What Mumtaz left behind

Greater Kashmir

A family in Bandipora village grapples with the loss of their lone breadwinner

Four years after his death the cricket uniform of 23-year-old Mumtaz Ahmad Bhat is still hanging on the wall of his room that is painted in green. Mumtaz was one among the three youth allegedly killed in 2008 uprising by the government forces on August 12 in Aloosa village of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district.
That fateful day (August 12) was a disastrous day for Aloosa village that erupted in protest during the 2008 civil uprising. Those who lost their lives included Mumtaz Ahmad Bhat (23); Mohammad Ali Khanday( 25); Mehraj-din (27) and Muhammad Shafi Ghanie (25). Ali and Mehraj were married, Shafi was engaged, and Mumtaz was a bachelor.
Mumtaz was the lone breadwinner of his family after his father died of cancer. Besides working with the Power Development Department, he was also pursuing graduation in political science through Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).
Mumtaz’s 55-year-old mother Fatima Begum is still waiting for her son to return home and complete his studies. “I always secretly stare at his pictures and books in his room. It kills me every time I look at them, though I wish he comes back one day and delights us with his giggle and holds me in his gentle embrace,” she says. “I always keep looking at the door and the verandah, waiting for him to come home.”  Breaking down, Fatima says in tears, “The one and the only one question that is haunting me every time: what if Mumtaz had asked for water when he was dying?”
The only thing that calms her down is the thought that Mumtaz will be rewarded with Jannat (Paradise) in the hereafter. She recalls the lyrics of a Kashmiri song Mumtaz liked to sing: “Khooni jigray yem wuzoo kor, tass taharat kya karey. Marne brunthui zind yus mood tass marun zyun kya karey.”
When the family heard about the death of Mumtaz, it was second time they had heard something terrible about him. Earlier a boy from their neighborhood had told them that “Mumtaz died due to an electric shock” when he was fixing the power supply of village’s Grand Mosque. But he survived.
When I heard about his death, recalls Fatima, I wished and prayed that this news was not true like the one before. “But this time as if the sky fell on us,” she says, “our lives were devastated when he heard about his death.”
Mumtaz’s friend, Imtiyaz Ahmad Bhat, a school teacher, says that day was the worst day of their life. “I was shaken when I heard about his death,” Imtiyaz says. “I along with his elder brother, Ashiq, and few village elders went to the military camp in Aloosa to get his dead body.”
Though it has been four years since his death, Imtiyaz remembers everything about his friend and the times they spent together. “I remember how cruelly he was shot in the head. I remember the cries of Ashiq Bhai when he found his dead brother lying on a blue sheet, and then he fainted,” he says as tears show up in his eyes.
Mumtaz’s 22-year-old younger brother Zubair Ahmad Bhat says his brother was not a stone pelter. “He was a tech lover who would always buy new gadgets and computer games for me,” he says.  “He was a good human being. He was crazy about cricket, computer games and new technology,” he recalls. “After his death my mother spends most of her time in a corner of the kitchen, lost in deep thoughts that she never reveals to anyone,” he says. “His death has hit our family badly, both emotional and financially.”
Fatima says there are thousands like Mumtaz who were killed in cold blood by the government forces. “They have taken the lives of young and old. Even children and women were not spared,” she says.  “Isn’t this enough now?” she asks. “How many more mothers like me will have to lose their sons?”