The case against two policemen accused in the killing of 13-year-old Wamiq Farooq in Srinagar in 2010 staggered to a halt with the revocation of Article 370 and the pandemic, but his family has said they will continue their fight.
Wamiq Farooq had just topped his Class 6 examination and was set to resume school in the spring of 2010. Sundays were the only days when the 13-year-old would get some time off his studious routine to play some cricket. On January 31, 2010, after offering noon-time prayers at a mosque and eating lunch with his family, Wamiq tucked a cricket ball into his pocket, waved to his mother through the window and left. He never returned
His aunt then saw him loitering in the street adjacent to the house at around 4 pm and asked him to come inside the house, but Wamiq told her he was going to Gani Memorial Stadium – roughly three kilometres from his house in Rainawari, Srinagar. He asked a stranger on a bicycle to drop him off near the stadium, Wamiq’s brother Danish Farooq said.
“On Sundays, the stadium is usually occupied. And during the winters, the ground sometimes is wet,” says his brother, Danish. “As the field was wet, he couldn’t play cricket. He then joined some kids playing carom nearby.”
Later that evening, Wamiq was hit on the head by a tear-smoke shell that was allegedly fired at close range by constable Mohamad Akram of the Jammu and Kashmir Police on the orders of ASI Abdul Khaliq. The police later justified their action in the FIR (12/2010), claiming that “in order to disperse the unruly mob, the mild force was used such as tear-smoke shells, as a result, thereof one shell hit a boy who was taken by the locals to the hospital…” However, key eyewitnesses have contested the narrative, “There was no mob or any incident of stone-pelting, even the nearby shops were open, everything was normal.”
Wamiq was one of the first victims of the indiscriminate use of police violence in early 2010. Over the year, a series of killings – especially the death of Tufail Matto, who died when security forces fired a teargas canister on June 11, 2010 – culminated into the 2010 Kashmir uprising.
On August 22, 2013, the chief judicial magistrate of Srinagar issued non-bailable arrest warrants against Abdul Khaliq Sofi and Mohammad Akram after the prima-facie guilt of the accused was established based on a judicial inquiry and police probe. The CJM’s order read:
“From the apparent perusal of evidence collected by the Judicial Magistrate in an inquiry under section 202 of CrPC and the evidence collected by the SIT, such circumstances are spelt out which prima-facie indicate to availability of evidence which points out the culpability of ASI Abdul Khaliq Sofi and SPO Muhammad Akram.”
However, no arrests were made.
A commission led by Justice M.L. Koul, which was assigned to investigate human rights violations that took place during the 2010 unrest, finally submitted a report in 2014 regarding the 2010 killings, wherein it fiercely criticised the use of unjustified force over civilians that resulted in more than 120 deaths.
Moreover, the commission’s report, holding Abdul Khaliq and Muhammad Akram responsible for misusing their power, concludes that Wamiq’s killing was an example of police brutality. The 320-page report further mentioned that the defences put forth by the accused party were dubious and weak.
“These commissions are nothing but an attempt to camouflage and deviate the attention of the people – no recommendations were implemented. The commission had even sought monetary relief for the family of the victim, and as of yet, they have not been remunerated even by a single penny. These are just diversionary tactics employed by the state,” advocate Ajaz Ahmad, who is representing Wamiq Farooq’s family, told The Wire.
The then CJM Srinagar had issued an order of magisterial probe under which Masarat Shaheen (currently registrar judicial at the J&K high court) recorded the statement of eight eyewitnesses. “All of the testimonies confirmed in unison that there was no mob present at the time and there was no incident of stone pelting, and that the constable Akram had fired shells on the order of ASI Khaliq,” Ahmad told The Wire.
Later, the CJM, on considering the reports of the probe, suggested A.G. Mir, the then IGP Kashmir, to form a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into the matter. However, the state filed a revision petition against the orders of CJM, which was dismissed by the principal district judge. The police filed a few more petitions and all of them were dismissed, as a result of which IGP “was finally forced to constitute an SIT under the Superintendent of Police Ajaz Khan”. The report which was filed claimed that Wamiq had “fallen from a wall, while jumping off, causing him major head injuries.”
The case also went to the Supreme Court, and on April 7, 2015, it asked the trial court Srinagar to proceed with a trial in the case “uninfluenced” by findings of the SIT and observations of the J&K high court.
Recalling the unfortunate day she lost her son, Wamiq Farooq’s mother Firdausa told The Wire, “The doctors were threatened by the police and they gave us a false report, wherein the cause of death was mentioned as an injury caused in a motorbike incident.”
“I shouted at the doctors, and begged them to give us the true reports if there was any conscience left in their hearts,” she added. “They gave me the second report after hours of pleading.”
The second report mentioned that Wamiq had suffered an injury “in the posterior part of his skull, resulting from an accelerated projectile”. It further claimed that “brain matter was flooding out with the blood” and that the victim had been brought dead.
Wamiq’s family saw a glimmer of hope after five long years when on November 20, 2015, forest magistrate Srinagar B.A. Munshi issued fresh non-bailable arrest warrants against the two policemen – Sofi and Akram. The court further directed the senior superintendent of police (Srinagar) to execute the warrants and produce the accused before the court on December 1, 2015.
On December 1, 2015, the accused duo surrendered before the court. The policemen, after being found guilty of culpable homicide, were remanded to judicial custody and sent to the Central Jail. “I believe that the accused are involved in a heinous offence, therefore they cannot be released on bail at this stage,” Munshi said in his order.
In February 2018, both Sofi and Akram were released on bail. Later, the accused party filed two transfer applications in order to transfer the case from Srinagar to the Jammu court.
“The accused have been filing these petitions to avoid a fair trial, and avoid confronting the court,” says Ajaz.
“I am surprised that despite all the evidence and the accounts of eyewitnesses, there has not even been a single proceeding in the court till date and the culprits are roaming free. It has been a decade of this excruciating struggle, but we will not give up” said Farooq Ahmad Wani, Wamiq’s father, who is a street hawker and makes his living selling school bags.
One of the transfer applications was filed on the grounds that the “complainant had threatened the accused, and it is, therefore, unsafe for the accused to stay in Srinagar” and to appear in the court here. In the second transfer application, the accused have alleged that the judges in Srinagar “despite enjoying the benefits of the state, are not dispensing justice to the people [accused] who have been serving the national interest”.
Both the applications have been challenged by advocate Ajaz Khan and the final argument regarding the criminal transfer application was to be heard by the chief justice of the J&K HC, early in the summer of 2019.
However, in August 2019, the region was stripped of its autonomy and the Centre imposed an unprecedented clampdown in the Valley – all modes of communication were snapped and mass detentions of civilians and the mainstream politicians were carried out. The lockdown brought the judicial process to a halt, hence keeping Wamiq’s family in a perpetual wait for justice.
Later, the COVID-19 pandemic paved the way for more lockdown, further clogging the wheels of justice. In light of this, courtrooms and trials have been shifted online. However, though it has been more than 500 days since internet services were initially snapped in the Valley, the government has yet to restore the internet fully – making it difficult to even send an email, let alone attend the online courtroom sessions.
“It takes hours to argue a case. How can we expect a four-hour-long video conference with the judge when the internet is so sluggish that you can’t even log into your email?” complains Ajaz Ahmed. “Moreover, it is close to impossible to argue the case efficaciously and in-depth via video conference.”
As a result, on his 11th death anniversary, justice still evades Wamiq Farooq and his family.
In remembrance of Wamiq Farooq, congregational prayers were held on his 11th death anniversary on January 31 at Martyrs’ Graveyard, Eidgah, in Srinagar.