Farooq Ahmed Dar and former JNUSU vice-president Shehla Rashid release a report in Srinagar on Monday on the first anniversary of the 'human shield' incident. Photograph:( PTI )
By Khalid Bashir Shah
At 12:36 pm on April 9, 2018, Farooq Dar looks at his watch and says that at around this time last year he had been tied to an Indian Army jeep which doing the rounds of villages in Jammu and Kashmir's Budgam district.
The incident triggered a national debate which went on for many months and every now and then, the debate makes a return to the national headlines.
While the Indian Army awarded Major Leetul Gogoi, the officer who tied Farooq to the jeep, for saving people's lives and thinking strategically during a stone-pelting incident, Farooq’s life has been turned upside down.
He has had no employment or income this past year.
"Today is my birthday because on the same day I was tied to a car. God put me in this misery and pulled me out of the misery. This became my new birthday. IT was my mistake that I came out to cast the vote. After casting the vote I was tied to the car. This is the the exact time when I was tied to the vehicle. It is one o'clock and at this time I was near Arizal village tied to the vehicle," says Farooq.
"It was my fault to cast the vote, I was used as a human shield immediately after casting my vote. Is this my fault or of the person who tied me to the vehicle? If I had been the stone pelter, let them prove I was a stone pelter. At least there should have been some investigation and the man who tied me to the vehicle should have been asked why he tied me to the vehicle."
Farooq worked as an embroidery artist before, for want of a better word, the "incident".
He is fighting his legal battle with help from his lawyer, Ahsan Untoo. Other than his lawyer, no one else has come forward with support. The Jammu and Kashmir Human Rights Commission had sanctioned Farooq relief of a million rupees but the government turned it down.
"Problem is that I have lost my peace of mind, I am barely able to relax. If I go anywhere, people say, 'The human shield guy has come, he was paid 10 lakh, he has no worry. Only my lawyer came to rescue me and told me stand on my feet and I will fight for your justice. If my lawyer, Mohammad Ahsan Untoo, hadn’t supported me, my life would have gotten over."
Most recently a furore erupted in the Kashmir valley after a company began making T-shirts showing Farooq tied to the Indian Army jeep. And then the Tiger Shroff movie Baaghi 2 also depicted the incident.
These, says Farooq, are an assault on his wounds.
"If anyone gets a small injury, and even if the injury starts healing, if there is a scratch on that clot... The wound will start bleeding again. That is what happens to my mind, my heart and my soul, when such things happen," he says.
"We have sent a legal notice to T-shirt people and to the film directors as well. Now the high court will deal with them."
He also talks about his lack of employment, saying, "No I don’t do any work. I used to work as a daily wage labourer and now that is now possible either. No one is willing to give me employment."
"They think the CID guys will be after me. Police will be searching for me, media will be following. The employees think if they take me for employment, their money will go to waste."