The powerful and the powerless mothers of Kashmir

‘Even though partially, but mothers are to be blamed for over 90 deaths in 2016 and many thousand others before that’ claim the mothers in power.

Srinagar: It is a calm, hazy morning, just like the one when he stepped out of his house and put on his shoes to leave for his tuitions. He returned home, on peoples’ shoulders, dead.

This morning there is one less pair of shoes on the doormat, the knob echoes creating a chilling sound, telling of the empty room. A sound that this mother says gives her Goosebumps.

Talking on his wife Rubeena’s behalf, Mohammad Ashraf Mattoo expresses her emotions that take over her every time she remembers that she lost her only child, “It has been seven years now and she still cannot stop looking out of the window for our son to open the door and run into her arms.”

Since Rubeena’s son’s death, she has not spoken to people who had claimed to get her the delayed justice that every member in Mattoo family has been waiting for.

Her husband Ashraf has gone to countless commissions, establishments and courts, but still awaits justice. He now also talks on Rubeena’s behalf who has gone numb, and speaks very less.

Back in 2010 during Omar Obdullah’s government Ashraf and Rubeena lost their only son Tufail Matoo, a name synonymous with the 2010 peoples’ uprising.

Tufail Mattoo was killed when a tear gas canister fired by the Indian armed forces hit his head while on his way to a study center in 2010. He was 17 at the time.

Eye witnesses present at the scene say that it was a target killing.

“If people in Kashmir had gotten justice then the situation prevailing these days would not have been so bad, we have been asking for it since the past seven years now and it’s nowhere to be seen,” the awaiting parents say.

After Omar Abdullah’s government, in the aftermath of Hizbual Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani’s death under People’s Democratic Party (PDP) government, Kashmir witnessed an even more disturbing time, leaving over ninety people dead and over 15,000 injured.

Among the injured, close to 1000 people were hit by pellets, many of them permanently blinded.

Women politicians, many of them who have children, and who can colloquially be called ‘mothers in power’ more often than not, blame the unfortunate mothers to be the cause of their children’s death.

In each dispensation, women politicians in the respective opposition parties share the pain of the mothers who lost their children, while as women in power hold the mothers responsible for their own loss. The stand changes when the government does, almost in a role reversal.

“Women are the most hit in any conflict,” says Shamima Firdous, Senior National Conference leader, and Hina Bhat, from Bhartiya Janata Party agrees.

For each of them the situation here is heart wrenching, they claim, while making a strong point that taking lives is no solution to the “burning Kashmir issue” but coming from different political backgrounds they adhere to different political views.

Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Habba Kadal, from the political party National Conference (NC) Shamima Firdous blames the current government for the 2016 summer agitation.

“The armed forces are firing live ammunition, shotgun pellets, tear gas shells and bullets on unarmed youth, we are losing our future,” Shamima had told this reporter last year.

This reporter tried multiple times to get through to her again, but could not reach her at her office or residence.

The opposition party had blamed the government for mishandling the situation, whereas the blame by the party in power was put on the mother. The question still remains the same, who was to be blamed?

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti from PDP , in one of her statements amidst last year’s turbulence blamed the instability and the deaths on a many things, except for the actual culprits.

“The government crossed all the limits, we have seen victims who were not throwing stones, who were not protesting, girls like Yasmeen and Insha are examples, one lost her life and another her eyes,” Shamima Firdous has said.

These influential females say that this situation cannot be trusted. Mutually agreeing on some of the point, but holding dissimilar views regarding why these killings are taking place.

Former Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Amira Kadal, Hina Bhat of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) directs mothers to take control over their children and not let them take to the streets.

“What do these kids know about what’s happening? So why do they go on protesting? We need a well read leader not these children’s lives to get us freedom. We need our mothers to be in charge,” Hina says.

“My child is nine years old and he does not even know what Azadi means because his mother did not let him know. My child is every mother’s child in Kashmir and vice versa and we are responsible for their safety,” she adds.

Union Minister of State for External Affairs and former Army Chief General (Retd.) VK Singh along with Bharitya Janta Party candidate Dr. Hina Shafi Bhat from Amira Kadal constituency talking with media persons ahead of the first phase of elections in Jammu and kashmir being on November, 25th , in Srinagar. (Photo/Mohd Amin War)

Hina on one hand wants women to take responsibility, while in the same breath holds them responsible for something that is not their fault. Hina too shifts the blame on the mothers.

Further substantiating the statement about mothers being the killers of their children, Hina says that mothers don’t have “control over their children, hence they take to streets and get killed.”

Anjum Fazili who is the nominated MLA for Srinagar from PDP speaks on the same ‘mothers are killers’ line. But she has a different take.

“Mothers also come to us and ask for help, they say their children don’t listen to them. Mothers here don’t have the authority over their own kids,” Anjum says.

Anjum Fazili (right) with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti (left).

When asked why doesn’t the state government use minimum force and follow procedure while handling the crowd, especially the youth, she says that the government is not to be blamed and adds that if the government wasn’t using the minimal force against the people protesting on the streets, there would be many more casualties than there already are. “It’s for the use of non-lethal weapons that there are very less numbers of casualties.”

Repercussions of this reprisal were recently seen by a family of an eleven year old coming back to Srinagar home from his ancestral home in Baramula.

Sajad had just returned to his house in Batamaloo Srinagar where his mother, Shameema, says he was targeted and killed.

Sajjad (first from the left) with his friends. Sajjad was killed when an Indian armed forces patrol party claimed to have lost way and landed in the batamaloo area of Srinagar and shot a bullet at him.

Shameema cries out loud, just  in case someone might listen to her lamentation, “His dad had been here in Srinagar since twenty five years. Then he brought the kids to Srinagar too so that they can have a career too, not to get killed at the hands of people who have made their careers out of innocent killings,”

“They want Kashmir not Kashmiris, they want our land not the people, bodies here are bullet ridden,” she adds.

The mothers in power, across party lines and the political divide, claim that they care for Kashmiri children’s long life, and “don’t want their futures to be spoiled by people who have sent their kids to elite colleges to study.”

Using   ‘Udta Punjab’ as a reference Hina says that children here are brain damaged, and they need counseling.

“Whatever is shown in that film is exactly what is happening here. Drug abuse is one of the major reasons for these children on streets getting themselves killed.”

She also finds Kashmir in the need of counseling centers and above all good leaders.

“Mothers can’t push their children towards death, but yes with the already effected brain which has been washed, these children don’t listen to their mothers. Kashmir’s whole leadership is at fault, be it mothers as leaders of their children, the political mainstream leaders of the state, or the separatist ones, everyone together are just filling graveyards,” Hina says.

“We are killing our own people for the sake of AZADI which we will never get.”

The ruling party’s woman MLA calls this unrest a political matter and wants it to be treated like one.

“Kashmir issue is to be resolved by talking to our children who are rendered visionless, and every now and then newspapers are filled with horror stories.”

In search of the perpetrators of violence, and the convenient shift of blame on the dead for dying, many more questions are raised than answered. Like that of Muhammad Ashraf Mattoo, who doesn’t want the mothers to be held responsible for the death of their own children.

“Are the mothers of these politicians, the mothers of these army men and the police force, who tell them to go out on the streets and kill the innocent civilians, also to be blamed?”


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