One crushed by army vehicle, another hit by police bullets
By Riyaz Bhat
SRINAGAR: A mother never forgets her dead son but Hafiza Banoo had reconciled with the death of her 8-year son Gowhar who was mowed down by an army vehicle in 1992. Banoo reassurance was her other son Sohail Ahmad Wani who was born several years after Gowhar’s traf\gic death.
But twenty-five years after the first tragedy struck the Wani family of Lethpora, an upcoming highway town near Pampore, Hafiza’s wounds were re-opened by the government forces. Sohail was shot dead by the security guard of a middle-rung bureaucrat who opened indiscriminate fire after being intercepted by a group of protesters on the highway. It was a fateful day of July 2016 when the south Kashmir was on boil following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. Lethpora village was one of the most troubled areas.
Locals said that a posse of Special Task Forces (STF) personnel entered the local mosque in civvies when the evening prayers were on. They indiscriminately started beating up people, smashed window panes of houses and damaged the mosque. Everyone who came their way was ruthlessly beaten up.
While the policemen were on rampage, said a local villager, a group of youngsters began protesting against the atrocities on the highway. On the same time, an officer (then Additional Deputy Commissioner, Ramban) Babu Ram passed by in his official vehicle along-with his two security guards. Sensing trouble, one of the guards came out of the vehicle and opened fire directly towards the civilians scattered all around there.
“I was there with my brother Sohail. We were at a fair distance from the official vehicle stopped by the protesters. The security guard came out of the vehicle and started firing. We rushed towards the opposite side and suddenly I heard someone screaming that Sohail has been hit by bullets,” Mysir Ahmad, Sohail’s brother told Kashmir Reader. He (Sohail) had received a bullet in his head and was immediately shifted to SKIMS for treatment.
Sohail was the lone bread-earner in the impoverished Wani family. He was working in Khyber Mills as a casual labourer. The death has shattered the family.
Banoo, 55, is inconsolable and usually gets fits of massive headache. “The wounds and agonies given by the Indian forces and local police can never be healed up. They have snatched my two eyes. How can I see around,” she said.
Mysir Wani says that his mother fell unconscious when she received the news of the death of her second son. “Since then she is not the same person. She complains of headache every time and remains engrossed in thoughts,” Wani, 22, a tailor by profession, said. “Doctors say she requires surgical intervention but we can hardly afford a surgery,” Wani said.
Banoo said that shew was getting flashbacks of how the army vehicle mowed down her son in 1992. “I was on way to the fields with Gowher Ahmad to collect saffon flowers. We were about to reach our saffron land when an army trucjk hit my son from behind. He died on the spot in front of my eyes,” she recalled as tears welled her eyes. “I begged before the army men to take my son to hospital but they left him bleeding and fled away,” she said.
After losing her son in a tragic incident, Hafiza was too much caring for her other two sons. “When I heard gunshots, I began searching for Sohail. I came out of the house to look and suddenly my other son came wailing and crying to inform me that Sohail has been hit by a bullet,” she said.
The villagers had taken Sohail to Srinagar for treatment but he succumbed there, she said.
Worse, the impoverished family has not been given any compensation for the two deaths. “The (government) claims that the families of innocents killed by the government forces are being compensated. We have not seen any compensation,” Hafiza Banoo said.
Deputy commissioner Pulwama Munirul Islam said that the compensation is released for the victim families only after the clearance of the cases from various agencies, including the police. “We need clearance and confirmation from police authorities as to whether the slain person was not part of the protests,” Islam said.
He said that no compensation would be paid to the next of kin of those persons who were part of protests and involved in organizing them.