TuliNowpora (Kulgam): The grandfather begins to narrate how his 15-year-old grandson was beaten to death at a nearby soldiers’ camp. He attempts it at his own pace in the room where, during the past week, he has been receiving people offering condolences. Many people interrupt him, eager to supply the old man with what they think is the important link, a vital piece of information he might be skipping, in the narrative.
Annoyed, he raises his hand each time, gesturing them to remain silent. This continues for a while. The narrative is gradually taking a coherent shape. But is there an eyewitness who could make it simple for us reporters? Yes, the dead boy’s brother, who was also beaten in the same camp along with his brother.
The lanky boy is ushered into the room, cutting through a semi-circle of people gathered around the reporters. A piece of cloth has been tied around his left elbow, an evidence of the lesser punishment he got away with. His brother’s head had been bashed so badly that it had to be pried open. Doctors had told the family that another surgery was due if he survives. But within hours, his heart stopped working at the SKIMS hospital in Srinagar.
It turns out the younger one is deeply traumatised. He can’t speak without prompting by the people in the room—father, mother, relatives, neighbours, protesters. His big eyes exacerbate the fact of his trauma and at the same time give a misleading impression of his alertness.
The brothers, Irfan Maqsood Dar, 15, a class 10 student at the Government High School, TuliNowpora, and Faizan Maqsood Dar, 12, had left their grandfather’s house in TuliNowpora and were going home, on July 11, three days after Burhan Wani’s killing.
A pro-Burhan demonstration was underway and the brothers probably had joined it. No one is sure. The duo was caught unawares because the CRPF troopers and policemen cornered the protesters by coming through orchards, not the embattled road.
Faizan got stuck in the barbed wire of an orchard while trying to flee. The elder brother came to his rescue. Both were taken to the camp that has come up only during the past three months. Constructions are still underway at the camp. From whatever little Faizan said, it appears that Irfan bore the brunt of the beating. At least six personnel thrashed him, Faizan said.
The troopers took the half-dead Irfan to the police who refused to accept him. The superintendent of police, according to the residents, is learnt to have told the CRPF that “you have only been bringing us bodies”.
However, the police received Faizan, who had been vomiting, and took him to hospital.
Was Irfan breathing, did he say anything when you were being carried to the police station, I ask Faizan. “No,” he said. From a speeding vehicle, the troopers dumped Irfan, still alive, outside the gate of Kulgam hospital. Sand and pieces of shattered bricks that got stuck in his hair due the pressure of the fall were found when his head was shaved for surgery at the SKIMS.
The family had no idea of who took Irfan to SKIMS and who accompanied him. The father, Maqsood Ahmad, after visiting Faizan at the hospital and feeling reassured about his condition, boarded an ambulance in a bid to visit his other son in Srinagar, a 50-km ride. The police stopped the ambulance at Wanpoh, checked his ID.
“They beat me up and told me to go where I came from. They said ‘don’t look back’. But I did turn back because I felt they would shoot me dead. I returned home,” Maqsood said.
Next day, the family had two options, both uncertain, to reach Irfan at the SKIMS hospital: an ambulance that might leave with a patient or another casualty of the government forces and a fruit merchant’s truck that had to deliver bananas to the besieged city.
The banana truck left, its owner risking beating than letting the fruit rot. Irfan’s uncle Bilal Ahmad Dar boarded the vehicle and reached SKIMS where he joined Irfan’s mother Haleema and aunt Jawahira.
The medical record, which wrongly mentions Irfan’s age as 20 years old, says: Cause of death: Cardiac arrest.
What probably caused cardiac arrest is written below:
Right frontal EDH, underlying contusion secondary due to head injury (assault).
A doctor said it means that under the impact of the assault his brain had suffered hemorrhage.
Faizan said, and doctors had told Bilal, the forces had battered Irfan with gun butts.
At about 10am on Thursday, July 14, the family readied to carry Irfan’s body back home. After travelling some distance, a police vehicle each appeared in front and back of the ambulance. Near Dalgate, the ambulance was signaled to stop.
Bilal said the ambulance driver, perhaps aware of the pattern of police hijacking ambulances carrying bodies of those killed in the uprising, had vainly tried to dodge the police vehicles. The body was taken to the Police Control Room, along with the mourning mother, aunt and uncle. It was kept in a room that was locked. The family was told that some formalities need to be completed.
After every hour or so, the police would tell the family that the body would be released soon. Haleema fainted and she was hospitalized at the police hospital at the Control Room complex. Finally, a policeman told the family why the body had been kept hostage: the ‘situation will further deteriorate if the body is released before evening’.
Most of the bodies of the victims of forces firing, who had been referred to Srinagar hospitals for treatment, had been similarly hijacked and kept at the PCR. All released after 4pm. The Dars were released at about 6.30pm, Bilal said. The father finally got to see the son, dead, face hardly.
(A Kashmir Reader Story)