The ‘Wailing Museums’

The collages of photographs of the slain children during three summers of the dissent that was seen paradigm shift from the armed struggle to non-combatant movement with angelic faces of children like Wamiq Farooq that are exhibited by the human rights activists on occasions like the World Human Rights day have equally become directly or indirectly sacred inheritances for thousands the families.
The ‘Wailing Museums’
File Photo

On a couple of times, I noticed a man wearing grief on his face as withering leaves on   hackberries on graveyards strolling on dusty lawns of the Srinagar court. At some other times, I had spotted him silently sitting in the corner of canopies erected by the human rights activists or the resistance leadership  to mark  the world human rights day and remind the world about the  human rights violations in the "Himalayan Paradise." Sometime back I saw the man again walking in the new District Court Complex, at Tengapora, Srinagar- this time I noted with distress that he was sulkier than ever before. In fact, I have never talked to him but whenever I spotted him in the court premises, I often involuntarily waived at him, perhaps for my respect for the resolve of the man for seeking justice from the temples of justice in the state.

The man is none other than father of, a class twelve student, Tufail Ashraf Mattoo one of the one hundred and sixteen children and students killed during 201o by men in the Khakis and the Olives . For about six months, more than six million people then had been put under curfew. The Washington Post had then titled our land:  'Cage thy name is Kashmir.  'The boy on his return from tuition was hit by a tear gas shell fired by police on June 11, 2010, and killed outside my alma mater in a play-field. The Ghani Memorial stadium, as the play-field is named after 17 -century poet   Muhammad Tahir Ghani Kashmiri, known for not having written a paean for an emperor or man in power. For over a century, the ground had resounded with   boisterous laughers of students; it was for the first time filled with moaning cries of people when the young boy was killed in cold blood. He was the only child of Mohammad Ashraf Mattoo, well to do Kashmir handicrafts businessman.  For past eight years, the family has been observing the "martyrdom" anniversary of their child every year. 'On an almost daily basis when the parents of slain boy hear the news that someone has been killed by the troops, they relive the agonized moments when the body of their children had arrived at their home. This holds true about all the parents who lost their dear ones during 2010 Intifada- as the New York Times had described it.

The newspaper had carried stories; the room of the slain class 12 student, with his books on shelves, his school uniforms, notebooks and other artifacts on cupboards had become a sanctum sanctorum for the family.  Such rooms  are spreading all over the State from Kishtwar to Kupwara, Gurez to Gund and Shopian to Srinagar. These have become as good as the 'wailing museums' for thousands of parents. The blood-soaked clothes, the bullets extracted from the bodies of the children killed by troops have become sacred heirlooms for the parents. "During the most depressed moments, many parents enter into these wailing museums for purgation." 

The collages of photographs of the slain children during three summers of the dissent that was seen paradigm shift from the armed struggle to non-combatant movement with angelic faces of children like Wamiq Farooq that are exhibited by the human rights activists on occasions like the World Human Rights day have equally become directly or indirectly sacred inheritances for thousands the families.  Remembering the poignant days when their children were killed and fighting for justice for them has become the whole time mission of thousands of parents. 

There are lots of stories of resilience and fortitude of parents like  of Wamiq Farooq, class seven student who was robbed of his life in January 2010 when he was  playing in a playground who have been fighting for seeking justice for their slain children. In the long list of determined fathers, Mahmood-ul-Hassan Farooqi is yet another classic example of courage and resilience.    'Twenty-six back on 31 July 1992, his two sons were shot dead inside their home by paramilitary forces.  Tajuddin Farooqi, 19, an engineering student had just returned to his home after his college outside the state had been closed for summer break. Imtiaz Farooqi, a class student his younger brother was also shot dead. The city had been placed under curfew, and there was graveyard silence in the locality. It was almost dusk, there was bang at the latched door, no sooner younger brother opened the door, and he was fired with a volley of bullets, leaving him in a pool of blood.   On hearing, the frightening sound of bullets, the elder brother rushed out to know what had happened and a torrent of bullets pierced his body. The hair-raising story of the murder of the children of one the known family of the city has become part of the family that is more than often repeated at the family gatherings and other occasions.'  

The time and tide have not fatigued the father of the slain children of the Farooqi family of Hazratbal, like a religious scroll he carries a sheet of white paper in his pouch even today.  The sheet carries details that an FIR was lodged under section 302, 307/427 RPC dated 31-7-1992 against the delinquent troopers. Six years after the gruesome killings the "National Human Rights Commission" had asked the State Government to act and see the guilty punished. In June 1999, the State received the note from the "NHRC." The small sheet also carries a few more details that suggest that despite the father of slain children having knocked at every door justice is yet to be delivered to him'. Notwithstanding, aging distinctly visible on the face of Mahmood-ul-Hassan Farooqi, his wounds are as fresh as they were inflicted the other day. Nevertheless, it is the freshness of the wounds that invigorate the aging and aged parents of the slain children to continue their fight for justice. 

There are organizations like the State Human Rights Commission, National Human Rights Commission and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to see justice done to the wounded and aggrieved parents and others. But, these organizations are yet to rise to the occasion and ensure justice delivered to fathers like Mahmood, Ashraf, and Farooq. There can be no denying that the OHCHR in the past seventy years for the first time came up with a report on the human rights situation in Kashmir, but its impact is yet to be seen on the ground. 

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