The Telegraph
Sunday , June 12 , 2011
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dad fights for Tufail

Srinagar, June 11: Every time Mohammad Ashraf Mattoo felt like leaving India and settling abroad, his dead son’s “innocent face” rose before him.

The father of the first victim of last year’s unrest doesn’t find Kashmir safe any longer, but he doesn’t want to leave the fight for justice midway either — despite threats.

Teenager Tufail Ahmad Mattoo fell to a tear gas canister fired allegedly by police on June 11 last year, the fatal shot triggering one of the worst phases of unrest Kashmir has seen in decades. Over a hundred people died in the cycle of protests and violence that lasted five months.

A year on, Tufail’s father says he is fighting a system that is “interested more in burying the truth than revealing it”.

“First they (the government) snatched my son for no fault of his. Then they have been cooking up stories to ensure his killers go scot-free,” sobbed Ashraf, a handicrafts businessman from Srinagar’s Saida Kadal locality.

Tufail, who was the only son of his parents, was returning home after attending tuitions that day when a tear gas canister smashed into his head. Police denied they were involved and were reluctant to file an FIR but later had to following massive protests.

A post-mortem report said the injury to Tufail’s head was caused by “an intermediate range rifle weapon”, which pointed to a canister fired from a tear gas gun.

The police recently claimed nobody was carrying a tear gas gun that day.

Ashraf said a woman witness had identified a policeman allegedly involved in his son’s killing. “But the police said he was a tailor (working with the police) and couldn’t be involved.”

Ashraf said the threats to keep quiet made him think of leaving India. “But then my son’s innocent face stares at me. I cannot leave this fight halfway.”

But Ashraf hasn’t lost hope in the judiciary, though he feels lonely at times. “I am fighting a lonely battle but this is how I knew it would be like…. I have no complaints and I salute all those who supported and sympathised with me.”

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