A boy says he witnessed the killing near the Dachigam Wildlife Park on Friday evening, locals say police told them the boy, having scores of pellet wounds on his body, was killed by a bear
SRINAGAR: It’s early morning in New Theed, located at the foot of Zabarwan hills in the picturesque area of Harwan, near the Mughal Gardens and the Dachigam National Park. But it is not for the view that a massive procession of people is heading towards New Theed; they are gathering for the funeral of 11-year-old Nasir Shafi, known by the name of ‘Moomin’ in the area. The locals of Theed allege Nasir was “murdered” by police a day ago, on Friday.
People chanting slogans enter a ground spread over ten kanals of land with groves of walnut trees. The ground will serve as the ‘Jinaazgah’ (funeral place) of Nasir. It is the same ground where his friends said Nasir used to play and hurl sticks at walnut trees to bring down the fruit.
There are so many people in the ground that it is difficult to set a foot in. A bearded man through a loudspeaker tells the crowd to organise themselves for the funeral prayers of Nasir. There seems no effect on the crowd. The people continue to shout Azadi slogans, calling for Kashmir’s freedom from India. The man’s voice goes unheard.
Everyone is trying to have a last glimpse of their eleven-year-old ‘martyr’. Some boys make a circle around the body of Nasir. Then, one by one, people are allowed towards the body of Nasir. They kiss his forehead and cry for some time, then another person steps forward. The scene continues for an hour.
The bearded man again addresses the crowd through loudspeaker. He pleads with them to prepare for the funeral prayers. The ground, sloping up a hill, is now jam-packed.
After the funeral prayers are over, Nasir’s body is carried uphill towards the graveyard. Some young boys have meanwhile started a pitched battle with the government forces stationed outside the graveyard. The troops begin to fire teargas shells and pellet guns. As the air is engulfed in tear smoke outside, Nasir is lowered into the grave with moist eyes.
An 18-year-old boy is weeping profusely. He says he is witness to Nasir’s murder last evening. He wishes to remain anonymous. He says, “There were clashes in the area from 1pm. Boys were throwing stones at government forces near the Theed bus stand, close to the police station. At about 5pm, the forces surrounded the spot from all sides. I saw Rakshak jeeps speeding towards us. They broke through the gate of the park. I along with some 20 boys ran towards the forest of Dachigam Park. When we reached near the Hapatghar (bear cage), police were there already. We were caught in a bad situation. Some of us tried to hide behind bushes and trees; others ran towards the Saraband (reservoir). I climbed a tree to save myself.”
The boy, wearing a mask, continues, “I saw the SHO (station house officer) ordering his men to catch all the boys. Then I saw Nasir alone in the Saraband. A group of five policemen went towards him. One among them pointed his gun towards Nasir and fired pellets into him. He instantly fell down in the Saraband. Then they started beating him. They dragged him. Then it was not visible what they did, but after some minutes, I saw the five policemen coming back from the Saraband. After a while, I went home.”
Nasir’s neighbour Abdul, who wished only to give his first name, said, “When Nasir was not found anywhere till late evening, we announced through masjid loudspeakers at 8:30pm that if any person knew where the boy was, kindly let us know. But no one knew where he was.”
Then, Abdul said, “We decided to search for the boy in the forest after some boys told us that they had last seen him running towards Dachigam Park. We were around two-thousand people. We scattered in groups and using torches started looking here and there in the jungle.”
“At about 9:30pm, some metres away from the Saraband near Gate II of Dachigam Park, we found the body of Nasir. There was a boulder placed under his head and another boulder near his feet. There were leaves put over his body,” Abdul said.
Abdul said that some people from Chandpora told him that “police had stopped them and told them that the boy was eaten by a bear.”
At Nasir’s modest one-storey house, his father Mohammad Shafi Qazi, 45, is being consoled by people. According to Shafi, his son bore torture marks around the face and chest. “A full cartridge was fired into his back. There were marks of four-hundred pellets in his body. His right arm was broken. There was also imprint of fingers on the right side of his face. Some part of his hair was also torn apart,” the father said.
A driver with a private firm, Shafi had last seen his son on Wednesday, the day after Eid-ul-Azha. “Because of my job I often stay away from home for seven–eight days,” Shafi explained. Then he said, “My son has been murdered. They fired pellets into him and then tortured him to death. They should also kill me.” Then he broke down.
Sitting in another room is the friend of Nasir, Saqib. Showing books and certificates of Nasir, he remembers his friend as “distinction holder” and “ace footballer” who prayed in the masjid five times every day. “I am a bit older than him. He used to think ahead of time at his young age. He was a brilliant student. He had won many medallions and certificates. Recently he had participated in a competition at National Institute of Technology where he won a certificate. He wanted to be an engineer to help his father come out of poverty,” Saqib said.
In a tent located in the neighbour’s lawn adjacent to Nasir’s house, two women are wailing. They are Jameela, mother of Nasir, and Tajala, his sister. Amid slogans of Asalaam Asalaam Aai Shaheedo Asalaam in the tent, Jameela remembers her son’s dream of becoming an engineer. “He was only in Class 7. He was tall and looked much older than his age. Does Mehbooba Mufti think my boy of 11 years was a threat to her? What harm could my 11-year-old kid do?”
Nasir’s brother Mohammad Mansoor, fighting back tears, said, “My brother’s birthday was coming on 13 January, but on that date my brother would be completing four months of martyrdom. He was murdered by police.”
However, the SHO of the area, Zahoor Ahmed, refuted all allegations. He told Kashmir Reader that “Around 3pm many boys from adjacent villages of Dhara, Khimber, Chattterhama and other villages had assembled at the bus stand in Theed, Harwan. They were throwing stones at us. We fired pellets at protestors from distance. Maybe the boy may have been hit with pellets during that.”
On the accusation of locals that police murdered the boy and then tried to hush the case by saying that he was killed by a bear, Zahoor Ahmed said, “These are all concocted lies. We will start investigation and through post-mortem we will ascertain the actual cause of death.”
When told that locals were saying there were four-hundred pellets in Nasir’s body, the SHO said, “It is not only through pellets that the boy may have died. He may have fallen from the mountain or have had a heart attack.”