Views from Srinagar
OVER the period of last 27 years, Kashmir has wit
nessed killings of thousands of its men and
women. The number of dead is somewhere near one hundred thousand people while more than ten thousand have been disappeared. Unfortunately, the names of most of the victims are lost in the number, however somehow a handful of those who gave their life, or were killed for the cause, remain etched in the memory of every Kashmiri. Perhaps it was their stature or the manner of their deaths that has not been forgotten by a common Kashmiri. Wamiq Farooq, a 13-year-old kid killed in 2010 by Indian forces is one such name. The name instantly brings about melancholy in a common Kashmiri. Oh! Wamiq! The father who shouldered the coffin of his son had sighed.
While the world was celebrating Father’s day, fathers in Kashmir are either waiting for their disappeared children or in one way or another are remembering their slain children. Farooq Ahmad the father of Wamiq Farooq is one such father in the valley.
It was June 15. This month the vale is galore with full blooming buds but a father, Farooq Ahmad, reminisced about one bud that was nipped before it could bloom. His son, Wamiq was slain in the winter of 2010, when a group of children playing in the local stadium were attacked by Indian forces. Wamiq took a hit on the head from a tear gas shell and was proclaimed dead on arrival at the hospital.
Farooq did not accept the ex-gratia monitory compensation provided by the government for the killings considering it as amounting to betrayal of the ones who laid their lives for the Kashmir cause and believing that the compensation was claptrap by the Indian state to avert the attention from their brutality. “If you think I am going to receive the compensation, then I must tell you, you are mistaken. I will never betray the blood of the martyrs. All those that take it have their reasons but god has provided me enough to not take anything from the brutal Indian regime”, said a determined Farooq. He sticks to his decision to fight for justice for his son.
Farooq is an ordinary medium statured, clean-shaven, moustache-sporting man who makes a living by selling bags at Amira Kadal bridge in Srinagar. In the populace of street vendors at the bridge, he stands out, not for his looks or his salesmanship but for being a father of a martyr. In Kashmir martyrs’ families command respect, primarily because of the pleasure and reverence the locals hold for martyrdom.
As the June drizzle begins in hot Srinagar promising to turn into a downpour, an old vendor selling spices under a tarpaulin advises Farooq to take shelter with him. Farooq does not pay heed to the old man’s advice and continues narrating his achievements in fighting the case against the state government. The “father” narrative takes on, “Wamiq was a gem at school. Do you expect me to receive a compensation of one lakh rupees for the priceless son of mine? He excelled in every field, be it sports or studies. I wanted him to be a pilot.”
The fight for justice has not been easy, littered with many obstacles ranging from financial crunches to threats and warnings from the state to withdraw the case. He does not talk about the financial troubles, as he believes God will help in that regard no matter what as he is fighting a noble and just cause against an oppressive setup. So, he chooses to talk about the hurdles created by the government. “I was taken to police control room Srinagar in a police Gypsy, and a highly placed official offered me a lot of cash to drop the case, but I can’t betray the pure blood of the martyrs, so I offered him more if he brings my son back.” Farooq was asked to leave the premises henceforth as the official lost his cool and did not want any untoward incident to happen.
The drizzle had intensified and I just happened to look upon the wristwatch of the vendor beside Farooq, it was 4:30 pm. I had spent an hour talking to Farooq and it had mostly been him talking all the time. I pushed my hand towards his to clutch it and hint at leaving, but he held it there for another half an hour, his voice now resolute. The busy market street, the entire gaze transfixed upon us, all the ears listening to his ordeal, nothing seemed to affect him. His tone rose two notches above all the noise as he continued his narrative against the brutalities committed by the state.
Farooq switched his topic to that of the hospitable Kashmiri. “I have been to every part of India and have done business with Indians. They are very harsh compared to us. When we take a rickshaw in Delhi, we get down wherever there is a steep slope so that the rickshaw puller feels some ease, but have you seen those pot bellied Marwari’s on the rickshaws? They can be seen only scolding the rickshaw pullers even in that intense heat, let alone getting down, they won’t even pay full and bargain over a single penny, but look at us, ask this Bihari (referencing to a non-Kashmiri vendor next to him) I treat him like my own son. We Kashmiris as a people are too soft with the outsiders, despite the fact that their army is killing us and their government is plunging us to newer lows.”
A few years ago, he went to New Delhi to seek justice from the Indian Supreme Court and set pictures of his son on display so that the media and the people get to know what is happening in Kashmir. “It was a successful trip in the sense that common Indians got to know what their army is doing to common Kashmiris. I showed my son’s pictures to common people and asked them what would their reaction be if their son were killed so heartlessly and ruthlessly? None of them could answer me but were sympathetic and told me that they could feel my pain. I told them, I tell you, and I reiterate my words I will fight till the last drop of my blood and till my last breath.”
Finally, he lets lose my hand and bids me farewell, displaying a strange impossible determination for justice for his son, for Kashmir.