Driven Over

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Last week, Kashmir witnessed another harrowing clip of a killing recorded by some citizen journalist. Saima Bhat visited the family to understand the boy who was run over by a police vehicle while carrying a stone in his hand

Parents of slain Adil Ahmad Yadoo in their ramshackle residence in Srinagar

Srinagar city has two Gasi Mohallas. Separated by Jhelum river, one falls in Chattabal belt and another in Safa Kadal area. They do not converge in their reflections in the river alone. They react to whatever is happening on the other bank.

May 05, 2018, was the first weekend of the month and the Srinagar city woke up to the sound of bullets. It was an exchange of fire, a rare encounter between the Special Operations Group (SOG) and the militants in Chattabal’s Gasi Mohalla. Three militants were killed in the encounter.

One of the slain militants was Fayaz Ahmad Hamal, a resident of Kahnqah-e-Mollah in Srinagar, who was with Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) since April 2017. Second militant was Showkat Ahmad Tak, a resident of Panzgam Pulwama, and one of the top Lashkar militants for the last seven years. The identity of the third militant however, is still not known.

These militant killings, in the first encounter after almost three months, triggered a reaction. Protests had started within hours after the gun-battle in the periphery.

In the other Gasi Mohalla that faces it, Adil Ahmad Yadoo, 20, was panicky. The encounter, he thought could lead to shutdown thus preventing him to reach his master karkhana in Baghwanpora Noor Bagh. Barely a five minute walk, he left quickly for the work.

Adil used to stitch schoolbags and crewel bags to support his parents and four siblings. He would get the material from his master and work at home in his own station. That day, he was in a rush because he thought if he could not get the material in time, he may have nothing to work on.

His work station was a small separated place in his one room wooden house build on the shoals of Jhelum. Without any walls, his space was demarcated with small torn cloth sheets and the side facing Jhelum by cut crewel sheets. His sewing machine and the wooden chair still gloom up with the switching on of the warm yellow bulb above the machine but only its master is missing. Some of the unstitched bags are put in heaps on one side.

Ghulam Ahmad Yadoo, 55, his father said Adil rushed out without even washing his face or the breakfast. “He was passionate about his work,” Ahmad said. “He has never participated in any protests. But still, he was killed.”

It was during the day that Yadoo was informed that his son was killed. One of his neighbors told him that as soon as Adil reached on the main road of Noor Bagh, he was killed. “I don’t know how and why. But since that time I don’t know what will happen to us. They took my world away.”

The family kitchen offers an idea about the socio-economic condition of the family.

Yadoo’s wife, Misra Bano was quite. Her sharp eyes have faded and developed dark circles around. She stares at every visitor coming to her house with questionable eyes but doesn’t utter a word. Her chapped lips have developed a white lace suggesting she has not spoken for a long time.

Yadoo has been a sort of an artist, who works on crewel mostly. Since his childhood, he has been working with his fingers. It has helped many people to get the best of it but it never changed Yadoo’s fortune.

Married for more than 25 years now, Yadoo and Misra Bano, started their living from a house boat in Safa Kadal, that they inherited from family. Soon the couple was blessed with five children, four sons and a six year old daughter. Two of their youngest sons are studying in class 6th and class 1st and the daughter is in kindergarten. All of them are studying in a nearby government schools.

Before 2014 September floods, Yadoo’s houseboat drowned exactly where it was tied for decades. “It was an old one. I never had money for its timely renovations,” Yadoo said.

With hardly any savings, Yadoo along with his family decided to build a wooden structure on the shoal of Jhelum. Inside their house , they demarcated three rooms with torn sheets, with one to be used as a kitchen, another as their bed room and the smallest third space where Adil used to work.

After 2014 floods, a few more of their relatives and neighbours decided to shift to the shoals. Now six more wooden structures stands erected at this place in Gasi Mohall with no defined road. They have to walk on the concrete block to reach their homes.

After becoming terrestrial, Yadoo realised he was not able to manage the expenses of his family of seven members, so the couple decided their eldest son Arif, now 21, should start working. Then, he was in the seventh standard. “We left him with a master of Kaani shawl weaver so that he would learn the art.”

But destiny had something else in their store. In 2016 Arif developed problems in his eyes and his doctors strictly advised him against continuing this work. “I have minus 4.5 in one eye and minus 5.5 in another,” Arif said. Watching his parents plan to get astray, it was Adil, his younger brother, who stood as a strong support who voluntarily said he will work. He said he will manage the family expenses and the costs of Arif’s eyes as well.

“He was a hard-working boy,” Yadoo said. “From sewing bags to some more private works, he managed to earn around Rs 15000 a month. I couldn’t afford his studies but after started earning he started his studies again.”

On that fateful day, May 5, Yadoo says his son was mowed down by a police vehicle at around 9.30 am but he received his body at around 6 hours later.

That day, shortly after the encounter ended, a video surfaced on social media showing how Adil was run over by a police vehicle. He was seen running after a police vehicle to pelt a stone, but then another vehicle run over him. He was then lifted by other protesters, but was declared brought dead at the hospital. Within no time police vehicles arrived at the hospital and took custody of Adil’s body, which resulted in more clashes in the area.

Initially, the state police had claimed the boy died in a road accident. It was only after this video on social networking sites that Kashmir’s police chief SP Pani said he will take the necessary action. The cop who was driving the vehicle was detained after a case was registered under Section 304 RPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder).

This is the sewing machine that Adil will work on, a job that his near blind brother may have to take up. 

“There stands no case registered against Adil in our police station,” Station House Officer (SHO), Safa Kadal, said. He denied providing any other information about the driver or the case. “He is in our jail. He has applied for a bail. Rest I cannot provide you with any details for security reason.”

As on date, the driver is on interim bail given by the Chief Judicial Magistrate Srinagar.

The Hurriyat (m) chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was the first to share the video showing the police vehicle crushing a protester. He sees it as a “murder”.

“How a murder was committed by the forces today and then brazenly denied! Is there no sense of humanity left in India?” Mirwaiz tweeted.

Adil lies buried in the main ‘Martyr’s’ Graveyard at Eidgah but his brother Arif is restless. “Now, Adil is not around. It means the family responsibilities are again over my shoulders,” Arif said. “I am thinking of joining my master again even if I lose my eyes.”

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