By Yusra Khan
It was a last homecoming for Tufail Ahmad Mattoo. Midway, he met death in its brutal avatar. A tear smoke canister fired by a policeman hit him in the head, cracking his skull. As blood and brain oozed out from the skull cavity of this 16-year-old boy, Mattoo breath his last.
On a sultry midsummer afternoon of the year 2010, on June 11, Tufail became another name in the list of “martyrs”. For his father, Mohammad Ashraf Mattoo, his hair now greyish and face wrinkled, he was the only son.
At the house of Mattoos in Saida Kadal locality of Srinagar, Tufail’s pictures are not his only souvenirs.
In his room, a laptop computer covered with a sheath of dust, a Sony handycam still packed in a black bag are the mementos from those days when Tufail lived. He used the camera only once before being killed, says his father.
On the desk, a pen and a notebook are lying open. A half written sentence on the cover page of physics practical notebook yet to be full-stopped.
That day when Tufail was killed, his mother, Ruby, heard from neighbours that a boy has been injured near Gojwara neighbourhood in old city. Ruby ringed her sister to check whether Tufail has returned from tuitions.
As no news came about the whereabouts of Tufail, an agonising wait begun for the family which finally ended when Tufail returned on a stretcher, carried by hundreds of mourners shouting slogans for freedom.
“The policeman who fired on Tufail stepped down from the police vehicle to see whether Tufail is dead or not.”
Tufail was dead. When his body entered the home, last time, Tufail mother fell on the ground, unconscious.
“The policeman who fired on Tufail stepped down from the police vehicle to see whether Tufail is dead or not. He took his hand near Tufail’s nose to see whether he is breathing. When he f
elt he is dead, he left in hurry,” an eyewitness of the killing of Tufail said.
A year later, Tufail’s mother has lived with agony, pain and tears.
“My son might have called me that time. What was his sin? Why have they killed him,” Ruby said, “I wonder how my son is resting in grave as he feared to sleep alone?”
On the day Tufail was killed, police denied to file a report. But after the huge public pressure, they lodged an FIR, number 45/2010, in Nowhatta police station.
His funeral was delayed by a day as police was not handing over the body to family fearing protests. He was buried on June 12 at Bihiste Shuhadayi Kashmir (Paradise of the Martyrs of Kashmir) – a graveyard at Eidgah in old city of Srinagar for those killed fighting Indian “occupation” of Kashmir. Eidgah.
“We do not sell our son’s blood. Government has priced us and not valued. There is no value for human life in Kashmir.”
Despite, a year having been passed no one has been put on trial for the killing Tufail. “The woman who is witness to the killing identified the killer but the government is yet to take action as he is their own person. Killers are moving freely and we are being threatened to keep quiet and not to ask for justice,” said Tufail’s father Mohammad Ashraf Mattoo.
The family was offered “blood money” of rupees five lakh by the state government led by Omar Abdullah but the family refused to accept the money. “We do not sell our son’s blood. Government has priced us and not valued. There is no value for human life in Kashmir,” he said.
Soon after the killing of Tufail, massive street protests erupted across the Kashmir valley. In an effort to cull the dissent, state forces used extreme force to silence the streets and killed 120 youth, including dozens of teenagers.
This year, state has claimed peace has returned. And thousands of families in Kashmir wait for justice.
—with Riffat Mohiudin