On the intervening night of 18 and 19 July, 23-year-old Waseem Ilahi, was awake till late, studying for the upcoming Indian Administrative Service (IAS) examination, when the government forces launched a search operation in his village, Wukhu, in Pulwama, south Kashmir.
Mr. Waseem’s family alleged that he was beaten up by government forces during the search operation, after which his “hand got fractured, back is aching, and eyes have turned black,” said Mr. Waseem’s elder brother, Rameez Illahi.
Sheikh Manzoor, the station house officer in Kakapora Police Station–under whose jurisdiction Wukhu village falls–said that the police was “verifying the matter”. The family was called to the district superintendent of police’s office earlier today and were assured that such incidents would not happen henceforth, said Mr. Rameez.
The incident, however, has left the Ilahi family in trauma but has expressed gratitude to police for assuring action. One of the neighbours knocked on their door, asking Mr. Ilahi to come out. His elder brother, 27-year-old Rameez, had just woken up as he saw his brother being taken away by the government forces, he told the Kashmir Walla over the phone on 20 July.
Their elderly mother, who is on medication for a heart ailment, “begged [the forces’ personnel] to leave him,” said Mr. Rameez. “He is just a child,” she told them, claimed Mr. Rameez. “He didn’t do anything.”
However, the forces “slapped [Mr. Waseem]” and whisked him about 60 meters away from their home, where he was beaten up for several hours, Mr. Waseem later told the family.
Born and brought up in the village, Mr. Rameez claimed that though search operations are “very common” in south Kashmir, the assault by the government forces was new to the family. “[Waseem] is not strong enough to bear beatings,” he said.
“He is an innocent boy,” Mr. Rameez said on the phone, helpless. “Why did they beat him up? What have we done? This is wrong. Just wrong.”
In a family that survives on a wood workshop, Mr. Waseem had started following his longtime ambition of serving as an IAS officer after completing his Bachelor in Science from Pulwama. Before COVID-19 lockdown, he had also qualified for the sponsored coaching to prepare for the examination, availed by the Pulwama District Administration.
For the last two years, Mr. Rameez said that his brother, Mr. Waseem has been confined to his room, “focusing on his studies”. “He is really passionate about studies,” he said, adding that it is a “matter of pride” to qualify the IAS examination.
Now, as his studies are halted till he recovers, he sits at his home “very afraid,” Mr. Rameez said: “He keeps saying, ‘I’m studying hard. Why did they beat me up?’” He added that if such highhandedness of the government forces continued, “things will worsen” in Kashmir.