The sight of Indian soldiers and Kashmiri rebels clutching AK-47 rifles would fascinate him. He would rush home, grab a toy gun and fiddle with it. “It was then when I thought of making a gun,” says Zubair Ahmad Kumar.
Zubair was just nine then. Six years later in 2014, he claims, he actually made a gun. “It was my version of the AK-47.”
But word spread around about the ‘gunman’ and his innovation.
The army came calling and raided Zubair’s home at Drubgam village of Pulwama in south Kashmir. The soldiers did not find any gun at Zubair’s home. So they took the boy with them. He was made to spend four days at an army camp.
That experience took something away from Zubair.
“I had never imagined the gun-making experiment would land me in such a big trouble,” the teenager told Kashmir Narrator.
Later Zubair dropped out of school where he was in grade nine.
The harassment from the soldiers didn’t stop. That forced his father to destroy Zubair’s dream invention—the ‘AK-47 rifle’.
“It was a sad day when my father smashed the gun. I had worked hard on it when I was a grade three, but the harassment, and the detention in 2014, disturbed my family,” says a shy Zubair who introduces himself as a ‘scientist’ on his Facebook page.
The 15-year-old boy comes from a poor family. He now works as a labourer four days a week and spends rest of the time on his projects. He is an inspiration for his village youngsters who are in awe of his creative ideas. They love to spend time with him.
“During school days, I used to work on the gun in mornings and evenings. I did not consult anyone. Even I hid it from my family, but somehow it got exposed,” says Zubair. “I didn’t admit to the army that I had made a gun. The confession would have brought me endless trouble.”
Zubair is a tough boy—toughened by what he has gone through. The alleged harassment has failed to stop him from pursuing his dreams. And they are no small ones.
In 2014 he got working on a mine hydropower project on the Romsh stream in his native village which, like rest of Kashmir valley, faces severe power crisis.
“I thought I should utilize the water resources for the benefit of my people. Trust me, I did not consult any book. The idea just came into my mind and my family helped me,” he says.
“My father gave me `50,000 from which I got a dynamo, turbine and some pipes for the project.” Impressed by his talent, the district administration also chipped in with `20,000. “The entire project will cost ` 1 lakh and I am sure it will light up 700 homes.”
Pulwama’s Deputy Commissioner Neeraj Kumar told Kashmir Narrator he is encouraging the boy and is planning to grant him a scholarship to rejoin school.
Neeraj says Zubair gave a demonstration of the hydropower project after which he was given `20,000. “I told him I am willing to go out of way to help him, but he should stop making ‘bandooks’, though it’s also an innovation,” says Neeraj.
“He is a dedicated boy and I want to explore his talent. The school dropout is an inspiration for others because he has created many small things.” Neeraj says he’s mulling to get the state Information Technology Department to help the little scientist.
Zubair says he recently visited J&K Science Technology and Innovation Council in Srinagar, where officials gave him “guidance and some material.”
“I am eager to go back to school,” he says. “But I regret my dream ‘AK-47’ had to be destroyed because of security reasons.”