By Ubeer Naqushbandi
Srinagar: A rope demarcates the portion of the Jhelum where 12-year-old Danish Sultan was drowned, near the footbridge at Pamposh Colony Noorbagh, three days ago, on Thursday. Local youth are still fighting with stones the gun-wielding government forces. Half an hour ago, Sahil, a young boy, was hit by a bullet in his leg. The flesh of the leg has been torn apart, the fractured bone visible. The ambulance is trying hard to make its way through the crowd, which is shouting Hum kya chahte azadi (We want freedom) at the top of its voice.
Witnesses to a child’s murder
Every resident of Pamposh Colony, situated on the opposite bank of the Jhelum, is narrating the same detail: “Four boys tried to jump into the river to escape the troops. Three of them were saved by persons who work as sand extractors with their big vessels, braving continuous shelling and pellets, but Danish could not be saved.”
Facing the spot where the boy drowned is the house of Bashir Ahmed Dar, an old man. “I was on the second storey of my house at 4:30pm basking in the sun at the time of the incident,” Bashir said.
“My eyes were glued to the swiftly flowing waters of the Jhelum. Suddenly, I saw four boys jump into the river from the far bank. Troops were running after them. When the boys jumped into the river, the troops threw bricks at them. They also took up wooden logs from a nearby saw-mill and were continuously trying to hit with them the four boys, who were finding it difficult to swim across,” Bashir narrated.
The boys had been “cornered” by troops coming from the Parimpora side and from the link road, said Bashir. “With no way out, they dived into the Jhelum. Three boys saved their life with the help of sand extractors, but Danish couldn’t be saved. His head was hit by a brick thrown by the troops.”
Mohammad Sultan Dar and Imtiyaz Ahmed had also watched the scene from their homes in Pamposh Colony. They narrated the same account.
Some meters away from the site of the incident, Danish’s modest house is situated off the main road of New Colony, Noorbagh. Seven small children are moving around in a circle, tapping hard with their tender feet the metallic road. They are chanting, “Ragda ragda, Bharat ragda.” One among them is Furqan, 6 years old, younger brother of Danish.
A small alley from the road leads to the green-painted house of Danish. In the hall, Danish’s father Mohammad Sultan Haroo, 50, is being consoled by relatives. A driver by profession, Sultan is a stoic man who seems to be lost in his son’s memories. He mumbles, “They hit my son with a rock”. His brother Nazir Ahmed said that at about 5:30pm on Thursday, Danish’s family came to know of his drowning.
“When we reached the spot, we saw sand extractors searching for Danish’s body. The forces were continuously firing shells and pellets. A huge crowd had also gathered. When till 9:30pm on Thursday we didn’t find Danish’s body, we left the spot.”
In the clashes that evening, Bashir said “more than 60 people were injured due to shelling and pellet firing by forces.”
The next day, at 6 in the morning, Bashir saw a navy motor boat arriving. After floating in the Jhelum waters aimlessly for hours, “it left without trying to retrieve Danish’s body,” Nazir said.
Nazir alleged that “It was on the directions of police that the navy boat left. As the day was Friday, they (police) apprehended that a fresh death may create law and order problems. The navy divers gave reason before they left that they had forgotten some essential equipment.”
Of the three other boys who were chased by troops that day, Mohsin, 12, has his leg broken from being hit by a baton when he got stuck in a swamp. Aamir, aged 20, was hit by pellets and Umer, aged 19, was hit by pellets in his left eye. All of them are in a state of shock.
Umer has been discharged minutes before from SMHS hospital after surgery in his left eye. He said, “We got frightened on seeing a huge posse of forces coming towards us. We all knew swimming but the continuous shelling and pellet firing was making it hard to swim across the cold waters of Jhelum. It was a boatman who saved me.”
Amid tears Umer said, “I remember Danish desperately screaming for help. I tried to grab his hand but then there was a barrage of pellets, which loosened the grip and within no time Danish disappeared into the waters.”
Back at Danish’s home, a tent has been erected a few feet away in the ‘Maedremeharbaan’ ground now named by locals as ‘Shaheed Danish Ground.’ Inside, a lady lying on a mattress in a corner and surrounded by several women is crying inconsolably, “Potroo, Potroo (My son, my son)”. She is Rafiqa, Danish’s mother. She suffers from a cervical problem and has been bed-ridden for the past many months. “Her back was already broken. This tragedy has decimated her,” a woman consoling her said.
There are also Danish’s three sisters, Ruqaiya, Nuzhat and Bisma, wailing. “They have snatched the flower of our garden,” they cry. A frail boy Aqib, 16, is the elder brother of Danish. He said, “We are devastated now.”
It was at about 10:30am on Friday that the body of Danish was retrieved 500 metres away from the spot where he drowned, Nazir Ahmed (Danish’s uncle) said. The body was retrieved after 13 boys volunteered to dive into the river. Danish was laid to rest in the martyrs’ graveyard at Eidgah.
Bashir, the old man who watched all this from the second storey of his house, said, “There is no scope of justice.” But according to the residents, whether justice is delivered or not, New Colony Noorbagh will now be known by the name ‘Shaheed Danish Colony.’
Kashmir Reader tried to contact the police for their version but they were not available for comment.