Lonely battle

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A family that lost its only child last June is fighting to bring the killers to justice even after alleged threats and attempts to bribe them. Hussain Danish reports

Ashraf is sitting in the guest room of his house at Saidakadal, Srinagar. On the wall is a framed photograph of his only child. A collage of small passport size photographs. He wishes he had other photographs of his son, Tufail, who was killed on June 11 last year. Since then he has been fighting to get the killers punished.

“Tufail used to click pictures of all of us, but whenever we wanted to click his pictures he would hide his face… We had no photographs of him in the house after his death,” says Ashraf.

He had returned from the court from the 33rd hearing of the case. The hearing was postponed as the defense did not show up.

Ashraf and his wife doted on their only child. “Whenever I talk of him I feel as if he is just around…,” he says, “he was my only child.”

Even after a year Ashraf is unable to get over the death of his child. “Ever since he died, I am using his undershirts,” he says. “He was a lovely child. I found him special in every way.”

Tufail was born after three children earlier had died in infancy. From medical help to visiting seers, he and his wife, tried everything before Tufail was born. At Seventeen and a half yesrs he was killed when a teargas hit him in the head and broke his skull.

Tufail used to live at his maternal grandparents’ house at Nawakadal. And he would visit home only once or twice a week. June 11, 2010 was one of those days, says Ashraf.

On the Friday morning, he came home and stayed until noon. He had bought his father’s  pictures, which he had clicked earlier.

Tuafil went to play cricket before leaving for Friday prayers in the nearby Masjid. After prayers he had lunch and left for tuitions at the Apex Coaching Centre at Soura.

Usually, his family says, he used to reach Nawakadal by seven in the evening. But this was not just another day.

One of his teacher’s, family says, was absent so he left the coaching centre early, boarding a bus home. With a five rupee coin, the conductor had returned him as change, in his right hand he was apparently walking towards home.

=“Electricity went off so I and my two daughters went outside for some fresh air. We were sitting in the stadium at that time,” says a woman eyewitness, who has deposed before the court also.

“Three boys came running towards the stadium. Two of them entered it through the gate and ran away from the other side, but the third one (Tufail) was left behind. A ‘gypsy’ came and ‘three armed policemen’ came out of it.

“Tufail was in the stadium and looking at him they shouted ‘maeryoen ye kalmaaz woel; maeryoen ye pache woel (kill him, kill him)’. With this, one of them picked up the gun and shot at him.  Tufail fell…

“I caught hold of my daughters and we took cover. As we watched, the policemen turned him around asking him ‘modoekh na waeni (Did you not die as yet?)’ They (police) left and I raised a loud cry that someone has been killed.

“When my daughter turned him around,” she remembers “he was having five rupees in right hand and in the left was grass clutched from the ground.
“Looking at my daughter he just spoke one word- ‘Didi’. And he died”

The news of Tufail’s death reached his home late in the evening through CID personnel.

“I was cleaning the lawn for the whole day,” Ashraf recollects. “So I slept for some time.  While I was asleep my elder brother came. He had been informed by a shopkeeper—who in turn was informed by CID – about Tufail’s killing. He did not tell us about the death but he just mentioned that Tufail was injured”
Almost at the same time Tufail’s uncle, Muzzafar Ahmad, who was waiting for him at Eidgah received a call from home informing him about Tufail’s injury.

Muzzafar and his elder brother, Shabir, went on a bike to SMHS where they searched for Tufail in the wards. But there was no sight of him.
“We asked a doctor and he said no injury case was reported at the hospital,” says Muzzafar. “He said there was one death case and the body has been kept at Police control room”

Late in the evening, the duo reached PCR to find Tufail dead. The body was kept at PCR for the night. “We received a lot of phone calls from officials. They asked us to take the body, but we refused,” Muzzafar says, “they wanted us to bury him during the night”
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The next morning autopsy of the body was performed at PCR and it confirmed that Tufail was killed by a teargas shell which damaged his brain and skull.
“It was not without problems,” recalls Muzzafar. “Police had brought a team of doctors whom they could force to forge the reports. But we had taken along a senior doctor. His presence forced the police to get a fair autopsy.”

The body was handed over to the family and it was buried at Martyr’s Graveyard Eidgah. The brains that had sputtered when Tufail was injured had been buried at the graveyard near the Gani Memorial stadium.

Ever since, a memorial in the form of tap has come up inside the stadium. Inscribed on it is the complete story of Tufail’s killing. On its right side is the graveyard having Tufail’s brain buried in it. And in front is the vast play ground.

The Tahfuz-e-hakook-e-Insani, committee formed at Saida Kadal after Tufail’s death, has decided to rename Saida Kadal Chowk as Shaheed Tufail Matoo Chowk.
And the organization is calling for a probe by an international body.

But for the family it has been a tough struggle that began with the fight to get an FIR registered which, the family says, police was refusing initially.
A week after the killing, the family approached Chief Judicial Magistrate, Muhammad Ibrahim Wani with an application seeking registration of an FIR into the teenager’s killing. Subsequently, the CJM in his orders directed SSP Srinagar to pass orders for getting the killing investigated by Police Station Nowhatta and submit the report within 10 days. The CJM directed police to register an FIR against the guilty cops under section 302.

The police, however, is yet to make any significant headway in the case and court has taken note of it in its directions passed in the previous hearing.
Directing the in-charge Special Investigating Team (SIT) “to carry out the investigations strictly in accordance with law immediately without further wastage of time,” the court observed that “little desired has been done towards finding out the culprits who caused deadly head injury to the deceased Tufail Ahmad Matoo.”

“….It was first and foremost duty of the investigating team to check the records of police stations and police posts in vicinity immediately and also to verify physically the stock positions as per the record, which has also not been done,” reads the court direction. “The injured policeman could have given vital clues with regard to his companions at that particular moment but he has not been examined so far.

“…the local inhabitants should have also been associated and questioned to ensure fairness and transparency. However, far from concentrating upon the vital aspects, the investigation conducted so far is devoid of any substance. Two witnesses got recorded …and one of them is a lady who could identify accused if paraded before her. Even then the identification parade has been delayed for more than six months on flimsy grounds and it has been done in a farcical manner…” it reads.

The court acknowledging the apprehensions expressed by the slain’s father said, : “In these circumstances the apprehensions expressed by the father of deceased that the investigation is going on not to bring to justice the culprit(s) but to shelter him/ them because of being their own men are not wholly misplaced.”

The police, however, maintains that the killing took place under mysterious circumstances. In a report tabled in response to the Public Interest Litigation filed by Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front in 114 killings of last year, police has said: “…an unruly mob attacked police party at Nalah Maar road, endangering life and personal safety of the police personnel deterring them from discharging their duties. The nafri (personnel) on spot resorted to cane charging.

During this incident it was learnt that an unidentified boy got injured in the incident who has been shifted to hospital where he succumbed to injuries. During the course of investigation of the case, it came to fore that the deceased sustained injuries at Gani memorial Stadium Nowhatta on 11-06-2010. Accordingly a docket was sent by police station M R Gunj to police station Nowhatta where case FIR No 45/2010 U/s 302 RPC has been registered on 15-07-2010 and the investigation taken up, which is under progress.”

A senior police official who is part of the investigating team says the finding in the case are contradictory, leading to delay in the investigation.
“The problem is that witness says that policeman fired the shell but she failed to identify the person in the parade. The person she identified is the tailor in the department. Moreover, the investigations so far have revealed that the no policeman in the area was carrying tear gas gun that day,” he says and points out the “contradictions in the autopsy report”.

The official said that the investigation was not even five per cent complete “for the culprit is yet to be identified.”

The family’s fight for justice though has not been without hostile repercussions. Recently when the family and civil society members were observing the first death anniversary of the victim, they faced worse. Police forcibly drove them away from Gani memorial Stadium where they had gone to offer Fateha prayers.
The family alleges that they have been threatened and offered bribes as well.

“We are seriously thinking about migration,” says Ashraf. “We are peace loving people, yet we are being threatened for seeking justice. But he was my only son and they cannot offer me Rupees five lakh as his price. I will continue to fight till justice is done.”

About Author

A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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