Mudassir Maqbool is not able to focus on his class 12 board exams. Sitting amidst several classmates at a school in Baramulla town, he often stares at the empty seat on the right marked for Danish, his best friend who was killed in security forces’ firing on August 31.
“I couldn’t concentrate after the supervisor placed the attendance sheet on my right,” Maqbool says, recalling how both of them had together filled up the board examination forms in May.
“He was first-class in studies,” he said. “He would never roam around or come to a nearby playground but would instead study after school and later teach us too.”
On August 31, Danish, whose official name is Mehraj-u-Din Lone, had gone from his home in Nadihal village in search of his younger brother Aqib to the Sopore fruit market.
“Vendors used to sell fruits in the mandi (market) from 6 to 8 am, but that day police and army stopped them from entering the market and asked to come after 9 am,” says Manzoor Ahmad Lone, Danish’s father. “They wanted to show (restoration of) normalcy by opening the mandi during the day time.”
“As soon as Danish heard about some vendors being thrashed, he joined other villagers to march towards Sopore,” Lone recalled. “But the army stopped the villagers near Ladoora (village) and opened fire on them.”
Danish was hit and died on the way to hospital.
Police, however, had said that the army vehicles came under “heavy stone-pelting” and the forces “exercised maximum restraint”.
In the last two-and-a-half months, the grief-stricken family had been coming to terms with Danish’s death when they suddenly got his Board exam admit card. Memories revive and bring back the moments before his death.
“I could somehow control my emotions,” Lone says, and points outside the window at the balcony where his wife and mother wail inconsolably in the cold weather.
“I still cannot believe that my nephew slipped out of my hands so suddenly,” weeps uncle Ashiq Hussain, inside the gloomy room.
He recalled how Danish had chosen arts with varied subjects – General English, economics, statistics, psychology and physical education.
“He had good marks in class 10 as well but was not satisfied and used to stay depressed in his room upstairs. He used to say he got less marks for his performance. I consoled him and encouraged him for the next exam,” Hussain said.
Despite being urged to take up medicine and go for private coaching for the entrance exam, Danish took up arts as “he was concerned about his family’s poor economic condition and wanted to save money for his younger siblings—three brothers and a sister,” Hussain said.
After the unsatisfactory results in class 10, he wanted to top the class 12 boards.
“He had completed the syllabus himself and was doing his second revision,” said Maqbool.
On that fateful day, about two months before the boards, he went out to look for his little brother Aqib, “and never returned”, said Hussain, tears welling up his eyes.