“Investigation in Kashmir is a cruel joke,” Tufail Matoo’s father on his son’s 11th death anniversary

Ashraf Matoo sprinkles flowers on the grave of his 17 year old son Tufail Matoo at the Martys Graveyard in Old City Srinagar to mark his 11th death anniversary on Friday 11 june 2021. Photo: Syed Shahriyar/Instagram

June 11, 2010, is inscribed on Tufail Mattoo’s father’s heart. As, every time he is being perused by the reporters to know what caused his son Tufail’s death, it revives his open wounds. Friday marked 11 years of his killing in the hands of the Indian military forces, which triggered massive protests and outrage among the Kashmiris seeking his justice.

Tufail was a student of Class 12 at Government Higher Secondary School Hazratbal. He had passed his Class 10 from Radiant Public School, Malla Bagh, Srinagar. He was killed when he was walking by the site of protest, compounding the tragedy- the enraged demurral over the killing of the civilians in a staged encounter. While passing by the Gandhi Memorial College, that’s when the tear gas shell hit him- approximately 11kms from his house.

The shell busted his skull open, and he died on the spot with the five rupee coin in his hand. His death triggered and fueled months of protests, causing a long anti- India uprising during which the forces killed nearly 120 people.

The testimonials from the vicinity said, “the police started chasing Tufail when they saw him crossing by, and chased him to death.”

The desolation of losing his only child still brings nightmares to his friends and Mattoo’s family.

Tufail’s death has intensified the movement for Free Kashmir. The killing of the only son of – a handicraft businessman Mohammad Ashraf Matto, 55, has dedicated his life to fighting for justice, even if it may not come in his lifetime. His son’s death has caused a void at their residence – Khalil Manzil in Srinagar’s Saidakadal.

As Mr. Matoo, recounts that day with utter pain “I handed over a Rs 10 note as his bus fare, as Tufail headed for his tuition center, he was preparing for his medical entrance test, I didn’t know that the Rs 5 coin I handed him would remain as “memorial” for me and my son would never return.”

As Mr. Matoo, recounts that day with utter pain “I handed over a Rs 10 note as his bus fare, as Tufail headed for his tuition center, he was preparing for his medical entrance test, I didn’t know that the Rs 5 coin I handed him would remain as “memorial” for me and my son would never return”.

“My son will complete 11 years in the grave, he has not got justice so far. But I am determined, to fight. My case is strong, and our struggle has exposed their judicial system”, Mattoo added.

On 19 June 2014 Chief Minister of J&K state, Omar Abdullah, appointed a retired judge Justice Mr. Makhan Lal Koul to probe the killings during the 2010 uprising. Then later Koul commission report was handed to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in December 2016, advocated a CBI inquiry be ordered in Tufail’s case.

“The report has not been made public he [Justice Koul] had promised to give me a copy of the report personally,” I have lost count of court hearings and inquiries,” recalled Mattoo.

As per a report in a local daily in December 2012, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the J&K Police had the first investigation of the case, and closed the investigation by stating culprits “untraced.”

People from all walks of life come and pay tribute to Tufail’s grave. In February 2015, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court ordered a fresh probe into Tufail Matto’s killing. It was after Amnesty International called on Jammu and Kashmir Government in June 2013 to reopen the investigation into the 2010 killing of Tufail Mattoo.

As reported in a local daily in Kashmir, “It took seven days for the intervention of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Srinagar, for Ashraf Mattoo to get the Jammu and Kashmir Police to register the killings of a 17-year-old boy. The First Information Report (FIR) numbered 45of the year 2010 matters more than his birth certificate.

The case is just confined to papers piled in a closed folder. His father has kept an account of newspaper cuttings, investigation reports, and unanswered letters to the government officials and courts. Letters denying information sought under the RTI ACT.

Not much has changed in the last 11 years- except for the fact is aged father is fighting for justice amidst the stringent life concluding judges- ” I sometimes feel only if there was no occupation, my son’s life would have been saved.”, says the greyed father sobbing tears.

“I have chosen to fight for it, so I am doing it. If I do not get justice, Allah will deliver it in the afterlife. But my struggle will expose the system that is bereft of any respect for justice,” he said.

Tufail’s killing in 2010 is just one spark to fuel anger and outrageous sentiments for Kashmiris to raise their voice firm against New Delhi’s government, whether it’s Mr. Matoo’s wait sought for justice or the rapes, tortures and the enforced disappearances further deepens the distrust among Kashmiris over the Indian Judicial system.

To date there is no progress in the case, the reason being the police haven’t intervened much in the case in the fair judicial order, no proper investigation has been carried out, government forces are enjoying impunity in the state of Jammu and Kashmir where they get away easily with their violation of humans rights”, said Parvez Emroz a noted human rights activist and lawyer by profession.

As per a report in Sabrang Khurram observed that since 2010, the streets can never be calm in Kashmir, one can always find chanting slogans of freedom (Azadi), whenever a civilian or even a militant is being killed in an encounter people are out on the streets wailing and crying for their right for self-determination”.

Mattoo has attended more than 50 court hearings in the past 11 years, and he has lost all hopes in the Indian Judiciary system.

“I tried my best to believe and convince myself, the government will deliver justice, their so-called sovereign democracy has failed in arresting culprits, what they did with my son, has been happening here in Kashmir since decades, my hopes in India’s secular state is dying with each passing day,” said Matto.

A noted journalist from the valley Ashraf Hamaad said that the “situation in Kashmir is very precarious” where enforced “normality” is just an illusion, and gets printed in the mouthpieces of the government-run publications”.

“Investigation in Kashmir is a cruel joke; there is no rush-up in the case, that’s why I rejected the recommendations of the Justice Koul Commission of Inquiry, as it proposed a further CBI investigation into the Killing”, Mattoo added.

Tufail’s killing in 2010 is just one spark to fuel anger and outrageous sentiments for Kashmiris to raise their voice firm against New Delhi’s government, whether it’s Mr. Matoo’s wait sought for justice or the rapes, tortures and the enforced disappearances further deepens the distrust among Kashmiris over the Indian Judicial system. As the government of India shows no will to investigate any crime associated with killings, and is in no plan to resolve the refute in the valley.

Babrah Tabasum Naikoo is a freelance Journalist based in Kashmir and a postgraduate from AJK Masscommunication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.