Srinagar: It was a last homecoming for Tufail Ahmad Mattoo. Midway, he met death in its brutal avatar. A tear smoke canister fired by a policeman hit him in the head, cracking his skull. As blood and brain oozed out from the skull cavity of this 16-year-old boy, Mattoo breathed his last.
On a sultry midsummer afternoon of the year 2010, Tufail became another name in the list of “martyrs”. For his father, Mohammad Ashraf Mattoo, his hair now greyish and face wrinkled, he was the only son.
At the house of Mattoos’ in Saida Kadal locality of Srinagar, Tufail’s pictures are his not his only souvenirs. In his room, a laptop covered with a sheath of dust, a Sony handycam still packed in a black bag are other mementos from those days when Tufail lived. He used the camera only once before being killed, says his father. On the desk, a pen and a notebook are lying open. A half written sentence on the cover page of physics practical notebook still waited to be completed.
That day when Tufail was killed, his mother, Ruby, heard from the neighbours that a boy has been injured near Gojwara neighbourhood in old city. She called her sister to check whether Tufail has returned from tuitions. As no news came about Tufail, an agonising wait began for the family which finally ended when Tufail returned on a stretcher, carried by hundreds of mourners shouting slogans for freedom. Tufail was dead.
When his body was brought inside, last time, Tufail’s mother fell on the ground, unconscious. “The policeman who fired upon Tufail stepped down from the police vehicle to see whether he was dead or not. He took his hand near Tufail’s nose to see whether he was still breathing and when the cop knew Tufail was no more, he left in a hurry,” an eyewitness of the killing of Tufail said.
A year later, Tufail’s mother has lived with agony, pain and tears.
“My son might have called me that time. What was his sin? Why have they killed him,” Ruby asks adding in a highly emotional tone: “I wonder how my son is resting in grave as he feared to sleep alone.”
On the day Tufail was killed, police denied to file a report. But after the huge public pressure, they lodged an FIR, number 45-2010, in Nowhatta police station.
His funeral was delayed by a day as police was not handing over the body to family fearing protests. He was buried on June 12 at the martyrs’ graveyard at Eidgah, where most of those who lost their lives during over two decade long turbulence, have been laid to eternal rest. .
Despite, a year having been passed no one has been put on trial for the killing Tufail. “The woman who is witness to the killing identified the killer but the government is yet to take action as the killer happens to be a man in Khaki. Tufail’s killers are moving freely and we are being threatened to keep our mouth shut and not to ask for justice,” said Tufail’s father Mohammad Ashraf Mattoo.
The family was offered “blood money” of rupees five lakh by the state government but it has refused to accept the money, rather with contempt.
“We do not want to sell our son’s blood. Government has priced us and not valued. There is no value for human life in Kashmir,” Ashraf says.
Soon after the killing of Tufail, massive street protests erupted across the Kashmir valley. In an effort to cull the dissent, state forces resorted to unprecedented use of force to silence the protestors and killed 120 youth, including dozens of teenagers.
This year, though some kind of peace seems to have returned, thousands who lost their near and dear ones, are still waiting for justice, a dream that looks to very distant.