Another civilian killed near a gunfight site recently in southern Kashmir has left behind a torn world with shattered dreams. As part of the ritualistic obituary that follows such killings in Kashmir, Rouf Ganie has now become one more promising person whose departure has created a new chasm of grief in southern Kashmir.
After daylong dirge and overnight mourning, a mother quietly walked out of her house by the stroke of first light to meet her son. Some fifty steps away, her son was resting inside a mound of mud. She sat down and looked at him, as if in complain.
It was for the first time that she found him silent—rather than a confident young man, always boosting her confidence about the better days ahead.
But for the day, he was no usual being. He wasn’t responding to any of her queries: Why didn’t you turn up to have your tea? Who’s going to complete our house for which you toiled so hard? What about me, and your labourer father? What will become of us while you are resting here?
As his silence continued, the mother cried aloud—shattering the morning calm, and embraced her son’s grave, with teardrops incessantly falling from her sunken eyes on her son’s fresh grave.
It took her mournful kith some effort to bring her back to her under-construction house in Kotwal Chowk area of Islamabad’s Anchidora, where she sat with mourners and asked everyone: See, how they snatched him from me!
“I visited him this morning at his grave,” said the 55-year-old mother with tear-drenched face. “I squatted down and asked him to talk to me and answer my queries. But he didn’t respond.”
The mother’s words hushed the room filled with women mourners. A few seconds later, her sobs itself ended the silence.
On Saturday, September 15, Taja’s 22-year-old son Rouf left his home at around 10 am to provide help in a nearby under-construction mosque. On arrival, he asked his mother to prepare tea. His 57-year-old labourer father Abdul Salam Ganie brought some oven-fresh bread for him.
But when Taja poured tea into the cups, Rouf hurriedly left his home. In that haste moment, the parents couldn’t make sense of his moves.
By then, the gunfight was raging between insurgents and armed forces in Chowgam village of Kulgam district. Some hours later, the police statement said that Rouf was the part of protesters who tried to break the gunfight site to help trapped militants escape.
In that gunfight, five militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba-Hizbul Mujahideen combine were killed. At least 25 people were injured in clashes between armed forces and civilians.
Among them was Rouf.
“I waited for him with a cup of tea till we received a call that my son got seriously injured,” said Taja, as women mourners took turns to console her.
The call came from an unknown number at around 12:30 pm, informing the family that Rouf was seriously injured and rushed to Islamabad district hospital.
Taja along with her husband and their elder son Majid Ganie went to the hospital. Rouf had received bullets in his chest and neck. On examination, doctors found his condition very critical and referred him to Srinagar.
Inside the ambulance that left Islamabad on war-footing for Srinagar, Taja rested Rouf’s head in her lap and placed her cheek on his head.
“My son was bleeding profusely,” lamented Taja, wiping his scrunched eyes. “He was looking for parents and aunts.”
Rouf was fading, even as the ambulance was speeding towards Srinagar. Taja tried to comfort her dying son, even pleading him, not to lose fight with life, so easily. But his inflicted wounds had already squeezed the scope of his survival.
He succumbed on the way and was brought back home dead while thousands poured into his house for funeral. He was laid to rest in the graveyard near his home.
“A day before my son was martyred,” Taja continued, “he told me that he’ll buy a chair for me for offering prayers. He understood that my arms and leg had grown weak. Oh, son! How shall I live without you now…”
Inside a makeshift tent pitched in her family lawn, Taja’s heartbreaking wails sent her relatives, neighbours and her son’s friends into a state of grieving. Her husband sitting under the blanket with his back firmly pressed against the pillow wore a gloomy look towards skywards, as if complaining to Almighty for the disquieting lost.
“My son would often go to offer the funeral prayers of militants,” said Salam, Rouf’s father. “I’m sure yesterday he also went to offer the funeral when the news broke about the militants killed in the gunfight.”
Rouf was Salam’s middle son, who had faced six days detention on charges of stone pelting in 2016. He was now taking care of his family, previously as a salesman and now as a labourer. His elder brother is mason, while his younger sibling is a student.
Before his killing, he was slogging hard to support his family with finances for their new house.
“My son Rouf along with his brother was constructing our new house,” said Salam, as mourners regularly walked up to him, offering condolences, asking him to stay patient. “We had decided to shift in October. Rouf was particularly excited about it. A day before his martyrdom, he even told carpenters to finish the work quickly.”
At this point, Salam couldn’t take it, and broke down into tears. “It’s hard to see your son dying before your eyes,” the father said, rubbing his moist eyes with his right hand. “It gives you indescribable pain.”
The painful sight of his father turned his elder son tearful. As a grieving young man, Majid looked feeble with parched lips and face.
“We were constructing our new house together till yesterday,” Majid said while refusing the repeated requests from his friends to eat something. “Today, he’s not here. What am I supposed to do now. His passage is killing all of us.”
Rouf’s friends sat sullen with bleak faces and weepy eyes inside a tent. After burying their friend, they had come to console his family.
“I’m dying inside,” Salam wailed. “I Don’t know how to live the rest of my life.”
While Rouf’s father and mother were crying their hearts out for their son, Majid looked at the under-construction house, perhaps mulling over the unfulfilled dream of his sibling to grace it.
Some distance away, Rouf was now resting in his new abode. But given his mother’s state of mind and how she still wants to talk to him, he’s likely to have a regular ‘grave’ visitor now.