She lost her brother, son. Now, husband is dead as most-aged militant

Aug 25, 2021 | Brutality by Occupying Forces

Since her husband had disappeared, 45-year-old Gulshana Banno felt terrified and lonely during the night as visits by the government forces to search for her husband had become more frequent.  

For Banno, 17 July 2020 was just another day till her 48-year-old husband Abdul Hamid Chopan, a woodcutter, did not return home in the evening from his day’s work in the nearby village. 

After she realized that Abdul’s phone was switched off, the realization of what had happened kept coming in the form of flashbacks from 2017, when her 18-year-old son, Aadil Ahmad Chopan had gone missing in a similar way and later joined militancy, and 2018, when her 35-year-old brother, Mohammad Maqbool went missing to join militancy. 

Four days later, Banno along with her other two sons went to a nearby police station and filed a missing report for her husband. 

With Abdul’s disappearance, the Chopan family had not just lost a member but also the head of the family who was the only breadwinner looking after his wife, a daughter, and two younger sons left after Aadil.  

One after another 

A few days after her son went missing on 7 March 2017, Banno received a letter and soon she was informed that he had joined militancy. “He had asked us to stop looking for him. He was so innocent. He barely even had a beard on his face,” said Banno, adding that she cried out of helplessness after reading the letter. 

Around nine months after writing the letter, Aadil’s body was brought home after he was killed on 20 November, in a gunfight in Seer village of Tral. 

On the day of his killing, the government forces kept rushing past the village but Banno was totally unaware that her son was trapped in the gunfight. A few hours later, his picture started doing rounds on the internet informing the family of their son’s killing. “Even if one has many children, each of them is equally precious and to see them die is unbearable,” Banno said. 

That night, countless people gathered in the compound of Banno’s two-story modest house as Banno sat next to her son’s body till the next afternoon when he was taken away for burial. 

Banno applied henna on her dead son’s fingertips and kept pouring milk and water in his mouth throughout the night. “He was like a groom for me. I did what I would do for his wedding,” she said, adding that a “martyr is dead for them but for us he never dies.”

Three years later on 15 April 2020, Banno’s brother, Maqbool ran away from his home and joined militancy after “he was scared by the army”. “His house was frequently checked and my family was told to bring him forward,” she said. “He was so scared that he ran away and joined militancy.”

Less than two months after the incident, Maqbool was killed during a gunfight in Saimooh village of Tral on 2 June last year. He was buried in Baramulla’s Sheeri graveyard. 

Banno said that the family is not allowed to stay at the graveyard for more than ten minutes even now when they visit. “It happened because of our silence,” said Banno. “If Kashmiris had spoken things might have been different. When someone from the police is killed, isn’t their body returned?” 

After losing his son and brother-in-law, Abdul suddenly became quieter with each passing day as the grief had become too heavy for him to handle and he would “keep regretting what had happened”. “When a parent loses his innocent child, he continues to feel that pain,” said Banno.  

After the loss 

Banno has locked away her son’s clothes and two newspaper cuttings about his killing in a steel trunk as the “army took away whatever they could”. “They searched each and every corner of our house and took away all that they could,” she said. 

During the days when her son was an active militant, Banno said that their house was “raided” countless times. The frequent army visits, as per Banno, have started again since her husband’s disappearance. “Even if we receive a guest, a few minutes later the army would come to our house for questioning,” she added. 

A few months ago, Banno married her 19-year-old daughter off as the family was scared due to the “frequent army visits” by selling their land and trees. 

On the day of her wedding, the house was put under cordon, said Banno. “Around thirty men came to our house during the night suddenly, they questioned my son and kept asking if my husband had attended the wedding,” she added. 

Banno said that the government forces also trespassed by climbing the boundaries of their compound. “We would shiver when they came to our house,” she said. “My son was taken quite often. Obviously, it has an impact on him.”

After her husband had gone missing, Banno’s 19-year-old son Omar Hamid Chopan said that he had been beaten up and taken to the police station for questioning many times. “They beat me with sticks and even gave me electric shocks several times,” said Omar. 

Once Omar was called for questioning after two guests visited their home and he was “slapped”. “I felt humiliated that day and I told them that I will not forget these slaps till the day I die,” he added. 

Omar believes that he had to become the head of his family at an age when he was supposed to study. “This is what they do with boys. It is better to die once than to die every day,” he said. 

“I feel the loss of my father more than anyone else does.”

For Banno, many such families have completely been shattered while others remain unaffected. “Azaadi is for every Kashmiri and not just for those who sacrifice their lives. In this process, some families just become hollow,” she said.

Since he went missing, Banno tried to find some hint regarding her husband’s whereabouts but failed. The search ended on 21 August, when the police killed three militants in a gunfight in Tral forests – one of them was Abdul Hamid Chopan, her husband. He became the most aged militant from Kashmir valley who was killed.

The Chopan family has only three members left now, and Banno is scared of losing the other two members too. “The fear is constant. I am scared for my sons’ lives,” she said. 


In the middle of the night, on 28 June 2019, the family heard gunshots from a nearby orchard. The next morning, when they were having tea, a cordon was laid in their village of Chakpora, the government forces hurried inside the premises and started searching the house. 

Begum and her daughter, 30-year-old Nusrat Bashir, were taken to a neighbor’s house as the government forces raided their house, she said. Later, the trio was detained.

Speaking with The Kashmir Walla, the family denied the allegations of the police. They argued that if the gunfight had happened at their place, how come there were no bullet marks on their house. 

The Covid-19 lockdown has further delayed the judgment in their case as the court premises have mostly stayed out of bounds. Mir Urfi, a lawyer with a specialization in cases of human rights violations, told The Kashmir Walla that the first hearing in the trio’s case was recorded in January 2020. Until now, twenty-two hearings have been recorded. 

Haunting home 

The duplex house, constructed eight years ago, now lies silent. Ever since Begum’s last meeting with her sons in Central Jail in March this year, she has been hallucinating about her sons at the house.

She said she even listens to them saying, “Bobeh.” “I can hear them call my name but then I realize my pieces of heart are not here,” she said, sobbing. 

The longing has made her weak and fragile – with each passing day, she gets sicker and older. Suffering from arthritis, she has not told her husband about it because she does not want him to get upset.

Sometimes, Begum said, she wants to go to a far-off place and cry her heart out. “I feel suffocated here,” she said, pointing her finger towards her heart, with a sigh. 

The small dreams of Begum that her sons spend a blissful life remain unfulfilled. “I just want to keep them close to my heart like a mother keeps her newborn babies,” she said, wailing.

The adjacent rooms of the two brothers on the second floor are now lifeless. Inside Mudasir’s small uncolored room, a small mirror and a comb are kept on the shelf along with a decorative flower piece.

Although the room looked clean; the curtain holder that broke when the government forces barged into the house remained unfixed.

The elder son’s room looked somewhat similar. A dressing table with deodorant and a bottle of Ittar organized on it, lies in the left corner of the room. On the right side, a belt was hanging on the wall.  

Begum has stopped going to either of the rooms ever since their detention. “I would smell my children in the rooms and it would break my heart to pieces. So, I stopped going,” she further said. 

The struggle

Amid the ruckus, the responsibilities are crushing Nusrat, she said. A tailor by profession is running her house; sometimes she stays up till late to earn a little extra money. 

“I have to look after my mother otherwise I would have given up on everything, that’s how tired I am,” she said, sitting across a pile of clothes and her sewing machine.

Nusrat said that the family is in shambles as they feel helpless, unable to depend on anyone, and the absence of her father and brothers has brought them to a desperate state. 

Although she tries to make herself understand that this is “a testing time from Allah” and they can’t do anything about it, she sometimes just “wants to cry but then I think about my mother.”

“If she gets depressed, what will I do? We just have each other.”

Begum’s illness has taken a different toll on Nusrat too. Being the only one near her, Nusrat now takes her to a doctor, and to buy medicines. “We wouldn’t have to suffer as much as we are suffering if at least one of our male members were here,” she lamented. 

Although it is difficult to come out of a “suppressor’s cage”, Begum said that she is still hopeful that her sons will get justice and that they will come back home soon. “Every morning I wake up and I see my house burning,” she said, adding that she has only one wish: to see both of her sons getting freed and to hug them tight. “I can die peacefully after that,” she sighed. 

Meanwhile Anantnag police responded to Hassan’s tweet and said, “Cognisance taken. Circumstances that led to this being looked into.During rush evening hours,a loaded truck got stuck due to mechanical fault on Sangam bridge leading to heavy traffic jamming.Been working hard to clear it.Request all to cooperate with police & avoid confrontation.”

By: Zenaira Bakhsh | Publication: The Kashmir Walla