Razor’s Edge

A mental asylum is the last place to make friends. But what if you end up making one? Bilal Handoo tells one such story of bonhomie, mystery, reunion and a secret     

Javaid Kumar
Javaid Kumar

It was a moving reunion taking place behind curfewed Kashmir on the day of Afzal Guru’s hanging. Far away from Delhi’s Tihar Jail and nearby Srinagar’s Central Jail, a non-Kashmiri had arrived to take his missing sibling back home. Just before he could leave, his query surprised everyone: “Ye Javaid kaun hai?”

Circa 1988, Uttrakhand…

One day, in the “land of gods”, a man vanished in the woods. The family gave up chase after days of futile hunt. Nobody had an idea that the man would be soon spotted in Srinagar where he had suddenly showed up as pilgrim. For his village and family, he was a dead man.

In Srinagar, as guns began rattling, he was seen wandering on streets. He had lost his senses. Days after, he was taken to Srinagar’s Psychiatric Hospital. Then, it was beyond anybody’s guess that the man would be spending quarter century of his life behind the gates of the “mental asylum”.

During the same time, a 16-year-old boy from old city was taken to the mental hospital. After failing to crack his Class 10 exam, the boy had exhibited weird behaviour. There, he unwittingly crossed his ways with the inmate from Uttrakhand. But hardly anyone had a hunch about duo’s breathtaking reunion, years later.

After a brief treatment, the boy was discharged. But back in his locality, his sickness was subjected to bullying. It would fill him with rage. And when cut loose, he would resort to shouting, abusing…

By 1996, the boy was back to the hospital. Caught between depressive bouts and relentless bullying, he was diagnosed of Schizophrenia. For his old mother and young siblings, he was now a “mental”. But for doctors, the boy had merely lost an ability to differentiate between real and unreal. He had failed to think clearly, expressing abnormal emotional responses.

For the next two years, he remained in the hospital. There, again, he met the man from Uttrakhand, who was known for his silence than speech.

The man’s identity remained a big mystery. The doctors tried to make him speak for tracing his address, but his silence came in way of their search. The matter worsened when he developed number of bodily ailments.

During the same time, the boy, now grown up to man was battling dual woes: depression and pitched street-bullying. He would retaliate ragingly, but wasn’t perceived a threatening figure looming around. In 2005, he was back to the mental hospital where he was put on pills.

A year later, to everyone’s shock, he had become Kashmir’s “razor man”!

Back in the hospital, the Uttrakhand man had finally broken his silence. He named himself “Triparthi” and gave a brief description of his native village. But before he could reveal more, his bad health silenced him, again.

By then, he had lost his eyesight to cataract, before a stroke struck, paralysing right half of his body. He was literally a dead mass confined to his cell.

Then, mood on the streets of Srinagar was threatening. All of the sudden, a “razor man”—an outlaw on the run—had become Kashmir’s bogeyman. Among his three targets, two were kids from downtown Srinagar. He had reportedly slashed their necks with a blade.

He first attacked an aged man, Sajad Ahmad of Doda, on September 10, 2006, inside Dastgeer Sahib Shrine. The next day he targeted an 8-year-old Mubarak Shah. Later that evening, he reappeared on streets, wounding a nine-year-old boy, Yaseer Iqbal Bakshi at Kalashpora.

The three attacks had forced police to launch a manhunt to nab the accused. They had placed decoys and intensified patrolling at many places in downtown.

Two days later, the terror ended.

mental-healthhospital (1)

On September 12, 2006, police triumphantly addressed a presser, naming the accused: Javaid Kumar, son of late Ali Muhammad of Kralkhud, Habba Kadal. Then DIG police Farooq Ahmad said Javaid was handed over to police by his family after his brother “grew suspicious” after seeing the attacker’s description in newspapers.

The officer claimed recovery of a blade packet from Javaid’s pocket and “spotted” bruises on his hand, bloodstains on his shirt. “He was subjected to an identification parade during which the victims identified him,” the officer claimed.

While deconstructing the madness behind his method, the mental specialists asserted that Javaid’s actions were rooted in fanatical ideas than epileptic fanaticism. They dubbed him Schizophrenic and said such patients can attack, murder even their close relatives, if they sense danger. They need support of their family and society to live a normal life, the doctors advised. “Being a very rare mental disorder, Schizophrenia is 70 percent treatable.”

Whatever Javaid—a “Schizophrenic”—was doing, was doing it out of inner fear, the doctors diagnosed. “He would hear voices abruptly, making him restless.”

After twists and turns, Javaid was finally admitted in the mental hospital. There, he saw Tripathi, still slouching in his room like a living corpse. That man from Uttrakhand was living a wretched life.

Every time, Javaid’s family would visit him, he heard repeated assurances that his bail was on cards. As years passed in anticipation of bail, he finally told his family in disgust, “Now, visit me only with bail papers in hand.”

But the family continued turning up, until he lost his cool one day and slammed punch on his brother’s face. The blow shattered his sibling’s specs, piercing glass pieces into his eyes. He almost lost his vision.

In the same hospital, a decade-long doctors’ search ended when they established contact with the Uttrakhand inmate’s family. It was a conquering moment for the mental specialists, who dispatched some quick mails.

Then came the man from Uttrakhand on Feb 9, 2013. He introduced himself as Tripathi’s brother. He talked, thanked the doctors for “taking care” of his brother.

“Had my brother been in any Indian state, someone would have long sold his kidneys and other vital organs,” the brother, a priest in Uttrakhand, told the doctors. But before heading home with his sibling, the priest asked the doctors: “Ye Javaid kaun hai?”

The query baffled doctors, who thought, maybe, the priest was enquiring about some mental specialist. But they were wrong. After a brief check, it was known that the priest was asking for Javaid—the “razor man”.

The priest went on to tell the doctors how his brother, Tripathi, had told him: “Javaid was my ears and eyes in the hospital for years.” Then, the doctors, unaware of Javaid-Tripathi bonhomie, heard the most heart-warming story of human compassion.

“My brother told me that Javaid looked after him from last five years,” the priest told the doctors. “I am speechless. How could somebody—mentally unfit for the world—feed, wash, clean, care about the other ailing person. Please, let me meet this Javaid, who even clipped nails of my brother besides taking him to toilet all these years.”

The meeting that ensued changed perceptions about the man, who, continues to be Kashmir’s bogeyman…

In forensic ward No 1 of the mental hospital, Javaid is now “fit and fine”. At his normal self, he now offers a new version to his story. Manned 24X7 by a cop in civvies, he says, he was made pawn in a fight with his close-door neighbours.

“I had a fight with my neighbours – Bilal and Showkat Kumar – after they bullied me,” he says, as the vigilant cop listens by. “The next day, some cops in civvies arrived in my home and took me with them for questioning. I was taken to Kralkhud police, then to Maharaj Gunj and Khanyar police stations respectively before shifted to Central Jail Srinagar.”

Inside Khanyar police station, “I saw my two neighbours with whom I had fought the other day. From their body language, it was certain they were up to something. I heard them telling a senior cop: ‘Here is your man’. With that, they left. I could make out from their body language that they had cooked up things to frame me. The fact is… I never attacked anyone. It is true that I was battling depression, but I never attacked anyone.”

Despite his share of story, Javaid is already in confinement for last ten years. He was booked under culpable homicide case and was lodged in Srinagar’s Central Jail for two years before shifted to the mental hospital on July 8, 2008.

At hospital, the doctors have been long saying that Javaid is good to go home—as he had already spent his jail-term (seven years for culpable homicide) besides regained his mental health fully.

Amid his lingering “asylum” stay, his doctors believe, Javaid — the “razor man”— is akin to Larry Darrell, the protagonist of Somerset Maugham’s 1944 novel, The Razor’s Edge. Javaid’s like Larry’s story of personality change shortly begins after the war broke out in different time and space of the world.

The war might have subsided now, but home continue to elude Javaid.

Far away, the Uttrakhand man whom he took care all these years has happily rejoined his family. But nobody wants Javaid back despite being so close to his home. His sibling and mother fear that once nine pills a day stops with his homecoming, the terror might return to Srinagar streets. But Javaid believes his family is good at cooking accusations than caring for him.

In his case, at least, the author of The Razor’s Edge seems right when he said: “The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to salvation is hard.”

So, now, we know, “Ye Javaid kaun hai!”

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