This remote village in North Kashmir is in complete shock after the tragic death of an 11-day-old infant who got caught in a clash with stone-pelting youths near Baramulla town on Monday. People are demanding stern action against those responsible for the incident.
The family of Baby Irfan is struggling to cope with the situation. His four-year-old brother, Obaid, is injured and is in pain. “How can I explain this tragedy,” asked Ghulam Rasool Teli, Irfan’s grandfather, who was accompanying his daughter, Kulsoom, to Baramulla for treating the infant at the district hospital.
He told The Hindu that they were on the road when their vehicle was stopped by a group of young men throwing stones. “They dragged the passengers out … and in the melee a man fell on my daughter’s lap and the child collapsed. Blood was oozing from his mouth and nose. We took him to hospital, but he was declared dead on arrival,” said Mr. Teli with tears in his eyes. Kulsoom, he said, was not in her senses, as “she will live with this trauma her whole life.”
Scores of people have been thronging the Teli home to express their solidarity. Ghulam Rasool was surrounded by more than 25 people who were trying to console the family, particularly Irfan’s father. In one voice, they condemned the act and demanded stern action against the culprits. “No civilised society can approve of registering any kind of grievance through this method,” said a young man, Manzoor Ahmad. While blaming the government for failing to ensure the safety of people, they appealed to the separatist leadership to put a break on this kind of anarchy.
Some civil society groups have said it is unfortunate there has not been much anguish or soul-searching over this incident in the rest of the valley. Khurram Parvez of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society says it is “a shameful act, something society should introspect over. Any situation cannot be self-inflicting. People here are fighting on principles but this is not in tune with that.” He, however, attributes this indifference to frustration among the youth over what they feel is the denial of their political rights. Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik also condemned the incident. “We do not approve of this kind of action and whosoever is involved should be punished.”
During the past few weeks stone-pelting has taken centre stage in Kashmir and is being described by separatists as the “only viable method” to show “resistance against Indian rule.” Kashmir Bar Association president Mian Abdul Qayoom recently counselled the media not to refer to them as stone-throwers, but as the “youth of resistance.” However, on the death of Irfan, the Bar Association and other major separatists remained silent.
Baramulla was again tense on Tuesday, as people demand the release of those youths arrested for having indulged in stone-pelting. SSP Baramulla Shakeel Baig told The Hindu that the police arrested the ‘kingpin’ of the stone-throwers, identifying him as Sameer Ahmad. On the Rawoosa incident, he said: “We are in the process of identifying the culprits and a case is registered … We will ensure that they are given exemplary punishment for killing the infant.” But he added that society should also rise to the occasion.
It has become routine now for angry youths to take to the streets in the name of “azadi” and pelt stones. They have even formed a Stone Pelters Association and addressed the media recently, calling for a four-day strike in Srinagar to press the government to release their associates. On Monday, most of uptown was deserted, as they forced shopkeepers to pull down shutters. But the Hurriyat Conference, led by Syed Ali Geelani, asked people not to pay heed to their calls. And on Tuesday, a senior separatist intervened and tried to restore normal life in Maisuma and adjoining areas. He asked the government to withdraw extra forces to avoid any provocation.