Shattered family vows to fight for justice; politicians, police alike in shielding culprits: father of slain teenager
Srinagar: Everyday in when Abdul Qayoom Bhat of Soura leaves for work, he passes by a graveyard where his lone son – Umar Qayoom – rests in a grave. Grief and despair fills Bhat, and his steps grow heavier. Sometimes, he struggles to make his way to his shop.
Umar, an 11th class student, was one among the 120 youths killed in 2010. He was allegedly tortured to death in police station Soura during the valley wide agitation that year.
It has been seven years since the Umar’s death, but no FIR has been lodged about his death, allegedly in police custody at Soura Police Station. The distressed father has been running from pillar to post to bring criminals to justice, but the doors on any such attempt seem to have been closed a long time back.
“Every morning is gloomy. Not because he (Omer) is not with us, but even after 7 years of his killing, his killers are roaming free,” Bhat said in a interview with Kashmir Reader. “Besides, the horror of how brutally and mercilessly my son was killed arouses gloomy scenes of past as soon as I pass by the graveyard.”
Bhat has been attempting, since the day his son was killed, to bring culprits to justice. The family alleges that the culprits are being shielded by police and civil administrations. Bhat has moved to court in Srinagar and has at times tried to seek help from politicians, but has always returned disappointed.
“Everywhere I went in hope of justice, I got only disappointment in return. Courts are being misled by police and government. Politicians tried to make political gains out of our sentiments. Omer Abdullah dragged us out his house when we approached him with our case and former chief minster Mufti Mohammad Sayeed deceived us by making false promises,” the father says.
A month before assembly elections in 2014, Bhat says, Mufti Sayeed asked him to send details regarding Umar’s killings to his office and promised Bhat that he would raise the issue of his son’s killing on priority basis if he came to power.
“I sent copies of whatever documents I had hoping that Mufti being from opposition party might help. But, once he came to power, the mobile number he had given me was switched off. That day I learned that political parties might look different outside, but internally they are same,” Bhat said.
However, despite the disappointments, Bhat’s resolve to put the culprits behind bars is strong “even if no one stands with us, even when we need to sell all our valuables”.
The family alleges that a police officer, Zahoor Ahmad Khan, on duty at the time of Umar’s death, is the person responsible for killing the teenager. “He was a beast who tortured my son and didn’t take him to hospital which was few steps away from the police station,” Bhat said.
The father has vivid memories when his son was ruthlessly beaten-up by six policemen near Sabzi market when he was returning home after Friday prayers. He says, “My son could have survived had those criminals in police station Soura taken his worsening condition seriously and admitted him to SKIMS.”
When I heard the news (that Umar was detained), I rushed to Soura police station where my son along with few others had been kept in a lock-up. I was terrified to see my son brutally assaulted while blood kept oozing out of his body. I cried and pleaded then SHO, Abdul Majid Malik, to take him to the hospital as his condition was worsening. But he refused, and instead asked me to leave. He threatened to put me behind the bars.”
Bhat said when his son was released on bail the next day and taken to nearby SKIMS hospital, doctors informed them the boy was almost dead. On 25th of August 2010, Umar died at the hospital.
In the summary report, the doctors at SKIMS reported: “17-year-old Bhat Umar son of Abdul Qayoom resident of Soura was admitted on 23-8-2010 in A/E with chief compliant of vomiting of blood subsequent to allegedly beaten by cops four days ago. X-ray chest was showing bilateral diffuse infiltrates. CT scan chest was showing massive intrapulmonary hemorrhage. Both lungs were replaced with haemorrhage….in view of severe hypoxia patient was shifted to Special Intensive Care Unit for effective ventilation.”
Five years ago, on 27 July 2011, the then CJM Srinagar had taken a strong exception to the delay by police in reporting to court about the incident. Yashpal Bourney, the then CJM Srinagar, ordered SSP Srinagar to personally supervise the probe and appoint a deputy superintendent of police to investigate the circumstances which led to Umar’s death. “The facts from the file reveal a sordid picture of how irresponsibly and irrationally state police is functioning,” CJM stated.
Following the heavy criticism and civilian protests, Omer Abdullah led government that was in power during 2010 summer agitation, approved the setting up of a one-man Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on June 19, 2014. The commission comprised of Justice (Rtd) Makhan Lal Koul that was tasked to enquire the circumstances that led to the killing of more 120 persons mostly youths during the summer agitation of 2010.
After more than two years, CoI submitted its 320-page report to the chief minister Mehbooba Mufti that held: “2010 unrest was neither abrupt or spontaneous, nor unusual.”
The Commission received 63 petitions in cases involving CRPF, BSF and JK police. Of this, only two cases were of deaths as a result of stone pelting. The rest were the outcome of “unprovoked and indiscriminate firing and use of disproportionate force”.
All the government agencies took a stand that “killings were neither deliberate nor intentional, but were only preventive in nature”.
Bhat petitioned that his 17-year-old son was ruthlessly beaten by police and CRPF men on August 8, 2010, and because of custodial torture he succumbed to his injuries in SKIMS on August 25, 2010. Police rejected the claim and reported that “Umar was admitted in SKIMS Soura by his parents on August 23, 2010 for treatment and died and the dead body has been taken by his parents and buried in graveyard at Malik Sahib Soura.”
However the Commission after examining the case recommended registration of a murder case against police personnel as the commission observed: “we are satisfied with the contention of the petitioner that his son died because of Police torture after he was arrested and are of firm opinion that this is custodial death and makes recommendations that a case should be registered against such police officials of Police Station, Soura who were on duty on August 20, 2010 and are responsible for the action.”
A senior police official associated with the case, who wished no to be named, told Kashmir Reader that there were no directions from higher authorities for lodging an FIR regarding the case.