Shopian Civilian Murders: Continuous deaths and endless mourning

The killing of 16-year-old boy Shakir Ahmad Mir has left a trail of tragedy at his native village in South Kashmir. A driver by profession, Mir was killed on January 25, 2018, near a gunfight site in Udhoo village of Shopian district.

Besides being the lone bread earner of the family, Shakir was popular among his friends. Clean shaved with fairy white face, Shakir was known for his good manners.

On Wednesday, Shakir along with his elder brother Rayees was busy in the construction of a new washroom in their lawn. Shakir had insisted that the family should make a new washroom as the family was growing.

“In the afternoon, he refused to have tea even though I had poured it in the cup. He took his cell phone and went to play cricket with his friends,” recalls Shakir’s mother.

“He was a good batsman and on that day, he was playing brilliantly. Little did we know that it was going to be his last innings,” said one of his close friends.

Shakir and his friends were still in the ground, playing cricket when they learnt that the Army had cordoned off their village Udhoo. According to the Army, they had inputs about the presence of militants in Udhoo village. Like everyone else, Shakir along with his three friends also rushed to the gunfight site, where he was killed.

According to the Army, locals tried to hamper the encounter operation and help the militants escape. Army fired in the air to stop the protesters. But according to Sultan, (name changed) friend of Shakir who was with him at that time said, “Army fired on the crowd directly and killed Shakir.”

“Shakir was hit by a bullet in the head, he died on spot,” he added.

During the gunfight between Indian armed forces and militants, two local militants were killed, and two women were injured.

On the evening that saw Indians preparing to celebrate the Republic day, locals here were preparing for another funeral. Shakir’s body was kept in a local mosque till morning, and was buried in his village graveyard in Qalampora, Pulwama. Despite restrictions on January 26, 2018, thousands attended his funeral.

Shakir’s parents, younger sister Zahida, younger brother Danish and elder brother Rayees, say they have been left with a void which was filled by his presence. He also leaves behind his friends, a tractor, a cricket bat, and the cup of tea he refused.

Mother of Shakir showing his picture in her mobile phone. The picture was taken by Shakir’s friend in December, 2017 in an apple orchard of Qalampora village in South Kashmir’s Pulwama District. Shakir, who was shot by the Indian Army. (FPK Photo/Vikar Syed)

Abdullah Mir, Father of Shakir, holds a ten rupee note which was found in the pocket of his trousers after his last rites. (FPK Photo/Vikar Syed)

Place where Shakir hit the ball in the play ground, 300 meters away from his home at Qalampora in Pulwama distrcit of South Kashmir. (FPK Photo/Vikar Syed)

On the afternoon of January 27, 2018, two more youth fell to bullets forced by the Indian armed forces. The third youth, who was taken to the hospital in critical condition died four days later.

Locals allege that the Indian Army fired directly on the crowd that had gathered in Ganapora as one of the militants killed in Udhoo gunfight was from Ganapora.

However, the Army maintained that they were forced to fire in retaliation as their patrolling party came under stone pelting. Around 12 others were injured in the firing.

Gunfight site at Udhoo village of District Shopian, where two local militants and a civilian, Shakir, was killed by the Indian Army on January 24 2018. (FPK Photo/Vikar Syed)

Javaid Ahmad Bhat

Javaid Ahmad Bhat, an 18-year-old student from Government Degree College Shopian, was among the victims. His father, Abdul Rashid Bhat had sent him to get a photocopy of their ration card from the adjoining village of Ganapora where he was hit by a bullet in his head. He was shifted to district hospital Pulwama where he succumbed to his injuries.

“I had sent him for some work to Ganapora and he never came back,” says Rashid.

Javaid is survived by three sisters and a brother. The elder sister of Javaid was scheduled to get married this year. “We are farmers and are living hand to mouth,” said his sobbing elder sister.

An Indian Army camp is located near the Balpora village.

Elder sisters of Javaid Ahmad Bhat showing a picture of him as a child. The tall one in the photograph is Javaid. Javaid was killed by the Indian Army.  (FPK Photo/Vikar Syed)

Sister of Javaid Ahmad Bhat cries on the gate of their house. Javaid was killed by the Indian Army.  (FPK Photo/Vikar Syed)

Suhail Javaid Lone

Sixteen-year-old, Suhail Javaid Lone (Rahul) from Ganowpora village was the second youth killed in the firing. “Bullet hit him in the neck and within a minute he was dead,” said Amir (name changed), an eyewitness and friend of Suhail.

“I saw him dying and I couldn’t do anything,” he added.

Bullet marks inside the house of Suhail Javaid Lone. The Indian Army fired indiscriminately on youth at Ganowpora village in South Kashmir on January 27, 2018. Many bullets were fired in the direction of the house. (FPK Photo/Vikar Syed)

School bag and books of 16 year old, Suhail Ahmad Lone. He was a student of class 12 and was pursuing science at a nearby school in Shopian. Suhail was killed by the Indian Army. (FPK Photo/Vikar Syed)

People carrying the body of Suhail Ahmad Lone towards the graveyard at his village Ganowpora Shopian in South Kashmir on January 27, 2018. Suhail was killed by the Indian Army. (FPK Photo/Vikar Syed)

Rayees Ahmad Ganie

Rayees Ahmad Ganie, a 25-year-old laborer, who worked in the fields, was also hit by a bullet in his head. He died after spending three nights at SMHS hospital, Srinagar, on a ventilator.

On Wednesday, the doctors declared him dead at dawn. He was admitted into this hospital in critical condition on January 27, 2018. He was living with his mother at Astan-Mohallah in Narpora village of Shopian District.

Mohammad Yousuf Ganie, Rayees’s father died five years back by sudden death.

“On the day when he was hit by the Army in Ganawpora village, in the morning he was preparing himself by wearing fresh clothes and cleaning his body because he was about to marry and in the afternoon the bride’s family was coming to see Rayees,” says Nasir, a close neighbor.

Rayees’s brother and sister are already married and they live separately in this same village. Rayees was buried in his village graveyard on January 31, 2018, in the afternoon and thousands took part in his funeral procession.

Pulwama and Shopian district of South Kashmir are still shut down in mourning. Internet services have been blocked in Pulwama and Shopian District from the last seven days.

Former Chief Minister of the state, Omar Abdullah took to twitter to condemn the killing. BJP MLA Ravinder Raina justified the killing, saying, “The Army’s action was the need of the hour to prevent bloodshed and chaos in Jammu and Kashmir.”

Police has lodged an FIR against Army Major Aditya, of 10 Garwal, and his unit has been named in the FIR. The FIR has been registered under section 302 (Murder), 307 (Attempt to Murder) and 336 (Endangering Life).

Vikar Syed is a freelance photojournalist from Kashmir. His work mainly focuses on funerals in the Southern Districts of Shopian and Pulwama. Some of his latest work captures and explores visual narratives of funerals that have morphed into political statements in the post 1989 Kashmir. 

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