A Bagful Of Sad Memories

  • RAQIB HAMEED NAIK
  • Publish Date: Feb 5 2018 1:52AM
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  • Updated Date: Feb 5 2018 1:52AM
A Bagful Of Sad Memories

How this Kashmiri father lives by the memory of his slain teenage son

 

Mushtaq Ahmed Dar, a 40-year-old mason from Watergam village in Baramulla, has been following a monotonous routine for the last five years. Every day he locks himself in a room, opens a wardrobe and pulls out a red school bag scribbled with different names, unzips it and takes out books, flipping the pages as if he finds solace with every page turned.

The school bag and some bloodstained clothes are the only memory of his son Ubair Mushtaq Dar, who was shot dead by a CRPF man on February 10, 2013. He was all of 15.

Kashmir had erupted in protests against the hanging of Afzal Guru. As the protests intensified and spread, Ubair, the eldest of four siblings continued his life unperturbed. He went to drop his younger siblings at a seminary before he could go and purchase vegetables for dinner with a Rs 50 note gripped tightly in his right hand.

The moment Ubair reached the Handwara-Baramulla highway leading to the main Watergam market, he saw people being chased by gun-wielding CRPF troopers. 

Panicked, and in a bid to save himself, he ran into an alley opening on to an adjacent road leading to Sopore town. As he was walking alongside the road, a CRPF man spotted him, aimed his gun and pumped two bullets into his stomach.

Ubair was taken to District Hospital Baramulla, from where he was referred to Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences in Srinagar. He was profusely bleeding from his abdomen. On the way, he asked one of the attendants to put a call to his father. “He spoke with me for two to three times and he kept on apologising and repeating the words ‘Meh ditu nah dokhe keh (I didn’t betray you)’,” Mushtaq recalls his last conversation with him. He died before reaching the hospital. He still had the Rs 50 in his hand. 

It took the local police six months to file an FIR, and that too after a determined Mushtaq kept repeatedly visiting the police station and a battery of police officers. In between, he was allegedly threatened by CRPF officers not to pursue the case. One day, while he was on his way to work, he was stopped by a CRPF officer who categorically told him not to pursue the case and instead look after his other son Jeelani Mushtaq, now 15, indirectly threatening to harm his family. “They knew all about my family. They hounded me for months to force me to give up. An officer even told me, ‘We raped women in Kunan Poshpura and nobody could do a thing’,” he said.

The case went to the district court, where Mushtaq appeared at least 34 times, only to find no one from the police or the CRPF turning up even once. Fed up with the judicial system, he gave up the case.

Ubair’s mother Masooda Begum, 40, a homemaker, has since been put on psychiatric medication. Most of the time she confines herself inside a room and keeps gazing at her son’s pictures, sometimes bursting in tears and sometimes just looking and recalling how he used to call her “Mauji” (mother) and take dishes out of her hands to wash them. “I have never passed through the road where he was shot dead,” she says. 

Mushtaq doesn’t let anyone touch the school bag and the books. He spends hours looking at the notebook of his son and keeps gazing at the essay, “Unity is Strength” which Ubair had written a day before he fell to the bullets. “Ubair was my strength. He would wait for me on the highway even if I was late by five minutes,” he says.

He has now cut his days at work and stays home most of the time, finding solace by just touching the school bag of his son and flipping the pages of his notebook. “His school bag and books make me feel as if he is here with me,” he says.