She just has a wish. A wish she sought the blessing of dervishes for. Gulshana Akhter wants to see her dead son in a dream, just once.
It has been a long wait for her: five years. On 6 July 2016, Akhter’s son 18-year-old Sayar Ahmad Kumar had his last lunch at home in Chitragam village of south Kashmir’s Shopian.
Kumar then left to offer prayers and told his mother that he would then go to his maternal home in Yaripora. It was the eighth day of the protests that were sparked by the killing of a popular militant commander, Burhan Wani.
Hours later, intense clashes had broken out between the police and the locals near Yaripora police post in which three youth had sustained pellet injuries and live-bullets were fired.
Back at the village, Akhter was doing her daily chores when her elder son told her that Kumar has been hit by the bullets. He was taken to the hospital where doctors had declared him dead.
A while later, an announcement was made in the local mosque that Kumar had been killed in the protests in Yaripora area. “After that, we don’t know if it was a day or night,” 60-year-old Abdul Ahad, Kumar’s father, told The Kashmir Walla.
“He was closer to me, that’s why he doesn’t show up in my dreams,” Gulshana said. The longing for her son devastated her life, she said. Rather, she said, she better die and then wait for her son.
In 2016’s summer uprising, at least 145 civilians were killed in the government forces’ action. The protests on Kashmir’s streets in the daylight would meet with funerals of youth by evening.
‘A deep sleep’
Within time, people from her village started gathering at Kumar’s house. Akhter and her husband stayed at their home, waiting for the people from the Reban village, who were carrying Kumar’s body towards his native village.
Even when the body reached home in the evening, the family didn’t bury their son and waited for all the relatives to have a last glimpse at him. Meanwhile, Gulshana sat beside his body: “It felt like he was in a deep sleep.”
The last memory of his son’s face still haunts Akhter. His son, as she recalled, had two bullet holes — one in the chest and another on the back, just above the pelvis. Blood that oozed out of his nose had dried up.
In his last meal at home, Akhter’s son asked if there was any milk. She promised it for the evening. Later that night, “I fed two spoons of milk to my son after he was killed. I had promised him,” she said.
Before Kumar was held over shoulders for his last journey, Gulshana kissed on his forehead and hugged for the last time, asking for forgiveness — for all the ifs and buts of an otherwise life.
At 10 in the morning, he was buried at a nearby graveyard.
Many mothers, similar stories
In the SD colony of Batamaloo, 57 kilometers from the Reban village, Shameema Akhter woke up with a terrible backache at her home on the morning of 15 August 2016. But she sat with her son Mohammad Yasir Sheikh at 4 pm and had tea before he left to play with his friends.
The neighbourhood had been rocked by continuous protests since the militant commander’s killing. In the evening, when the government forces were returning to camps from a police post near the Batamaloo’s bus stop, near the playground, Yasir Sheikh was hit with the bullets, his family said.
A neighbor rushed towards the Sheikh family to inform them that he was taken to Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital, in Srinagar. Shameena Akhter got up from the bed, running through the narrow lane from her house towards the main road. It seemed endless; “it felt like the road was getting longer,” she said.
Her husband took her to the hospital, where she saw her son drenched in blood, being taken to the operation theatre.
Fifteen minutes later, she turned back home, followed by her son’s body, accompanied by hundreds of people who came out in solidarity. The large gathering though kept her at a distance, disabling her to hug him.
From a distance, Shameema saw “her piece of heart” being taken away. She somehow managed to go near his feet, touched and kissed them.
“My heart died that day,” she said. “I can’t forget my own blood. Even if I had a house of gold, it wouldn’t make any difference.”
Like Gulshana, Shameema Akhter said she is “surviving on medicines”. Nights are more difficult. Sometimes, she gets scared when she wakes up perplexed, hearing her son’s voice. “He calls my name but then I realise it is a dream.”
Five years have gone by but Gulshana never forgets to serve food in the bowl of Sayar, in the afternoon and during dinner.
“He was an innocent soul. I can never fill this void in my life now,” Gulshana said. If Gulshana wasn’t at home, Sayar would hesitate in going in. The dreams of his life, of better education, now lie scattered in the heart of Gulshana. The clothes of Sayar have been kept neatly in a steel trunk along with a shoe that he was wearing on the day he was killed.
After he was hit, a shoe had fallen from his foot that was later brought by one of their relatives. Gulshana said that she washed it, dried it, and kept it along with the clothes.
Before she sleeps, Gulshana tries hard for her son to come in her dream, but all in vain. “I want to ask him why he left and never returned,” she said. “I just want the doomsday to come so that I can meet him there.”