In a dark tiny room, where a six-ft person can bang head on the ceiling, sits a widowed mother wiping her tears; a young, yet angry 12-year-old brother; a frozen half-dead sister, and a small face mirror hanging on the wall, reading Akeel – scribbled with human-blood.
Akeel Ahmad celebrated his eighteenth birthday on 29 July 2017 and was buried three days later.
“Don’t worry, nothing will happen,” said Ahmad in the Pulwama district hospital before his paternal-uncle closed his eyes forever.
On 1 August 2017, Ahmad woke up, had a bath, a cup of tea and went to the roadside. As told by his mother, Masooda Jan, like everyone else he was also sitting with his friends on the concrete stairs outside a closed shop.
“Following the encounter of a militant Abu Dujana, an army Casper was going back to the nearby camp,” recalls the Jan. “Watching the Casper moving their direction, everyone got frightened and started running to disperse. Army opened fire.”
“Army fired 3 bullets, did you hear them. Where did they go?” asked Ahmad.
A friend looked at the blood-wet t-shirt and replied, “They hit you!”
Struggling with the language as well as tears, widowed Jan says, “After his father’s death nine years ago, Akeel was the sole breadwinner of the house. Now, we are doomed.”
“Look at our condition,” adds Ahmad’s paternal-uncle, “We don’t have enough money to buy proper food.” The double-storey, yet a matchbox-sized, house stands on mud-walls; on the verge of collapsing. The decaying green wall narrates the story of the family.
Giving up to suffocation, Jan moves to a room with a small window. The room of her late son, Ahmad. “No one visits this room; it is painful to sit here without him,” she shares.
Pointing towards the corner near the insignificant window, Jan says, “He used to come and sit aside Rihanna here; they were like a single soul.”
The day when Pulwama was offering Ahmad’s funeral prayer, away from the world, inside the room of Ahmad, sat a 15-year-old sister, Rihanna, with a shaving blade in hand. She did not attempt suicide; she took the spilling blood on her fingers and scribbled the name of her beloved brother, her everything: Akeel.
“Allah saved her that day. She had three stitches later,” says Jan, while wiping her tears.
As the family tells, Ahmad was a very religious child. From memorizing the entire Quran to offering prayers five-times a day, Ahmad left no stone unturned in worshiping Allah.
When his father lost the life to cardiac arrest in 2008, Ahmad met an accident.
“He dislocated his right elbow,” recalls Jan. “Due to lack of money for the operation, he went in the grave with the same elbow. Doctors had asked us to cut his hand, but he refused. Fir kaam kis se karta?”
Collecting widow’s fund from government and earning money from daily labour, Jan pays the bills.
When the clock struck three in afternoon, the younger brother, Adil Ahmad (12) returns from school. Sitting at the corner in Ahmad’s room, where his mother pointed out minutes ago, he opens a collection of photographs.
“Look, here is the bullet mark,” says 12-year-old child.
Either with the braveness or the numbness, the younger Ahmad shuffles through the photographs of his elder brother’s funeral; with himself in some of them.
As he tells, few days after Ahmad’s funeral, 44 RR of Indian Army came for a regular survey in their locality. When the army personnel asked about family details, he tells them, “Two brothers, one sister and a widowed mother. The army killed my elder brother, Akeel.”
The army personnel, whom he couldn’t name, grabbed him by the collar and asked to never blame the Army again. Soon Jan stepped in and said, “It is the truth. Why are you scared of it?”
“Akeel and I used to sleep together in this room. Now that he is gone, I can’t sleep here,” says younger Ahmad.
Fearing the flashes of memories, Rihanna has locked all the belongings of her elder brother. Amid the continuous tears, Jan takes out a pair of black footwear and says, “He was wearing these when the army killed him.”
Doctors have asked the family to not leave Rihanna alone due to her continuous state of depression. Jan says that younger one is very instantaneous and hot-headed, he just wants to thrash army.
Like many Kashmiri youth, this younger brother is also angry. “I lock him inside the house when there are protests,” says Jan. Taking a gulp of fear, she adds, “If he will go on to the streets, they will kill him also.”
This story is the fifth part of a series “Remnants of Kashmir’s Dead”