Gowhar, the nun-e-phol of Kashmir, and the ruthless killing machine that is the Indian CRPF

Published: September 6, 2017
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Even though Gowhar was snatched from us before his time, his memory will stay on in our hearts till we die. PHOTO: KASHMIR LIFE

He was amongst the younger children. I remember him as a frail boy with prominent cheekbones. When he would smile, the dent in his cheeks would turn into a dimple.

Whenever we would play cricket in the field and needed to toss, he would toss the bat up in the air with excitement and say,

“Akh, ze, tra!”

(One, two, three!)

Being one of the younger children in the neighbourhood meant that Gowhar often got to play du taraf (both sides). For us, the older boys, children such as Gowhar were called nun-e-phol (a chunk of salt). It is an intriguing word in Kashmiri children’s vocabulary. When you are bowling to a nun-e-phol, you are expected to bowl at a slower pace. You are expected to let them complete a run, even if there’s a chance to run them out.

That is how I remember Gowhar, as the nun-e-phol of our neighbourhood.

As I grew up, I left Kashmir for my higher studies. I would visit Kashmir once a year during my vacations. The last time I saw Gowhar was in June 2015 on one such visit to Kashmir.

When I visited the cricket field where we used to play as children, I stood watching Gowhar from a distance. Gowhar, who once was a nun-e-phol and would struggle to connect the bat with the ball, was now smashing off-drives and on-drives with complete authority. He had become a prolific batsman and was now playing for the Mustafa-Abad cricket team, the same local team I used to play for. At the end of his innings, he came over and greeted me.

The frail young boy had turned into a handsome young man. He had grown taller than me and his beard was thick and well-kept. I inquired about his studies and he told me he was in the fifth semester of his engineering degree in computer sciences. He said he had one more semester left and then he would look for a job.

That one semester never happened. Instead, a bullet shattered Gowhar’s dreams.

I remember that unfortunate day quite vividly.

The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, was visiting Kashmir and the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) had called a million-man march to protest his visit. There was a strict curfew on all movement and communication.

I was at work and was constantly checking the Greater Kashmir website for updates on the protest. I remember going numb when I came across a news story about a boy who had been killed in my locality.

My heart sank when I saw that it was Gowhar. The report said that he was shot in the head at point blank range by the 44 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) who are stationed in a now defunct watch factory adjacent to the cricket field.

I was in utter shock and dismay. I wanted to scream, but my voice wouldn’t come out. I took the remaining day off from work and went home. My chest grew heavier with every step I took, and as soon as I reached home, I let out a blood-curling shriek.

The Indian death machine had managed to come so close to us. It consumed the life of my childhood friend and left me with nothing but memories of him to cherish. When Gowhar’s grandmother came to know of his death, she too lost her life from the shock she suffered.

I visited Kashmir a year after Gowhar’s death. The road leading to our locality had a new signboard which read Shaheed Gowhar Road. I looked up and read it several times, probably trying to fathom the fact that he was not amongst us anymore and instead a signboard was erected to commemorate his life.

On my way, I bumped into a few childhood friends. Everyone spoke about Gowhar and the memories associated with him. I learned that his college had established a scholarship program under Gowhar’s name, which was awarded to an orphaned student each year on his death anniversary.

A friend told me that his father, Nazir Ahmad Dar, has been fighting relentlessly for justice. He also wants the CRPF camp adjacent to the cricket field to be shifted to a more secluded area. I was told that an inquiry had been ordered and an attempt to murder case had been registered against the CRPF by the police. However, nothing has happened so far. The CRPF are still stationed in the now defunct factory adjacent to the cricket field.

As I went to bed that night, I kept thinking about Gowhar and my last meeting with him. I shut my eyes and the first thing that came to mind was a beautiful Mirza Ghalib rendition;

“Bazeecha-e-itfal hai duniya meray aage,

Hota hai shab-o-roz tamasha meray aage.”

(The world is a children’s playground before me,

Night and day, this theatre is enacted before me.)

Even though Gowhar was snatched from us before his time, his memory will stay on in our hearts till we die.

Ikram Ullah

Ikram Ullah

The author is doing his PhD in Chromatin Biology in Germany and is originally from Srinagar, Kashmir. He tweets @ullahi_ (twitter.com/ullahi_)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Kulbhushan Yadav

    So did CRPF enter in his house during the curfew and shoot him ? Or he decided on his own to defy the curfew to disrupt law and order and throw stones after being brainwashed by coward leader like APHC whose kids are doing govt jobs in Indian Kashmir state govt while urging other’s kids to become fodder?Recommend

  • HUD HUD

    hurriyat and pakistan are main culprit of kahshmir. due to them army became strict and vigilants. in these scenarios some innocents lost their lives like in baluchistanRecommend

  • silversurfer

    The way to deal with indians is to be ultra ruthless to them. Making life difficult for them in their own miserable country and abroad is the only solution.There are countless ways. Certain imbeciles in Pakistan who want to chase the mirage of peace will never understand.Recommend

  • Tom

    Stop terrorism, you kashmiri muslim traitor……… You can easily run away to your terrorist dreamland……..No one n India will miss you………Recommend

  • wb

    Thank you for the tip. Now, we’ll do this to Pakistanis. We’ll win and you’ll lose. Because, we’re Hindus and you’re Muslims.Recommend

  • Kulbhushan Yadav

    See you guys tried this and lost half country. You may try again but this time India is not in moodRecommend

  • Fahim

    Your blood won’t go in vainRecommend

  • Ahtesham Ahmed Siddiqui

    The intellectuals and scholars are the people who enlighten the society and give the right path to the nation but unfortunately not in the case of India. Why Indians don’t have the courage to face the reality and give their neutral opinions and comments based on the truth & reality instead of biasness.Recommend

  • kulbhushan Yadav

    OK lets assume India did, what are you going to do about that??? You could not do a thing when India carved out an independent country out of you.
    P.S : You need better education in Geography and History. May I suggest “Khan Academy” for that?Recommend

  • Duniya Hasan

    Let’s not assume you are occupying most of land by force and you kill Anyone who is anti- hindutva. Oh pleaseIndia did not crave anything out of anything enough with big talk your just huge in population that’s the one and only major achievement bhartmata achieved. A second Muslim nation was created in sub continent on East due to hatred from West and now bhartamata is suffering with all illegal immigrants from that country you believed you created. Good luck!Recommend