Chased to death


Faizan Buhroo’s death by drowning, allegedly in a commotion caused by police chase is not the only one of its kind. There are three instances in 2010 alone. Haroon Mirani recounts.

On July 18 Faizan Buhroo, 13, was returning home at Jalal Sahib from his school at main Chowk Baramulla. The school had opened for a day after a long time as separatists announced a half day break in shutdown. When he reached the Azad Gunj bridge, a police (SOG) party alighted from their truck and started dashing towards people standing there.
They were reportedly trying to break some protests that had erupted there. They cordoned the bridge from both the sides.

Police charge (with gun butts and batons) created a commotion making people scurry for cover. Faizan was also caught in the melee.

Finding nowhere to go he jumped into the river, as did another boy. Some residents alleged that Faizan was thrashed by police before being thrown into the river.

He was not a swimmer, and so he drowned in the Jhelum.

Before drowning he reportedly cried for help and also waved his hands helplessly, but the heavy presence of police and CRPF deterred anybody to come to his help.

Faizan’s death, tragic as it is, is however, not the first of its kind.  He is the fourth such victim in the past 13 months to have been allegedly chased to death in a river.

Last year CRPF troopers allegedly chased Khalid Ahmad Mir, 9, in Sopore in similar circumstances to death. On June 30, 2009, entire north Kashmir was on boil after the killing of four youths by police in Baramulla. Khalid along with three other boys were walking on the old Chankhan Bridge. Enraged CRPF troopers who were battling to control the protests allegedly cordoned both sides of the bridge trapping the four boys in the middle. “As they charged towards the panic stricken boys, they jumped in the river to escape,” said an eyewitness to the incident. “Three of them swam across to safety while Khalid, a 4th standard student, who didn’t know how to swim, drowned.”

His death triggered massive protests in the town with clashes spreading to number of localities including Batapora, Arampora, Chankhan, Shalapora, Chinkipora, Khushaal Matoo and even as far away as Patukha on the Srinagar-Baramulla highway. Khalid’s body was fished out on July 3, 2009 at Sheeri in Baramulla. More protests were held with people demanding action against the accused troopers.

But police dismissed the allegations and refused to register a case in this regard. After retrieving the body of Khalid, the police statement of July 4, 2009 read “Body of Khalid Ahmad Mir age 9 years son of Mehraj-u-din resident of Baghati Sopore was recovered from river Jehlum near Sheeri. The said boy was missing since 30-06-09.”

In such cases, despite strong reasons to suggest police involvement, it tends to exonerate its personnel by describing the death as an accident.

Same happened in Faizan’s case. The police first came out with a statement that Faizan drowned while bathing. The senior superintendent of police for Baramulla, S Mahmood, was quoted by local news agency KNS as saying, “the allegations of the locals were baseless, and that the boy had drowned while bathing in the river.”

But when the body of Faizan was retrieved it was fully dressed ruling out any chance of swimming. “He was fully clothed and he had injury mark on his head, suggesting he was hit at, before thrown into river,” said Faizan’s relatives.

On April 13 this year, Zubair Ahmad Bhat, 17, was drowned allegedly by a CRPF party who were chasing a group of protestors. According to accounts of residents, Zubair and his friends were resting on the banks of Jhelum at Jamia Qadeem, when a CRPF party caught them and used batons and stones to force them to jump in Jhelum. Zubair, a class 11 student, unable to swim was drowned. Boatmen trying to save him were met with barrage of teargas. With no order for inquiry, police termed it as an accident. For Zubair’s family it was a double tragedy as his elder brother, Ehsan-ul-Haq had been killed allegedly by troopers in 2006.

Earlier this month Srinagar also recorded one such death. Though police is denying again, but locals allege that Gangbug resident Muzaffar Ahmad, 17, was either chased to death, or dumped half dead into a stream. It all started on the evening of July 5, when junior minister for tourism Nasir Aslam Wani was visiting Batmalloo area. Some people came out on the roads to protest his visit. Police retaliated allegedly with brute force. Witnesses said that police chased Muzaffar to death in the Gangbug stream. Autopsy revealed that Muzaffar was first hit by a blunt object on his head before falling into the stream. His body was later fished out on July 6.

These deaths have not ended there. In some cases, more killings followed as police fired on protests triggered by the deaths. The funeral of Muzaffar and subsequent protest caused the killing of three people including a woman standing inside her home. In Faizan’s case one youth Fayaz Ahmad Khanday, 25, a newly married, was killed when police fired on the funeral procession.

About Author

A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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