Struggling In Darkness

Many young protesters involved in last year’s unrest were killed or left injured. Sameer Yasir talks to one protester who lost his eyesight in the line of fire.

Amir Kabir

(Amir Kabir)

On that day, Kabir and a group of young boys were throwing stones at a police Rakshak who were  trying to remove concertina wirethat divided the Cement Bridge in half.All of a sudden,a CRPF personnel, hiding behind a vehicle, fired three pellets in the direction of the young stone pelters—and they directly hit Kabir’s eyes. The very next moment, Kabir looked towards the sky—but he couldn’t see anything.

I went to see Amir Kabir in his hospital bed more than a year ago, in the overfilled OPD of District Hospital, Baramulla. He had been there for ten days, and was crying in pain like a child.

That image of him was in stark contrast to that of a fierce protester which he had come to be known as in his region.  Kabir had gained notoriety for always protesting with a cap on his head. “I never took off that cap during the fighting,” he said.

It has been a year now since the incident. I walk through narrow lanes and old mud brick houses in the congested old town of Baramulla, and make my way to Kabir’s residence.

At the single room he rents, I found Kabir sitting like a traditional Kashmiri Peer, with a blanket over his knees. It had been a long time since I had met him last. He had changed considerably, and his face was a bit swollen. He still remembered my voice, and raised his hand in the wrong direction. I jumped to shake his hand.

Kabir spends his days listening to the silence of his room. He says that initially, friends would visit him, but with time, they stopped. Silence is what will remain with him, “to my grave,” he said, and it is what he loves the most. “It is this silence which has filled my ears now for last 11 months. I do miss the action, but I don’t want to do be involved in it now. For what?” he says as he scratches his left eye—which still had some leftovers of pellets, and a few half-done stitches.

Kabir’s father had sold all his land in an effort to salvage money for his son’s treatment, but nothing helped. His family says that even leaders turned their backs on them in times of need.

“I called Yasin Malik and told him about my situation,” says Kabir. “He said I was trying to mint money out of all this, and then hung up.” Kabir says nothing killed him more than the JKLF leader’s words. “The leaders cheated me. I never thought they would do such a thing with me—everyone knows what I have done for the movement,” he added. After his injury, only two cases of stone pelting were reported during that time from Baramulla.

Kabir’s family approached Syed Ali Shah Geelani, but they say he was a disappointment as well. “After we left his house, someone came with an envelope of Rs. 5000. I cried and told my father to give back the money,” said Kabir.

“But not everyone was the same. Shabbir Shah and Nayeem Khan came to visit me. I wasn’t bothered about the money. They came to ask about me, and I will never forget that,” he said.

Kabir’s family says the Chief Minister had vowed to cover his medical expenses, but that never materialized either.

Kabir’s father, Abdul Kabir Beigh, had migrated along with his family from Sultanpora Kandi  to Baramulla in the early ‘90s with the desire to provide a better education for his two sons. But after his son lost his eyesight, Abdul Kabir saw his own visions for the future crash to the ground.

Kabir’s father says his family was deserted by everyone. “Azadi is only for the poor, and only during the time of stone pelting. After it (stone pelting) stops, no one cares about the dead and injured,” he said.

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