The Stories of Yawar Ahmed Bhat

Kashmir's mothers are suspended in a state of longing for their children, the Yawars of the Valley, who are in fear, in danger or without trace.

Yawar Ahmed Bhat from Chandgam in Pulwama died in Srinagar’s SMHS hospital on September 20, 2019, 45 days after his state was locked down on August 5, after the scrapping of provisions of Article 370. He was 15 years old. He allegedly died by suicide, after consuming rat poison. The following circumstances were reported. 

On September 17, Yawar told his sister that he had been detained and beaten up by some soldiers from a local army camp. They took away his identity card and asked him to report at the camp the next day.

Yawar’s father’s name is Abdul Hameed. He said the boy seemed upset that night. “He usually slept in my room. That night he did not; my wife found him at the window, vomiting,” Abdul said.

He was terrified of being tortured by the Army. He knew it would happen, whether he went to the camp or stayed home. His family rushed him to the district hospital and then, somehow, to Srinagar. At SMHS hospital he could not be saved; that was the end of Yawar Abdul Hameed.

People visit Abdul Hameed Bhat’s residence after Yawar’s death. Photo: Mudasir Ahmad

The Army has denied having had any part in this incident. SSP Chandan Kohli started inquest proceedings, and when asked by the media, DC Pulwama Syed Abid refused to comment.

I was one of the five women who had visited Srinagar from September 17 to 21, 43 days since lockdown. In our report Women’s Voice which was released on September 24, we had recounted the terrible condition of women and children in the region.

Yawar died the day after we left Srinagar. But there are many, many Yawars whose testimonies we heard and recorded. My urge to write these lines, however,  emanates from a very personal experience which I have never shared. I feel that this is the time to speak from the heart.

My own son’s name is Yavar and my late husband’s name was Abdul Hameed.

Yawar of Pulwama was also my son. The difference is only in the spelling. Yawar and Yavar. Everything else is the same. This death in Pulwana seems like a death in my own family. I feel one with this unknown family of Pulwama. Until yesterday, they and many like them were strangers whose voices we were carrying to the world through our report. Today they are family.

My son Yavar is a human rights lawyer. He has always been an inspiration, for my late husband and me. He was four or five years old when I almost died because of him. At a crowded mall in a foreign country my Yavar suddenly disappeared. I went mad.

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I screamed out his name in all directions. In heart-stopping moments I felt I won’t see him again. Tears and cries in the midst of swirling crowds of tourists while escalators madly moved up and down, all this is etched in my mind even after 40 years. It may have been 10 minutes and 10 deaths later, when I saw a little boy with a tear-streaked face coming down the escalator. It was decidedly my life’s happiest moment.

What about the mothers of Kashmir?

When their sons walk out of the door, whether to play, to run errands, to go to school, mothers must die each time they see the back of a shirt or school bag. Will he? Won’t he? Torture? Death?

We wrote in our report that the sight of young, even very young boys raises hackles, stokes anger in the ‘masters’ minds. For them every  child has stone pelter written on his forehead. Snatching cell phones, demanding identity cards, hauling to secret chambers is the new normal in Kashmir.

Children play with toy guns near security personnel in Srinagar. Photo: Reuters

Everyone knows of the goings on in torture chambers, Papa One and Papa Two, during the 1990’s to 2000’s, holes of ignominy. But today their whereabouts are largely unknown. Parents who have no means of knowing, no money to bribe, no public transport to use, have no option but to live every inch of their pain.

There was a petition in the Supreme Court about disappeared children, post lockdown. Disappearances of youths in Kashmir have been going on for a long time but suddenly there is a deluge. Two distinguished child rights activists, Shanta Sinha and Enakshi Ganguly, have petitioned before a Supreme Court bench headed by the Chief Justice.

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The latter asked for a report from the Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice Committee headed by Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey.

Subsequently,  the Chief Justice of India, being occupied by Ayodhya, transferred the case to a colleague. The report of the Committee was submitted to Supreme Court via the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. After obtaining the views of several state agencies, the Committee concluded that ‘averments made in the petition are totally baseless fallacious and offer only a biased version based on media reports that have no evidentiary value…’ 

The next hearing is on October 14 2019.

What will be the fate of these innocents, these Yawars and others who are being held somewhere, somehow, away from loving laps of their mothers and fathers? What will be the result of this struggle to save children who are in the first spring of their lives?

At both ends, children at one end, parents at another — there is pining and longing, but there is nothing that connects them to one another, not even a lowly telephone line. 

Just think… if it was your child caught in this brutal display of force? 

If you know someone – friend or family member – at risk of suicide, please reach out to them. The Suicide Prevention India Foundation maintains a list of telephone numbers they can call to speak in confidence. You could also accompany them to the nearest hospital.