How many more like Owais?

By Ghulam Nabi Khan. Dated: 4/18/2019 1:44:02 PM

On the fateful day of 11th April 2019, when a farce, as usual, was being exercised in Kashmir in the name of a democratic exercise of the 'world's largest democracy', a 12-year-old child was discussing with his friends the ordeal of helping the helpless. The child, Owais Ahmed Mir of Mandigam Qaziabad, North Kashmir was passionate about cricket and dear to his family and other villagers for his humble and well-behaved mannerism. Also, bright in studies, Owais studying in class 7th was marked Roll No 1 (roll numbers assigned as per merit of student) and had dreams of becoming a doctor. His friends Kamran and Musaib said that he did not only want to make a career, he wanted to become a doctor to help people in distress.
That day of elections in North Kashmir, this was part of their small-talk when the three friends sat together. Today, his friends, sitting in the shade outside Owais' home are waiting in vain for their friend to come back. On April 11, Owais was shot dead when the CRPF personnel fired pellet shot guns towards him at a very short distance of two to three meters. With him now lay buried his dreams.
Few days before he was killed, Owais accepted the challenge of some villager who dared him to sleep in a new empty coffin for two minutes. Owais took the challenge and slept in the coffin for two minutes and won the ten-rupee bet. When everybody marveled at his courage, little did they realise that few days later they would be lowering him into his grave in another coffin, forever.
For his father, Mushtaq, his son's death brings endless grief and lament. "I once told him not to venture out too much because of the unpredictable situation in the Valley but his answer was 'I want to die as a martyr whenever I do'." Mushtaq also wants to seek answers from CRPF men as to why they killed him. "Don't they have children at home?" he asks.
Studying in a local school in his village, Owais was considered by his teachers as kind and helpful; he was always available there for his fellow students to help them when they needed. The principal of the school narrates his school achievement, his qualities and very positive attitude. At the same time, unlike children his age, he was calm and mature with leadership qualities at a tender age.
Owais' death once again demonstrates how an unending conflict takes the toll of Kashmir's masses including the young. The children, especially, are the worst sufferers. They are physically vulnerable and psychologically tormented by the stories and ordeals of families, neighbours and people far from them, they hear about on a daily basis. The impact of an unending nightmare of conflict and human rights abuse on their fresh and impregnable minds is immense. Added to that is the increasing border tensions and the children begin to learn early in the day how India-Pakistan hostility is connected to Kashmir's sufferings. Recently in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack when India and Pakistan came close to a war, Kashmir's people including children suffered the most.
In all their resilience, the children in Kashmir are the real warriors of the brutality and militarisation. But excessive repression is widening the appeal among the young for resistance against that repression. 'Azadi' for them becomes a passion and brutality a motivation that makes them chant that slogan or protest on streets. As children born with a free spirit, they seek answers to questions - why killings, why encounters, why highly militarized zone. But only find themselves more entangled in the inescapable mesh of such surroundings. That is why they rise in protest, leading to a vicious cycle of more bloodshed.
Many children before Owais have died brutal deaths after being tortured or showered with bullets and pellets. How many more after him?
(Writer is a freelance Lawyer based in north Kashmir, works for Child Rights in Kashmir. He can be contacted at gnkhan85@gmail.com)

 

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