Koolipora Shrandu (Kulgam): Hours after the killing of Burhan Wani on July 8, a 16-year-old boy received a bullet in his chest. Zubair Khanday, the first Kashmiri civilian to be killed after the news of Burhan Wani’s killing spread like wildfire in Kashmir, was an accomplished volleyball player who had won many awards in the sport.
Off the bumpy road that runs through Koolipura Shrandu in Kulgam, a dingy lane leads to the house of Khanday. Outside on the porch of the two-storey, mud-built, immaculately maintained house, seven women are sitting on a grey autumn evening. The older among them are puffing hookah. I introduce myself and they welcome me into a room. There are four bolsters and a cupboard in the room. I sit down and after a few seconds a frail woman with watery eyes enters the room.
Nabiza Bano remembers her son Khanday as someone who offered prayers five times a day and was passionate about volleyball. “He was never involved in anything more than this. He had won many awards and medallions in volleyball. This year he was to participate in volleyball tournaments outside the state,” Bano said. Her sister Shaheena joined her in the room.
On July 8, Nabiza saw her son twice in the day. “One was at 12pm, when he came inside for lunch, and the other time was at 4pm, at tea time. I never knew my son would be the first martyr in the current uprising,” Nabiza said and broke down.
Nabiza’s sister Shaheena consoled her. “It is sin to weep over the death of a martyr. For God’s sake, do not weep,” Shaheena told her.
I looked towards my two friends and they also seemed uncertain of what to say in this situation. Nabiza again spoke, of a sudden. “Son, you resemble so much my Zubair. The moment I saw you, it seemed Zubair was in front of my eyes.” I smiled at Nabiza and she kissed my forehead.
On the evening of July 8, Nabiza said that people in Koolipora Shrundu assembled and decided to march towards Tral, the hometown of Burhan. “At first, he (Zubair) was not willing to go, but when he saw many of his friends going towards Tral, he also went,” Nabiza recalled.
On the way to Tral, Nabiza said, the procession of people attacked an army camp at Qaimoh, about which Nabiza later heard from people. As soon as the people tried to open the gate of the army camp, the first bullet had pierced Zubair’s chest, Nabiza said.
While Nabiza was talking, an old woman who had been puffing hookah on the porch, entered the room. “I am the grandmother of Zubair,” she introduced herself. “He was born in 2000, the same year that my son Mohammad Yaqoob of age 28 was killed by the army for allegedly helping militants. After his death, the army came to our home and apologised that they had killed the wrong person. My son’s daughter had grabbed the collar of an army officer. They (army) even tried to give us money, but we refused,” the grandmother said.
The old woman said that her son Yaqoob used to fetch timber from forests on horses. “On the day of his death, he along with 14 men had gone inside the forests. Only he out of the fourteen men was killed,” Zubair’s grandmother said.
Zubair’s birth in the same year of his uncle’s killing had given some solace to the family. “We used to see Yaqoob in Zubair,” said the three women collectively.
While we talked, Nabiza stood up and opened the cupboard. She brought out a sack. “These are the shoes and chappals of my son,” she said, pointing to the contents of the sack. The other women said, “These are sacred for us. They are of our martyr.”
We decided to leave. My eyes went to the slippers of Zubair. They were of size 9. On July 9, Zubair was lowered into the grave at 4pm.