Srinagar: A year after army shot him dead, Baramulla youth Tahir Ahmad Sofi’s family says that “state institutions” are pressurizing them them to abandon the case.
“Since last year, the state and its machinery tried its best to demoralize us. The police are not concluding the investigations. Army is refusing to cooperate. And the SHRC tried to convince us to accept blood money. We may not get justice; but we’ll set an example of struggle,” Tahir’s brother, Junaid told Kashmir Reader Tuesday.
Tahir, 27, son of Ghulam Rasool Sofi, of Ganai Hamam, was killed and Muhammad Abbas Lalu was injured when soldiers of 46 Rashtriya Rifles fired upon a group of youth near the Old Town Baramulla on March 5. His killing triggered massive pro-freedom and anti-India demonstrations across the Valley.
The authorities had clamped curfew in major towns and districts of the Valley, while the police had filed a case against the RR unit. Two days after the killing, government announced ex-gratia relief of Rs six lakh to the family of the victim besides ordering a time bound magisterial probe. However, the family refused the ex-gratia amount terming it ‘blood money’.
The magisterial probe conducted by the then (ADM) Baramulla, Manzoor Ahmad Qadri had indicted army for killing the youth with any justification. “Even warning shots by the troops of 46 RR could have scared away the youth. Instead, they opened fire that resulted in the loss of one innocent life. There seems to be no valid reason in the action taken by personnel of 46 RR resulting in death of Sofi and injury to Lalu who has been rendered handicapped for life,” Qadri had written in his report.
The incident brought ‘tears’ into the eyes of Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah. In an emotional speech on the floor of the assembly, Omar had expressed his helplessness over Tahir’s killing.
“While sitting on this chair of the chief minister, I am feeling helpless when my people are being killed. These are my people and I belong to this state. What reply I will give to people?” he had said.
“I can’t do politics and can only raise voice against the killing. I will knock every door to seek but will ensure that family gets justice,”
However, terming Omar’s outburst as ‘political gimmicky’, Junaid said that if the Chief Minister would have been serious to deliver justice to the family, he would ensured that the investigations were completed on time and the status report submitted. He said being the chairman of the Unified Command, Omar could have asked army to extend all possible help to police to conclude the investigations.
“We met him at his office in Srinagar. All he did, he asked his PA to follow the case. Since then, the case has not moved an inch,” Junaid said, adding “He is a very weak Chief Minister. He has acknowledged it when my brother was murdered. The fact remains that the army has more powers than him,”
Army, he said, had tried its best to link his slain brother as a stone pelter to save their skin from the ‘cold-blooded murder’. He said intelligences agencies had conducted a parallel probe to verify the credentials of Tahir.
“DC told us that the intelligence agencies conducted probe into Tahir’s credentials and finally concluded that he was not a stone pelter. They had even checked video footage of stone pelting protests to see of Tahir figured in them. Their motive was to prove him a stone pelter,” he said.
Police, he said, has never taken up the case seriously. He said while the enquiry officer recorded the statement of 21 witnesses, police recorded of only four after resorting to dilly delaying tactics.
“A senior police officer even went to the extent of saying that the statement of one witness was enough. Police always avoided recording the statements of more witnesses,” he said.
“Law is different for Kashmir and other parts of India. If a farmer is shot dead by forces in any state of India, prompt action is taken. However, for Kashmiris, a different yardstick is adopted,” he added.
Maintaining that the family’s fight for justice is not only for their son, Junaid said that their struggle will not bring Tahir back but will encourage the victims to fight the oppressor head on.
“Justice can only be delivered by Allah. However, we too will be held accountable on the judgment day. Allah says fight justice in whatever way you can,” he said, adding “The state wants us to get tired and shun the case. However, that will never happen. We’ll fight tlil last breath,”
Parvez Imroz, the family counsel, told Kashmir Reader that while army was not cooperating in the case, the police too was not using its powers to take the case to its logical conclusion.
“Police are not using their powers. Writing a letter to army to seek roll call and other details is not enough. They have to do more to complete the investigations,” Imroz said.
“In one year, nothing has happened. We’ll not let them (Army) to get away,” he added.