On a breezy October afternoon, unidentified attackers gunned down advocate A Q Sailani outside Sheri Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences at Soura in Srinagar, summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. Eighteen years have passed since and we are yet to hear who killed him and why.
Investigations are yet to see the light of the day; as a result, nobody has been held accountable for his death. His killers are still at large and God knows how many more innocents might have faced their brutality.
Nobody seems to care. But I do because he was my father. And so does my family.
It was 17 October 1995 when we heard about his death. Newspapers reported on the next day that he died in cross firing between separatist guerillas and Indian forces. ‘Collateral casualties’ is the term they use for such deaths in Kashmir where more than 60,000 people have died since 1989 after militant uprising broke out against the Indian rule.
But we know that my father was killed because he worked selflessly for the people of Kashmir. He didn’t carry any gun, but yes he would use his pen to strive for justice of people in the Valley. As goes the proverb, ‘pen is mightier than the sword’, the State might have felt threatened by his works.
My father isn’t around today to hold my hand but his principles have laid a path for me, and as a budding lawyer, I am trying my best to imbibe his ideas.
Every time I enter into the court premises, I visualize him wearing his favourite black coat and sometimes I hear him speaking to me. As soon as I come to terms with the reality, I find myself gasping for breath. This gives me a feeling of how unfortunate I am for not losing just my father but a guardian and an idol.
Shattered and broken, my mother despite losing her husband braved all odds and made sure that all four of us siblings received better education. Her tragedy was even worse: she couldn’t even weep before us because she didn’t want us to lose hope.
My father was buried at the local cemetery in Dalgate. Every year his death anniversary is commemorated but this year I took this as an opportunity to document the names of all those souls who attained martyrdom in the Valley during all these years of turmoil. The aim of this drive is to make sure that our future generations don’t remain oblivious to the sacrifices of the people who died for our better tomorrow.
This is a mission, which my father would have patted me for and I will take it forward till I am alive. All those thousands of families that lost their dear ones have suffered both financially and psychologically. Though I can’t help them overcome their sufferings but with this small effort I can at least try to make sure that their sacrifices are not wiped from our collective memories.