23-Yr-Old Woman Involved with Pulwama Terrorists: Mother Opens Up
As per the charges brought by the NIA, Insha Shah and her father were ‘accomplices’ of Jaish-e-Mohammad militants.
Naseema Bano hasn’t seen the photo which shows her youngest daughter, 23-year-old Insha Jan, flanked by a top Pakistani terrorist, holding a huge automatic rifle in her right hand and clutching a pistol with her left.
“I haven’t seen her since she was arrested, not even in photos,” Naseema, 45, a housewife, said.
“I will miss her more if I do and it will make me cry. I want to see her but can’t because of the COVID lockdown.”
For more than five months, Insha and her father, Peer Tariq Shah, a truck driver, have been languishing in Srinagar’s Central Jail.
According to the charges brought by the NIA, they were “accomplices” of Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists who caused the deadly suicide bombing in Kashmir last year, that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of a full-blown war.
The Pakistani terrorist posing with Insha is Mohammad Umar Farooq, nephew of Jaish chief Masood Azhar and the main conspirator of the deadly bombing – who is reported by the NIA to have undergone arms training in Afghanistan.
Farooq was killed along with another Jaish operative and IED expert, Kamran, in an encounter with security forces on 29 March 2019.
Naseema admits that the terrorists visited their home in Hikripora village of Pulwama on “two to three” occasions. The unfinished single-storied house is shared by four brothers, three of whom are married and have kids.
For her family of five, Naseema has been allotted two rooms and a kitchen.
“When they (terrorists) came for the first time, we told them clearly we don’t have space. Personally, I didn’t like their presence,” Naseema said.
A Village in Disbelief
The news of the father-daughter duo’s arrest earlier this year was met with shock in Hikripora. Now, there is a sense of disbelief in the village that the NIA has charged them for being co-conspirators in the killing of more than 40 paramilitary troopers.
On the way to their home, I met a young girl who claimed to have known Insha, a class 10 dropout. “We studied in the same class,” the girl, who didn’t want to be named, said.
“She was a simple girl, like most of us. There was nothing about her to suggest that she was going to end up like this. After she dropped out of school, we lost touch. When the NIA arrested her, I got to know that she was once my classmate,” she added.
At a shop front on the main road in Hikripora, a village nestled in dense apple orchards and paddy fields, I caught up with a group of elderly men who spoke in hushed tones about the father and her daughter.
“I have never seen her in the market but my daughter tells me she offered five time prayers,” said an old man with a neatly trimmed beard, tears welling up in his eyes.
When Insha’s sister, Bilkees Jan (26), was getting married in December last year, their grandfather, who was terminally sick, developed some complications. He was admitted to a super-speciality hospital in Srinagar and later died.
“Before going to the hospital, she sought my forgiveness. She choose to stay by her grandfather’s side at the hospital over attending my marriage. There was no one to wash his clothes that used to be soiled by faeces,” Bilkees told The Quint.
The Mysterious Transformation
In the family of Peer Tariq Shah, Insha’s father, no one has been linked to terrorist activity in past, according to Naseema. Tariq and his two brothers, who are married, pooled money some years ago for purchasing a mechanical load-carrier whose earning sustains their families.
A small tract of paddy land doesn’t produce enough rice to sustain the family’s annual requirement, Naseema said. In 2018, when terrorists showed up at their red-bricked home, she was not amused.
“We were afraid. They were carrying guns. How could we muster the courage to turn away armed outlaws?” Naseema added. “We have told them (NIA) clearly that we were under compulsion.”
Asked about the NIA claim that the video of Adil Dar, the Pulwama bomber, was shot at their home, she said: “We don’t know. They used to come and lock themselves in the adjoining room. They didn’t allow anyone inside, except when they needed food.”
According to an officer who initially probed the case, Jaish terrorists visited the Hikripora house on more than 10 occasions in 2018 and 2019, and sometimes stayed for two to three days.
A neighbour of Shah’s, who spoke with The Quint on condition of anonymity, said terrorists are rumoured to often show up in adjoining villages. “Some people support terrorists. Call it bad luck or whatever, she was caught,” he said.
Naseema claims the male-folk in their household, including her husband, used to run away when terrorists came, “He is weak-hearted. I fear he might die in jail. He often breaks down when I get a chance to talk to him over phone. He knows it is not going to be easy.”
As males abandoned their home, females stepped up, “We were left with no option but to provide them what they asked. Insha and her sister would serve them. I never entered the room and they (terrorists) never spoke with me,” she said.
Naseema, who has a muffled voice, is struggling to come to terms with the fact that her daughter had been pictured with Umar, the nephew of Jaish chief Azhar. She said Insha didn’t like to be photographed.
“She used to get angry at other females in our family who captured themselves in photos,” Naseema said.
“I can’t say how she got swayed. She was a child. Maybe, like everyone else, she felt good about holding a gun in her hands. Or, maybe, she was pressurised. Only she knows why she did it,” she added.
(Naseema’s version of events doesn’t tell us whether her daughter was a willing accomplice or whether she believed in violence.)
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