They grew up under one roof sharing different life moments together, until one of them decided to be an insurgent last fall. This winter when the insurgent sibling was tracked inside his home, his sister tried to shield him and ended up becoming his ‘grave’ companion instead.
Beyond the stripped bare fields and weeping willows of Shopain’s Audoo village, the two fresh graves have lately come up to collective torment of the villagers. The twin graves boxed in iron grills house two siblings, who used play around, until very recently. But now, they rest inside as Shaheeds.
At a stone’s throw, their distraught father sits shattered—with his lips compressed and knees drawn to chest—in a lobby where an awkward silence of the backbreaking demise reigns supreme.
At 42, Hilal Ahmad Wani has already shouldered the dead bodies of his teenage son and a daughter, in a span of 18 days. He speaks reluctantly, reflecting pain, suffering and anguish from his eyes.
“Better talk to my brother,” he says, sighing. “He’ll tell you every detail.”
His brother, and uncle to his slain son Sameer and daughter Saima, begins on the solemn note. “What’s there to write about the devastation? How many obituaries? For how many kids?”
The remark hushes the room packed with mourners.
Both the slain siblings were studying in 12th standard. While Saima recently passed her class with 73.6% in medical subjects, her brother shunned studies with his insurgent foray in September, 2017.
Being one year elder to Sameer, Saima was protective about her brother. Even after he became an active Hizb-ul-Mujhadeen militant, she wouldn’t take the usual counter-insurgent offensive at home lightly.
Sameer had followed the popular militant trend—especially in southern Kashmir—where young boys quietly leave their home, remain elusive, until announcing their rebel joining through the social media, with their images holding assault rifles. The trend gained momentum after the fall of the pioneer of the online militancy in Kashmir: Burhan Wani.
Like every day, Sameer left home on the 5th day after Eid-Ul-Adha and when he did not return for a long time, his family started searching for him, even filing a missing report.
“When Sameer didn’t return for days,” says Lateef Ahmad Wani, Sameer’s uncle, “we thought he could’ve joined the militancy because in Kashmir parents can’t help but think so, once their sons go missing.”
Three months later, the Wanis of Audoo village got a message that Sameer is an active member of the Hizbul Mujahideen. With that, the search stopped.
Back home, Saima had lost her childhood playmate — a typical shy teenager of few words, who would lead his life as a ‘devout Muslim’.
Mindful of the fate of the path that her sibling had chosen for himself, she would pray for his longevity and success. But that was perhaps too much to ask in the place where insurgents don’t last beyond some months.
“During those months he only met his mother once—that too, for only 10 minutes,” Lateef continues, as the mourners inside quietly listen.
Next time, when he turned up again to meet his mother, he decided to spend a night at home. But somehow, the human intelligence—which the police term its major anti-militant shot in the arm—had alerted the counter-insurgents.
At around 4 pm on January 24, 2018, they came hunting for him.
But before they could even enter into the ensued gunfight with Sameer and his brother-in-arms, the Indian Army opened fire on civilians in which a youth, Shakir Ahmad Mir of neighboring village, Kalampora, lost his life.
It was then, that Saima and her next-door neighbor Sumaiya Hassan Bhat, 18, came out as shield for Sameer and other boy militant, when they were shot in the head by the army, and knocked out unconscious on the spot.
Both the girls were rushed to SMHS Hospital, Srinagar and from there doctors referred them to SKIMS in a critical condition.
Even before they were hospitalized, the army had cornered Sameer and his associate in the cowshed of Sumaiya’s father, Ghulam Hassan Bhat. In an ensued mortar shelling, the two insurgents were killed, while around 35 sheep and a cow were roasted alive inside the cowshed.
“Reminiscences of that fateful day are still haunting my bedridden daughter,” says Ghulam Hassan Bhat, sitting on the left side of Lateef. “Even as she was drenched in blood, they tore her pheran to find if there was any weapon inside. Later they left after wanton loot.”
On the next day of the encounter, as people were clearing the debris of the razed house, a shell exploded in which Musharaf Fayaz, 10, sustained a critical injury in his head and face. After battling for seven days in the hospital, he succumbed on February 1.
At SKIMS, the doctors were fighting hard to save Saima’s life. The bullet had torn her brain and shattered her skull. She was in coma for 9 days. When she woke up, she was not able to talk.
“Saima only opened her eyes,” Lateef says. “She was only doing eye movements during those days. Her condition was weak. She didn’t speak a single word till she breathed her last on February 10.”
From Srinagar, as she was carried home where hundreds bid her farewell, she joined her slain sibling—even in death—when she was buried next to him.
Like this story? Producing quality journalism costs. Make a Donation & help keep our work going.