Lament over Lawyer: ‘He Would Receive Threats in Front of His Family’

Mourners offer prayers at the grave of Babar Qadri. Photos by Auqib Javeed.

A day after losing their assertive son to assassins, family members of the fallen advocate assembled at their ancestral hometown in north Kashmir’s Tangmarg area. Amid shrieks and cries, slain Babar Qadri was paid tribute with moist eyes.

SHEIKHPORA, Tangmarg – Barely 24 hours after his pistol-borne assassins showed up at his Srinagar home as clients, the advocate is resting in his grave carpeted by rose petals, canopied by a tin shack.

The visitors mumbled prayers and silently grieved over the passage that rattled Kashmir at the twilight of September 24.

Babar Qadri’s assassination made his non-decrepit birthplace an elegiac place overnight. Amid pandemic coronavirus, hundreds of people thronged his Tangmarg home, with moist eyes.

Amid gloom, his relatives and family members took turns to recount the “bravery and kind-heartedness” of the advocate, who would fight cases for the “indicted sons of poor people” without charging them a penny.

The fallen advocate’s Tangmarg home.

However, a day after being shot multiple-times, in an execution-style, the articulate—now silenced—advocate’s mother constantly came out of a mourner tent to enquire, “Aawkha, Mianiey Yaroo” (Are you home, my beloved?)

At about the same time, Kashmir’s top cop, IGP Vijay Kumar announced the formation of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to crack the case on a priority.

“Babar was fearless and would talk very openly,” a relative grieving over the loss said.

“The family members had apprehensions about his life because of his controversies with many people. But we never knew that his frank advocacy would end up taking his life.”

A tent housing mourners.

Babar’s father Syed Yasin Qadri mostly sat silent amidst the sentimental swarm surrounding him. His son’s killing had once again forced him to return to his roots.

For his Jama’at-e-Islami ties, the senior Qadri had faced the offensive during the early nineties, forcing him to take a shelter in downtown Srinagar, he now calls his home.

But when the same home became insecure for his vocal son—who earlier reported assassination attempts on his life—IGP Kumar said that the advocate was asked to shift to a safe zone.

He stayed put until two men arrived looking for him at sundown on September 24.

“We told the unmasked duo to have a seat and enquired the purpose of their meetings with our son,” a family member told Kashmir Observer. “They said they need to meet Babar to discuss the case.”

For the family, it was nothing unusual, as their lawyer son would usually attend clients at home and discuss their cases.

As the assassins entered the advocate’s room, they started firing at him and left like a “bullet”.

“We came out of our rooms and saw Babar running towards us. He was shot and bleeding profusely. ‘Zafar, Mahe Layikh Goole’ (Zafar, I have been shot) he told his brother,” the family member said.

He was rushed to the hospital but was declared brought dead by the doctors at SKIMS.

“I can’t forget his head,” the family member continued. “It had a hole and the blood was oozing profusely.”

Babar Qadri’s father

At his ancestral home, not only his friends and relatives, his clients—whose cases he would fight without charging any fee—were equally wailing his passing.

“I’m fighting a case against government gunman Papa Kashtwari, who killed my father,” said Zahoor Ahmad of Nishat, Srinagar, who had turned up for condolence. “My counsel was advocate Babar Qadri. For years he didn’t charge a penny for the case.”

Not only that, the family member said, the fallen advocate would arrange fares and give monetary help to many poor families, whose kin were detained in militancy or stone-pelting cases.

Praying for his peace.

After his stint with student politics, Babar had started practicing law in 2008 and shortly became known for taking up cases for detained juveniles.

He launched the All J&K People’s Justice Party and had named himself its President. Following this, his membership of the Kashmir High Court Bar Association (KHCBA) was suspended.

But over the year, the 40-year-old lawyer became a regular TV debater, known for calling spade a spade.

“We would usually scold him for his appearance in TV debates but he would say ‘who will talk on behalf of Kashmiris’,” Babar’s father said

“He would tell his father, ‘if you had given service for the Kashmir cause throughout your life, why wouldn’t I? But I want to do it in my own style,” a family relative said.

Babar Qadri

Back in his home, his inconsolable friends describe him a “lion” who would roar in front of anyone.

“He was not hardcore, but he would have argument with his colleagues at court but on next day he would say sorry and spread smiles on their faces,” said Advocate Shafqat Nazir, Babar’s close friend. “It’s unbelievable that he is no longer with us.”

Before he was shot dead, the senior Qadri said his son would receive threats in-front of his family.

“Even the last time,” his father said, “BJP Spokesman Sambit Patra told him in a live TV show, ‘Babar, tum abi zinda hou’ (Are you still alive, Babar?)”

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is a Srinagar-based journalist and tweets @AuqibJaveed.

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