2 teenage sisters repatriated by Indian authorities after straying into occupied Kashmir

Published December 7, 2020
Holding gifts and sweets, Laiba and Sana stand with civilian and army officials from both sides of the divide at Tetrinote crossing point soon after their repatriation by Indian authorities on Monday.  —  Photo provided by author
Holding gifts and sweets, Laiba and Sana stand with civilian and army officials from both sides of the divide at Tetrinote crossing point soon after their repatriation by Indian authorities on Monday. — Photo provided by author
Laiba and Sana stand with Pakistani officials at Tetrinote crossing point. — Photo provided by author
Laiba and Sana stand with Pakistani officials at Tetrinote crossing point. — Photo provided by author

Two teenage sisters from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) — who had strayed into occupied Kashmir allegedly after a domestic squabble — were repatriated by Indian authorities on Monday.

The repatriation of 17-year-old Laiba Zubair and her younger sibling, 13-year-old Sana, took place through the Tetrinote-Chakan da Bagh crossing point in Poonch district along the Line of Control (LoC) at 12:30pm, said Yasir Riaz, assistant commissioner of Hajira, who was present on the occasion along with Pakistan Army and police officials.

Abbaspur Assistant Commissioner Tassawar Kazmi speaks to Laiba and Sana at the police station. — Photo provided by author
Abbaspur Assistant Commissioner Tassawar Kazmi speaks to Laiba and Sana at the police station. — Photo provided by author

Both the girls, who were given gifts and sweets by Indian authorities as a goodwill gesture, were examined by a lady doctor at Tetrinote terminal before they were sent to neighbouring Abbaspur sub-division, where they lived.

On Sunday, India media had reported that two young girls from AJK had inadvertently entered their side of the LoC in Poonch sector and had been detained by the Indian army.

In a video clip shared by Indian officials on social media on Monday, the elder girl was heard saying, among other things, that they had “lost their way” and landed across the divide.

According to official sources and local journalists in Abbaspur, the father of the girls — who worked as a butcher in town — had died around six months ago. Ever since, his family, comprising two wives and eight children, was facing a lot of hardship.

It was being assumed that both girls had left their home on Saturday evening after a domestic squabble. However, in a “disappearance report” lodged by their brother at the Abbaspur Police Station on Saturday, no such thing was mentioned.

From Tetrinote, the girls were taken to the Abbaspur Police Station for completing procedural formalities before being allowed to go home.

Apart from police officials, Abbaspur Assistant Commissioner Syed Tasawwar Hussain Kazmi also conducted an inquiry into the circumstances that led to the incident.

“In fact, theirs is a heart-breaking story […]. After the death of their father the family was left destitute and that would trigger squabbles at their small home almost daily.

“It’s because of this miserable situation they took this step and I think that society as a whole is responsible for what they have done,” he remarked, expressing the hope that the state and affluent members of society would take care of them in the future.

The unmarked LoC that splits the Himalayan region of Kashmir often witnesses inadvertent crossings by villagers on either side as they cut fodder, herd cattle or pluck medicinal plants.

However, despite an agreement between the two sides for early repatriation of the inadvertent crossers, Indian troops have on several occasions shot dead such people.

Recently, the Indian army had shot dead a 40-year-old differently-abled AJK resident, Kamran Nazir Chak, after he had inadvertently crossed the LoC in Pandu sector, instead of taking him into custody.

This is the reason why many people, who had expressed apprehensions about the safety of the two girls, heaved a sigh of relief on their return.

“It is fortunate that for once #IndianArmy has not doubted these minor girls as terrorists, something they have been habitual of doing in the past. Thank God the young girls are back in their homes contrary to widespread fears,” tweeted Naila Altaf Kayani, a famous Kashmiri social activist.

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