In 2010 teenager Wamiq Farooq’s killing was mourned across Kashmir. His family vowed to bring killers to justice. But the fight for justice against the system that works on its own pace is testing their patience, Saima Bhat reports.
One has to walk through Kashmir’s largest cemetery in Rainawari to reach Wamiq Farooq’s house in old city Srinagar. The road that leads to his house is guarded by a large black banner hung on electric poles with ‘Shaheed Wamiq Farooq Road’ written on it in bold white letters.
Wamiq’s family lives in a small single story house which they share with his uncle’s family and has just two rooms and two kitchens.
Despite earning a modest living out of a roadside kiosk selling school bags Wamiq’s father, Farooq Ahmad has managed to fight for justice since 2010.
From lodging an FIR to recent non-bailable warrants against two policemen by the Saddar Court, it took Wamiq’s father around 465 days to move documents from one place to another. The case kept moving from High court to Chief Judicial Magistrate, the Lower court, Supreme Court and then back to the lower court. “I know the justice delivery system is painfully slow here. It took me more than 60 days to get an FIR registered after Wamiq’s killing,” says Farooq. It was only after court’s direction that an FIR was registered by the local police station.
On 31st January 2010 thirteen-year-old Wamiq Farooq, a 7th standard student was killed, on the spot, when a tear gas shell hit him on his head. Wamiq was on his way home after playing carom in a nearby locality, Rajouri Kadal. Police logs reveal that it was normal that day in Rajouri Kadal area. “There were no protests in our locality. They fired on him just for fun,” says Wamiq’s father.
After police refused to file an FIR on its own, advocate G N Shaheen, lodged a complaint in court for filling of FIR. After Shaheen’s arrest, the case got shifted to Advocate Ajaz Ahmad Dhar. “It is really difficult to pursue a case in Kashmir. It can take decades to get justice. But in my case, I have some satisfaction that at least warrants were issued against two main culprits,” says Wamiq’s father. “But in last three years I have learned that every happiness is short-lived,” he quickly adds.
Farooq was right, his happiness was short lived as a few days later a private prosecutor, Mushtaq Ahmad Dar filed a writ petition on behalf of ASI Abdul Khaliq Sofi and SPO Mohammad Akram, two key accused in Wamiq’s case. Dar managed to stay their arrest warrants.
Dar says he was blamed by a number of people including his colleagues for siding with the ‘killers’. “It is just another case for me. People are blaming me just because of professional rivalry,” feels Dar.
“If I would not have taken their case it would have been shifted again to Supreme Court or any other court outside Kashmir. And everybody knows what happens with such cases then. Famous sex scandal case is an example,” says Dar.
But the stay order has not diminished Wamiq’s families hope. “We will fight for justice till culprits are punished,” says Farooq.
Wamiq’s mother, Firdosa looks older than her actual age, 32. in 2010, Firdosa became the courageous mother when she confronted the present chief minister, Omar Abdullah.
After Wamiq’s death, Omar announced for the compensation (but not a probe), Firdosa openly challenged him by asking, “Give me your sons and I will give you compensation.”
Firdosa says, “That was the abrupt reaction of a mother whose innocent kid was killed. Maybe an emotional outburst to show Omar how it feels when your kid gets killed. We are poor and can’t do anything to the government but today I want to question Omar that how does it feel now when he has lost his sons?” says Firdoosa. “Omar got separated with his sons only because of the curse of those mothers whose children were killed during his tenure,” feels Firdousa.
With tears in her eyes, Firdousa recalls the time when Wamiq would come home excited with trophies, medals and certificates won in different competitions in his school. Then suddenly her expressions change and she says, “By killing my son, they (government) deprived Kashmir a talented kid. Who knows Wamiq might have become a scientist, doctor, engineer or an administrator. He was such a bright kid.”
Firdosa blames both the accused for killing her son in cold blood. “How could they fire at a 13-year-old kid? Don’t they realize that his mother might have been waiting for him?”
Firdosa’s relatives live in the same area where Wamiq was killed. “I haven’t visited Rajouri Kadal since that day. I just hate that place.”
Firdosa says everything changed after Wamiq’s death. Her elder son, Zahid Farooq, 20, left his studies after passing his 12th standard exams in 2010. Her second son Danish Farooq, 19, is in the first year of his graduation. The youngest member of Firdosa’s family, her six-year-old son Azam started going to school same year Wamiq was killed.
Firdosa says her youngest son Azam looks exactly like his deceased brother Wamiq. “He is emotionally very weak. Whenever we talk about his brother Wamiq, he falls ill. We don’t talk much in front of him about what happened in 2010.”
Firdosa says it is Azam and his innocent activities that keep the family occupied. “He plays with Wamiq’s toys and keeps his books in order,” says Firdosa.
After Wamiq’s death, Firdosa and her husband decided to send Azam to the same school where his brother was studying.
Wamiq was a bright student who stood first in his class. “The day his annual result was declared was a day of celebrations for the family. We used to celebrate his success like Eid,” says Firdosa. “But after he is gone we don’t even celebrate Eids now.”
Being a meritorious student and a sports-loving kid, Wamiq was admired by his teachers and principal.
Firdosa recalls that Wamiq’s principal came back from Delhi when he heard of his death, leaving behind his wife, who was undergoing surgery in Delhi.
When asked about his reaction to 2010 killings Firdosa says, “It was a planned operation to kill kids. They (government) killed 130 kids which is not a joke.”
Three years have passed since Wamiq left home on that fateful day but Firdosa is still waiting for him to return. Firdosa did not see his face after Wamiq’s dead body was brought home. “It would have killed me instantly.”
In the last three years, Firdousa visited her son’s grave in Eid Gah just once. “I cannot forget that day. When I reached near his grave it felt like as if Wamiq stood up and hugged me tightly,” recalls Firdosa and tears rolled down her eyes.
Despite clear instructions from then IG Kashmir, SSP and DC to Wamiq’s family to bury their son during the night in their ancestral graveyard, Firdosa’s decision was to bury his son in martyr’s graveyard. “They (police and administration) threatened us to bury my son without any fuss otherwise they won’t give us his body,” says Firdosa.
There were thousands of angry protesters outside her house waiting to take Wamiq’s body to martyr’s graveyard. “He was now entire Kashmir’s Wamiq. How could I have refused to thousands of people,” says Firdousa.
The tragedy has bought families of teenage victims Wamiq, Tufail and Zahid together.
The family of Wamiq is hopeful that one case might have a positive impact on other cases or at least they get a clean chit for their own son that he was not involved in any stone pelting incident on that day.
But Wamiq’s case is different from the rest of the cases as witnesses in his case did not turn hostile. “Even when police used to harass and frighten our witnesses they never changed their statements. Actually, we got an order from the court when we heard that police is trying to pressurize people to depose against Wamiq. We acted smartly, we got another order from the court that the statement should be recorded using audio and video facilities, that way there were least chances of tampering,” says Farooq.
He adds, during the SIT (Special Investigative Team) inquiry was ordered, “Rainawari and Nowhatta police station officials were arresting stone-pelters and asked them to say that Wamiq was with them and there was stone pelting going on in the area. Even a mother of one youth was kept in the police station for a day to report against us but they refused.” Later when Farooq came to know about the incident, he says, that he directly went to the court, from where the Judge passed orders to both police stations.
While sharing his experience in courts, Farooq says that it needs a lot of courage to fight a case in Kashmir. “They knew the killers of Wamiq from day one but still they stretched the case for more than three years now. If they had identified the killers then rest of the 130 youth’s would not have been killed.”
Firdosa wants that the killers of Wamiq should not get death sentences but she says, “I want them to die each second.” By not booking the culprits and by not ordering any probe in the cases, Firdosa says that state proved that they are on the culprit’s side.
From the CJM court to the session court, the Wamiq’s case has gone to Supreme Court as well. “We have two hearings in Supreme court. On the first day when our advocate Ajaz Ahmad Dhar was looking for the official documents in the court in Delhi, I was not allowed to meet the Judge. I just put all trophies and photographs of Wamiq on a bench in the garden and sought the attention of all passersby.” Farooq said people whom he had never met or known were weeping after learning about his tragedy.
Farooq also alleges that police is dragging the case to save their men. “Once SSP Srinagar called me to his office and offered me compensation and a job in the police if I withdraw the case, but I refused. I told him, you people have killed my son and now you are telling me to wear the same uniform.”
All the papers regarding Wamiq’s case are intact in different files maintained by his illiterate father. The money he had saved for Wamiq’s future was used to fight the case after his death. “I even sold his mother’s jewellery to fight for justice.”
Wamiq’s younger brother Azan prays every day for justice. “He prays to Allah to bring his brothers killers to justice. We all hope the same,” says Firdosa.