Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) decided to monitor the Parliamentary elections of 2004. The JKCCS members met on April 19. I was supposed to lead a team to Kupwara. The coordinator had arranged a vehicle to take the team to the frontier district. But at the last moment the coordinator requested me to get a vehicle from my office. I then worked as Executive Editor of Greater Kashmir. “Please get a vehicle from your office. It will save us some money”, the coordinator requested. I readily agreed. He again requested me to take the team to Bandipora instead of Kupwara. I shrugged my shoulders. Next day I came to know why destiny made the coordinator change my route. It was Aasiya who had to fall to a deafening IED explosion. As a token of respect to the great martyr, I have not thanked Allah the almighty for the change effected by the coordinator.
I was lucky to have the renowned human rights activist Gautam Navlakha in my team. On way to Bandipora, we went inside scores of polling booths and had tea and snacks in Bandipora town in the house of an acquaintance. Fagging at the banks of Wullar Lake, Gautam expressed serious concern over the miserable plight of Asia’s largest fresh water lake. “Do not worry. We will get it cleaned”, I said jokingly. He too had a hearty laugh. Around this time, I received a call on my cell phone. “We met an accident. A powerful explosion ripped apart our vehicle. The driver died on the spot. Aasiya and Khurram (coordinator) are critically injured. We are rushing the injured to Srinagar via Sopore”, a volunteer who miraculously survived the blast said.
I called off the monitoring and rushed towards Sopore. I saw two pearls coming out of Gautam’s eyes. The pearls rolled down his cheeks and fell down. Alas, I could not preserve them as a memento of his love for Kashmir and Kashmiris. The ambulance carrying Aasiya and Khurram came rushing and did not enter the sub-district hospital. “This means they are critical”, Gautam told me. We followed the ambulance. A volunteer kept us informed of the developments through his cell phone. “Aasiya is reciting Quran. Now she has stopped reciting. She is seeking pardon for her sins. Khurram is calm but in pain.”
Professor (Dr) Bashir, who teaches German in the Univeristy of Kashmir, had got in our vehicle at Sopore. As soon as the ambulance reached near the sprawling sericulture fields, I received the shocking news. “Aasiya is no more”, the volunteer informed. Professor Bashir could not control himself. He burst into tears.
Aasiya was down with fever on April 19 and had no plans to go anywhere on April 20. But she came out of her house around 6 and reached Lal Chowk well in time to find a place in the coordinator’s team. The ill fated vehicle left for Kupwara. Alas! It was not a bon voyage for any one of them. Death relieved her of its protective shield on April 20 in the morning only to kill her a few hours later. But Aasiya embraced death like a valiant solider. She bore testimony to oneness of Allah, Prophethood of Muhammad (SAW) and sought pardon for her sins before becoming immortal.
Khurram Parvez, who lost his leg in the blast, narrated the story. “The blast had thrown me a few meters away from the damaged vehicle. I saw Aasiya. She was in a pool of her own blood. She raised her arm in a bid to cover her body. Realizing that the arm she had raised had lost its hand in the blast, Aasiya raised another arm and set her clothes right.”
In October 2003, I had a chance of travelling with Aasiya to Amsterdam where we were supposed to attend a conference on Kashmir. One day Aasiya, Dr Bashir and I came out of the hotel to have a walk. Unfortunately or fortunately we took a long route and could not make it to the hotel for quite some time. Our Dutch friend had talked about a restaurant in the railway station. We decided to go there. It was a spacious hall and most of the tables were occupied. I told Aasiya to order food and went to the bathroom. Dr Bashir followed me. The moment we came out, food had already been served.
Dr Bashir hurriedly told me that Aasiya had ordered sandwiches. I saw Aasiya’s hand reaching for a sandwich. To prevent her from taking the forbidden sandwich, I screamed at her. “Aasiya just leave it there. Do not take it.” Aasiya understood what had gone wrong.
Next day she went shopping all alone and bought a jacket. I was not impressed but praised the jacket. Same evening she took all of us to the shop where she had made the purchase. I looked around and found that Indian made jackets were on sale in the shop. I silently called her and showed her the labels. She was shocked.
Aasiya was at her best in the conference. Before the concluding session, she was supposed to address female delegates from other countries. I was a bit worried and went to the hall. I stood there for a few minutes watching her and other delegates. She could read my mind. She smiled and waved at me. I waved back. She had done it. While addressing the concluding session, the organizers made a mention of Aasiya. “A nation that has women like Aasiya cannot be enslaved for long.”
Aasiya had her head in right place. She could hear the `unheard voices’. She also gave tongue to the woes of the sufferers through her writings. The magazine (Voices Unheard) she edited was widely circulated across the globe.
Aasiya, according to an office bearer of the JKCCS, is always there to help a `half-orphan’ in his studies. She is still there to listen to the woes of the half widows. She is always there to inspire her colleagues. But notwithstanding all this, Aasiya is no more. What an irony? For becoming immortal one has to taste death. People are born and people die. But when a person like Aasiya dies, a vacuum is created.
Aga Shaid Ali’s father, Aga Ashraf Ali once said: “Great people die young. Precious people remain un-noticed at the bottom of the sea. People know them after their death.” This is exactly what happened to Aasiya. Her own family was not aware of the noble job she had been doing in the JKCCS office. After her martyrdom when people from all over the globe called on them to console them, the humble was surprised. Now Aasiya’s mission is as dear to them as it is to her colleagues and friends.