Mistaken Identity

Kashmir has witnessed many killings at the hands of security forces, later to be dubbed as deaths by mistaken identities. In one such incident, a 17 year old boy from a Budgam village was mistakenly killed in place of his namesake who was an active foreign militant. Umer Beigh reports the incident.

Raja Begum
Raja Begum

Visibly upset Raja Begum, 59, sat at one corner of the room inside her two storey house at Narwora village of central Kashmir’s Budgam district. Sucking in deep puffs from her Hokah (traditional smoking pot), she sat at the corner of a dull looking room with little light inside, few utensils roughly placed over the shelves and many things spread on the floor.

Ask her about her youngest son, Bilal Ahmad Dar, a teenager who was killed by army personnel during an encounter, seven years ago, Begum says, what has left to talk. “They (army) killed him. What you want to know—about his grave,” Raja questions?

“Su Khot Allah Talaas Sakh Pasand, Taway Gov Shaheed (He became martyr; as he was much liked by Allah), Begum says and takes another puff.

Begum tries to put a smile, but her face describes the agony and the trauma she has witnessed.

Bashir Ahmad Dar, 35-year-old elder brother of Bilal remembers the fateful day when he lost his brother Bilal. A class 10th student at a neighboring school, Bilal 17, was preparing for his bi-annual examination. On the fateful day of July 17 2007 Bilal had gone out to meet his friends in the village, but he never returned back.

At around 3pm, Dar says fierce firing broke out. “I was at home accompanying other two sisters who are physically impaired,” he says.

The lethal firing resonated and left whole village paralyzed. No one dared to see what is going on outside. Most of the areas of Chewdara, Narwora, Mirpur were covered by the army personnel.

Army and the police men had launched a joint cordoned operation in the nearby village.

“They claimed they had information about some militants hiding in the village. All the villagers were made to leave their houses to save their lives. Our family was one among them,” Dar says.

Dar claims his younger brother’s death is a case of ‘killing-namesake’.  “Had army knew they haven’t killed actual militant, they won’t have first refused to give his dead body for funeral. They first branded Bilal as Bilal Afghani — who was an active foreign militant at that time,” he says.

After the firing stopped and the villagers heard about Bilal’s killing in the firing, they got enraged and went on the streets and stage protesting against it.

Dar says, the army in their report claimed that they have gunned down three militants in the firing and took all the three dead bodies in their captivity. “If he was a militant, then, why his killing incensed local people of the area and triggered massive protests that too for three days,” Dar asks.

For two days, Dar says, we kept on demanding Bilal’s dead body, but they turned down our requests.

“Then we protested on the Beerwah-Budgam road and outside the Tehsil office,” he says.

It was after the interference of the then DC Budgam, Bilal’s dead body was provided to the family.

“We brought it to our native village, performed the funeral and buried him at our native graveyard,” he says.

Bilal besides pursuing his studies used to work as an artisan of embroidery. Abdul Aziz Dar, 63, Bilal’s father says he had “sharp and diligent” qualities than other children in his family.

“He would often talk less in front of me,” Aziz says, he expected much from him, but who knew he will leave home smiling for never to return.

“His character can be ascertained in whole village. They killed my innocent son,” Aziz says.

After this incident, Aziz says Bilal Afghani too was killed in another encounter few months after in nearby village. “He was most active flawless militant in the area. I have seen him many times in neighboring village,” Aziz says.

Even though, the concerned member of legislative assembly offered the modest family to apply for the relief, Dar says they didn’t accept their favor. “Fearing further harm to the family we averted it. We refrained from filing a case against them,” he says.

In Beerwah Police Station the FIR lodged after the incident shows the three persons killed in the encounter as militants belonging to LeT outfit.

Dar along with his family and some senior citizens of the Narwora village a year later approached State Human Rights Commission to plead their case against the personnel involved in the killing. But the family didn’t follow the case as well, Dar says, “I stopped following the dates following the case. I don’t want to bring more harm to my sisters—I lost my brother it is all over now.”

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