Mohammed, Jail Warden, if he is ultimately found to be the person responsible for the illegal act of impregnating her. " Otherwise, as the State is equally liable for the illegal act of its servant, the State is burdened with the damages", the DB directed, 

Regarding their stay, the bench couristing of Justice TS Doabia and Justice SK Gupta directed that the minor be allowed to stay in India for as long as she herself wants to and till she is accepted by the Pakistani authorities. For their accommodation, it was directed that an accomodation be made available in an area meant for police or jail staff, so that the authorities  could remain in constant touch with them, to take care of their welfare. This will take care of the interest of the State as also the welfare of the minor, both of which are of paramount importance, the Court held.

Parveen Kousar alias Shehnaz symbolises the tragedy that two halves of Kashmir endure since partition. 

“As the Indian Parliament, as per its resolution of 1994 , has unanimously decided that the Pak-occupied-Kashmir is also ours and Indian would try to get it back, and besides the Jammu and Kashmir government also always reiterates that PoK is a part of Jammu and Kashmir, asserts Mr Sawhney, then what was the reason behind the callousness on the part of the state government in this particular case.

“If your are talking about taking PoK areas back and resettling the people of PoK to Jammu and Kashmir again, then why couldn’t you resettle or rehabilitate a young lady who is just 32 and has spent seven springs of her life in dark dingly walls of prison,” questions Sawhney. What really pains this sensitive lawyer who got her released from the jail is also the fact that not a single women’s organizations ( Jammu has plenty of them) or human rights groups could come to her help even after she was released.from the Jail.

Even as three days have past since her release from jail, not a single NGO has approached her. Immediately after their release as Mubin and her mother had nowhere to go (Court has directed to grant her compensation within 15 days including the house), Mr Sawhney had to bring her home with the consent of her wife who is equally understanding.

“Are they (state government) waiting that these 15 days should pass and only then they would grant a meagre amount of Rs 3 lakh to her as compensation for her child’s upbringing and would allot her a small house?” says an angry Sawhney adding that the state government spent over Rs 3 lakh on this case on the expenditure of its counsels but did not think about the sufferings of this lady.

In these past few years, BSF tried once to send Parveen to Pakistan. She was actually driven to Wagha but the Pakistani Rangers refused to take her daughter saying her daughter was an Indian citizen. She was the only one of the six Pakistanis who returned from Wagha. “Pakistanis has no problems letting her into the country, but not her daughter Mubin who, by birth, is an Indian citizen,” said Sawhney. Ironically, as she was not accepted by Pakistan along with her Indian-born daughter, the then DIG Jammu wrote to SHO R.S.Pura to arrest her under Public Safety Act, in contradiction to its previous charges. She was again arrested and kept in jail till recently.   Interestingly, she has no contact with her family on the other side of the LoC. They used to send her letters initially, but all communications stopped one day. She has not been getting any mail from her Saudi Arabia-based brother, Mohammed Yousuf, whom she had earlier sent tape-recorded messages. But she wants to go once to her native place, meet her maternal family and return back to Jammu.

Meanwhile, a case stands registered under section 376 RPC against Mohammed Din, Jail Warden in Nowshehra court of Rajouri district. The trial is on. There was some delay as some revision petition came to be filed in the High Court. The proceedings arouse because a need was felt to have DNA test of the accused Jail Warden so that the relationship with the minor could be determined. Recently, the court has directed that Mubin and Din be tested for their DNA to establish their parentage. Parveen wants Din to accept the fatherhood of her daughter. Sources said that he is ready to do so but wants Parveen to drop rape case against him so he can save his job.  

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