Srinagar: Every grave in the Mazar-e-Shouda (Martyr’s Graveyard), situated in the summer capital Srinagar, is revered.
All those who are buried here have ‘sacrificed’ their life for Kashmir’s ‘freedom’. Nine months ago, a 16-year old was laid to rest in the graveyard, as another ‘martyr’.
The teenager was Kaiser Hameed Sofi, son of Abdul Hameed Sofi, a resident of Shalimar area of Srinagar. Kaiser was picked by the police on 27 October, 2016, ‘beaten up’, ‘tortured’ and ‘poisoned’, an allegation denied by the police.
However, his death certificate issued by the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) confirms that the cause of death is ‘assault and poisoning’.
Coming back to Martyr’s graveyard, Kaiser’s grave has a very regular visitor since his death. In fact, he visits the grave at least thrice a day!
And it’s not just a visit. It’s a conversation with a dead son.
“Theek chu huama, myani gobra (Are you good, my dear son),” says Abdul Hameed Sofi, father of the slain teenager, while standing in front of his grave.
Sofi takes five steps and turns left and pretends as if someone is facing him and they are talking eye to eye. In a high tone, Sofi says, “Kunne chum ne karaar, kyah kare. Agar ne chenish te yemmi, khabbar bi ma gasse pagal (I can’t find peace at all, what should I do? If I don’t come to meet you, I might turn mad.)”
After few moments of silence, Sofi once again switches his position. He now stands in the opposite direction of the grave and after walking a few steps, he bends on his knees. While keeping his head low, tears start rolling down his cheeks.
“Che chukh myon akh hisse, che rous ha chus be adiluak. Aki latti ha rathath naali matti myani gobra (You’re a part of my existence, and I am incomplete without you, I just want to hug you once, my beloved son),” Sofi says while ‘talking’ to his dead son’s grave.
The father, who is in his early fifties, goes silent. He doesn’t even move.
Suddenly, Sofi starts smiling and as tears roll down his face. He starts hugging and kissing Kaiser’s grave.
With a smile on his face, he ‘tells’ his son, “Patte karo mulakat, beh rubbas hawaal (Will see you later, May Allah be with you).”
This has been the routine of Sofi from the past nine months.
His home at Shalimar is locked since Kaiser’s death. He along with his two sons and wife is staying at Ganderpora area of EidGah at his brother’s house.
For him, conflict of Kashmir is ‘personal’ now.
“For me, it was an issue of the whole nation but now it has become something very personal to me”, Sofi says.
Due to incessant rains last December, Kaiser’s grave collapsed and had to be renovated. Sofi says, for him, his son is as much ‘alive’ as his other two sons.
“Kasier might be dead for others, but for me, he is alive like my other two sons, Tanweer and Ishfaq. I love him and care for him and so does he,” said Sofi while asserting that he is determined to be like this.
“I don’t have any other choice,” Sofi maintained.
This reporter’s visit to Kasier’s home gave birth to false hopes. For them, he was more like a human rights activist who might take the case ‘forward’ or even get it ‘solved’. The visit created a sort of commotion and the family members began to grab all documents related to the case.
In the pile of documents was the death certificate of Kaiser.
It determined that the cause of death was assault and poisoning.
“Do you see the cause of death mentioned clearly,” said Tanveer, Sofi’s elder son.
“And yet The State Human Rights Commission wants to perform a postmortem on Keiser’s body,” Tanweer added.
Tanweer, who is in his mid 20s and father of a year old daughter, says that they spent more than 3 Lakh rupees in a week on treatment to nullify the poison in Keiser’s body.
Sofi’s brother, Fayaz was silently watching and listening to the conversation. He breaks silence and says, “Our case at the lower court is there for no reason, but to get dated for another hearing after a month’s gap”.
Fayaz seemed to be annoyed and sad at the same time. However, never during the conversation did his expressions present a feeling of ‘giving up’.
Again, after a brief pause, Fayaz says, “The reality of life in Kashmir is that none is safe here… none.”
For this whole time, a person was standing next to the door of the room where the conversation was taking place. The eyes of that person had dried up. No one had heard a word from the person, but the presence was heavily felt.
It was as if the person was looking for something, trying to touch, feel and hug an invisible entity.
The person is a woman, aged almost 40, the mother of deceased Keiser, Mehmooda. This reporter couldn’t ask her anything. Her dried-up eyes were too haunting to look into.
Once again, coming back to the ‘martyr’s grave’, the epitaph is a document in itself:
Martyred At 16
Keiser Hameed Sofi
Son of: Abdul Hameed Sofi
Police Arrested Keiser on October 27 2016
Tortured This Young Soul for 36 Hours
Then Poisoned Him
His Tortured Body Was Thrown on Shalimar Main Road
He Breathed His Last In Hospital In Front Of His Family