Tragic Tale of 14-Month-Old in Kashmir: Mother Killed in Encounter, Father Booked for Stonepelting

Little Mariam with her grandfather Mohammad Shaban Mir as her mother was killed in an encounter and father Wani was picked up for stonepelting.
Unsoo, Kupwara: Little Mariam and tragedy have been constant companions. Five months ago, her mother was killed in an ‘encounter’ and now her father has been arrested on charges of stone pelting.

The 14-month-old baby is too young to comprehend what killing or arrest means, but she has started to feel her dad’s absence.

At their modest home in Unsoo village of Kupwara district, her grandparents, Mohammad Shaban Mir and his wife Zareefa, are struggling to put her to sleep as well as feed her.

Their son-in-law, Ishfaq Wani, 22, is in police custody since Monday. Police say he was hurling stones at Unsoo main chowk last week, but villagers say he is innocent.

“He had gone to work in the family orchard. In the meanwhile, police were dispersing a stone throwing mob. Next morning, they summoned him to police station. He hasn’t been released since then,” Mir told News18 while running his hand over Mariam’s head.

“She has been crying hard all these days. She is missing her father.”

Mir was sitting on a verandah with dozen odd men and women from neighborhood trying to put baby Mariam to sleep. But every time a visitor came to offer a sympathetic word, she would let out a cry.

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“Ever since her mother was killed she recognises only three of us – me, my husband and Ishfaq,” says Zareefa, her grandmother.

A People Democratic Party (PDP) worker who has been demanding his release questioned the arrest.

“There is a limit to injustice. How can police arrest Ishfaq. He is not a stonepelter. Is there any previous record,” said the PDP leader.

Wani’s wife Misra Bano died during an encounter on December 11, 2017, that also left three militants dead at Unsoo village.

Senior Superintendent of police for Handwara, Ghulam Jeelani, said Wani was held after proper evidence of his involvement in stone pelting.

“We have a video showing Ishfaq throwing stones. He has confessed to him crime,” he said.

Residents of the area, however, demand he should be released forthwith to be with his infant child and old aged parents.

“The minor girl needs her father badly. Her grandparents are old and ailing. This is heart-wrenching,” a villager shouted.

In December, Mariam’s mother Maisara, 22, was killed in an encounter when security forces cornered three militants next to a few houses of the Mir clan.

Villagers say in the brief encounter all three were neutralised. Maisara, who was kept in the compound of the house, received a bullet in her head. She lay dead there. Little Mariam was in her lap when she fell down.

“Her body lay there in rain for seven hours. She was dead at around 12 pm but body could be lifted at 7 am only. It was raining heavily,” recalls Zareefa.

Maisara was Mir’s only child.

Police press release had then said a woman was injured in “cross-firing” and “unfortunately succumbed to her injuries”.

Villagers say Wani was picked up after a fresh stone pelting incident took place over civilian deaths in firing by security forces last week in Shopian.

“Ishfaq gave himself up to police, hoping they would let him go. But they have kept him there,” said a neighbour.

A senior police officer said they will release him in a day or two after proper counselling.

SSP Jeelani told News18 that he is also helping him process his wife’s case for compensation.