From writing stories to narrating her sorrow—Kashmiri journalist’s justice campaign

Dec 17, 2021 | Brutality by Occupying Forces

“Every day I go home, my cousins run to me and ask: ‘Have police given you Baba’s body?’ I’ve no answer to their questions. What will I say to them?”

Saima Bhat could only stand shocked and scream in desperation following the police raid on protesters demanding bodies of their slain family members at Press Enclave Srinagar on Thursday night.

“We’re demanding the least,” Saima, a senior journalist from Kashmir, cried in the chilly, dark colony swooped down by armoured vehicles and a posse of police.

The late-night action on the protesters evoked widespread condemnation. The family members of the slain civilians along with some activists were briefly lodged in Kothi bagh police station before being released.

Amid all this, Saima was seen pleading her family’s rights to hold a peaceful protest and demand body of her uncle.

Mohammad Altaf Bhat, Saima’s uncle, was among the civilians killed in the Hyderpora military operation.

The Monday night controversial operation saw police releasing contradictory statements before Saima shocked everyone with her midnight tweet: “You killed my innocent uncle Mohammad Altaf Bhat in cold blooded murder In Hyderpora, you used him as human shield and now saying he was ‘OGW’. Return us his body.”

Since that midnight tweet, Saima has been demanding the body of her uncle—#JusticeforAltafBhat #returnbody—along with the mortal remains of his tenant, Dr. Mudasir Gul, who was also killed in the Hyderpora military operation.

Both the civilians along with the two alleged combatants were buried in Handwara, Kashmir Police chief, Vijay Kumar said on Tuesday. The IGP cited the probable “law and order” problem for the hushed burial.

But to demand bodies, both the families sat on a day-long protest at Press Enclave on Wednesday before they were removed from the site.

“I have worked in Press Enclave for last 11 years and never has electricity been snapped for such a long time,” Saima said on the Thursday night when the protest site suddenly turned murky. “We are demanding the least.”

“I’ve been writing stories of people but today I am narrating my own sorrow,” Saima lamented while talking to Free Press Kashmir.

“My relatives and younger cousins are hoping that I will get the body of their father. Every day I go home my cousins run to me and ask: ‘Have police given you Baba’s body?’ I’ve no answer to their questions. What will I say to them?”

Saima along with other family members visited Srinagar Deputy Commissioner’s office to seek his intervention to get her uncle’s body.

“District Commissioner told us he’s ready if the police will give him permission,” she said.

“We called the Director General of Police and he told us that we can visit the grave in Handwara and then take the body. But we told him to give this in writing and for this he called us in his office. He denied everything commented on the phone. Then we talked to the Inspector General of Police. He admitted in front of us that our uncle was a civilian and they regret his killing but said they cannot allow us to take his mortal remains. What kind of justice system is this?”

Saima said her family will not stop until the police return them mortal remains of her uncle.

“He was innocent and the police also knew it,” Saima said.

“We also know that we cannot see him again but at least we have the right to give him a decent burial. We will not stop. We will seek judicial help to get my uncle’s body. This is our basic right to bury our uncle in our ancestral graveyard and perform his last rituals according to our religion.”

By Bisma Bhat | Free Press Kashmir