Botengo is less than 2 km from Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s Anantnag constituency, and falls in Mehbooba Mufti’s seat in Parliament.
For the past week, Botengo had been tense but calm. It was thanks to Ghulam Rasool Bhat. When the youth took to streets following the October 9 attack that left his son Zahid Ahmad struggling for life, the 70-year-old farmer had gone to the local mosque and made an announcement urging for peace. “We should not harm anyone,” he said. “My son needs your prayers.”
That restraint was shattered Sunday as news came that Zahid, 20, had succumbed to his injuries. A student of Class X, Zahid was not meant to be on the truck that was attacked. But his brother Mohammad Ashraf Bhat, a truck conductor, had some work and Zahid volunteered for the trip. He thought it would be a joy ride, taking him to Delhi and back along with his friend Rameez Ahmad, the driver of the truck, who escaped unhurt in the attack.
Zahid was the first member of his family, including his father, mother, three brothers and three sisters, to go to high school. Trips such as these when school was open were rare. “I have lost everything,” cries Ghulam Rasool, waiting for Zahid’s body to reach from Delhi. “I have lost the light of my eyes.” Outside, protesters, now refusing to be held back, have been clashing with police since news came of Zahid’s death. The narrow road branching off the Srinagar-Jammu highway and leading to Zahid’s house has turned into a battlefield. “It is enough now,” says a masked protester.
“This government has a Hindutva agenda and we will not take it silently.” Botengo is less than 2 km from Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s Anantnag constituency, and falls in Mehbooba Mufti’s seat in Parliament. Both the leaders are the target of village anger, as protesters slam the PDP for allying with the BJP.
“They have joined hands with the enemies of Kashmir,” says Abdul Rashid Bhat, a villager. “See what is happening in India. We are in for more trouble.” Some of the teargas and pepper gas shells used by police and paramilitary to control the mob have landed inside the Bhat home, leaving the family gasping and teary-eyed. “This is what are they doing to mourners. I called the deputy commissioner sahib thrice but they only fire more shells inside,” Ghulam Rasool says.
Last week, Ghulam Rasool had rejected the compensation given by the state government for his son’s treatment, offering twice the amount back. “The fact is that the DC sahib called me to his office. He put something in my hand. When I checked, it was Rs 10,000 and two air tickets,” he says. “Next day, I was told Mufti sahib was coming for some inauguration.
I blocked his car and handed him an envelope. It had Rs 20,000 and a cheque for another Rs 20,000. He took it, didn’t say anything and left.” Ghulam Rasool adds that some government officials later come to the hospital with Rs 50,000, but the family didn’t take that either. “We only need justice,” he says. “And justice would be death for his murderers.”