Shujaat ul Islaam had come out of his home to offer prayers in a local mosque. In the meantime a large number of protestors (who were being chased by police) came running from the opposite direction. Shujaat ul Islaam along with Ishtiyaq Ahmad Khandey took refuge in latter’s house. They were in the lawn of the house when police shot Ishtiyaq down. As Shujaat knelt to lift Ishtiyaq he too was shot. Another youngster Imtiyaz had received a bullet through his head. Imtiyaz and Ishtiyaq died on the spot while Shujaat ul Islaam died on his way to hospital.
Treading through lanes and bylanes of Anchidora, Islamabad, we entered the single-storey house of Shujaat-Ul-Islam. Islam, pious and full of promise, was murdered by the Indian police during the Ragda uprising of 2010. Islam or Islam Kashmiri, as he preferred to call himself, besides being a high-school student served as the male-head of his family. His father, Ashraf-ul-Islam, was martyred in 1995 by pro-government militia or Ikhwanis. Ashraf, due to Shujaat’s murder, is now survived by his wife Batoola Akhtar, a son Talib-ul-Islam and a daughter Jamid-ul-Islam. When we entered their house, in the middle of the day, Jamid, now married, greeted us with a smile, “Bhaiyas mutallik chua prisun? (Have you come to enquire about brother?)” She guided us into Shujaat’s room and hurriedly went into the kitchen to fetch some lemonade.
“Yi ous bayun kutth (This was Shujaat’s bedroom),” Jamid sighed while entering the room-cum library with a lemonade-stacked tray. “Shujaat was like our father. I have vague memories about my real father but Shujaat’s presence largely substituted father’s absence,” she began while shuffling her eyeglasses. “Shujaat was around two years elder than me. He always cared deeply about the family. I was married 1 month prior to his martyrdom. Father’s death had already taken a heavy toll on our family. We faced economic and emotional distress due to his absence however, Shujaat’s paternal instincts and compassionate nature acted as a sponge. Then, he was also taken away”, Jamid continued, a deep sorrow seeping into her voice. “Bhaiyi frequently reminded us that we are the family of a martyr and this should reflect in our everyday conduct”. “Hamesh, Hamesh (Always, Always),” Talib, Shujaat’s younger brother, intervened while entering the room. “Bhaiyi always made sure that we followed the principles of Islam. He made us feel that we carried a responsibility. A responsibility of propagating Islamic teachings like our father” Ashraf-ul-Islam was a highly respected Islamic scholar and ran a Darsgah (Islamic School) around his neighborhood. “I have no memories of my father,” Talib continued. “I was too young when they martyred him but Shujaat Bhaiyi tried to be everything that a father could be. He guided us, made sure that we felt protected and reprimanded us occasionally. Since they took him away, I cannot concentrate on my studies. I barely remember my lessons. Until 2010, I went to a private boarding school in Srinagar but when Bhaiyi was martyred, there was nobody to take care of mother so I had to return and continue my schooling at home”. Talib, now in 12th standard, once dreamt of becoming a software engineer but since his brother’s death, he feels dejected. “I have stopped planning far-ahead. Let’s hope Allah has best plans for me”.
While we were talking to Jamid and Talib, Shujaat’s mother returned from work. Batool works in the Department of Agriculture. She had already been informed of our arrival by the children. “Yiman goubran disswa Chai? (Did you offer them tea),” she enquired before entering the room. “Tohhi Kati peivu aeis aaz yaad (How did you suddenly come across us after so long?), “Batool remarked sarcastically. “Anyways, I will tell you everything you need to know. Ashraf Soub, my husband, was held in detention for a long time before he achieved martyrdom. First, in 90s, he was arrested for pasting the posters of Jamaat-Ul-Toulba around the neighborhood. My elder son, Shujaat was around a year old. They released Ashraf Soub after eleven months. Then, soon after the birth of our daughter in 1991, he was rearrested and falsely accused of being involved in some grenade blast. That time, he was detained in Allahabad Central Jail for around three years. We were not even allowed to meet him once. My in-laws ostracized me. I spent most of that period at my parents’home. Then Ashraf Soub was unexpectedly released. I moved back to my in-laws place and they gave us a part of their cowshed to live in. Nevertheless, it didn’t matter where I lived as long as my family was with me. Life began to normalize somewhat and Ashraf soub setup a Darsgah. He furnished it with numerous books and began teaching Quran to the young men of the neighborhood.”
“It was 1995. My youngest son, Talib, was one month old”, Batool continued. “On one night, at around 10, we heard a knock. Ashraf Soub unlatched the door and some uniformed gunmen entered the house. They insisted that he accompany them to the Darsgah because the gunmen suspected that he had hidden something there. Ashraf soub reluctantly left the house with Talib in his arms. During dinner that evening, he had amusingly prophesized his martyrdom and said that this might be our last dinner together. Unfortunately, the prophecy came true. They shot him somewhere on the way to Darsgah and had thrown Talib into a nearby haystack. Talib was covered in mud when we found him later”. Talib, attentive towards Batool, shifted his gaze.
“Life became a constant battle after Ashraf Soub’s death. Agar bu panun doad wann junglas, tath gassi soor (If I reveal my sufferings to a jungle, it will burn down to the ashes)”, Batool lamented. “I worked odd-jobs, at private schools but finally landed into the Agricultural Department through SRO* scheme. We had somewhat reconciled to the loss but on 29th June, 2010, my elder son, Shujaat, was shot in the neck and abdomen while on his way to a friend’s house at the nearby S.K colony. He, alongwith two other boys Ishtiyaq (Ahmad Khanday-15) and Imtiyaz (Ahmad Itoo-17), died on the way to hospital. Shujaat was the foundation of this house. A down-to-earth, pious boy with dreams of higher study, Shujaat took care of us all. In time, he had taken Ashraf Soub’s place in the family.”
“I remember that once, not long before his martyrdom, I kept some apples in a bowl in front of him while he was deeply engaged in typing something on the computer. When I returned to find the apples untouched, I reprimanded but he said that since he was in doubt that the apples were actually meant for him, he didn’t feel right to eat them”, Batool continued with a sorrowful smile overcoming her face. “I remember him every day, every moment. They say that after Shujaat was shot, he insisted on performing Wudhu. Such was his piety. We didn’t file any suits. How can one expect justice from the state that killed him in the first place? Although we received some compensation* from the government.”
“The one thing that Shujaat had earned most in his life was friends,” said Saqib, Shujaat’s neighbor and friend. “He was the most helpful guy in the neighborhood. He assisted me with my study projects and always guided me to pursue the course of educating myself and helping others. Despite being almost as old as me, he was my mentor. Shujaat also had a deep understanding of Islam and Kashmir’s resistance movement. We often talked about the Kashmir’s history and contemporary political scenario. He was politically aware and active. I miss him. The entire neighborhood misses him,” tears filled into Saqib’s eyes. “He had dreams of providing for his family. He supported them economically. While studying, he also took odd-jobs. He worked at a wholesale grocery-store in Islamabad town and also tutored schoolchildren. Shujaat was an inspiration for us all”, Saqib said while pointing out Shujaat’s grave with a epitaph reading Shaheed Shujaat-Ul-Islam, Son of Shaheed Ashraf-Ul-Islam .29th June 2010.
Compensation (rehabilitation) is only a tiny part of what encompasses “justice” under international humanitarian law. Punishing the perpetrators is central and vitally important.
SRO 43- A part of “compensation regime”, the Occupying Indian state manipulates this scheme as a substitute for justice by providing a job to one of the family members of a person “deceased in militant-activities”.