Gandapora, Shopian: The little girl who used to say that she will give her life for the freedom of Kashmir gave it up just as she said. On Monday she went out to participate in a public rally to demand the Azaadi of Kashmir, and fell to her death, when her tender heart was stunned by a ‘sound shell’ fired by government troops that exploded in a deafening blast. Fifty persons were injured in that rally from the shells, pellets and brute force used by government troops. But it was Khushboo Jan, who had turned 11 years old this June, whom the people of all Shopian, where she lived in Gandapora village, came out to mourn the next day.
Khushboo Jan and her four elder sisters, as also their one younger brother, were active participants in public protests ever since Burhan Wani’s killing. Residents of her village described her as a ‘Jihadist, rebel and courageous girl’. She was studying in Class 7 in a government school but was a more ardent student of the Quran, ten chapters of which she had memorised by heart.
On Sunday evening, little Khushboo was thrilled at the prospect of joining the protest scheduled for the next day. She had participated in a number of protests before, but this one she was particularly excited about.
“She painstakingly polished her nails and dyed her hands with henna before sleeping,” said her elder sister Ulfat Jan. “We don’t know why she did that. She told us that ‘tomorrow is a big day’. She wanted to look good.”
In the morning, Khushboo clad herself in a cotton pheran and covered her head. She left her home with her siblings, mother and hundreds of women from her village.
Her sisters said that Khushboo loved the sight of women protesters raising pro-freedom slogans. She would run out to the front line and shout full-throatedly, ‘Hum kya chahte? (What do we want?)’, to which the women would cheerfully reply, ‘Azadi (Freedom).’
Jozi, her sister, said Khushboo would become so engrossed in shouting the slogans that she became oblivious to everything else. It was what happened on Monday as well.
“Forces started shelling with smoke canisters, sound shells and also fired pellets. But she was undeterred. She was moving forward like a warrior leading from the front,” Jozi said.
“Suddenly we heard a loud blast and all of us ran for safety. It was so loud and horrendous that we felt we will all die from shock,” Jozi said. “When we searched for Khushboo, she was lying supine on the road, impassive and cold. Her eyes were dilated.”
“We gave her water but she didn’t react. There was no life in her,” Jozi said.
Khushboo was brought dead to the hospital in the afternoon.
Mohammad Hussain Bhat, her father, said he missed her beloved daughter but also felt the proudest father in the world. He said Khushboo had been born after four daughters but her birth brought prosperity to the family.
“I am a farmer but I never begged before anyone to raise my daughters. They raised themselves,” he said.
Khushboo often told her father that he should see her as his son and that she will bring fame to his name. “She used to tell me, I am not your younger daughter but your son. I will make your name shine in this village,” Bhat said.
Tasleema Akhtar, mother of Khushboo, said, “She was our hope, she was our miracle, she was our son, everything.”
At her funeral in her village on Tuesday, the mourners cried, “Their children are murderers, thieves. Ours are immortal.”