In 1957, forced by abject poverty, Abdul Salam Najar left his home in Abhama, Pulwama, for Indian Punjab in search of work. A month later, he and three fellow villagers moved to Lahore in Pakistan. He returned to his native village last month with the desire that he doesn’t have to leave again.
Ghulam Nabi Najar was a young, energetic man of 20 when he landed in Pathankote, Punjab.
“People were virtually starving here and the young would go to India or even Pakistan for earning a living. We earned Rs 5 to Rs 10 a day in Pathankote those days, which could hardly sustain us, so we decided to move to Lahore,” Najar said.
“After working there for some months, three of my colleagues returned home without informing me. And when I tried to return I found that borders had been sealed,” Najar told reporters.
His nephew Ghulam Nabi was the only surviving close relative to greet him when he travelled via Srinagar-Muzaffarbad Road on August 17. His parents and two brothers have died. Najar’s visa, which was about to expire on 17th of last month, was extended by a month on Ghulam Nabi’s request.
After his efforts to return failed, Najar rented a room in Hanif Park area of Lahore and worked as a laborer. He stayed a bachelor.
“For some years I lived with a family there but as the elderly people of the family died I again rented a room,” he said.
At 85, his only desire is burial in his native soil.
“I have lived a very miserable life separated from my family. I would pray to Allah that I should return to my home one day. He granted my prayers. I want to live the remaining days of life with my loved ones. What would I do there at this age? Here, at least my nephew can shoulder my coffin,” Najar said.
Ghulam Nabi also “wonders” how he managed to survive, alone, all these years.
“We had only heard about him from our parents. His return was like a godsend. We are very happy,” he said. Ghulam Nabi frets about the idea of his uncle’s return to Pakistan.
“He needs support when he steps out. He is suffering from many ailments. We have applied for his permanent stay here and I hope the government will consider our plea on humanitarian grounds,” he said.