Thursday, Jun 01, 2023

I Showed Them Voting Ink On My Finger, But They Didn’t Listen, Says Kashmir Man Who Was Tied To Army Jeep

I Showed Them Voting Ink On My Finger, But They Didn’t Listen, Says Kashmir Man Who Was Tied To Army Jeep

Farooq Ahmad Dar still pines for his only big asset – Pulsar bike – that was broken and missing.

At 26, Farooq Ahmad Dar, had small dreams. He wanted to take his aged mother Fazi to pilgrimage to Mecca and after that bachelor Dar wanted to marry. His two brothers are married and are living separately. His widowed sister too lives separately. Dar, the youngest one, lives with his mother in his ancestral mud house. 

He was content with his job. He was weaving shawls, selling Kashmiri handcrafts at small scale and when the business was in slump, he would eke out his earning by masonry. His only big asset was his pulsar bike. And now he doesn’t know what has happened to it. He had passion for voting and believed that voting will lead to good roads, at least. So, he voted on the day when his constituency didn’t vote. He remembers his voting slip number. It was 612, he says.

Ten days after the Army tied him to a military jeep, using him as human shield, against stone throwers, making him a defining image of Kashmir’s 27 year long insurgency, Dar is shattered man. His dreams too are shattered. He cries in pain. He complains about body aches. He is afraid to step outside his house. He says wants to visit a doctor but fears that the Army might harm him, if he steps out. "They can do anything to me. They can even kill me", terrified Dar says. 

He wants to sleep but the shouts of the Army man calling upon the youth that “apnay banday ko pathar maro, (throw stones at your own man)” haunt him.

Only time Dar has come out of his elder brother Ghulam Qadir’s house, was on April 10, a night after his release. That day internet connection across Kashmir region was snapped and no one except the villagers knew that Army had tied Dar to the front bumper of a military jeep. As the image had not gone viral then, Ghulam Qadir had taken him to nearby Public Health Centre where a local doctor recommended some medicine and tied crepe bandage to his right arm.

“The Army men pulled me down from my Pulsar bike. They beat me up severely, they kicked me, I was like football to them, and then they tied me with a jeep. An Army officer then made a video of it on his mobile saying your father will see it at home”, Dar, who was writhing with pain, tells Outlook as his mother, 70-year-old Fazi looks on. His father, Abdul Rahim Dar, died few years ago. But his brothers and other little children have the mobile clip of his image on their phones.

Human Rights activists of the Valley are now alleging that the Army and other security forces were deliberately releasing videos, in which they are shown beating Kashmiri youngsters.

“Absence of accountability encourages the armed forces in Kashmir to share videos of their brutality. Impunity is absolute and permanent”, says human rights defender Khuram Parvez, who is Chairperson at Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD).

Chill Brass has around 150 houses, most of them one storey, nestled at the foothills of Pir Panchal mountain range, falls in Tosamaidan tourist region. Dar has grown up in this village knowing nothing except work to earn.

On April 9, Dar said, he cast his vote in the morning. “I participate in the voting. I also voted in 2014. I want good roads for the village. After voting I had a tea with my mother and left for neighboring village for condolence meeting.”

At neighboring Utligam village, the  Rashtriya Rifles men led by an officer, according to Dar, stopped him and brought him down from the two wheeler. Dar says the Army men tore his pheran (long Kashmiri garment), which has mud all around and has been preserved by the family to show it to the visitors and the reporters. “See what has happened to this pheran and imagine what would his body gone through”, the mother, Fazi, says weeping.

Himself in tears, Dar waves to his mother to stop crying.

He says he implored the Army men and the officer he has never thrown a stone at the forces but the officer didn’t listen and tied him to the jeep. “I even showed ink mark of the voting but they didn’t listen.”

 In his long ordeal, Dar said, he was driven around over 20 villages and in between the Army men stopped to have food but he was not given anything from 11 a.m. till evening. He said he was released after the sarpanch of the village visited the army camp in the evening pleading to the officer that he was not involved in the stone throwing.

 “At the camp too I was tied with a chair”, he said.

He said only thing he remembered when he was tied to jeep was killing of his brother-in-law Abdul Gani Bhat. “He too was killed on Sunday. I thought it is Sunday again and I too will be killed”, he said.

In 1994, according to the family, Bhat was killed allegedly by the Army.  “He had gone out of the house in the morning and the Army fired at him. We kept his body for two days in our house and hoped that the police will take it for the postmortem but the police didn’t come”, says Fazi, while intervening in the discussion. “He was kid then”, Fazi said pointing towards Farooq.

 “I thought I will be dead. My hands were tied behind, engine of the jeep was hot, and if started slight movement of the body, the Army man would throw a stone from behind. It was Sunday and I thought I will meet fate of my brother-in-law”, Dar says.

 Even though the police have registered an FIR in the incident, the Police have not taken statement of Dar. “No police man visited me so far. My mobile phone is still with the Army. My Pulsar was broken and I don’t know where it is now”, he says.

Trying to sleep at the veranda of one-storey house of his brother, where he is putting up along with his mother since April 9 evening, Dar says he is puzzled about how he has survived. “They drove me village after village and you know these roads, I don’t know how I survived.” His faith on voting and polling has gone. “I don’t think anyone, who has seen what i have gone through, will vote”.

“Now villagers from different areas visit me to see how I have survived”, Dar says wiping tears from his mother.