A slain father of six leaves many ‘uncomfortable’ questions behind

Death of Ghulam Mohammad Khan, a father of six in a recent Khanyar grenade blast might be a forgotten case, but such deaths and the doom they unleash on the victim families have long been adding to Kashmir’s unspoken woe.

While approaching a modest, brick house of Ghulam Mohammad Khan at Srinagar’s Illahibagh, a disturbing melancholic sound triggered by an intense wailing by women mourners gripped the whole neighbourhood: “Oh, father! Oh, father!”

Among the mourners, the loudest grievers were Khan’s four daughters — only the two of them married. A growing yet competing pitch remains, “Oh, father! You were toiling so hard by putting those extra hours to feed us! What will become of us, now?”

A sixty something Khan happened to be that evening bicycler killed in a grenade attack in downtown Khanyar on April 30 last month. He was returning home from his workplace in Barbarshah, when suspected insurgents lobbed a grenade at Khanyar police station. He died on the spot, while three cops were left wounded.

In his home, the mourners sat silent, sad, and sighing. Among them were Khan’s two sons – Mushtaq Ahmed (33), a small-time shopkeeper and Nazir Ahmed (31), an unemployed graduate. Both of them were too petrified to talk.

“I got a miss-call from my father’s number,” said Nazir, as the mood inside stayed distressing. “The caller told me that my father has been injured and he was admitted in Gousia hospital in Khanyar.” That unusual call was perhaps a clear signal for the family.

Nazir abruptly stopped talking. He glanced towards his brother-in-law, Shakeel Ahmed. That was the clue for him to do the talking.

“We went to Gousia hospital,” said Shakeel amid the mounting footfall of silent mourners inside. “He wasn’t injured but had died on the spot. From there, his body was taken to the Police Control Room (PCR) and kept there for the whole night for the pending post-mortem.”

The family resisted the post-mortem, asking why to perform a post-mortem on a civilian, an innocent passerby. “We won’t allow that,” they told the cops.

After persuasion and paperwork, the police finally handed over the body without a post-mortem at around 10.30am on Monday. Some 1.30 hours later, the family had given him a quiet but brisk burial.

In fact such deaths have been following a quiet pattern right from the day insurgency against the Indian state erupted in Kashmir. Like in Khan’s case, a line of condemnation is being issued by all shades and ideologies. Government as is the norm condemns the act and the opposition as picks holes in official action and demands ex-gratia relief for the family—as National Conference general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar demanded in Khan’s case.

But the family usually remains unmoved.

“That is their [politicians’] business,” said Khan’s relative. “We don’t have any expectations. We just wanted them to handover the body. He was the breadwinner, caretaker. We have lost him. No ex-gratia or any other compensation can undo this irreparable loss.”

Seconding him, Ahmed, the brother-in-law, said that money won’t help the family. However, he says, a job to the next of kin would do.

But once the questions turned political—like why isn’t anybody calling for a shutdown over such deaths—the mood inside the room turned cautious.

“We are victims, and still mourning our irreparable loss. We don’t want to talk about that,” said a relative. “We have no comments. What if we say something and it gets twisted? There is so much going on these days. We don’t want to get into all that. The family has no comments regarding all this.”

What will happen if the family talks about it, Ahmed, the brother-in-law asked. “Even if we shout on top of our voices on roads, is it going to help? It’s pointless to talk about it. The main thing is that he was head of the family, a provider. He is no more. Rest all is pointless.”

After exchanging a few serious glances with all the mourning relatives, this correspondent requested to click a picture. They looked at each other and respectfully turned down the request.

But outside, the melancholic pitch raised by the wailing daughters refused to die down: “Oh, father! Oh, father!”

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