September 2019 News

Family Demand Justice For Kashmiri Teenager Killed In 'unprovoked Attack'

8 September 2019
The Guardian
Azhar Farooq and Rebecca Ratcliffe

Srinagar: The father of a teenager killed in Kashmir has demanded justice for his son, after witnesses said he was fired at with pellets and teargas in an unprovoked attack by Indian security forces. Asrar Ahmad Khan, described as a shy and studious teenager, died last week 11 days before his 18th birthday. He had spent almost a month in hospital, where he was being treated for injuries sustained during the incident on 6 August. On Wednesday, officials said the boy had been hit by a stone thrown by protesters. Asrar's cousin, who was present at the time, said there had been no stone pelting in the area. The family produced records that described pellet, shell and blast injuries as the cause of death. Ajit Doval, India's national security adviser, said on Saturday that Asrar's death was unfortunate but demonstrated that the situation was largely peaceful. 'If there's one incident that has taken place, that's good,' he said, according to the Associated Press. 'Zero would be better, but one is good.' Media outlets have documented accounts from several other families who allege their relatives died due to the actions of security forces. It is not clear if the Indian authorities have changed their position regarding the circumstances in which Asrar died. His death, the first to be confirmed by the authorities, has intensified scrutiny of Indian officials, who have maintained that the situation in Kashmir is returning to normal. His father, Firdaus Ahmad Khan, said he wanted punishment for his son's killers. 'The government is a liar. He was not hit by a stone but they killed him,' he told the Guardian last week. Tens of thousands of extra troops were deployed to Kashmir ahead of the revocation of the region's special status on 5 August, when strict curfews were imposed, apparently to prevent unrest. On Sunday, restrictions in Srinagar were raised to their most severe levels since the clampdown began, as Shia Muslims observed an annual day of mourning. Mobile and internet services remain suspended across the Kashmir valley, home to around 7 million people. Only some landlines have been restored. Thousands of people have reportedly been detained. The human rights group Amnesty International India has raised serious concerns about the continued communication blackout in Kashmir, warning that it has given the government 'a near-total control of all information coming out of Kashmir'. 'This raises grave concerns of human rights violations that may occur yet remain unreported,' the group said. Asrar had been playing carrom, a table-top sports game, and then cricket, at a park near his home in Elahi Bagh on the outskirts of Kashmir's main city, Srinagar, on 6 August, according to his family. Two witnesses - Asrar's best friend Muqeet, and his cousin Adil - said a convoy of eight paramilitary vehicles had entered the neighbourhood. Two of them had stopped near the corner of the park. The paramilitaries inside the two vehicles then fired a teargas smoke shell into the park, they said. 'The shell tossed Asrar in the head and then they fired a burst of pellets towards him,' Adil, who had played the last carrom game with his teenage cousin, told the Guardian. 'There was no stone-pelting in the area,' he said. Adil and a neighbourhood friend rushed Asrar on a bike to the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences. It is near-impossible to call for an ambulance because of the communications blackout. The Guardian has not been able to independently confirm the account. A hospital registration card said Asrar had presented with 'shell-blast-pellets injury', adding that he had 'multiple pellets on head, eye, brain'. Asrar immediately underwent an operation and was transferred to the surgical intensive care unit. Under the advice of doctors, Asrar's family played him his favourite music, a collection of Sufi mystic songs, as he lay unconscious. He died at 8.15pm on 3 September, a hospital certificate said. The cause of death, according to the certificate shown to the Guardian by his family, was 'pellet injury with shell blast injury'. It noted that Asrar had 'severe traumatic brain injury with sepsis with cardiopulmonary arrest'. Asrar's body was handed over to his family during the early hours of Wednesday. Khan described Asrar as an 'obedient and disciplined son'. 'He never raised his voice and he never talked eye-to-eye with his elders. He played cricket but he was also very studious. He was always top in his class,' he said, adding that he wanted justice for his son. On Thursday, Khan shook hands with visitors who attended the family home to pay their respects. 'Martyrdom was written in his destiny. He was destined to be a martyr,' he told two young men. Muqeet, Asrar's best friend, said: 'He excelled in sports as well as in education. He wanted to be a doctor and a cricketer.' Muqeet said his friend deserved justice. 'We do not want any compensation. They lied when they said he was injured by a stone. They want to hide the truth,' he said. Amnesty International India said its previous research had found the use of pellets had been responsible for blinding, killing and traumatising people in Kashmir. 'This time, however, it's hard to ascertain the actual figures of civilian casualties or injuries due to the communications blackout,' the group said. Hospital staff refused to give information beyond what has been shared by an official spokesperson, Amnesty said. 'We can neither cross-check nor verify government or news media claims.'

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