Over 40 CRPF soldiers were martyred in the recent terror attack in Pulwama in Jammu & Kashmir. Amid the escalating tension between India and Pakistan, a heartbreaking post by Salma Shafeeq Ghori in 2017, the wife of a martyred army man, about what the kin of soldiers have to go through in their absence, has resurfaced.
Salma got married to Captain Shafeeq Ghori in 1991 at the age of 19. Her husband would periodically go on extended missions to Tripura, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir, all of which, she says, were not danger-free zones at the time. Though she learned to fend for herself and their children, it was difficult for her to accept that she could not ascertain about his well-being as he would often be deployed to missions in the jungle. But she used to receive her letters every day when he was away.
“It was difficult in the beginning to accept the fact that he was constantly on the move and had to leave me alone for long periods, but he sat me down and explained what it was like to be an army wife. There were no mobile phones back then. I used to spend hours by the phone unsure when he would call. We used to write letters and my husband made sure I received one letter every day for the days he was away from me.”
In 1999, Ghori was posted to Srinagar and since it was a high-risk area, families weren’t allowed to move with them. She relocated to Bengaluru (then Bangalore).
On the evening of July 1, 2001, Salma was busy with the celebrations for her son’s first birthday. A group of army officers along with their wives knocked on her door with the news of her husband’s death. Major Shafeeq Ghori was martyred in a gun battle with militants in Jammu & Kashmir during Operation Rakshak.
“Everything around me fell, crumbled. That day was the day I received my final letter from him. The next day, I went to the airport to receive him for the last time. This time in a box clad in Indian Flag.”
Salma was widowed when she was just 29 years old, got her final letter the day she received her husband’s body for the last rites.
She writes about how she received her husband’s belongings and why she still chooses to keep them intact. She also expresses her feelings when she sees other children play with their parents.
“I got his uniform and civil clothes in a box. I did not wash them for eight years because I did not want to let that feeling go. His money is still in his wallet. The letters are still a part of my reading. I have played the role of a father and mother but there were times when I used to fight back a tear seeing other kids play with their parents.”
After Major Shafeeq Ghori’s death, she became actively involved with the Vasantharatna Foundation for Arts that helps families of Army martyrs heal. Salma now works for the welfare of the army martyr’s families and for the empowerment of martyr widows in Karnataka.