Chadoora: At the home of Amir Fayaz, who was shot dead by government forces in Chadoora on Tuesday, a group of women sit in mourning. A grim silence hangs upon this sleepy village of Wazpora, suddenly broken when Shaheena Akhtar, the dead boy’s mother, begins singing dirges for her son.
“You were like a blooming rose, who nipped you from the bud?” Shaheena sings. The women sitting beside her console her and wipe tears from her cheeks.
“When the encounter between government forces and militants started, I went searching for him in nearby fields,” Shaheena said. “At about 2pm, I came to know that my son had been hit by bullets.”
Amir was studying in Class 10 at the government school in Wathoora. He was the only son among three children. One of his two sisters is differently-abled.
Amir’s father, Fayaz Ahmad, 40, a labourer by profession, earns the family bread by digging out sand from the nearby river Doodh Ganga. He said that early Tuesday morning, Amir left for school with a bag of books.
“At 12:30pm, when I was digging sand out of the stream, I received a call that Amir had been hit by pellets. I said, ‘It is okay. God will help’. At 2pm I came to know that the SOG (special operations group of the police) had fired upon the crowd and my son was dead. It was like somebody had pricked my heart with a needle. The pain of a father who has to shoulder the coffin of his son cannot be explained,” Fayaz Ahmad said.
He said he did not expect any justice from the state.
“The only justice to us will be freedom from the shackles of slavery,” Fayaz Ahmad said. “The political situation prevailing in Kashmir is such that nobody can remain aloof from the events in the street. Such things will continue to happen.”
Sahil Ahmad, a Class 7 student and a close friend of Amir, said that his friend would spend most of his time in studies and in helping his father in his work.
“They are very poor. They have just a two-room house,” Sahil said of the Ahmad family. “Apart from studies, he would spend time in fishing and playing volleyball. He would never go for stone-pelting. But he loved to visit the places where stone-pelting was taking place.”
He said Amir also went to offer prayers at the mosque and read the Quran. “But he was not so much political as I am,” said Sahil, who was arrested by police on charges of stone-pelting in 2016. “I like to be on the front of protest, not back. I believe the stone flung from the back has less power. I cannot sit and watch my brothers being killed. But Amir would always watch from a distance.”
Another neighbour, Riyaz Ahmad, who witnessed the firing incident, said that Amir became the victim of target firing along with his friend Adil, who lies injured in a Srinagar hospital.
“A lot of women, who happened to be mothers of the stone-pelting boys, had gathered near the site where the boys were clashing with the troops. They wanted to take their sons back; they were screaming and shouting; but the youngsters were refusing to retreat,” Riyaz said. “In the meanwhile, SOG men came and opened fire directly on the boys at about 12:30pm. Amir was struck by a bullet in his abdomen. His friend Adil was hit in the back. This incident happened some distance away from the encounter site.”
Riyaz claimed that more bullets were fired on protesters than at the house where the militant was trapped.
“We could hear the whizzing sounds of bullets. For a moment we thought the SOG men had turned blind. They fired straight into the crowd,” Riyaz said.
A couple of kilometers ahead from Amir’s house is a big sprawling house in Chadoora main market where lived Zahid Rashid, the 21-year-old who was killed by government troops on Tuesday.
Outside the house, there was complete calm in the shamyana (canopy) under which the male mourners sat. Occasionally, they talked in whispers.
“He was my lone son,” said Abdul Rashid Ganai. “I have five daughters. I went to shrines and faith healers to seek the blessing of a son. The gift that God bestowed on me has been snatched away by Indian forces. Here, only jungle rule prevails.”
He said Zahid Rashid was 21, had studied till about Class 12, and was helping his father in his business. “Zahid had come from Delhi five days ago. He was video recording the events after the encounter started. Everybody went there to see what was happening. My son did not cross the stream across which the encounter was taking place. He was a kilometre away from the encounter site,” Ganai said.
“Suddenly, the SOG men opened fire. Before they killed the militant, they killed my son at 10am,” Zanai said. “He was hit by a bullet in his neck. I have lost the hope of my life. I have no words to convey my pain. It is a loss that will remain with me for my entire life.”
Zahid’s uncle, Fayaz Ahmad, said that the ambulance carrying the body of Zahid back from hospital was stopped by police in Srinagar. “They fired teargas shells. They desecrated the body and forcibly took it to the police control room. They also snatched the mobile phone of my son, on which he had made video recording of the scenes at Chadoora,” Ahmad said.
“We are not going to beg for justice. It was a murder committed by Indian forces and the police. When 50,000 people killed have not received justice, do you think we will get it? We will get nothing except pain. We have no future with India other than separation. Future generations will curse us for living such a life of slaves,” Ahmad said.
Zahid’s neighbour and friend Shafi Ahmad said he was an easy-going boy. “His family had everything: big house, cars, bikes, flourishing business. They own multiple shops in Chadoora market. He could have spent most of his time in travelling and fun. He also played cricket and liked to move around with friends,” Shafi said.
“He was not strictly religious. He had recently started helping his father in business. They own a gold shop and he had big plans for it. You can say he had everything in life,” Shafi said.
“It was Allah’s wish that he would not live his life to the full. Besides, the circumstances are such – this slavery to India — that they will continue to cause such sudden deaths of young souls. I think fathers will continue to bury their sons in graves, if something is not done to improve the situation,” Shafi said.