SRINAGAR: There are countless stories of how immensely people have suffered in the past 25 years of conflict in Kashmir. One such story is that of Ghulam Hassan Bhat, a lower-rung employee of PHE department, who lost his two to the conflict.
Hailing from north Kashmir’s Sopore town, both the sons of Bhat, Ahsan-ul-Hassan and Zubair-ul-Hassan, were killed in separate incidents.
The killings shattered the family but Bhat doggedly followed up on the cases. With meagre income but a strong will-power, he intends to fight for justice and bring the killers of his sons to book.
“My elder son Ahsan-ul-haq (then studying in 10th class) was shot outside our house in September 2006 when he was buying something. He was just a school kid. I still have no idea why someone would kill him. All our efforts to trace the killers or their purpose went vain. No authority – civilian or police – provided any help,” said Bhat.
His second son Zubair-ul-Hassan died of drowning on April 13, 2010 after he, along with his friends, were chased by the police and CRPF following some disturbance in the town.
“My son did not know swimming. While jumping, one of his friends held his hand to save him from drowning but the CRPF pelted stones at them due to which they were separated. While his friend managed to swim to safety, my son drowned.”
Prior to that, Bhat was rendered homeless after BSF allegedly set the old market of Sopore on fire in 1993.
“After I lost everything, I, with my whole family, was without shelter for 10 years. Losing my property didn’t break me but I hadn’t imagined that I would lose both my sons. I have run from pillar to post to seek justice. If anything gives me strength, it is this belief that on the Judgement Day I will be able to face my sons proudly and tell how strong their father has been,” he said.
After failing to hear anything from authorities, Ghulam Hassan went to meet representatives from the Amnesty International and Asia Watch.
“When my first son was killed, police filed an FIR, following which I was threatened by army,” Bhat alleged.
“When my second son was deliberately drowned by the state forces, the police even refused to file an FIR for it. So I went to court, which after one year directed the SP, Sopore to file an FIR and give a compliance report regarding the incident. But, when I went to police station to file FIR, the SHO refused to file it again,” he said.
The distraught father again knocked the doors of the court which, after six months, issued a fresh direction to police to file a FIR into the killing and investigate the matter.
“The SHO told me that he will assist me to make a SRO case of it and help me to get ex-gratia money. I refused and insisted on filing an FIR. This infuriated them and they came to my house afterwards and threatened me,” he said.
“With no further development or no information provided by the police, I filed an RTI application in 2011 to know the status of the case and was shocked to know that police had already closed the case and stated the cause of death was accidental,” he said.
Bhat said that he feels hurt when people eulogise those who kill “our children”.
“I want to tell everyone to keep their conscience clean and not collaborate with those who killed our children. All Kashmiris are freedom fighters in a way because everyone has contributed in some way or the other in this struggle for freedom. Let’s not forget the sacrifices,” he said.