Toddler Who Saw Murder

Spare a thought for the child, who has to live the rest of his life with the trauma and the image of him sitting on his grandfather’s corpse. The graphic picture raises more questions than it could ever answer, writes Shams Irfan

People offer Nimaz jinaza of Bashir Ahmed, a civilian who died in Sopore on July 1, 2020. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

The image of a 3-year-old child sitting on his grandfather’s bullet-ridden body is a painful addition to the long list of gory images that Kashmir has produced since 1989. This image is significant in many ways as police have so far failed to identify the person who clicked the said image.

Interestingly, within hours of the attack, IGP, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar was able to name two Lashker-e-Toiba militants believed to be behind the attack on CRPF’s patrol party in Sopore’s Model Town area that day. Such swift identification of militants is possible as the security grid has a vast network of human intelligence, CCTV cameras and modern gadgets at its disposal.

However, throughout the day, social media remained flooded with images and videos of the child, who witnessed his grandfather Bashir Ahmad Khan’s killing.

Even police’s official twitter handles used images and videos showing the visibly frightened child being consoled by cops. Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah called the use of child’s images as a “propaganda tool”.

The questions being asked by ordinary Kashmiris are not as blunt as Omar’s Tweet. People want to know why instead of helping Khan, who later bled to his death, his pictures were clicked. If there were no “Pulitzer lovers” present, who clicked the picture? And even if the pictures were clicked, it should have remained part of the police records. Why was it allowed to reach social media and then later used as part of a PR campaign, as Omar alleges.

IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar at the residence of the HMT civilian (July 4, 2020) who was killed in Sopore on July 1, 2020. The killing got global attention because of a photograph showing the slain man’s 3-year old grand son sitting on the corpse.

The same afternoon, the tragic story of Khan took another turn, when his family accused CRPF of dragging him out of his car and killing him.

Though none of his family members was present at the scene of the attack, but these are allegations which should have been proved rather than brushed aside as mere “statement was given under militant threat”.

The same evening, when the child reached home, he told his family, on video, that he saw policemen kill his grandfather.

The child even manages to replicate the sound of bullets that killed his grandfather in front of his eyes.

The child is undoubtedly in shock but as it turns out, he is the only eyewitness of the entire event.

In order to clear the confusion, why no post-mortem was done on Khan’s body to determine whose bullet hit him.

It could have at least helped in clearing part of the confusion surrounding Khan’s killing. But it was not done and Khan is buried along with multiple unanswered questions.

The fact that Khan’s wife has served police and his two relatives are also in service has not changed anything for the family. They stand by their statements, so does Khan’s wife and his grandson, the only eyewitness.

Interestingly, Khan’s family, despite being part of the same police force they are challenging currently, have not asked for any official probe into their kin’s killing.

This is perhaps for the first time such a debatable killing will not be probed. Is it because both sides know the outcome of such probes in Kashmir?

Or is it because people have realised that such officially ordered probes since 1990, are merely used to exhaust one’s will to fight for justice. For the last ten years, Tufail Matoo and Wamiq Farooq’s cases are waiting for closure. So are their constantly mourning families. Is it why Khan’s family is not seeking a probe?

If so then the mistrust of people in the system is even deeper than the people in power want us to believe.

An impartial probe and a bit of use of modern technology which now allows one to reverse-search and trace the origin of any picture uploaded on the internet is all that was needed, to clear the confusion. Looking the other way and let the dust of time settle things is a bad idea.

But history tells us that such images not only stay with you forever but also kill a part inside you. It adds to the process of the brutalization of an already on the brink society.

Sadly, during the yearly round-up, Khan’s killing will figure as a single-digit number – without mention of the child whose grief was used and displayed to push a point.

Spare a thought for the child who has to live the rest of his life with the trauma and the image of him sitting on his grandfather’s corpse. Can he forget?

Post Script:

Kashmir Police Chief Vijay Kumar has visited the family to condole the death. He has assured them fair investigations.


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