Srinagar: For the first time in the history of Kashmir, the 70-day period between Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha has been replete with bloodshed and mayhem. This period was, otherwise, the “best season” of Kashmir, when people planned marriages, picnics and outings. Travellers from other parts of the world booked in advance their tickets for Kashmir for this “peak tourist season”.
But the state repression of the massive public protests that began on July 8 evening soon after the state forces killed Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani and his two associates, has led to, on an average, one Kashmiri youngster being shot dead by government forces every 20 hours. Thousands of commoners, irrespective of whether they were protestors, bystanders or taking meals in the confines of their home, were attacked with tear smoke shells, pellets, bullets, rifle-butts and iron rods. Burhan was killed three days after Eid-ul-Fitr when people were still in celebration mood.
The worst sufferers of this sordid state of affairs are Kashmiri women who have lost their young sons to the senseless brutality.
Naseema Begum of Niklora village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district is one such unlucky woman who lost her son, Fayaz Ahmad Waza, to the guns of government troops. The inconsolable woman, holding her 4-month-old grandson Junaid in her lap, continues to ask why her son was killed. “He (Waza) was not part of any protest. He was sitting beside a tree when he was directly targeted with bullets. He had gone out to search for his young siblings who were outside the home when clashes erupted in nearby Litter village,” she said.
Waza, 26, son of an impoverished baker Mohammad Shaban, was working as a labourer in a pencil manufacturing unit. He was the lone bread-earner for his family, which comprised his wife Meema, infant son Junaid, parents and three young siblings.
“Our son was killed in cold blood. We have not filed any case because no one can bring him back. Only the parents know the pain of losing their son,” Naseema said as tears rolled down her face.
“How can we celebrate Eid? We have been shattered. The light has gone from our family. Can anybody bring back my innocent Fayaz?” Naseema cried.
Mokhta Begum, an elderly lady from Lethpora village near Pampore, had already lost her vision before she lost her second son Farooq Ahmad Kuchay when the security guard of a state administration officer opened fire on him in the third week of July. Her elder son, a militant, had been killed in the heydays of the anti-India insurgency in Kashmir.
Mokhta does not speak to anyone since Farooq’s killing. She does not cry and rarely talks to people. “If the situation had not turned like it did, Farooq would have been married by now. On the day he was killed, he had worked very hard to earn some money for his maiden date with his fiancée next day,” his neighbour Ashiq Hussain told Kashmir Reader. “You can imagine how Farooq’s mother and his fiancée must be celebrating this Eid,” Hussain said.
Like Naseema, another elderly lady from Tengpora pocket of Batamaloo, Raja Begum, is petrified in her home. She doesn’t wail or shed tears. She is dumbfounded and her eyes have dried up. One doesn’t muster courage to ask the family as to how they are going to celebrate Eid-ul-Azha. Begum’s son Shabir Ahmad Mir was brutally killed by a police officer inside his home when he tried to stop the government forces from beating up his elderly mother.
“My son could not bear the insult. When they (forces personnel) tried to beat me while hurling abuses and invectives, he came down from the first floor and tried to stop them. In a fit of rage an officer pointed his weapon on him and fired. I saw him falling down in a pool of blood,” Raja Begum said.
Mir’s July 10 killing is one of the most brutal during the current mayhem in Kashmir. When police refused to file a case, his parents lodged a complaint with the chief judicial magistrate who ordered an FIR against Deputy Superintendent of Police Yasir Qadri.
“The applicant is on affidavit. And as per the facts of the application, the concerned Deputy Superintendent of Police has acted beyond the powers which reveals that there is a case of cognisable offence,” CJM Masarat Shaheen said in his order.
“The son (Shabir Ahmed Mir) could not tolerate the thrashing of his mother and tried to rescue her from the clutches of the police officer. The police officer took out his pistol and fired two shots at him resulting in his on-spot death,” the CJM said while reproducing excerpts from the application made by the father of the deceased.
However, the order was opposed by the government first in the high court and later in the Supreme Court. During the court wrangling, Mir’s body was exhumed for autopsy to know whether he was killed by pellets or bullets fired from the weapon of the accused police officer.
“My Eid will be when the killer of my son is brought to justice,” Begum said.
Naseema and Raja Begum are among countless women who have suffered immensely during the past 27 years when anti-India insurgency erupted in Kashmir. The latest phase of the turmoil is significant for the women because the mayhem is presided over by Mehbooba Mufti, who took over as the first woman chief minister of the embattled state on April 4. Mehbooba had built up her politics on siding with the oppressed women. In her initial years, she went to offer condolences to the families of slain civilians, even militants. Sitting besides bereaved women and shedding tears with them had become the USP of her politics.
“We never expected that she (Mehbooba) would prove to be so brutal. She is rubbing salt on our wounds by justifying the killings. She defends the killers and accuses the parents for allowing their sons to hold protests and pelt stones,” said her namesake Mehbooba Akhtar, who is attending to her pellet-injured son at Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital here. Her son was targeted by the government forces in the outskirts of Srinagar.
“I hate my name now,” she said. Her relatives have begun calling her by her childhood nickname, Rani.
(The names of some women have been changed)