SRINAGAR: Bilal Ahmad Denthoo was a tenth-class student from Kupwara who was killed in the initial days of last year’s anti-India uprising, following the 8 July killing of popular Hizbul Mujahideen leader, Burhan Wani. More than two weeks after the widespread mass agitation began in the Kashmir Valley, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti met three victim families at a Dak Bungalow in Kupwara. Among them were Bilal’s family, with whom she held a half-hour conversation, promising them justice within three days.
Bilal, according to the police, was shot by unidentified gunmen on July 16, 2016, nearly a week after Wani was killed. The family contests this claim, saying he was killed by the then top police officer in the district . Bilal’s maternal uncle, Ajaz Ahmad Denthoo, told Kashmir Reader that the boy had gone out for a household errand on the evening he died. On his way home, he was shot at, Ajaz said, by the police officer who was at that time travelling in his vehicle along with his team. Bilal was rushed to the district hospital, Handwara, with a firearm injury, but was declared brought dead.
In the meeting attended by Sajad Lone, minister for social welfare and concerned legislator of the district, the victim’s father, Abdul Rashed Denthoo, told Kashmir Reader that the CM had expressed solidarity with the family after listening to their story and had promised justice in three days. Immediately after the meeting, the state government ordered a magisterial inquiry into the killing. However more than eight months have passed, yet “nothing is known about it”, the father said. Additional deputy commissioner, Handwara, Peer Muzaffar, who headed the inquiry, told Kashmir Reader over the phone that “he has submitted the concluding report before the government”.
Days after the meeting with the CM, when nothing came of the time-bound inquiry, the family had filed an application before the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Handwara, asking to file a First Information Report (FIR) against the accused officer. Their counsel, who wished to remain anonymous, said the CJM transferred the case, citing claims that it did not fall under his jurisdiction. The case went to the CJM, Kupwara, who, after hearing the case nearly eight times, transferred it to the CJM, Handwara, citing ‘personal reasons’.
In earlier hearings of the case, the counsel said, the CJM had asked the police to establish a Special Investigating Team (SIT). The investigating officer, deputy superintendent of police Fayaz Ahmad said that he had filed the report last year and said that, owing to conflicting versions of the case, he had recommended that the body be sent for a post mortem. “I don’t know why it has not happened,” he told Kashmir Reader.
Now after a lapse of eight months, Rasheed, a mason by profession and father of three children, recalls the CM’s words, assuring his family of speedy justice.
“We were promised justice in three days. Eight months have passed, and the killer of my son is still roaming free. Neither magisterial inquiry nor the case in the court has yielded anything. I don’t see justice anywhere,” Rasheed said.
Bilal’s is just a case to show how the PDP-led coalition government has dealt with the nearly thirty magisterial inquiries it has ordered since it formed the government in 2015. A look into them either shows that magisterial inquiry reports were filed but no action was taken, while in many cases, the report is yet to be submitted. Justice still remains at large.
The government’s first probe order was issued into the killing of Suhail Ahmad (15) at Narbal in Budgam in April 2015. Suhail’s killing was the first civilian killing in the BJP-PDP tenure. Deputy commissioner, Budgam, Mir Altaf told Kashmir Reader that he had submitted his report to the government, but neither he nor the government have made its contents public.
“My job was to do a probe and submit its report. I did it, so ask the government about it,” Altaf said.
Three weeks before Mufti Mohammad Sayeed took charge as CM, Farooq Ahmad Bhat, a 22-year-old, was killed in police firing in north Kashmir’s Palhalan area on February 9, 2015. Two other civilians were critically injured in this incident. A probe was ordered, and the sub-divisional magistrate, Pattan, was appointed as inquiry officer. He was asked to submit its report within fifteen days. It was never made public whether the probe was actually completed or not.
Deputy commissioner, Baramula, Dr Nasir Naqash told Kashmir Reader that probes are a routine process on which he cannot comment. SDM, Pattan, Sarfaraz Ahmad said that he was not the inquiry officer at that time. The then SDM, Salma Hameed, said she had filed the report in the stipulated time, and it was the mandate of the government to implement it.
In the probe of the April 13, 2016, killings of five civilians at Handwara, when army allegedly molested a school girl in the town, a report was submitted by its inquiry officer, Additional district magistrate Peer Muzaffar Ahmad. He told Kashmir Reader that he had submitted the report before the concerned deputy commissioner. Incumbent DC, Kupwara, Ghulam Mohammad Dar said that no one had filed any report in his office, but he would look into it anyway. For his part, secretary Home RK Goyal was tight-lipped, telling Kashmir Reader that he would comment about it once the Darbar is open in Srinagar.