One of the bloodiest polling days in Kashmir’s recent history left 8 dead and over two hundred injured. Zubair Sofi manages to travel through the still seething Budgam to report the tragedies
Funeral of Omar Farooq, Barsoo Ganderbal (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)
On the morning of April 9, 2017, Faizan Fayaz Dar, 14, a Class 7 student at local Darul-ul-Uloom, came home and asked his mother to serve breakfast quickly. He wanted to join his friends for a game of cricket at a nearby playground.
A few meters away from him home, a huge contingent of CRPF and police was stationed for polling duty in Government High School, Dalwan village in Budgam.
No one was aware about the pooling booth as it was pitched in the middle of the night.
Faizan Fayaz Dar
“Faizan left in hurry as his friends were waiting for him in the play ground located next to the polling booth,” says Faizan’s father Fayaz Ahmad Dar, 30, who works as a labourer.
Located at the top of the Karewa Dawlan village overlooked the polling station below. “Villagers could easily see what was happening inside the school premises,” said Dar.
When locals saw CRPF personnels inside the school premises they marched towards the polling booth and asked them to leave. “It was done without any provocation from either side,” recalls Dar.
Locals said the forces asked for fifteen minutes time to wind up their voting machines and leave. “They went inside,” said Adil, a local boy who was playing cricket with Faizan.
After fifteen minutes people saw a large convoy of armed vehicles moving towards the polling station.
“I saw a policeman aiming his gun towards the school,” said Faizan’s friend Rahil. “He fired without any reason. Then he took aim and shot Faizan in the head.”
To save himself Rahil leaned on the ground. “They were firing like madmen. Another fire hit a boy standing next to us,” recalls Rahil. “Fazian was hit in the head. I could see blood coming out of his mouth as well.”
A woman, who was witnessing the scene from a distance, rushed in and wrapped her scarf around Faizan’s head.
As the news of CRPF firing at unarmed boys reached other parts of village, people came out and started pelting stones.
“One of Faizan’s friends came running and said Faizanas Ayei Kalas gouil (Fazian is hit by a bullet in his head),” recalls Dar. “Someone was holding my son in his lap. I checked him and he was dead.”
However huge presence of people around Faizan’s lifeless body forced Dar to take him to the hospital in nearby Pakharpora village. “Emotions were running high that time so I let them take him to the hospital,” said Dar.
Around 1:30 pm thousands of people rushed out to participate in Fazian’s funeral. “He was eldest among three siblings,” said Dar.
But Faizan was not the only one who had received bullet in Dalwan village. “It was difficult to recognize to recognize him but I still remember how badly his head was bleeding,” recalls Adil.
The boy was later identified as Mohmmad Abbas Rahter.
“He left home for a walk. Every day he would pick and drop me from my duty,” said Abbas’ father Fatehi Mohammad Rahter, who works in the police department. “I was waiting for him to drop at my office.”
When Abbas didn’t return, his father called on his phone.
“The call was received by some unknown person. I could hear lots of noise in the background as well,” said Abbas’ father. “He informed me that my son was shot in the head.”
Abbas’ father quickly rushed to the school where his son was lying in a pool of blood. Quickly he was rushed to the sub district hospital Chadoora. “They referred him to Srinagar hospital,” said Abbas’ father.
As ambulance carrying Abbas reached SMHS hospital in Srinagar, hundreds of people assembled around it and began shouting pro-freedom slogans. “They declared him brought dead and handed over his blood drenched body,” said his father. Abbas was Class 10 student.
Abbas’ body was carried through narrow streets and taken for burial. On the way people showered flowers and candies on his funeral.
Shabir Ahmad Bhat
Shabir Ahmad Bhat, 20, a resident of Dawlatpora village in Chadoora, Budgam, called his father and asked him if it is safe to come home after he heard reports of clashes.
“I told him there were some minor clashes but it is safe now,” recalls Shabir’s father Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, 51, a labourer. “However I advised him to take a safer route.”
All the forces left from the polling booth which was held Government High School Dawlatpora. of the same area was stuck in Duniwara after coming back from poultry farm.
At around noon, Shabir left his bike on the poultry farm, where he worked as a labourer, and came back home on foot. Once home he asked his mother to serve lunch.
After lunch he went for afternoon prayers in the local mosque. “I called him and told him to meet me at our usual spot where we sit down and kill time,” says Shabir’s friend Javeed Ahmad Teli.
They sat down and began chatting about elections and situation in Kashmir. “We were joined by a few other friends,” said Teli. “A few minutes later we heard a few gunshots.”
The forces from the adjacent areas were coming back from polling booth to reach Chadoora from Dawlatpora.
“There was a huge convoy of forces vehicles. They were firing without any reason,” says Nisar Ahmad Bhat, Shabir’s cousin.
When the convoy reached Dawlatpora chowk, they fired towards a lane where Shabir and his friends were sitting.
“While we moved slowly and crossed the road, Shabir got stuck. He tried to run but then suddenly held his left hand on his chest and said Meai Ayyi Shayed Goil (I am hit probably),” recalls Teli.
Slowly Shabir fell down on his face, and blood started coming from his mouth, eyes and nose.
Nisar was on the other side of the road witnessing the entire scene but was helpless to do anything.
“There were four policemen escorting the army convoy and I saw one of them target Shabir,” Nisra recalls. “I saw him fire at Shabir.”
For first five minutes policemen didn’t let anybody near Shabir as he bled on the road. “We picked him only after they left,” recalls Nisar. “He was not moving at all. He breathed his last in my lap.”
However Shabir was taken to district hospital Chadoora where he was declared brought dead.
Shabir was buried in the evening. After the burial his father hosted a green flag on his grave which read: Shaheed tumse ye keh rahe hai, lahoo humara bula na dena (Martyrs are asking you, don’t forget our blood).
Shabir was the main earner of the family and elder among the four siblings – two sisters and one brother.
“I am proud father of a martyr. I feel lucky that my son didn’t die due to disease. He died fighting in the battle,” said Shabir’s father. “We shouldn’t wail, we must feel lucky, we have to be ready for such sacrifices if we really want freedom.”
Around 10 kilometers away in Sogam village, Amir Ahmad Reshi, 17, was spraying pesticides in an apple orchard with his maternal uncle, when clashes erupted in the area.
The reason for clashes was refusal of election staff and CRPF to vacate Government High School, Sogam.
“We told them no one will vote here. It is useless to stay,” said Amir’s friend Bilal. “They agreed and left after handed over the keys. They left peacefully. Even they thanked us for our support.”
Everything was calm when suddenly a few police vehicles reached the village. “As we were sitting at shop fronts and chatting we didn’t run,” Bilal recalls.
However to everybody’s surprise policemen started firing towards the people. “There was panic everywhere,” recalls Bilal. “I saw a policemen point his gun towards people and fire.”
Amir too started to run for cover when the policeman took aim and shot him in the head.
“A part of his brain fell on the ground. We rushed him to the sub district hospital Chadoora, where doctors declared brought dead,” said Bilal.
Amir was living in Sogam at his maternal home; his real home was at Dadwumpur an area of district Budgam. Amir was the second among his three siblings. “Amir was an outstanding student and wanted to become a doctor,” said Bilal.
On the north side of Budgam a polling booth in Ratsun area of Beerwah, became target of people’s ire. When then officials were asked to leave they sought ten minutes.
“Instead, they called additional forces and surrounded people from all sides,” said Sameer Mir. “This led to clashes.”
NIsar Ahmad Mir
Nisar Ahmad Mir, 25, hid himself behind a brick structure thinking he would be safe there.
“As he peeped out to see if the forces have left, a policeman directly shot him in the head,” recalls Sameer, a friend and an eyewitness. As he fell down other boys tried to save him. “But nobody was allowed to come closer.”
Somehow when people managed to take out Nisar, he was rushed to the sub district hospital Beerwah. He was declared brought dead there. His funeral was attended by thousands as he was laid to rest at the martyr’s graveyard.
Akeel Ahmad Wani
Four kms away in Ratsun village, an area Churumujru Beerwah, a handful of boys hurled stones at the polling booth.
A CRPF personnel, who was hiding behind the brickwork pointed his gun at Akeel Ahmad Wani, 19, and shot him thrice. The last shot hit Akeel in the face and bullet came out of his head. A video of the killing has gone viral on the internet.
“When we learned about Akeel, he was already taken to the primary health centre Gondipora, from where he was referred to sub district hospital Beerwah,” recalls Akeel’s uncle Gulzar.
He was declared brought dead by the doctors. “We reached there ten minutes after he was declared dead,” says Gulzar.
The car in which Akeel’s mother and sister were following his body was shot with pellets by the CRPF men near Sonpah village. Thousands of people from nearby villages came to attend Akeel’s funeral. Akeel was youngest among his four siblings.
Adil Farooq Sheikh
Adil Farooq Sheikh, 19, a resident of Kawoosa Kailsh area of Narbal in Budgam, was preparing for Common Entrance Test after finishing his Class 12 exams. His results are yet to be declared.
His father Farooq Ahmad Sheikh was not worried as clashes were going far from his home, so he thought his son is safe.
While chasing a few protestors forces ran through Adil’s house.
“Adil didn’t move when he saw CRPF men chasing youngsters,” said Farooq Ahmad Sheikh, his father. “Someone from the group suddenly aimed his gun at Adil and fired a few shots.”
It was a pellet shot that had hit Adil in his face and chest.
He was rushed to the JVC hospital, where he was declared brought dead. Adil was second son among his three siblings.
After polling staff began to leave at the end of the day some boys came out and started pelting stones at them in Baroosa village of Ganderbal. In retaliation CRPF men used teargas shells and live ammunition.
After hearing gunshots Amir Farooq Ganie, 22, a driver, quickly went outside to check the situation.
“As soon as he reached to the site of clashes, he saw people running to save themselves from bullets,” an eye witness said. “One bullet hit Omar in the chest.”
After forces left along with the polling staff people quickly took Omar to SKIMS Soura. He was declared brought dead by the doctors. Omar’s family alleged that hospital authorities didn’t handover his body immediately. His parents and two sisters had to wait till dawn to get his body home. A sole bread earner for his family Omar had brought a commercial vehicle a few months back.
On April 8, a minibus was hired to ferry government forces from civil secretariat Srinagar to Chanapora for poll duty.
Ali Muhammad Dagga
The driver Ali Mohammad Daga, 55, was accompanied by the bus owner Ghulam Mohammad Wagay.
He took Batamaloo route to reach Chanapora. There was stone pelting at Batamaloo. Daga had a narrow escape.
Daga took Bemina by-pass route to reach Chanapora, after reaching Tengpora. There were stone pelting too. One of the stones landed on Daga’s front shield and another hit his head.
He lost control over the vehicle and hit the divider.
“Daga and Wagay were taken to the nearest city hospital where Daga was declared brought dead. The dead body was taken to the police control room for autopsy and later handed over to the family,” SHO Batamalo Parvaiz Ahmad said.
Daga is survived by his wife Rafiqa, one daughter Haneefa, and only son Mohammad Yousuf Daga.