By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS IIndia Correspondent
NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: Tension rocked Kashmir last week over the death of 17-year-old school boy Tufail Ahmad Mattoo. On his way back from tuition, Tufail was caught in a skirmish between the police and a group of protestors. Tufail was not one of the protestors. He was apparently hit on the head by a teargas shell fired by the police on the protestors (June 11). Initially the police claimed that Tufail â€œmight have been hit by a stone or might have fallen down.â€ The doctors at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital in Srinagar, where Tufailâ€™s body was taken, said that his head was hit hard, the skull badly fractured. Subsequently, the police changed its stand claiming that â€œcase appears to be of a deliberate murder and police are on lookout for two persons who dropped the deceased at SMHS hospital in a Maruti car and disappeared from the scene.â€
The observers present at the protest-scene, however, hold police responsible for Tufailâ€™s death. Dismissing the police-version of two persons in Maruti car being responsible for Tufailâ€™s death, a person said: â€œThe police are lying that itâ€™s a mysterious death and some two commuters in a Maruti car were responsible for the killing.â€
The Jammu and Kashmir police ordered an inquiry on June 12 into alleged killing of Tufail by security forces. The agitated Kashmiris claim that police have ordered an inquiry to â€œcover-upâ€ the matter and silence the people. This is not the first time that Kashmiris have witnessed this approach of the state police. Probes were ordered after the killing of a 16-year-old in CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) firing on January 8, death of a 13-year-old in tear gas shelling by police on January 31 and also after a 16-year-old was killed in BSF (Border Security Force) firing. Yet, as Tufailâ€™s death indicates, there has been no check on innocent, young teens falling victims to callous violence for no fault of theirs.
Dismissing that probe into Tufailâ€™s death was â€œcover-up,â€ senior police officer (Kashmir) Farooq Ahmad said: â€œNo there can be no cover up. There has been no cover up. We also want to ascertain the cause of death. The department will order an internal probe and it will be visible for all to see that justice is being done.
The nature of tension in Kashmir has certainly revealed that people have refused to be satisfied by â€œprobesâ€ ordered by the police. The manner in which police and security forces dealt with mourners in Tufailâ€™s funeral procession only agitated them further. To begin with, the police allowed Tufailâ€™s family members to take his body home after troubling them for about 18 long hours. With people in an angry mood, protesting against Tufailâ€™s death, the police imposed curfew in sensitive parts of Srinagar. Defying the restrictions, however, the people swelled out in large numbers to be a part of funeral procession. â€œPeople came out despite the prohibitory orders. We allowed them for the boyâ€™s burial,â€ senior police officer Rashid Paul said.
The people of Tufailâ€™s native place favored his bodyâ€™s burial in martyrsâ€™ graveyard, Eidgah. His family members agreed. Hundreds of mourners marched from his residence shouting slogans, demanding justice and action against police. As the mourners marched, they were obstructed by police forces at Kathidarwaza. The police tried dispersing the mourners by firing smoke canisters and using batons. Defying the restrictions and braving the police firing, the mourners continued moving ahead. Though the authorities tried dispersing the mourners at several points, even by resorting to aerial firing, the latter managed to reach Eidgah. The funeral prayers were also attended by Hurriyat (Moderate) chairman Mirwaiz Muhammad Umar Farooq, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Yaseen Malik and other Kashmiri leaders, including Javed Ahmed Mir (JLKF-R), Zafar Akbar Bhat and Mehraj Ahmed Kalwal (Hurriyat-G). Tufailâ€™s maternal uncle led the funeral prayers. Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani was taken into police custody on Saturday morning as soon as he stepped from his residence to lead protests.
There are reports that more than half a dozen media persons were beaten up by police and CRPF men at several points in Srinagar. Around fifty persons, including 15 policemen, were injured in day-long clashes between the mourners and the policemen. Some paramilitary personnel are reported to have indulged in excessive undue violence in several places. They allegedly damaged window panes of several houses and parked vehicles in Rainawari, the people claimed.
Tufailâ€™s native place, Saida-Kadal area was sealed later. The police and paramilitary personnel did not allow mourners to visit the slain youthâ€™s residence to express their solidarity and condolence with his bereaved family members.
Tufail is no more. The nature of his demise has, however, compelled Kashmiris to demand for justice. As expressed by a relative of Tufail: â€œWe want justice. How can policemen who killed the boy go scot-free? They have to be hanged, otherwise they will kill more innocent people.â€
It is hoped that due action is taken regarding Tufailâ€™s death. Ignoring the role of those responsible for an innocent person falling victim is equivalent to turning a blind eye towards those who are guilty of such activities. The Kashmiris need to be convinced that law and order system prevails for their security and not for needlessly targeting them!