By Fahad Shah
“A young boy has died in hospital. He was arrested by police on Friday,” a friend told me when I was leaving from my home. He said the boy was beaten up and arrested during Friday protests, now he has succumbed to his injuries. I ran back to my home to get my camera and notebook. From home, I went straight to the Main road were the procession along with the boy’s body was heading towards Buchpora. In a sea of people, I could see faces of my neighbors, my friends raising slogans and wailing. Red, blue, jeans wearing boys shouldering the plank on which the body was lying.
Omar Qayoom Bhat, 17, a class 11 student of Malik Sahib Soura, had come out from a mosque after offering Friday prayers. Eyewitnesses say as he stepped out and walked a few meters people start shouting slogans. He joined them and suddenly police arrived. He was caught by police and Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) beat him up with sticks and helmets. “They thrashed him against the shop shutters which led him unconscious and injured on spot. He was then dragged and taken to police station,” said Uzair (name changed) an eyewitness.
Omar was ‘beaten up by police and CRPF’s joint party’ on Friday, August 20 and then ‘tortured’ in the Soura police station during his arrest. He died on August 24 at 3 pm after losing his battle for life of about 51 hours while being on ventilator.
Death certificate shows the cause of death was respiratory hypertension with severely deranged blood gases, diffuse intrapulmonary hemorrhage and blunt trauma on chest. He was the only son of his father, Abdul Qayoom Bhat who is an employ with Waqf Board and has three daughters.
Women on the roadside were beating their chests and eyes filled with tears while the procession was moving on. With more and more people joining from adjacent localities the procession was swelling. Among them were some young boys who had been friends with Omar. With tears rolling down on their cheeks, they were taking turns to carry the plank with cold bruised body of Omar.
Qayoom says his son has been severely tortured in the police station and they didn’t release him even after the bail was approved by the district magistrate. “I went to police station on August 21 were my son told me to take him to hospital. He was weeping while he said police and CRPF men beat him severely and then gave power shocks on his wounds,” Qayoom says.
The concerned executive magistrate, Bashir Ahmed Balkhi, however says he also asked the Station House Officer to approve Omar’s bail but he didn’t agree. “I told him I will be guarantee for his bail but he didn’t accept my word,” he says.
While I was clicking more and more pictures to get the clear and close-up shots, procession reached near a CRPF camp at Buchpora and it was there when some young boys joined hands of each other and made a chain to stop wailing anger from moving further. They decided to return back as I overheard someone saying, “It will be a massacre to move on. There is a big CRPF camp and people are angry. We don’t have to confront them right now. Let’s go back,” he said.
As I saw women following the men, raising pro-freedom slogans, moving in the procession back to Soura. Decided earlier by the elders of the area, Omar had to be buried at his ancestral graveyard which can be seen from his home. We reached at his home were his body was to be bathed. I was waiting outside the house. Women had made a circle to wail while his sisters were pulling out their hair as they saw their brother’s body.
While people were giving bath to Omar’s body, some angry boys, most of them were Omar’s friends, started throwing stones at CRPF and policemen who restricted the movement of the procession within Soura area only. Tear gas shells were fired in retaliation and bullet shots were also heard from the lane were I was waiting for people to come out along with Omar’s body. Elders pleaded before boys not to throw stones till Omar will be buried. After several requests they agreed.
Friends of Omar believe that his killing should be probed by the human rights organizations. They have earlier gone to police station to lodge a complaint which police didn’t accept. “How can police register complaint against themselves but we won’t let the killers of Omar roam free,” one of the friends shouted near his house.
The funeral prayers were to be held at a local shrine Jenab Sahib Soura. From home his body was now taken to the shrine. His body was kept in the courtyard of shrine and rows of people start covering the green grass of the courtyard. I went up to a minaret of the shrine to get the best picture of the gathering. I could see hundreds of people in rows.
Now in a green plywood casket on dry grass under him, a green cloth with some verses of Holy Quran written over the casket, Omar’s body was taken to graveyard. Passing through lanes and by-lanes procession was about to reach main road when a tear gas shell burst near my legs. It didn’t come as a surprise to me. It has been going here since football grounds of Kashmir have been changing into graveyards.
People were pleading before the CRPF men and waving towards them to let the procession pass peacefully. Though, only then they allowed. Omar was buried in the grave near a brick wall at the corner of the graveyard. Omar is waiting justice from Omar!
I returned home. After a month now, that day still haunts me. Wails still echo in my ears. I feel, is this why I chose this what I do? But then I remember there were and are many like Omar who lost to bullets, tear gas shells, torture or newly introduced pellets. And I moved on. Since then 110 people have been killed in Police and Paramilitary forces action.