SRINGAR: An old man is crouching on a stick in a vast paddy field at Chak-e-Kawoosa village, near Narbal in Budgam district. The funeral of his grandson is taking place. Ghulam Qadir Sheikh, tears rolling down his wrinkled face, is trying hard to have a last glimpse of his 18-year-old grandson, Muzaffar Ahmed Pandit. The coffin of Muzaffar is being showered with candies while women are singing eulogies.
Muzaffar breathed his last on Saturday at SKIMS hospital in Soura. The doctors termed the cause of his death as infection in blood.
According to locals of the village, Muzaffar was fired at with pellets by government forces on September 15. His father Mohammad Ramzan Pandit is an orderly in the education department. A middle-aged man, Ramzan said, “My son used to offer five times a day. On the fateful day he went to offer evening prayers at the local masjid. I was at home and later came to know that he was hit with pellets by government forces.”
On that evening, Abdul Rehman Ganaie, 55, whose son Ajaz Ahmed Ganaie was also hit with pellets that have damaged his one eye, was himself on the road. “I saw government forces arriving in vehicles. They fired indiscriminately,” he said. He was unaware that his son, too, had been shot, until he heard a neighbour shouting, “Bachi hai mor hai (Your son has been killed)”.
“My son and Muzaffar both were bleeding profusely on the road. I first shifted Muzaffar inside a house. He was writhing in pain and his left eye was popping out,” said Rehman.
That evening, villagers, mostly boys, were sitting on shop fronts, remembers Muneer Ahmed Sheikh, a shopkeeper at the main chowk of the village on whose shop that evening, according to locals, Muzaffar had stopped by after offering evening prayers. “Muzaffar was having a chat with me. Suddenly, government forces in vehicles came and started firing indiscriminately. I saw Muzaffar getting hit with pellets and falling down. I was frightened and ran to save my life,” said Muneer.
At the modest one-storey home of Muzaffar, a small tent has been erected. There, his mother Shafiqa, a frail woman, is crying inconsolably while other women console her. “Mummy lag ya janoo (O mother’s beloved), Maine afsar roo (Oh my officer son),” she cries.
Adjacent to the tent is the green-painted nondescript house where two girls on the verandah are wailing. They are sisters of Muzaffar, Masarat and the younger sister, Shaheena.
Muzaffar’s father after shouldering the coffin of his son sits on one side of the paddy field while mourners pour in for his son’s funeral prayers. He said that on September 15, when his son was injured, “I could not take him to the hospital as troopers from the nearby CRPF camp were arresting everyone.”
Next morning, after Fajr prayers, Ramzan arranged for a vehicle and took his son to JVC hospital in Srinagar.
From JVC hospital, Ramzan said, his son Muzaffar was referred to SMHS hospital where his first surgery was done. Then, Ramzan said, “He was discharged on September 17 and was talking also”.
Last Tuesday, Ramzan took his son to SMHS hospital for check-up. On Wednesday, his son started complaining of pain in his eye. “I took him to SMHS hospital again,” the father said.
On Saturday morning, Ramzan said, his son’s condition started worsening and doctors at SMHS shifted him to SKIMS Soura. “I wanted my son to study. During this uprising he had taken to stitching work. He always used to tell me that he wanted to be a teacher,” said Ramzan.
The old maternal grandfather, Ghulam Qadir, meanwhile kissed the forehead of his grandson one last time.“Che aosee muen jinaazi tulun, yeh key gow (You had to shoulder my coffin; what has happened!)” he cried.
It has now been more than three hours that Muzaffar’s body arrived in the village. But still his funeral prayers have not been offered. Due to the huge rush of mourners, the venue for Muzaffar’s funeral prayers has been shifted. First the middle school was decided as the place, then the Eidagh, and finally at about 5 in the evening it was decided that the funeral prayers will be offered at paddy fields.
A six-kanal piece of land will offer as jinazgah (funeral place) for Muzaffar. There is no place to set a foot in. Besides men, women have also gathered. A man with a beard through a loudspeaker is giving a speech about ‘shahadat’ (martyrdom). People are reciprocating with pro-freedom slogans. There is also the urge in everyone to have a last glimpse of their ‘martyr’.
Some men try to take control of the proceedings, but they fail. After hectic efforts of elders, the funeral prayers are finally offered.
As soon as the prayers finish, people throng to shoulder Muzaffar’s coffin. As the sun sets down, Muzaffar is lowered into the grave.
His maternal grandfather cries like a child and puts his head on the shoulder of this reporter. “Son, I will tell you something,” he says. “Back in 1990, his uncle Gulzar Ahmed Pandit died in a blast after he was caught in a gunbattle between insurgents and army. I found Muzaffar’s father alone after his brother died. I decided to marry my daughter Shafiqa to him. Now their son has become the second martyr from the Pandit family of Chak-e-Kawoosa.”
A police officer at Magam police station said, “We are ascertaining the case (of Muzaffar’s death). No pellets were fired by us.”