Fact-finding Team Gets Warm Welcome In Valley3 December 2010
Srinagar: A visiting delegation of parliamentarians and civil society members was in for a major surprise on Friday when it was greeted with all benevolence by the family of Tufail Matoo, the first victim of the six-month unrest in Kashmir. Earlier such teams had had to deal with sloganeering. A 11-member fact-finding delegation comprising parliamentarians Ram Vilas Paswan, D Raja, Nageswara Rao and Shahid Siddiqui, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, journalist Seema Mustafa and academician Kamal Chenoy, however, faced tough questions from Mohammad Ashraf Matoo, father of a class XI student Tufail whose death in police firing on June 11 triggered the unrest in which 111 people were killed and thousands injured. “You came all the way from Delhi to Srinagar and no one troubled you. But when our elders went outside to educate Indians, some fanatics tried to create chaos,” Matoo said, referring to reported attacks on Hurriyat leaders in New Delhi, Kolkata and Chandigarh. “We did not throw rotten eggs. You are our guests. You have come here to educate Indians about the situation. Secularism in Kashmir is more deep-rooted than India and we are proud of these values,” he said. Matoo questioned the democratic system of the country. “I am an old man and Tufail was my only hope. Your forces have snatched him from me. Not a single word has been said in parliament about the incident. What kind of democracy is it where young boys are killed in cold blood?” he said. Matoo later played an audio-visual of his slain son for the delegation, which watched it with rapt attention. “We share your anguish and grief,” D Raja said. Bhatt was so overwhelmed that he could not resist saying “people of India cry for you. People of India embrace you”. Matoo told the delegation he was ready to meet Union home minister P Chidambaram when he led a parliamentary delegation to the Valley in September. “But it was curfew and I could not go,” he said.