Slapped with what Amnesty International termed a ‘draconian’ law, two boys of Srinagar city talk to SYED ASMA about the pain and humiliation they suffered allegedly at the hands of security forces which forced them to become stonepelters!
Harris, 20, a shy boy, is reluctant to talk. He is one of the 5000 persons who have been accused of stone pelting, slapped with Public Safety Act and detained under different charges by J&K police. Some of the accused are still under detention while others, like Harris, are out on bail.
“I won’t talk to you. I think it will land me into serious trouble,” Harris says, keeping his head down. He says he is under the continuous radar of the police and does not consider it safe to talk to the media. Finally, after a few meetings, he agreed to talk on a condition that his name should not be disclosed.
“If the police in any way came to know that I talked to media, they will not spare me. I am just a call away from these policemen and they can slap me with any charges they want,” he says with a worried look on his face.
Harris is presently attending court trials and he has maintained a separate calendar for remembering the date of his court hearings. His case will come up for hearing next month in a court in Srinagar. “The next hearing is in 2013 and the next in 2014,” he says after reading a small diary from his pocket.
Harris has been asked to remain available to the court and police and he has not been allowed to move out of Kashmir, not even to Jammu. “This has made my life a pain and the restrictions of movement are disturbing,” he says, adding, “I am used to any kind of humiliation now. I get frequent calls from police. Raids are carried out at my shop and home. It has become a routine for me. If any chaotic activity happens anywhere across Kashmir, I am an easy target. I get a call from the nearest police station who asked me be present myself there,” he says.
Harris lives in one of the most vulnerable places of Srinagar where incidents of stone pelting happen frequently because of which, he says, he has become a stone-pelter. “When I was in school, the J&K police, for no fault of mine, unnecessarily used to irritate me, call me to the police station and question me if any chaotic activity used to happen anywhere in Kashmir, just because I happen to live in this area,” says Harris.
“Over the years, I think this constant harassment has built up hatred within me against them [J&K police].”
Like most boys of his age, Harris looks stylish, wears trendy jeans and a pointed, shining black shoes. From the last seven years, he has been working as a designer in an automobile advertisement agency. Though Harris didn’t continue his studies after Class 8 but Abdul Majeed, his employer, says he is the most efficient boy he has ever worked with. That is the reason he has survived in the agency for so long, says Majeed.
Harris says the unrest in Kashmir prevented him from continuing his studies. His father, a salesman, was feeding a family of four; three sons and his wife. Harris attributes his family’s financial constraints to the continuous cycle of shutdowns over the years. “My father could only earn from that shop. These crackdowns, curfews and hartals meant cuts in his salary which made our lives harder. So it was impossible for him to continue our studies.”
Harris says his father’s ailing health and financial constraints compelled all the three siblings to do menial jobs. When the financial conditions started to improve, the 2008 unrest took place and Adil, their elder son, lost his life to a tear gas shell. “He was shot in his chest by the police. He wasn’t into anything unlawful. He was at his shop,” Harris says.
Adil was working in a shop as a salesman near his house. At the time of his death, eyewitnesses say, seeing the mob gathering, he was preparing to close his shop.
Adil’s death was a turning point in Harris’s life. That was the first day Harris pelted a stone. “When I heard Adil was fired upon, along with my other brother and neighbours, I approached the police station to recover his body. But the police indiscriminately fired upon us,” says Harris.
“This made me crazy. I lost my temper. I wanted to see the face of my dead brother but I wasn’t allowed. I started throwing everything I could lay my hands on. I even stood up on a police gypsy and destroyed it to the extent I could,” says Harris. —