Budgam: Eight years since their young son was killed by the government forces, the impoverished elderly couple of Mazhama village in central district Budgam is battling for survival at different levels. Abdur Rahim Rather visits from pillar to post to settle the case seeking a promised compensation from the government and his 67-year-old wife Fatima Begum is fighting a plethora of ailments taking a heavy toll on her fragile being. The killing of their son has completely devastated the family.
Even as chief minister Mehbooba Mufti announced to compensate the next of kin of the civilians killed by the government forces during the recent public uprising in Kashmir, the government has not compensated several victim families of the 2008 unrest when the Peoples Democratic Party was part of the ruling coalition. Rather’s son Farooq Ahmad Rather was among the civilians killed by the government forces during the summer of 2008 when anti-India protests rocked the valley against the allotment of forestland to Amarnath shrine board.
Rather’s hutment made of mud, stones and wooden shafts overlooking a murky stream of water reflects the penury of the family.
Inside the hutment lives 74-year Rather along-with his wife– a lean woman with sunken eyes and very few words. She is leaning back to the stack of mattresses placed at the side of the room. The killing of her son has taken away the meaning of her life.
“Look at these prescriptions,” Fatima’s 28-year-old second son Bilal Ahmad empties a bagful of papers. “She has been suffering from multiple illnesses since the killing of Farooq devastated her. It has become a routine for us to visit a doctor every week,” Ahmad said.
“Since the death of my brother, our mother has been through a lot of twinge and distress,” he said.
On June 25, 2008, Ahmad recalled, during the peak of Amarnath land row, a few youth of the locality had blocked the highway and were “peacefully” protesting the killings of the youth in various parts of Kashmir valley, “Suddenly news about tourists being made target by the youth spread in the vicinity and government forces were called in,” Bilal recalled.
“The government forces wreaked havoc in Mazhama village by entering into residential houses, breaking every window they could find and fired indiscriminately into every direction, he recalled.
“There was mayhem everywhere. I was sitting downstairs while as bhaijan (Farooq) was sitting in his room preparing for his 12th standard examination,” recalled Bilal.
He said on listening to the noises outside, Farooq attempted to peep through the window but a trooper identified as Jarnail Singh spotted him. Singh allegedly targeted Rather by opening fire on him.
Farooq was hit in his head and fell in a pool of blood in his room. “He wasn’t lying still and not breathing. We could make out that he was dead. We tried to take him to the hospital but he succumbed to his injuries,” recalled Bilal.
The family after losing their son was promised compensation but they received nothing except “betrayal” by the state government. “ We filed an FIR against the culprit SOG constable Jarnail Singh and approached the SHRC. However, the culprit is still roaming free. All we have received is an ex-gratia relief of 1 lakh rupees, which was spent on pursuing the case,” said Bilal.
An official at district magistrate’s office at Budgam said that the case was transferred to the government department and the victim family wasn’t entitled to compensation. “Deputy Commissioner’s office is only allowed to compensate militancy related cases and not the ones related to law and order, the family knows it,” he said
However Kartik Murukutla, a prominent human rights lawyer and researcher at Jammu and Kashmir coalition of civil society described the DC office’s explanation as misleading. “The reference to law and order came after 2014. This case relates to the incidents in 2008, he said adding the amendment to the law happened in 2014 only and those cases that happened before 2014 are entitled to receive government compensation under SRO 43.