Meet­ing a father who shoul­dered the cof­fin of his son, 13

Views from Sri­na­gar

Pakistan Observer - - KASHMIR -

SAQIB MUGLOO VER the pe­riod of last 27 years, Kash­mir has wit nessed killings of thou­sands of its men and women. The num­ber of dead is some­where near one hun­dred thou­sand peo­ple while more than ten thou­sand have been dis­ap­peared. Un­for­tu­nately, the names of most of the vic­tims are lost in the num­ber, how­ever some­how a hand­ful of those who gave their life, or were killed for the cause, re­main etched in the mem­ory of ev­ery Kash­miri. Per­haps it was their stature or the man­ner of their deaths that has not been for­got­ten by a com­mon Kash­miri. Wamiq Fa­rooq, a 13-year-old kid killed in 2010 by In­dian forces is one such name. The name in­stantly brings about melan­choly in a com­mon Kash­miri. Oh! Wamiq! The father who shoul­dered the cof­fin of his son had sighed.

While the world was cel­e­brat­ing Father’s day, fa­thers in Kash­mir are ei­ther wait­ing for their dis­ap­peared chil­dren or in one way or another are re­mem­ber­ing their slain chil­dren. Fa­rooq Ah­mad the father of Wamiq Fa­rooq is one such father in the val­ley.

It was June 15. This month the vale is ga­lore with full bloom­ing buds but a father, Fa­rooq Ah­mad, rem­i­nisced about one bud that was nipped be­fore it could bloom. His son, Wamiq was slain in the win­ter of 2010, when a group of chil­dren play­ing in the lo­cal sta­dium were at­tacked by In­dian forces. Wamiq took a hit on the head from a tear gas shell and was pro­claimed dead on ar­rival at the hos­pi­tal.

Fa­rooq did not ac­cept the ex-gra­tia mon­i­tory com­pen­sa­tion pro­vided by the gov­ern­ment for the killings con­sid­er­ing it as amount­ing to be­trayal of the ones who laid their lives for the Kash­mir cause and be­liev­ing that the com­pen­sa­tion was clap­trap by the In­dian state to avert the at­ten­tion from their bru­tal­ity. “If you think I am go­ing to re­ceive the com­pen­sa­tion, then I must tell you, you are mis­taken. I will never be­tray the blood of the mar­tyrs. All those that take it have their rea­sons but

Ogod has pro­vided me enough to not take any­thing from the bru­tal In­dian regime”, said a de­ter­mined Fa­rooq. He sticks to his de­ci­sion to fight for jus­tice for his son. Fa­rooq is an or­di­nary medium statured, clean­shaven, mous­tache-sport­ing man who makes a liv­ing by sell­ing bags at Amira Kadal bridge in Sri­na­gar. In the pop­u­lace of street ven­dors at the bridge, he stands out, not for his looks or his sales­man­ship but for be­ing a father of a mar­tyr. In Kash­mir mar­tyrs’ fam­i­lies com­mand re­spect, pri­mar­ily be­cause of the plea­sure and rev­er­ence the lo­cals hold for mar­tyr­dom.

As the June driz­zle be­gins in hot Sri­na­gar promis­ing to turn into a down­pour, an old ven­dor sell­ing spices un­der a tar­pau­lin ad­vises Fa­rooq to take shel­ter with him. Fa­rooq does not pay heed to the old man’s ad­vice and con­tin­ues nar­rat­ing his achieve­ments in fight­ing the case against the state gov­ern­ment. The “father” nar­ra­tive takes on, “Wamiq was a gem at school. Do you ex­pect me to re­ceive a com­pen­sa­tion of one lakh ru­pees for the price­less son of mine? He ex­celled in ev­ery field, be it sports or stud­ies. I wanted him to be a pi­lot.”

The fight for jus­tice has not been easy, lit­tered with many ob­sta­cles rang­ing from fi­nan­cial crunches to threats and warn­ings from the state to with­draw the case. He does not talk about the fi­nan­cial trou­bles, as he be­lieves God will help in that re­gard no mat­ter what as he is fight­ing a no­ble and just cause against an op­pres­sive setup. So, he chooses to talk about the hur­dles cre­ated by the gov­ern­ment. “I was taken to po­lice con­trol room Sri­na­gar in a po­lice Gypsy, and a highly placed of­fi­cial of­fered me a lot of cash to drop the case, but I can’t be­tray the pure blood of the mar­tyrs, so I of­fered him more if he brings my son back.” Fa­rooq was asked to leave the premises hence­forth as the of­fi­cial lost his cool and did not want any un­to­ward in­ci­dent to hap­pen.

The driz­zle had in­ten­si­fied and I just hap­pened to look upon the wrist­watch of the ven­dor be­side Fa­rooq, it was 4:30 pm. I had spent an hour talk­ing to Fa­rooq and it had mostly been him talk­ing all the time. I pushed my hand to­wards his to clutch it and hint at leav­ing, but he held it there for another half an hour, his voice now res­o­lute. The busy mar­ket street, the en­tire gaze trans­fixed upon us, all the ears lis­ten­ing to his or­deal, noth­ing seemed to af­fect him. His tone rose two notches above all the noise as he con­tin­ued his nar­ra­tive against the bru­tal­i­ties com­mit­ted by the state.

Fa­rooq switched his topic to that of the hos­pitable Kash­miri. “I have been to ev­ery part of India and have done busi­ness with In­di­ans. They are very harsh com­pared to us. When we take a rick­shaw in Delhi, we get down wherever there is a steep slope so that the rick­shaw puller feels some ease, but have you seen those pot bel­lied Mar­wari’s on the rick­shaws? They can be seen only scold­ing the rick­shaw pullers even in that in­tense heat, let alone get­ting down, they won’t even pay full and bar­gain over a sin­gle penny, but look at us, ask this Bi­hari (ref­er­enc­ing to a non-Kash­miri ven­dor next to him) I treat him like my own son. We Kash­miris as a peo­ple are too soft with the out­siders, de­spite the fact that their army is killing us and their gov­ern­ment is plung­ing us to newer lows.”

A few years ago, he went to New Delhi to seek jus­tice from the In­dian Supreme Court and set pic­tures of his son on dis­play so that the me­dia and the peo­ple get to know what is hap­pen­ing in Kash­mir. “It was a suc­cess­ful trip in the sense that com­mon In­di­ans got to know what their army is do­ing to com­mon Kash­miris. I showed my son’s pic­tures to com­mon peo­ple and asked them what would their re­ac­tion be if their son were killed so heart­lessly and ruth­lessly? None of them could an­swer me but were sym­pa­thetic and told me that they could feel my pain. I told them, I tell you, and I re­it­er­ate my words I will fight till the last drop of my blood and till my last breath.”

Fi­nally, he lets lose my hand and bids me farewell, dis­play­ing a strange im­pos­si­ble de­ter­mi­na­tion for jus­tice for his son, for Kash­mir. —Cour­tesy: KR

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