NEW DELHI: Forty-year-old mother Habla cannot get over being denied permission to see her son one last time before he was buried.
It was June 2018 when she last saw her 25-year-old son Suhail Ahmad Wani alive, and she has always hoped to meet him again.
“It pains me so much. The incident left me so traumatized that sometimes I feel I should avenge his killing,” she told Arab News.
“It was a double injustice for me. First my son was forced to become a rebel because of police atrocities, and when he died a second injustice was done to him by denying him a dignified burial in his native place,” said Habla.
On June 10, Wani was killed in an encounter at Alialpora village, in the Shopian district of south Kashmir.
He had left his home two years ago to pick up arms and fight for the rights of Kashmiris.
“He was harassed and detained many times by local security forces. The constant harassment forced him to become a rebel. For him it became hell to survive as a normal human being,” his mother said.
Wani, along with three of his friends, was buried 130 km away in Sonamarg.
“We got to know the next day that our son was martyred. We finally managed to reach the graveyard where my son is buried, but we could only see the grave instead of his face,” she added.
According to protocols introduced by the local administration in Kashmir in early April, bodies of militants or anyone killed during encounters with security forces are neither handed to their families nor allowed a burial in their native village, a departure from previous practices.
Kashmir’s Inspector General of Police, Vijay Kumar, failed to respond to requests for comment.
Last month Kumar said the new measure is designed to prevent mass gatherings, including funerals, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The new measures were put in place to ensure that lockdown guidelines were followed,” he said.
“If we allow for identification at encounter sites and permit burial in their native places, huge gatherings may spread the disease,” the police chief added.
He said: “As per several orders of the government of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir in view of the Disaster Management Act, we have to ensure strict lockdown even during burial. To avoid such situations we are doing burials in safer, isolated places. Being police chief of Kashmir, it is my legal duty to ensure the safety and security of people.”
But Habla questions why these measures are not enforced for funerals of policemen or security personnel.
“Denial of dead bodies to the family is the denial of their rights and the denial of dignity and justice to the dead and their families,” she said.
Some mothers cannot bear the pain of not seeing their son for the last time.
Shakeela suffered a heart attack 12 days after her son Adil Ahmad Wani was killed in an encounter in the Pulwama district of south Kashmir on May 6 this year.
Like Habla, she was also denied permission to see his body, which was buried in Sonamarg, 100 km away from his native Padgampora village in Pulwama district.
“On May 6, we all traveled to Sonamarg to see our son despite the restrictions. We managed to see him one last time but the denial of a decent burial in the village bothered Shakeela and the pain became so heavy that she suffered a heart attack 12 days later,” Manzoor Ahmad, Shakeela’s husband, told Arab News.
Zeba is the mother of Riyaz Naikoo, who was head of the militant group Hizbul Mujahideen. He was killed in a separate gunfight the same day and buried in the same graveyard as Adil. Zeba was also denied access to her dead son.
Zeba said: “Some people cajole us that parents whose sons get martyred and win a place in heaven. But do you know what parents go through, how much they suffer?”
“The killing of your son tears your heart apart. The pain is like being burnt alive,” she told Arab News. “In Kashmir mothers suffer the most.”
Deeba Ashraf, a Srinagar-based lawyer, said the government is using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to change protocols and suppress the voice of the people.
“The Indian government claims that only a small minority of the Kashmiri population was radicalized and that people in general are supporting the abrogation of the special constitutional autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, but the funeral procession of militants attracts a huge crowd that shows a different picture from what the government wants the world to see,” Ashraf told Arab News.
“The lockdown has been used as a tool by the government to blank out popular support for militants and rebels,” she said.
“It is a violation of basic human rights to deny people the bodies of their dear ones for burial,” she added.