In the 2008 uprising over Amarnath land row that led to the killing of dozens of boys, scores of others were maimed by bullets showered over protesting and non-protesting Kashmiris. Qazi Mudasir narrates the pain of one such boy from Saidpora, Eidgah whose hopes of becoming a fast bowler were ruined by a CRPF bullet
The saga of trials and tribulations that befell Kashmir in 2008 would continue to haunt many a youth for their whole lives. What would have these youth made of themselves could never be realized. For Javaid Ahmed Pathan, an enthusiastic teenager from Saidpora, Eidgah, the turmoiled year took away his leg that maimed him for the rest of his life and dashed his hopes of becoming a cricketer. Before the Amaranth land row, life was all about being on the cricket field for Javaid, but who knew he would have to take the support an artificial limb even to take a few steps.
An ace fast-bowler, Javaid was a happy-go-lucky kid who would do anything for cricket. For him life without the sport was meaningless. His obsession for cricket was ever growing and he would come home almost daily running from the playground, drenched in sweat, but all enthusiastic about his small achievements.
On 12th August, 2008, Javaid Pathan was on his way to collect raw material for his shawl-weaver father. It was something that Javaid had done many times. But today was different. It was almost after a week that curfew was relaxed in Sadipora Srinagar, after spontaneous protests broke out against Amarnath land transfer in Kashmir. As an unsaid norm, nobody in Javaid’s family was allowed to venture out of house during curfews. His father, Ghulam Muhammad would have never let anyone move out of home, but on this day, the urgency was such that Javaid had to come out. But what happened next changed his life forever.
Javaid received a bullet in his upper right leg when he was trapped in firing by CRPF near Saidpora Bridge. The bullet damaged his hip-joint bones completely with no option left before doctors but to amputate it.
The gloom that had set in Javaid’s abode six years back has overwhelmed the whole ambience of the single storied house in Saidpora. As the reporter walked up to the door, it groaned open. The door was somewhat rickety, not been varnished for many years and the rot had set in. The hinges and nails had become rusted. A voice came from inside “come in, come in” on hearing the creaky sound.
A dark narrow corridor led to a dingy room where human shadows got entirely dissolved into the surrounding darkness. Something agonizing caught sight of the reporter and he decided to observe the sight for few moments.
It was Javaid, sitting in a corner of his dim lit room, pulling and struggling to attach his prosthetic leg to his hip with a purpose to stand up and probably to see who was at the door. After successfully attaching his artificial leg to his hip, Javaid stood up to receive the intruder who broke the deafening silence.
“Yes, how may I help you?” he asked while closing the buttons of his shirt. “Who has come”, came another voice from the room. It was his mother who looked suspiciously but didn’t ask anything. The reporter greeted them explaining the reason for being there. Javaid hobbled and sidled up, shook both hands and welcomed the unknown guest.
It was a little square room with mud plastered walls and a single bulb dangled in the middle of the ceilings lined with massive wooden beams. A pair of green lined curtains draped over the windows stretching their full length.
Couple of pictures of cricket players were pasted on the wall above the book shelve. A portrait displaying former Pakistani wicket keeper, Moin Khan robed in gloves and heavy pads sat behind the stumps with a smile. The portraits of Australian pacer Glen McGrath in his cricketing whites were given the honour of being framed and rightfully placed over the entrance. A couple of awards were placed on the top of the cupboard with few medals hung on the wall right beside it. These Images and awards were starkly illustrative of Javaid’s love for cricket.
Meanwhile the tea arrived with homemade bread, the hosts and the guest began talking and the conversation shifted over news, to clashes between stone pelters and troops on streets and then to the protests, curfew, sports and finally the incident that took place near Saidpora bridge that nearly took Javaid’s life and wholly his sports career.
“My desire since childhood was to become a cricket player. I found the game to my taste and wanted to make my career at international level. I was naturally more inclined towards cricket than academics,” said Javaid, while his mother Halima was sitting silent in another corner of room, stitching a piece of cloth and listening carefully as her son narrated the story.
“Javaid was five year old when he started moving his arms and legs like bowlers as he watched cricket on television. He was least bothered about studies.” Halima broke her silence and said.
Javaid had started playing cricket with his friends and was considered a formidable competitor. Apart from cricket, Javaid was also an aficionado of other sporting games such as triple jump, high jump and long jump and has achieved first rank in few of these games played at Amar Singh College for his sports talent.
“I would take part in other sports as well. I achieved first rank a couple of times in triple and high jump competition at Amar Singh College. But I had a special penchant for cricket and for that reason, I placed more concentration on it as compared to other games,” he said.
Javaid has won tremendous appreciation for his performance on the field and was awarded with several medals in state-level cricket matches. Success had just started knocking Javaid’s door but the incident of 12 August, 2008 shattered all his aspirations and objectives of life.
“On that day, as I crossed the bridge, I saw a dozen CRPF men standing in the middle of the road outside their bunker with long bamboo sticks in hands. They were waiting to thwart a peaceful protest march that was about to pass through the same route. I had a premonition that something unpleasant was going to happen and I stopped for a while to decide whether to move past the bunker or not. I finally decided to pass the bunker before protesters reach there. The moment I reached near the bunker, The CRPF men took positions and held their guns towards people, and started firing indiscriminately,” said Javaid while recounting the horror of that ill fated day.
Javaid sustained a bullet wound in his upper right leg and it had pierced his hip even slightly damaging his lower abdomen.
“When the bullet hit my leg, I was lying in a pool of blood. The vehicle which carried me to hospital was stopped by the same CRPF men for at least half an hour,” he said.
Had the paramilitary forces not prevented him from reaching the hospital promptly, his leg could have been saved. By the time he reached hospital, he had lost blood profusely. The doctors performed a number of surgeries to save the leg from amputation but to no avail. The leg was finally amputated and the family was asked to arrange money for the artificial limb. Keeping in view the poor financial conditions, Javaid’s was further troubled by the cost for a prosthetic leg.
“The cost of prosthetic leg which was around Rs 2 lakh, put us in a difficult position. We knew that he could survive without leg, but without it, I believed that he would lose more than 70 percent of his ability to do what he wanted to do. So we sold everything whatever we had to arrange the money. Her mother sold off her jewellery to buy an artificial leg for her son,” said Ghulam Muhammad, father of Javaid.
With artificial limb, few would suspect that anything unusual had occurred to Javaid, as his artificial leg performs some of the functions of the lost one. Though he has not forgotten his loss but he never admits his disability. He tries to do everything, his companions do.
But Javaid needs to undergo further surgeries and his artificial limb needs to be changed after a certain period of time, which the family cannot afford. Javaid is living with his family in absolute poverty, and faces an uncertain future. Learning to live with a disability creates an additional layer of burden for Javaid.
Javaid’s family doesn’t know whom to turn for help in this crucial time. Seeking help from government officials and leaders, says Halima, “Is like going to the wolves for help when the same wolves have stolen your sheep.”
With signs of the shock quite visible, Javaid is learning to adapt to the new situation and to his disability. As the only son, he is determined to support his father, three sisters and mother.
“I believe that one day I will move independently and that I will never accept limitations. I am optimistic and spiritually focused on my future and all that Allah has in store for me, despite my situation,” he said and smiled.