Walking on the green outfield of the cricket ground and swinging the bat amid cheers is what Yaawar Ibrahim Bhat dreams of his cheering past, while the 23-year-old is lying paralysed in his room accompanied by falling walls. Nine-years ago, Bhat was hit by a tear-gas shell in head during the protest in Srinagar against the infamous double rape-murder case of Shopian in 2009.

Sitting on the floor with legs spread, Bhat raised his left arm to take a tour of his vegetative right-part of the body, leading towards the scar on his head. As Bhat lies with his helpless body, he watches all his friends around; studying, playing, and helping the family, breaks his spirit every day – in bits and pieces.

On 30 June 2009, then 14-years-old, Bhat aimed towards the residence of a local shopkeeper in Maisuma area of Srinagar, to buy butter during a curfew. On his way back home, he found himself in the middle of clashes. Youth carrying green and black flags in their hands, some with stickers on their head – shouting on the verge of their throat: Iss girte huwe deewar ko, aik daaka aur do! (Push the falling wall, just one more time!) Taking a brief pause, the crowd chanted again, Ye khoon rang laayega, Inqilab aayega (This blood bring the revolution).

Confused, yet not surprised Bhat preferred to run from the place quickly. As the government forces retaliated the flying stones with tear gas shells and bullets, mass looked for a way to disperse.

At the nose of the alley of his home, a tear-gas shell on the left-side of his head took down Bhat. “Yawar is dead,” shouted the protesters and rushed to pick him. Bathed in the blood, his skull was cracked, and the crowd rushed him to the nearest hospital, and later referred to the SKIMS hospital.

With the knock of the despair on the Bhat family’s door, his elder sister, Sharef-u-Nisa, a class tenth student back then, along with her father, Mohammad Ibrahim Bhat, rushed barefoot towards the hospital.

“Take him to home and take good care of him,” mentioning that his days are numbered, doctor at the hospital gave the ‘deadline’ of not more than five days. His father gave up the hope, while his sister, Nisa wailed for her brother’s survival.

Father of Yawar Ibrahim Bhat showing the scar on his head at his home in Srinagar. Photographs by Bhat Burhan

Yaawar Ibrahim Bhat survived.

He spent eleven months in coma. Lying still in a small room, his closed eyes faced the wooden ceiling, and dreamt of the life otherwise, narrated Nisa. “No one can imagine the kind of struggle and pain which we went through.”

Young Nisa gave up her studies to look after his brother. “He did not even move his finger during eleven months of his coma. He was like a dead body, lying in front of us,” she added.

The pain did not end here for the Bhat family; the only son survived three paralysis attacks and underwent three operations for injuries to his skull during the vegetative state. Soon, Bhat gave up his vocals, and lost his right-side of the body to continued paralysis. He is also not to walk around properly, his continous inability to move has damaged his right-leg nerves as well.

Forty-five-years-old father, a car mechanic by profession, is unable to pay the bills. For him, watching two adult daughters, walking around unmarried, is a pain in eye. “Whatever I saved all my life, it all went in Yawar’s treatment. Now, only God can help me to get them married.”

Surrendering to the situations around him, the father also sold the little property he had and his small mechanic shop as well, to pay for his son’s well-being. “Now, I work as a manual labourer and mechanic alternately to meet my ends,” said Bhat.

Questioning the pro-freedom leadership, Nisa said, “Is it not a responsibility of leaders to see the victims of this conflict and check their conditions? Whether they are dead or alive?”

Nisa mentioned that Yasin Malik, a pro-freedom leader who lives a few houses away, announced back then to look after all the medical expenditures for Yawar’s treatment. “Yasin Malik did, but only for a month. After that, the family members did the rounds of his offices but couldn’t get an answer,” she added.

Bhat’s personality has also changed after the unfortunate accident, as the family narrates. “Paralysis attacks made him silent; he tries to say a lot but his body doesn’t cope up. All we wait for now is to hear him calling our names,” sighed Bhat’s another sister, Khushboo Jan, 19.

The two daughters and Yawar lost their mother, Gulshana Begum, to the cardiac arrest at the age 40 in 2014. “She died because she saw her son dying every single day,” Jan added, with moist eyes.

Bhat, now sitting in a small green-colored room, with half-paralysed body and a big scar of his memories on his head, looked out of the window on his back; a young child, roaming with a small cricket bat in his hand passed smiling. In that brief moment, Bhat jerked and looked back at his sister. Sharing the eye-contact, both exchanged a warm smile.

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