SRINAGAR: At six, Yasir Salam was taking a walk with his father. He tried to walk into a bunker of the CRPF then located at some distance from his home, in SD Colony, Batamaloo. A trooper playfully blocked the entry to the bunker with a rifle. The kid lifted the rifle with his tiny arms and stepped in. After satiating his curiosity he came out.
“The trooper looked amused and he said ‘I wonder what India has been fighting in Kashmir,’’’ said Abdul Salam Shiekh, father of Yasir who was fatally shot in his heart by police on India’s independence day when he was running towards another boy hit by pellets during a protest.
Abdul Salam is sitting in a small room with only his brother-in-law at his modest home he shares with his brother. As he talks about his son, memories keep coming to him in a steady flow.
“ He never talked to me about his ambitions. Unlike boys of his age he never said he wanted to become a doctor or an engineer. But he was argumentative and often discussed with me Kashmir issue, the reasons for oppression and other such things,” he said.
“In 2010, I told him that pelting stones may not be the right way to protest. He agreed saying ‘our freedom got delayed’ but he also said ‘how can we stay quiet when they are mercilessly killing innocent people?’” Abdul Salam said.
“I don’t regret he took part in protests.”
Only last week, Abdul Salam, a poor carpenter, had paid Rs 8,000 for Yasir’s tuitions. The deceased 16-year-old was slated to appear for his class 10 examinations this year.
“He was not just one among my children (Yasir has three siblings), he was the brightest, extraordinary. He was a promising student, a sportsman, an obedient son, a wise brain and a freedom lover,” the father said.
Yasir had stood second in his class last year and had promised his father that he would be Number 1 this year.
“Studies were not the only thing he was good at. He used to beat me in chess every day. He was part of a local cricket team. The night before he was martyred he watched the Pakistan-England test match and explained to me how it had been drawn 2-2.”
“My son didn’t do anything wrong. He did what I and all of us should be doing—protesting for the resolution of Kashmir issue. I never stopped him from taking part in the protests. My son always said that he would make me proud. And he kept his promise by achieving martyrdom.”
The father remembers how his son would spend a long time before the mirror grooming his hair.
Sheikhs own three rooms of the house. With Abdul Salam’s meagre income, the family could barely make the ends meet. Yasir was looked at to change the situation when he started earning.
“Looking at our financial condition, his (Yasir’s) tutor charged us Rs 8,000 instead of Rs 9, 000,” Yasir’s elder sister Saima, manic with grief, said.
Saima, a graduate, repeatedly told this reporter to write about Yasir’s childhood anectodes (already narrated by the father), how he was a bright student… Each time, her father would console her and say that he already said these things to the reporter. She wouldn’t stop.
“Did you (turning toward her father) tell them that my brother slept on the floor and not on a mattress since July 8 because he said he wanted to feel the sufferings of of Kashmiris,” Saima said. Father had forgotten to mention this.
“I want all this to be written because the world should know who my brother was and how India killed him. He was the most responsible member of our family,” she said.
“Every time I tried to lock him in the room beseeching him to concentrate on his studies he escaped from the window to be with the protesters. He wished to travel to our relatives in Gurez (a frontier area in north Kashmir) to kiss the soil of Pakistan once. On the fateful day he asked the imam of our masjid the value of martyrdom in Islam,” Saima said.)
Every time she uttered the name Yasir, she would hastily add, “Shaheed (martyr) Yasir”, as if to correct herself.