On the ground in Old City

Holding sticks and stones, the masked youth – from minors to adults – on the first look appear disorganized, but as moments pass the chaos seems to have one common glue– they are up in arms against state on the streets of Kashmir’s Old City. I move around smaller groups of youth who have assembled in Nawab Bazaar, they speak in unison and even when differences erupt they resolve them in moments. The anger is visible in their eyes.

The reason, this time is the mysterious death of a Kashmir youth – Parvaiz Ahmad Teli – whose body was found in Mumbai – India’s economic Capital. The youth accuse Mumbai police and right wing Hindu elements of ‘murdering’ Parvaiz, as according to them, he was a Kashmiri Muslim.

On Sunday morning, when the residents of Nawab Bazar neighborhood in downtown Srinagar were sleeping and suddenly the news of Parvaiz’s death broke in the area – who was also known by the nick name of Jana – people came out on roads shouting slogans against India and in favour of Freedom.

Parvaiz – a pro-freedom figure in the locality – was a salesman in a Kashmir art showroom in Mumbai. He had spent ten years in Bangalore and moved to Mumbai recently. On July 6, he went missing near the busy Churchgate and on 14 July, Sunday, his body was found.

As the news broke out in the area, the youth took to streets, shouted slogans, blocked roads with big stones and wooden logs, burnt tyres, and pelted stones on government forces. Shopkeepers downed their shutters and traffic disappeared from the roads. The area turned in to a battle-field as stone throwing clashes intensified between masked youth and gun totting soldiers. The forces’ personals targeted youth through catapults, and also tried to disperse them, but the youth offered stiff resistance and continued the battle.

While wailing and beating their chests, back at home in congested Qalamdanpora locality of Nawab Bazar, the mother and sisters of Parvaiz are in deep trauma. Perhaps, they couldn’t believe that he has left them forever. People of adjoining areas flocked to enquire the causes of his death. The congested Qalamdanpora was jam-packed with emotions running high.

The body of Parvaiz arrived at 2:30 PM. Hundreds of people were waiting for Parrvaiz on the streets of Nawab Bazar. He had attained the title of ‘martry’ from the youth and they were shouting slogans in favour of Parvaiz – who was now a martyr for them. As his body arrived, the area reverberated with roaring pro-freedom, pro-Islam and anti-India slogans: “Naar-e-Takbeer Allah-u-Akbar, Hum Kya Chahte Azadi, Islam Zindabad, Yaha Kya Chalega Nizaam-e-Mustafa…”

Angry and highly charged youth cordoned body of Parvaiz. Lifted it on their shoulders and took it into the house of Parvaiz for a final glimpse. The locality, yet again brewed with cries of mourners. More and more people were arriving to participate in the funeral prayer of Parvaiz. He was given final abulation in the small compound of their newly constructed three storey house.

Now it was time for final journey. Near about two thousand people participated in funeral procession of Parvaiz Ahamd Teli. Holding black flags and banners, people shouting pro-freedom slogans carried the body of Parvaiz on their shoulders for funeral. His funeral prayers were offered in the compound of historic Pather Masjid – four hundred year old heritage Mosque which was built on the orders of Noorjahan, the wife of fourth Mughal Emperor, Jehangir.

As the funeral concluded, people started to march towards the ancestral graveyard of Parvaiz, which is located two kilometers away at Gojwara. In the scorching heat, youth, who were highly charged, shouted anti-India slogans and marched on the congested streets of old city and Parvaiz was given a tearful farewell.

Soon after Parvaiz was laid to rest in his ancestral graveyard, hundreds of youth attacked Nowhatta police station with bricks and stones which sparked violent clashes in the area. Police and para-military forces resorted to teargas shelling and fired pellets directly on the protesters, witnesses said. Seven people were injured after they were hit by pellets and one youth was seriously injured after pellets his eyes. He was rushed to hospital where he was operated by doctors. Clashes also erupted in the nearby Saraf Kadal, where youth pelted stones on the government forces, which were deployed in strength. The clashes continued till evening, however, there were no reports of any injury from any side.