'My son was my only asset': Pulwama encounter claimed life of a 14-year-old, son of a man who helped those injured in clashes
Aqib Bashir's family claimed security forces had opened fire in Pulwama with the aim to kill even after the encounter in Sirnoo area was over, but the police said youth had tried to disrupt their operations.
When hazel-eyed Bashir Ahmad Bhat heard gunshots near his home in Prichoo in the southern part of Kashmir, he knew the wounded youth would be ferried to a nearby hospital in Pulwama. As was his routine, he did not waste time rushing to the hospital, and within hours of the encounter, in which seven civilians were killed, he was wheeling the injured into the hospital.
While Bashir was waiting on the hospital lawn for other possible injured to be brought in, a frantic boy ran towards him to ask him whether he knew the boy who was lying dead inside the emergency ward. The boy then showed Bashir a photo of the 14-year-old victim he had taken on his cell phone, changing Bashir's life forever. Teary-eyed, he shouted "oh, my god" as the child was none other than his son. He then went back home with his son's body in an ambulance.
Bashir worked odd jobs as a labourer constructing houses or tilling land to get his son, Aqib Bashir, admitted to a private school. After coming home tired from work, he would play with Aqib and his two other children — a son in Class 1 and a daughter in Class 8 — and feel satisfied.
But on Sunday, as sat inside the ragged tent set up in his house to mourn the 14-year-old's death, he had a stone-faced look. "I felt happy after playing with my children. I would stroke their heads and ask my son Aqib to study with zeal. That was my world. It has been shattered now," he said.
Bashir is illiterate, unaware of what grades his son got in class, but he said Aqib was an ace cricketer. "I would ask him to be more attentive to his studies," he said.
Aqib's uncle, Abdul Hameed, said he would score big runs when he played with his local team. "He was a bright student and was also very good at studies."
It was around 8 am when Bashir heard the gunshots. When he had rushed out to head to the hospital, his son had also ventured out to see what had happened. He said Aqib had sustained a bullet injury to his head at Marg, which was a distance from the site of the encounter in Pulwama's Sirnoo village.
"He may have been going to see what had happened in Sirnoo. It could have been just his curiosity. His body was taken to the hospital hours after the gunfight had ended. I identified him at the hospital at 11.30 am. He was targeted by the forces. They had fired with the aim to kill him," Bashir said.
At Sirnoo, as well as in the village of Kareemabad, local residents said security forces had killed civilians even after the encounter ended. But in defence, the police said youth had marched in large numbers to site of the encounter in an orchard in Sirnoo and had tried to disrupt the operation, which had forced them to open fire.
"There were no stones in the orchard. The forces killed the youth after the operation was over. It was nothing but mayhem," said Abdul Ahad Bhat, a resident of Sirnoo.
Bashir asked, "How could a 14-year old disrupt the operations? He had passed his Class 8 exam and was recently admitted to another private school. I was hoping he would do a better job (than me) and live a better life, but now, I am a shattered father."
He couldn't stop crying as he lowered his son's body to the grave. The family had garlanded the body of the 14-year-old who had died too young. "I am a poor man. My son was my only asset," Bashir wept.
Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.
JP Nadda slams P Chidambaram over comment on Article 370, says Congress using 'divide India' strategy
Chidambaram had said that the 'arbitrary and unconstitutional' decisions of the Narendra Modi government on Jammu and Kashmir must be rescinded
Mufti said that she would hold the Tricolour only when the separate flag of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was restored
The amalgam leaders, who met at the residence of Mehbooba Mufti for the first time after its formation, adopted the flag of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir as its symbol