Another morning, another child killed. This time it was not Aylan, the three year old toddler of a Syrian refugee.
It was a three year old Burhan, son of a former Kashmiri militant, Bashir Ahmad Bhat.
True, that Bashir was a former active militant in early '90s. But today, he had a different identity. It was an identity of a husband, a son who helped his father in the fields, and most importantly, a father who ran a small provisional store outside his house, earning a living for his two young children.
The lawn of the house where once Burhan played became a site of mourning. A group of aggrieved women sat chest-beating in the lawn of the house located in Sagipora village, 18 kilometers away from the town of Sopore in Baramulla District of north Kashmir. The women mourned the killing of Bashir and his son Burhan who were attacked on September 18, 2015, by some unidentified armed assailants.
In this most barbaric attack, the unidentified gunmen first fired shots at Bashir and then lobbed a hand grenade, killing him on the spot. In this indiscriminate firing a bullet hit Burhan in his abdomen, critically injuring him. The next morning Burhan succumbed to his injuries. He had gone out with his father to buy chocolates for himself. Had Burhan known that a chocolate would cost him his life, he would have completely stopped desiring for it.
According to the accounts of the residents, the gunmen were roaming in the village on a bike without a number plate for five hours. On enquiring, they came up with an excuse that they had no petrol and stopped at Markazi Jamia Masjid where Burhan's father had gone to offer his evening prayers. No sooner did he emerge from the Masjid, the unidentified gunmen caught him by his collar and took him away from the Masjid.
It is strange that this kind of movement by some unidentified pillion-riders aroused no suspicion among the Police and the Army that is always ready to harass innocent school going children. Is it the Security Forces' complicity or negligence that caused the brutal killings? Like their role, the killings too will remain shrouded in mystery.
Burhan's killing is not the sole incident in Kashmir. Today, the Valley is bloodstained. Kashmir has a history of death and disappearances. An entire generation of Kashmir has grown up amidst the shrieking cries of women bewailing the death of their young ones. Aylan, the three year old Syrian refugee toddler who was found dead on the shores of Turkey internationalised the plight of the refugees. Will Burhan internationalise the growing misery of the Kashmiri civilian? Will Burhan's image, not in denim shorts and shoes like Aylan, channelize a similar sentiment against the mysterious killings in Kashmir?
There are questions that abound. As mysterious killings become the norm today I wonder what the future beholds for Kashmir. Now that Burhan's mother and his 15 month old sister Hoorain are left to live alone, their life becomes a symbol of tragedy and pain. Like many other mothers and wives who have experienced personal human loss, Burhan's mother, too, will have to emerge from this overbearing gloom to struggle and live for Hoorain who will grow up listening to the story of her innocent brother's killing.
As struggle for Burhan's family begin, so does the plight of the common man in Kashmir accentuates. Time will pass. Days will turn into weeks, weeks into months, months into years and life will take its own course. However, the memory of Burhan will live on. Burhan's neighbourhood friends who struggled their way to the first row during his burial sadly exclaimed, "He was our friend."
It is from here that Burhan lives on, and so does the struggle of crisis-ridden Kashmir.
(Adil Bhat studies English Literature from the University of Delhi)