“Amid pro-freedom and anti-India slogans, the slain youths were taken for burial in a local graveyard”
On November 3 morning, Faisal Yousuf met his friend, Zahid, at some distance from their homes in Nowgam locality on the outskirts of Srinagar. The two exchanged customary greetings and were soon joined by other friends. As the conversation warmed up, Faisal made jokes of Zahid’s driving skills. Everybody, including Zahid, laughed theirs hearts out.
“You know he once bumped his car into a girl on highway and he dares to call himself a driver,” Faisal told Zahid.
“My family doesn’t let me drive for this reason only,” Zahid responded with a smile, to which Faisal added, “How shall they,” sparking another spell of laughter. After cracking jokes, they shared their plans for the day. The conversation ended and everybody left for their homes.
In the afternoon of the fateful day, Shakir called his friend, Mehraj-ud-Din, and asked to join him on a drive. Mehraj was returning home from work. Shakir was accompanied by Zahid and they decided to wait for him till he had his meals. To kill time, they hopped into Zahid’s Alto car and turned on the music. Mehraj soon joined them.
As they embarked on the trip, Mehraj saw his best friends, Showkat and Ehsaan, and insisted them to join in, but they refused and instead went to Lal Chowk for shopping. The trio – Shakir, Zahid and Mehraj – were about to hit the road when Zahid got a call from Faisal. He wanted to join them too. Faisal was calling from a nearby playfield and asked them to receive him there.
Shakir, Faisal, Zahid and Mehraj, the four teenage boys who were travelling in the car that met a tragic fate on Monday evening in Chattergam, live in the same locality since childhood. They know each other inside out. What they didn’t know was the fate that was awaiting them in coming hours.
After meeting Faisal, all of them agreed not to take Zahid’s car. Knowing his poor driving skills, Zahid’s parents would regularly call him to return home whenever he was out on a drive. To avoid regular interruptions, they decided to take along a Maruti 800 car that belonged to Faisal’s father.
It was around 4:30 pm and the day was about to end.
Faisal got the keys of his father’s car from home while his friends waited outside the gate of a local graveyard, where two of them – Faisal and Mehraj – will be buried, later, in a single grave.
Basim Amin, the fifth boy who escaped unscathed in the shooting, is thinly built with fair complexion. He likes to rear pigeons and was, as always, looking for the birds in the sky. He was on his usual stroll on the highway in Nowgam when a honking car stopped near him. Inside the car were Faisal, Mehraj, Zahid and Shakir. Faisal who was driving the car offered Basim a drive to Suthsoo, a locality some four kilometre away from their location.
Basim agreed and joined the party. As a special gesture, Faisal offered Basim the seat beside him in the front.
Faisal sped up his car. On way to Suthsoo, they listened to music and gossiped. Faisal again teased Zahid for his driving skills. Nobody stopped them for frisking.
On their return, in Chattergam, uniformed men in twos and threes were stopping vehicles for checking. It was later known that they were troopers of Indian Army’s 53 RR unit. A tipper was plying ahead of their car near a checkpoint when Army men waived at the driver to stop.
Faisal’s car was behind the tipper and he decided to overtake. But his car brushed against the tipper. Another group of Army men standing few metres ahead waived at Faisal to stop. Already nervous, he applied handbrake but the car skidded off the road.
The screeching tyres caught attention of the Army men who, without any provocation, pulled the trigger and fired the first shot which hit Faisal’s arm. He lost control of car and rammed into an electric pole on the roadside.
All of a sudden, a volley of bullets pierced through the doors and windows. Nobody cried. There were no pleas, no justifications. The only sound they could hear was of their breathing and bullets.
When firing stopped, Faisal and Mehraj were dead in a pool of blood with bullets bored into their bodies. Shakir and Zahid were unconscious and bleeding. On the seat besides Faisal was Basim; stunned, motionless, pale but unscathed. A green-eyed boy known for his wittiness among his relatives and neighbours, he slowly pulled down the glass and got out of the car through the window.
He rolled his body over the road four to five times and dropped into the low-lying paddy fields. With their guns pointed at the car, the Army men began retreating, perhaps out of fear of the boy coming out of the window. Seeing no response, the Army men fired several shots at him. Luckily, Basim escaped from the mouth of death. In real terms, he had cheated death.
Basim tried to run through the fields but he had no energy left in his body. Nevertheless, he managed to reach a house at the end of paddy fields where he drank a glass of water. His thoughts were with his friends. After about 30 minutes, he came to see if his friends are still there. But he could only see a large crowd of people at the spot. It soon dawned on him that the world he knows would no more be same to him.
After a night of mourning, he joined the funeral prayers of Faisal and Mehraj next morning.
Dispatch compiled from a conversation with Basim, the boy who emerged unscathed in firing by Army’s 53 RR unit which left two boys dead and two more injured in Chattergam locality of summer capital Srinagar on November 3.