From France24: “It is a killing field here”
Less than a month after he lost his only child to a bullet fired by security forces in Srinagar, the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, Mohammad Ashraf Matoo recounts the events of that fateful day in meticulous detail.
Like a criminologist laying out a case, Matoo’s tale moves with precision from street to street, noting relevant objects, autopsy reports and witness accounts. It’s the grieving of a father trying, in his own way, to make sense of a senseless loss.
On June 11, his son Tufail Ahmed Matoo, a 17-year-old medical student, was travelling from a private tutorial in downtown Srinagar to his uncle’s house. “He took the bus,” explained his father in a phone interview with FRANCE 24 from his Srinagar home. “He had a 10-rupee-note [less than 20 cents]. He paid five to the bus conductor. The conductor gave him back a five-rupee coin. He had the coin in his hand. On his back, he had a backpack with his books. He was walking near the Gani Memorial Stadium when three cops came inside the small lane and shot him.”
Minutes later, the boy was dead. Hours later, as word of the killing spread through a city that’s no stranger to excessive force by security services, a silent crowd of mourners gathered at the Matoo residence. Days later, demonstrators took to the street to protest the killing.
That’s when the sickeningly familiar latest cycle of violence started. Demonstrators started pelting stones at security forces, waging what is locally called “kani jung”, or stone war.
Troops in turn responded with force, killing at least 15 people over the following weeks. The ages of the dead – 17, 16, 14, 9 – read like the scores of a batsman in bad form, as one commentator in this cricket-mad country put it.
From his home in Srinagar though, Matoo is impatient for justice. “Can you help me?” he asks plaintively, his reserves slowly crumbling. “It’s a killing field here, if you will permit me to say it.”
For now, all he has is a five-rupee coin that his son was holding when he was shot. Witnesses retrieved the coin from the site and handed it to the family. “His mother has kept the coin,” he explains. “But what’s gone is gone. Nothing can bring him back. The world is not the same since he’s gone.”