By Irfan Mir
The narrow path leading to Mohammad Yousuf Bhat’s house in village Naapora is lined with cow-sheds and shrubberies. The tiny and bare compound in front of his single-storey house is separated from his neighbour’s by thin corrugated tin sheets. In the backyard, on a bare patch of land, few large tractor tyres and a small car tyre lie in dusty oblivion.
Naapora is a large village consisting of more than four hundred households in Devsar constituency in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district. Sartaj Madni of ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA), Devsar, during last two regimes and currently out of power, was born and raised here in Naapora. The village is also maternal home of Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti; Sartaj Madni is her maternal uncle. Since the inception of the PDP, the party had two agents in the village. One of them was Mohammad Yousuf Bhat. His job was to mobilize, or should we say, persuade people to vote for the PDP.
“I was enticed by Mufti Muhammad Sayeed’s slogan, ‘Na grenade se, na goli se, baat banaigee boli se!’ (Neither with grenades, nor with bullets; we will solve Kashmir issue through dialogues!),” says Mohammad Yousuf Bhat.
On the fateful day of 5th September, 2016, Mohammad Yousuf Bhat’s son, Rasiq Ahmad Bhat, was in a freedom rally, organised in the nearby village, Zungalpora. Rasiq was shot by Jammu and Kashmir police forces on his temporal bone below his left eye.
A few days back, there had been a similar freedom rally in Naapora. According to the villagers, Rasiq had played a key role in organizing the rally. “Rasiq was singled out from the rally in Naapora and was specifically targeted for organizing it,” alleges a bearded fellow, who identifies himself as Rasiq’s friend.
Mohammad Yousuf Bhat seems to have a knack for using hyperboles. According to him, nearly sixty-thousand people attended the rally in the village. “The emotions were running high, the government officials were targeted in every nook and cranny of Kashmir valley and their houses were not spared either. During the rally at Naapora, we made special efforts to protect Sartaj Madni’s house. Scores of youth were placed outside the house to protect it from the wrath of people. No stones were pelted at the police officials guarding the house and its inmates,” says a neighbour of Mohammad Yousuf Bhat.
When he heard the news of his son getting critically injured, Mohammad Yousuf Bhat rushed to the district hospital in Anantnag.
“Rasiq’s face had swollen beyond recognition and he was shifted to Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Srinagar. The CT Scan had shown a bullet stuck in his head,” says Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, who sells clothes at a kiosk. This he does when Kashmir is not shut because of the atrocities committed by the Indian State in the valley and when illusory peace and normalcy is maintained through more than half a million troops.
Rasiq was put on a ventilator in SKIMS. “When Rasiq had been in the hospital for three days, Sajad Mufti, brother of Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, paid us a visit. He offered me fifteen lakh (1.5 million) rupees and a job for my two other children in a bank for speaking against Hurriyat and stone-pelting,” claims Rasiq’s father.
A few days ago, Mehbooba Mufti had put the whole of Kashmir on fire by justifying the killing of agitating civilians at DH Pora, Kulgam.
“I told Sajad Mufti to tell his sister to mend her ways, tell her you have destroyed Kashmir,” says Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, proudly.
According to Rasiq’s father, a few days later Sartaj Madni also came to SKIMS and offered him thirty lakh (3 million) rupees and he once again rejected the offer.
“I worked for the PDP for nineteen long years and what did I get in return,” asks an emotionally charged Mohammad Yousuf Bhat. “The lady, who once used to visit the houses of slain militants and called them brothers, has now blood of common people on her hands,” he charges the Chief Minister of the state.
On 15th September, Rasiq Ahmad Bhat, 22, who was a tractor driver by profession, succumbed to the single wound inflicted upon him by the bullet he was shot with on 5th September. Rasiq had prospered as a driver and had built his family a single-storey house and bought himself a new car a few months ago. But now he lies beneath a mound of earth, the bullet still stuck deep in his head.
“If a long time ago PDP said no to bullets, then why the chests of our youth are laden with pellets, why bullets are found in their heads,” asks Mohammad Yousuf Bhat. “For nineteen years, I was a slave of PDP but now I feel free. Unfortunately, it took my son’s life to set me free. But I am free at last.” He said as if he was translating the famous speech of Martin Luther King into Kashmiri.
On the main road outside Mohammad Yousuf Bhat’s house, a young boy buys a pack of cigarettes from a shop. He is joined by a few more young men and they settle down to talk. At the end of the road, half a dozen men come out of a mosque after saying their prayers. People of the village, it seems, have returned to their lives and have excised Rasiq from their collective memories. All that is left is his grave and a black flag on the main road with bold grey letters saying, “THERE IS NO JUSTIFICATION FOR INNOCENT KILLINGS. WE WANT FREEDOM FROM INDIAN OCCUPATION.”
Irfan Mir is an aspiring short story writer from Kashmir’s Anantnag (Islamabad) district.
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