In the absence of expertise to deal with unarmed protesters, police invents new ways to quell young voices of dissent in Kashmir. A day after Gool massacre, a sand excavator Jan Mohammad Khandey got crippled for life after he was allegedly thrown off the roof, Saima Bhat reports.
On July 19, 2013 at around 4PM, a day after Gool massacre, eighteen-year-old Jan Mohammad Khandey, who earned his living by extracting sand from Jhelum River near his house at Palpora Noorbagh, left his home for work unaware of the fate that awaited him a few blocks away.
A day before, four people were killed in Gool village of Ramban district by BSF troopers for protesting against alleged desecration of holy Koran by them (BSF) the night before.
As the news of desecration of Muslim holy book and subsequent killings reached plains in Kashmir, people took to streets to protest against what they called cold blooded murder of unarmed civilians.
State government in a bid to quick fix the situation that they feared could lead to something bigger announced imposition of curfew across the valley. Internet and other means of communication were snapped to curtail the free flow of information.
Khandey walked carefully towards the main alley that would have led him to Jhelum River. Knowing that the river side usually remains calm during such situations, Khandey took his chances. But once he reached near the road, he saw protesters clashing with police in the distance.
Before Khandey could have changed his direction, a police vehicle (gypsy) appeared from nowhere. In no time people started running in different directions for shelter.
Khandey too ran for his life as staying there to prove his innocence could have proved costly. “It was havoc all around. I was at loss. I saw a single story house and I went inside to be safe,” recalls Khandey, who is battling for his life at SKIMS.
Khandey went upstairs and stayed in the house for some time hoping that he can still go to work once police is gone.
In no time he saw two men running towards the house in police uniform. As they climbed the stairs with guns in their hands ready to shoot, Khandey instantly knew it meant trouble in such situations.
“When they came closer, I recognized one as Chowki Officer of our police station, Abdul Rashid and another guy was his junior,” recalls Khandey.
Without any provocation, Rashid’s junior lashed at Khandey with his gun butt. Then he took a bamboo stick that he was carrying along and started beating Khandey. He then pushed Khandey to the edge of the terrace and rained some more blows to his legs. Khandey lost his balance and fell straight on the hard surface of the ground floor. “When I fell, I closed my eyes and hoped for a miracle. But instead I heard a huge bang. It was my back landing straight on the concrete floor,” remembers Khandey. “I have fallen from first floor. Before I collapsed completely, I saw them climbing down the stairs in a hurry and running towards me once again. This time it was Rashid himself who hit me on my head with a huge stick. And with it everything went blank,” Khandey recalls.
According to eyewitnesses after leaving Khandey unconscious on the floor, Rashid and his junior left calmly towards the waiting police vehicle (gypsy). Some local youth saw Khandey lying unconscious on the ground and shifted him to SKIMS Bemina.
While Khandey was battling for his life in Srinagar hospital, social media sites like facebook and twitter were abuzz with rumors about a guy being pushed down to death in Srinagar. But with time, things started to clear a bit. Now people had a name, Jan Mohammad Khandey, to attach with rumors of a fateful young boy pushed to death by a local police officer. Youngsters from Noorbagh, Khandey’s native area, clashed with police and CRPF leaving half a dozen people injured. Immediately curfew was imposed in Noorbagh area as people and administration expected bad news from hospital anytime. At the same time Khandey’s condition started to deteriorate in the hospital. He was alive but in extremely critical condition.
“He was beaten ruthlessly. We thought it is just matter of time before they will declare him dead,” said an eyewitness who wished not to be named as he was part of protests that day. “I saw how he was thrown from the first floor and then left to die. It was impossible to believe that Khandey had survived,” he added.
When his condition continued to get worse, Khandey was shifted to SKIMS Soura, valley’s lone multi specialty hospital, for treatment.
“He is crippled for life,” said a doctor who has been treating him since his arrival here. “Because of the fall his spine (D12) is badly fractured. Unfortunately, he cannot walk or even stand on his feet again ever.”
Khandey who is lying straight on bed number two is unaware of his condition. Instead he hopes to walk out of hospital soon and go back to work. He is desperately waiting for doctors to treat him. Nobody dares to tell him anything about his lifelong disability.
“They (police) have ruined our life,” said Khandey’s mother, Sonemal who is camping at the hospital since her son was first brought here.
Khandey is the sole bread winner for his family. His father is bed ridden for last three years. “What will I do now? I have three daughters. Who will take care of them now,” said Sonemal wailing. There is mourning in Khandey’s house. His three sisters know that their brother is crippled for life now.
Sonemal alleges continuous harassment by Police Chowki in-charge Abdul Rashid, who eyewitnesses claim pushed Khandey off the roof. “Police is not allowing us to file an FIR even. [Abdul] Rashid has told us to remain silent or else face consequences. He sent this warning message through one of our neighbors,” says Sonemal between sobs. “He says if we remain silent and don’t talk to people about who did it and how it happened then he will give us Rs 60,000. Somebody tell him that a mother never sells her son’s blood for money,” adds Sonemal.
Sonemal says that she has no hope left in life. It is all useless without her son. “I fear he might not recover at all. What will I do then? He hasn’t taken any food in last 7 days. He is not getting proper treatment here,” feels Sonemal.
Sonemal who spends most of her time at the hospital with her son fears for the safety and security of her three daughters and bed ridden husband. “These men (Rashid and party) can go to any extent to prove their point. Are they really Kashmiris? I doubt they are not among us. Otherwise they would not have treated their fellow Kashmiris like this,” says Sonemal in a fit of anger.
Sonemal has bought an amulet from a local saint for her son which she tied to Khandey’s almost lifeless arm hoping to see his recover soon.
Superintendent of Police City North, Tahir Saleem earlier told media that stone pelting started in the area, police soon lodged an FIR in this regard. “He might have slipped on his own, police is not responsible for his present condition. There is no need to lodge an FIR when FIR already stands lodged about stone pelting incident,” he had said.
Initially police blamed CRPF for pushing Khandey off the roof and informed the family “a case cannot be registered against a central agency” but when Khandey retained his conscience, he refuted police claim and said “it is only state police who is responsible.”
The family has approached Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Shalinder Kumar and sought his help. It has been reported that Kumar in a written communication has asked Inspector General of Police to look into the matter and give suitable directions to the SHO concerned to register FIR without any delay.
Khandey’s cousin, Gulzar, who is staying with Sonemal at the hospital alleges that doctors are showing callous attitude towards his cousin. “Something is wrong here,” feels Gulzar. “Doctors hardly come to check on him. I wanted to show his test reports to some expert doctors outside this hospital but nobody is giving me his reports. I smell something fishy,” said Gulzar. “I feel they have orders from police not to entertain us.”
But the doctors attending him said, “He has inflammation and it is impossible to go for surgery in such circumstances. Once his inflammation is gone only then we can perform surgery, which is commonly known as fixation.”
Doctors are now trying to fix two bones in his back so that Khandey can at least sit on his own. “His family fails to understand that he is crippled for life. We are helpless,” doctor said.
In a recent development, district development commissioner, Srinagar, Farooq Ahmed Shah has written to director SKIMS that district administration (Srinagar) is going to bear all expenditures incurred on the treatment of the youth.