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A painful journey from Rohingya to Kashmir

By Aabid Saki
October 5, 2015

Sanoora, a 24-year-old woman, she is jovial and blissful, easy to mix with others. Although, she sometimes finds it hard to understand the things in the way we understand them. She is clever and picks things on body language and perceives them in her own way. Her eyes tell hundreds of stories, all filled with fear and trauma and her moist eyes have questions that arise every time in her mind. The answers of those questions lie hidden on some forgotten ways unseen behind the wires and borders.

As I entered the house, she immediately came and greeted me as if she was waiting for someone near to come and talk to her. This was actually my second meeting with Sanoora. She is shy with others and takes time to speak. Her world is now small, she left everything after a man, she never knew.

She smiled coyly adjusting herself on the floor. After a while she poured tea in the cup and forwarded a plate of biscuits towards me. The vapours filled in the narrow room and an eerie silence prevailed, engulfing the dryness of the room. Sanoora pushed the plate a little more forward. I took a biscuit and munched it to break the bizarreness of the silence, but nothing happened and the biscuit went dry in my throat. I immediately took a sip and gulped the biscuit down. I looked at Sanoora, she raised her moist eyes that were ready to flow.

Somehow, I managed to start our conversation that began with tales of childhood, youth and then horror in which she saw nothing than bloodshed. Sanoora lost everything, her family, house, her state and country.

When violence erupted in Rohingya, Myanmar, Sanoora was one of the thousand girls living with her family that saw one of the deadliest bloodshed of the twentieth century. Sanoora spent her childhood along with her five siblings. She was a bright student in school and wanted to go college for higher studies but fate had something else stored for her, she had never imagined.

Hundreds of Muslims were massacred in Rohingya, houses were burnt, women raped, children burnt alive and some even chopped. Sanoora’s village was not far from the town and fear soon gripped the nearby areas and reached there as well. Fearing to be killed, Sanoora’s father decided to leave the village and ran for help. It took him a week to a contact a man who agreed to help in escaping the state. Escaping from own house was never an easy task but there was no other option.

Sanoora’s father left house in one misty night under the darkest hour, towards an unknown destination. All he could take was his children leaving his one son and wife behind, so that he could take them on second turn. It took him 15 days to walk away from the human glimpse to reach the Bangladeshi border. Another man there helped him to cross the border along with Sanoora and other children. Though it was better in Bangladesh but in a state of shock of losing everything Sanoora’s father felt sick and soon died in Bangladesh.

Sanoora’s one sister and brother decided to leave for Malaysia while Sanoora and other brother Noor-ul-Haq decided to move forward towards India as the police was regularly verifying their identities and scolding them round the clock threatening them to deport them through sea.

So, for Sanoora and her brother India was the only option left and they bribed some unknown persons to cross the border into India. Under the shades of the dusk, walking every mile by foot, Sanoora and her brother ultimately reached the border and managed to sneak through the wires. It was a dream come true but in reality the journey never ended for them. Finding it hard to live in the Indian cities where everything was alien to them. Noor-ul-Haq decided to go Jammu where he heard about other people of his community. They reached Jammu and gladly joined other people of their community with same ethnicity. Thought they had never met each-other in Rohingya but here everyone was known.

Noor-ul-Haq soon met a Kashmiri driver Mukhtar and developed friendship with him and soon both began to spend a lot of time with each-other. Mukhtar helped Noor-ul-Haq to find a job and with this friendship became more sacred. It was in Haq’s house that Mukhtar saw Sanoora and developed a wish to marry her. Without wasting time Mukhtar asked Haq for Sanoora hand in marriage to which Haq gladly accepted.

On 15 of Ramzan, Mukhtar and Sanoora wedded each other. On second day Sanoora came to Kashmir to join Mukhtar’s family. Sanoora has a family now, a husband, a house and in-laws. She is happy and has a place to live.

Her language was different and a little bit of Urdu she speaks is hardly understood by her in-laws, as they are not educated enough to pick up words Sanoora uses. However, she managed to understand a few Kashmiri words and use them to please her in-laws in absence of her husband who more often stays out of the town for work.

Living under the shades of the bloodshed had deeply influenced Sanoora. Whenever she sees any Indian soldier on the street, she locks herself in the room for protection. The trauma of the war is still fresh in her mind and a country barrier that stays in front of her only makes things difficult for her. There is no one to talk to her or understand her world.

As I was talking to her, she felt happy and her emotions came out as if she was waiting for someone to understand her and listen to the stories of horror that changed her world forever. Now once a week, her sister from Malaysia and her mother from Rohingya call her and that moment she lives all her life, talking and discussing things to which she tries to adjust. Though her brother also lives in Jammu but he has only visited her once.

Sanoora wants to go home and see her mother. It has been three years since she is living in India. Deep inside she knows, it is not possible for her to go back.

There are hundreds of girls like Sanoora who have escaped and reached the unknown destinations, some perished at sea, some raped and murdered. Those who survived have horrific stories like Sanoora to tell in which only one can see darkness and destruction.

I wish Sanoora would adjust to her new life in Kashmir and find it home to live it as it was in Rohingya.

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