Representational Image. | Image Courtesy: Scroll.in
On December 29, 2018, people across the valley were celebrating the passing of their wards in the 10th class examination. However, the Bhat family living in Bolus, an area of south Kashmir’s Kulgam district were mourning in spite of the success of their 14-year-old son Numan Ashraf.
On the morning of November 25, 2018, people from all three districts of south Kashmir had rushed towards Batgund in Shopian district, where six militants were trapped by the government forces in a house.
At around 7:30 am, Nadeem Ashraf, a 12-year-old boy came to his brother Numan who was still in his bed, with the news of the encounter. Numan immediately woke up and within minute left his home. His brother followed him.
Numan’s father Mohammad Ashraf Bhat, a 45-year-old labourer, knocked his door and called him but received no response.
The rush to go to Batgund was not only to help the militants in breaking the cordon, but also because a militant from Numan’s neighbouring village, Suhuch Umair Majeed was trapped there.
Numan first went to Umair’s house, from where he came to know that Umair had called his family and told them that some of his companions had been killed, while he was still firing despite a bullet on his leg. Numan asked Nadeem to remain there as he left for the encounter site with others. Once there, they joined the protest which was already going on near the encounter site where forces were dispersing the protesters using pellets and tear gas canisters. In response, people started pelting stones which triggered clashes.
Forces used live ammo on the protestors injuring many of them. One bullet pierced Numan’s chest, puncturing his heart. Along with the other injured, Numan was rushed to the hospital. Meanwhile, someone called Ashraf and informed him about his son’s injury. “I asked my nephew to take his motorcycle and we rushed to the Kulgam sub-district hospital,” said Ashraf.
He found his son’s lifeless body on a stretcher. “I touched his body, it was still warm. My wife kept calling for some information about Numan, but I couldn’t speak. I felt everything collapse in front of my eyes,” said Ashraf.
Nadeem was still at Umair’s house. After attending his funeral, he was waiting for his brother to join him, unaware that he had died. Someone came to Nadeem and informed him about Numan, at which point he started running bare feet towards his home. At home, he found his brother on a bed under a green cloth surrounded by a crowd of people.
Numan’s schoolmates and teachers joined his funeral procession and announced that the school in which he studied will remain closed for one week as a way of condolence to Numan. He died just 11 days after he appeared for his last 10th grade paper.
His school remembers him as a shy and silent who used to sit quietly on the second bench. On the straight road to school, every Friday Numan would stop at the graveyard to offer prayers, the same graveyard where he is buried now.
Ashraf would save every penny to finance his sons’ education who were his life support. For the first time, Numan joined tuitions in 10th standard as it is considered to be one of the toughest exams. Paying both the school and tuition fee on time was tough for Ashraf, and Numan many times managed to convince his teachers to pay it later.
Thirty-two days after his death, the results of 10th grade in Kashmir division were declared. All the people of Bolus village including shopkeepers came to Ashraf’s house to pay tribute to his son as he had qualified his exams with first division.
“Everyone in my house started crying, beating their chest. It was a proud moment for us but my pride was lying in a grave with a wound on his chest,” lamented Ashraf.
Numan would ask his father, “What will you gift me once I qualify 10th class?”, and Ashraf had promised to give Rs 1,000. He had even saved the money for this very purpose.
“I collected Rs 20 notes for 50 days, I was not sure whether I would have the required amount by the time of his results,” said Ashraf. The amount is still lying in his cupboard. Numan had written on his book Zindagi Kuch Aur Shai Hay Illem Hay Kuch Aur Shai, Zindagi Soz-e-Jigar Hay, Illem Hay Soze-e-Dimag (Life and education are two different things. Life belongs to the heart while education belongs to the mind).
Shujaat Bukhari’s Son Awaits…
The next story is a contrast where the son awaits his father to join him in celebrating his distinction with 480 marks out of a total of 500.
Tahmeed Bukhari, the 14-year-old son of the slain senior journalist Syed Shujaat Bukhari, qualified his exams with 95% marks, which brought joy not only to the Bukhari family but also the media fraternity and everyone in the mainstream politics of Kashmir.
The 50-year-old editor-in-chief of Rising Kashmir and prominent journalist, his Personal Security Officer and driver were shot dead by unidentified gunmen outside his office when he boarded his car at Mushtaq Enclave located in the heart of Srinagar.
Haseeb Drabu, former finance minister of J&K, who was one of Shujaat’s good friends wished Tamheed. “Why do we have to deprive a son from proudly showing his father, his first idol, how well he has done in his boards? And demand a gift. Why do we have to deprive the father of joy, pride, and satisfaction? Congratulation Tamheed @shujaatbukhari, I can see you are alive in your son,” Drabu wrote on hisTwitter handle.
The year 2018 was one of the bloodiest years in Kashmir, in which mostly three districts of south Kashmir, namely Shopian, Kulgam and Pulwama remained under siege and witnessed most frequent shutdowns.
Despite the sieges and encounters which restrained students in their homes, students in these districts topped the merit list with Pulwama at 84.50%, which is considered to be one of the hotbeds of militancy on the region. The merit list in Shopian stood at 83% and Kulgam at 50.50%.
Read More | Civilian Killings: 2018 Was the Deadliest Year in Kashmir, Says Report