We are on our way to meet Farooq Ahmad Dar. By now, everybody knows the shawl-weaver from Kashmir — the man who was tied to the bonnet of an Army Jeep as human shield and paraded through villages for nearly five hours.
The incident took place on April 9, and recently the top brass of Indian Army decided to give a commendation card to the officer who was in-charge of that column.
Dar’s village — Chil — is about 40km from Srinagar in Budgam district. The road is very scenic and, at times for long stretches, one can only see paddy fields on each side. This beauty can, however, confuse the driver. So, we seek directions at many points. At one place we ask for directions from a boy who in turn requests for a ride from us. On learning where we are headed to, the young boy quickly remarks how unfair the Army’s decision was on Dar.
The boy recalls that the incident of a man being tied to a vehicle was perhaps the only thing that every villager in this area talked about on that fateful day, and days after. Around 2 hours of driving and our vehicle finally arrives at Chil village. It is a typical Kashmiri hamlet. Narrow lanes, most of the houses are made of mud with only a few exceptions which clearly stand out. It didn’t take much time to find Dar. By now, everybody knows his house.
Inside, it has a few hens with a bunch of newly hatched chickens tailing them while roosters stand guard not too far away. A few women, busy with their daily chores, silently look at us as we near Dar's house. Then Dar sees our TV crew and starts shouting.
The incident of a man being tied to a vehicle was perhaps the only thing that every villager in this area talked about on that fateful day, and days after.
“I won’t talk to anyone. What have you guys done for me in this past one month? Nothing has happened," he screams. A little while later, he calms down and finally is ready to at least sit down with us.
His house is small; two rooms divided by a weeny alley. So, he asks us to come to his brother’s house instead. Dar’s phone is constantly ringing. News reporters unknown to him repeatedly asking him just one question, “Now that the major has been awarded how does he feel?”. Not knowing how exactly to answer their queries, he is visibly irritated.
His brother says Dar is doubly hurt today and he doesn’t know what to say. He is, after all, just a simple shawl-weaver. Dar, however, takes us by surprise right in the beginning of our conversation. "Despite a call against voting I went out to do so and this is how I was rewarded. They are blaming me of being a stone pelter now. This is what they did to me. What would they do to others?” he questions.
We are stumped. Initially, he wasn’t ready to speak but now he is venting it out. He talks about how he was picked up. Dar names all the villages that he was paraded through tied to the Jeep.
"Sonpa, Najan, Chakpora, Hanjiguroo, Khospora, Rawalpora, Arizal and Hardapanzoo."
As he narrates the incident the angst and frustration is visible on his face.
He tells us how he already knows that he won’t get any justice, but he won’t stop talking about it. His brothers say Dar is "disturbed". For many days after the incident, he didn’t leave his house. They had to take him to the doctors in Srinagar. The doctors treating Dar have told them that he is showing signs of severe depression.
The video of Dar wearing a black pheran and jeans, tied to the Jeep’s bonnet has been shared widely. There was an announcement blaring from a loudspeaker attached to the vehicle, warning all stone-pelters of the same fate.
Dar tells us that a lot of people tried to help him, but the armymen didn’t listen to anyone. He says that they treated him like a lifeless toy and at that time he felt he was going to die. Major Gogoi, who had ordered his men to tie him up, says he did it to save other civilians. Even though it seems that the major has got support from within the Army, Dar feels that it is plain injustice being played out.
“Here justice is being trampled upon and cruelty is being upheld," he exclaims.
After saying those words Dar goes silent again. He makes it apparent he doesn't have anything else to tell us. He has to go back to his house where his ailing mother needs his help. We realise it was time for us to leave the place.
Dar didn’t say much, but the look in his eyes says a lot. You can see the hurt, desperation and disillusionment.
Outside, I could hear a few women murmuring. One says, "Kashmir is cursed and the sufferings of the people will never end."