‘He made us laugh and left us in tears; now only the tears are left’
Vesssu, Qazigund: Basit was brought dead home in the evening, and his coffin shouldered out for funeral the next morning. In the interim, his mother and father sat beside his corpse all night and gaped at it. He was their eldest son.
Basit’s one sibling, Owais, is mourning with his cousins the loss of a beloved and witty brother. “Because his words would always turn into laughter — that is what we cannot forget. He made us laugh and left us in tears; now only the tears are left,” said Rayees Ahmad, his cousin.
Basit Mohi-ud-Din Ahangar was born on the 1st of March, 1996, in Vessu, Qazigund in a wealthy and educated family. Some of his cousins are PhD scholars and others are studying outside the state. Basit was shot by government forces, dragged, beaten and then tossed in a 20-foot drain, the base of which was cemented. His body lay inside the sewer for more than 10 minutes, until the police withdrew and a few youths took it out.
Many in his family argue that his death may have occurred when his head hit the hard base of the drain. Doctors at the hospital observed that there was blood clot and trauma in his head, which could have led to haemorrhage and cardiac arrest. When his ECG was conducted, his heart showed no sign of life.
On Saturday, violent clashes had erupted between protesters and government forces after 2pm. They lasted until 5pm, as per the residents of the area. During this time Basit was out on a walk with two close friends in orchid fields: “It had become his routine since the uprising began,” said his uncle, Sartaj Ahmad Ahangar, guardian and mentor of Basit.
Basit and his two friends were returning to their homes. Basit said goodbye to his two friends at 5:45pm; the rest of the way home he would walk alone.
“He couldn’t make it home,” said Umar Mushtaq in a voice shuddering with emotion. Umar spent the whole day out in the fields with Basit, talking and playing games on mobile. He could say no more than this as he was swaying between overwhelming emotion and breakdown.
One key eyewitness, Shabir Ahmad Najar, who saw Basit being killed, said, “The security forces had fallen back at the time when Basit arrived. But we were apprehensive they may resort to shooting. I told Basit to wait. But he said, ‘Police is far away. They won’t do anything.’ As he walked forward through the tear smoke, covering his face, the policemen hiding behind the shops came out and chased him. They first fired pellets at his leg, and as he fell down, they dragged him, beat him with sticks, and threw him down in the drain.”
Two other eyewitnesses, Imtiaz Ahmad Itoo and Rayees Ahmad, said that DySP Khalid and SHO Irshad were involved in the killing of Basit. “They were the ones who chased, fired and threw him in the drain,” Imtiaz said.
On Sunday morning, tens and thousands of people attended the funeral of Basit. Due to shortage of space for all the gathered people, two funeral prayers were held.
Tasleema Akhtar, mother of Basit, followed the body of her son to his funeral barefooted. Even as she shed tears for her son, she chanted, ‘We want freedom,’ which was repeated by the masses of women accompanying her.
Basit was in the first year of his Bachelor of Arts course at Boys Degree College Anantnag. He was also interested in hotel management.
He used to talk to his cousin, Rayees, a PhD scholar, everyday. “He would tell me that he wanted to study hotel management. This year he brought a brochure of a college and talked for hours about it.”
Basit’s father, Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din, a businessman, wanted to send Basit to Aligarh Muslim University this year. “He wanted his son to pursue law and become an advocate. There was a lot of discussion between me, Basit and his father on this subject. We had decided to take a decision after Eid,” Rayees said, adding, “Basit had always obeyed his father.”
Basit’s younger brother, Owais, said, “For the past two months, he had begun to pray five times a day. Sometimes he would whisper, when we were playing games on mobile phones late in the night, that life is nothing without jihad, that jihad is the way of Islam.”
If there was a peaceful protest, Basit would whole-heartedly join in it. Stone-pelting, as he told his friends, was not Islamic.
Naway Ahmad, his cousin, said Basit was both ambitious and religious. “He had no interest in stone-pelting,” he said.
His friends and relatives described Basit in four qualities: Calm, cool, friendly, and great sense of humour.
Mudasir, neighbour and teacher of Basit, said he was an outspoken boy who could speak on any topic with anyone. “If there was a group conversation, he would speak at the last and then everyone would listen to him; there was so much power in his words. When he felt that listeners were losing interest in his conversation, he would use his humour and everyone would tell him to stop, or we may die of laughter.”
Basit’s unique sense of clothes also made him different from others. “He always wanted to look good and different,” said Suhail Rashid, his close friend.
Suhail added that Basit was a quick learner and he took part in all sporting activities in school.
Another close friend described Basit as “fearless and broad-minded”.
On Saturday morning, hours before his death, Basit told his uncle that he was not feeling well. “He told me he couldn’t sleep properly at night. I told him to get up and have tea. I didn’t know that it would be the last tea he would have at home.”
“Time would fly away whenever we would sit with him,” remembered Umar Rasool, his classmate.