India-Pakistan matches create a unique atmosphere in Kashmir. You’ll notice people huddled together outsides shops, watching every single ball with utter keenness, come what may. The high-voltage Indo-Pak clash in Champions Trophy has raised the cricket fever, like the rest of sub-continent, to a fervent pitch in Kashmir. Mouths wide open in nervousness, twitched eyebrows, tension in the sitting rooms, all eyes glued to the T.V screens, keen to not miss even a single moment of the cricket clash.

However, every time India plays Pakistan, skies break apart for this mother in Fateh Kadal, Kashmir.

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There is a silence and a stillness that lingers on her face and around. She is unmoved by the cricket fervour outside. An old TV set covered by a table cloth lies still. Not buzzing. A threefold photo frame is on a table next to her bed. It has family pictures.

On April 22, 1994, Pakistan lifted the Australasia Cup defeating arch-rivals India by a score of 39 runs. Pakistan’s victory in Sharjah triggered celebrations in Kashmir as well. Groups of youth and children poured into the streets in Fateh Kadal area of the old city to celebrate the Pak win.

Sweets, candies, firecrackers and pro-freedom and pro-Pakistan slogans marked the jubilations that brought the old city to life. However, the celebrations didn’t last long.
Ayesha’s son Imtiyaz Ahmad, in his thirties, was returning euphoric after watching the game at his friend’s place in the neighbourhood.

Exuberant over Pak’s victory he was celebrating the big moment. Minutes later, troopers came in charging. Anger and disappointment writ largely on their faces. They vent it out and Imtiyaz became their target.
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“To revenge the defeat, they caught hold of my son and shot him twice till he died,” tearful Aisha says in a feeble voice.
Imtiyaz, an employee in the University of Kashmir was the youngest of the eight siblings, including four sisters.

An avid cricket fan, he would die for Pak’s victory and so he did.

“There are the socks he was wearing on that day,” she says amid sobs.

Leaving the socks on the floor, she takes out a polythene bag containing some important documents and some memorable pictures of her son and other family members.

An ailing Ayesha grieving at her son’s loss,
“She is Behanji; she is my daughter Maryam, this is her husband and here is my son Imtiyaz. This picture is of my daughter’s wedding,” she says a half-smile escaping her lips.

Suddenly, she breaks down again. Wiping the tears with her scarf she recalls, “It was Friday, Jumma-e-Muhammad (PBUH). After the game was over, we offered prayers and thanked Allah for bestowing Pakistan with a victory. I was so happy that day.”
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Victory became a loss.

“As I was walking down the stairs, gunshots replaced the firecrackers. Cries, screams and elegies replaced the slogans. I struggled to reach the main door, only to find my son lying in a pool of blood on the lane,” she laments.

Imtiyaz, she said, was cornered by the troopers as blood was profusely oozing from his chest.

Before, she could blink her eyes, she said, a trooper pointed his rifle on her son and shot at him again.

“Yeh saala abhi zinda hain. Goli maro isko,” she quoted a trooper talking to his colleague.

Imtiyaz’s last words were, “Go tell my mother that her son has been martyred.”

After ‘cold-blooded murder’ the troopers, Aisha said, prevented her from picking up the body of her slain son. The troopers had warned her that she would be shot if she made advances.

“I asked them why they killed my son. I told them to shoot me as well. They pointed rifles and told me to go home,” she says in a choked voice.
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The incident shattered the family and left Aisha in a state of shock. Sixteen years from now, she is yet to come to terms with the loss. “Like my son, I was crazy about cricket. Now, I don’t watch it anymore,” she says.

“Cricket reminds me of the painful death of my son. It was just a game. What was the fault of my son? Why was he killed?” asks a desperate mother while making failed attempts to hold back tears.

Courtesy: Excerpts taken from a story by Uzma Falak and Izhar Ali covered originally for Kashmir Dispatch.