‘What was his fault? We still don’t know and they won’t tell us’

illustration by Suhail h. Naqshbandi

Nearly a decade after his schoolboy son was shot dead inside a cricket ground, Muhammad Ashraf Matoo has become a struggle-hardened justice campaigner. Decrying institutional connivance behind the elusive justice, Tufail Matoo’s father here recounts his decade-long tryst with the obdurate justice system.

Today, on June 11, 2019, we’ll be commemorating 9th martyrdom anniversary of our beloved and the only son martyr Tufail Ashraf Matoo of Saida Kadal Rainawari. We miss him a lot.

He was brutally murdered inside Old City’s Gani Memorial Stadium this day, in 2010, in a broad day light. He was coming back home from a tuition center when shot dead.

The incident triggered a massive upheaval in the valley. The government of the day only issued distorted statements over the target killing.

We refused to take his body home on that fateful day. We wanted to know why he was killed and what for? He was only coming back home from a tuition centre.

The very thought of the manner of his killing sinks our heartbeat. We die each day recalling our son’s brutal fate. What was his fault? We still don’t know and they won’t tell us.

But, in order to buy time and hush up the case, we were offered blood money of Rs 5 lac, for our beloved son. They called it compensation. We turned it down.

All we wanted was/is that our son’s killer should be punished with the due course of law. That’s what we’re striving for. Is that too much to ask?

But then, when we revisit the day of his final homecoming, we realise how things work in Kashmir.

Mourners had carried my martyr on their shoulders. They demanded justice for his innocent soul. My son lived by his name. Tufail means Expedient—the one who attains his end in an improper way.

Yes, his end was improper. That’s what mourners decried that day. And that’s what we’ve been saying all these years.

Our son was snatched from us. We want justice in his case, and in the cases of all innocent killings in Kashmir.

But instead of delivering justice on war-footing, mourners were gassed that day, showered with bullets. The same mayhem continued for more than four months in Kashmir.

The regime of Omar Abdullah gave free hand to forces. By the time the summer uprising thawed, they had martyred more than 126 innocent Kashmiris. Perpetrators were later rewarded and promoted for their performances.

As chief of unified command, Omar Abdullah is responsible for what happened that summer in the valley. The fallen Kashmiris were shot on their upper body parts. In most of the cases, many innocent got crippled for whole life. Many were arrested and are still languishing in various jails. Career of thousands of youth got ruined due to slapping of multiple FIRs, PSAs and other draconian Acts.

When all this was happening, the then leader of opposition Mehbooba Mufti was on her toes—making hue and cry over my martyr’s murder. In power, however, she shifted her gears.

The state’s indifference continued, even as the justice cries resonated in New York, London and other places. Even UNHRC asked for the report on 128 martyrs of 2010 summer. But the state only sent 17 cases, starting from Tufail.

That year, the situation forced New Delhi to send a Parliamentary Delegation to Kashmir. They visited us, faked sympathy and promised action. We briefed them about everything. In response, Government of India named three interlocutors whose report it later dusted. That was New Delhi’s idea of engaging with us.

The official apathy continued, even as Ajay Mahken of Congress told Lok Sabha that martyr Tufail was hit by teargas. Retired Indian Army chief VK Singh also pointed fingers at erring cops. The opposition and the ruling party traded accusations on each other. The whole debate became a big commotion. And in that din, our case was lost.

As face-saver, however, one man commission headed by Justice (rtd.) M.L. Koul was instituted. We appeared before it, on promise of getting the final report. We even sent a letter to Koul Commission, asking it to “implicate all those who were at the helm of affairs in the State during 2010”. But the commission never indicted the so-called powerful.

It proved to be a one-sided exercise meant to fool and betray people once again. We rejected the report — even as it called for CBI probe in Tufail’s killing.

Later, the PDP-BJP government that replaced Omar Abdullah’s regime only followed suit: Killing, blinding and incarcerating our youth. They never made probes/commissions public.

Dejected, we sought SHRC’s help. It turned down our request, saying: “It’s not in our jurisdiction to help you out in the matter.”

Remember, it was the same so-called rights body, whose chairman had once said: “If a patwari refuses to give you papers, it’s a violation for the commission.”

If that is a rights violation, what was mine then? I wondered, and keep wondering.

So, yes, every institution in the state is out there to shield the perpetrators of the crime. All of them are sailing in the same boat. They help each other in times of crises. These people, even if they resign from one party, their rivals welcome them with open arms because their manifesto is the same—Kill and Rule.

And it’s this attitude of the government which has pushed our youth to the wall.

By the grace of Allah, however, we did expose them. The Almighty brought them down from sky to earth. He took them to task for their misdeeds, done to the people for decades together.

Each drop of blood of our martyrs will be heavy on their heads. This has left big black mark on their foreheads which will make them restless for whole of their lives.

On this very day, we again take pledge to continue to strive and struggle for justice.


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