‘Their son was not a militant, but still he was killed. Government has to take responsibility of his family, like they are taking care of the families whose members were killed in the recent attacks.’
After every 10 minutes a popping sound of door-opening indicated arrival of new visitor to console a 45-year-old Aijaz Ahmad Rather.
The grieving patriarch was lying lifeless inside a dark room of his shanty house. He became a freeze frame shortly after his elder son was shot dead in Babapora area of Zainapora hamlet in South Kashmir’s Shopian district.
On October 24, 18-year-old Shahid Aijaz was coming home along with two of his relatives. The boys were returning after spending five days in Shopian doing labour work in apple orchards. They were offered apples and collard by the grower after finishing work there.
However, at around 11 that day, when he was on his way home, Shahid was shot dead near the CRPF camp in Babapora.
“He called me on Saturday evening and told me that they had finished work and are planning to come home tomorrow,” said Mohammad Hussain Rather, Shahid’s shell-shocked uncle.
“He enquired about his father’s wellbeing as he was not keeping well for a few months. I had no idea that next day we will have to bury his dead body.”
Amid these recollections, Aijaz broke his silence: “Shahid was my backbone. What was his fault? He had gone to Shopian to earn some money so that I could have my medicines on time. He was not carrying guns. He was carrying only apples and collard for home. Look at this picture, see how helplessly he is lying dead there. Apples and collard are scattered on the road. Why was he killed?”
Residing in Nowpora area of Arwani village of Kulgam, Shahid was killed on the day when Amit Shah was in Jammu and Kashmir on a three-day visit. This was his first visit to Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370 on August 05, 2019.
The two younger relatives of Shahid who were accompanying him have been put in custody since his killing, the relatives said.
“They both are younger than Shahid, one is 15 and another 13. They were in utter shock when Shahid was shot dead in front of them. They could not speak for a day and were hiding in a room,” said one of the aggrieved relatives.
“On Monday local police called their parents and told them to send their children to the police station. When they reached there, without telling anything they were put behind bars.”
Free Press Kashmir tried to reach out to Station House Officer (SHO), Zainapora, Mudasir Naseer, however his phone was received by another employee in his office. “Sir is not in police station, I will let you know when he will be back,” he said and hung up.
However, on Sunday, police said in a statement that the CRPF party was out for area-domination “when militants fired upon them, to which they (CRPF) retaliated”.
“Since our son has been labeled as a cross-firing victim, the case itself stands closed,” said a mourner.
Shahid was studying in Class 12 and was also doing odd jobs to support his family of seven members. He acted headman after his mason father’s hand injury. His younger brother, Zubair had also undergone surgery in his nose and is not in a condition to work. He’s studying in Class 10.
“I’ve five children – three sons and two daughters. The eldest of them was Shahid; others are studying in 10th, 5th, 4th, 2nd. How can we survive without him? What hurts me more is the way he used to care for me since I fell sick. Every day he used to visit me in my room before leaving for work. Now who will look after us? Our family will be shattered into pieces,” Aijaz lamented with everyone around him crying.
Shahid would be adored by the entire village as he used to greet everyone with his cheerful smile and offer a helping hand to the needy.
“Most of the time he was either busy with his family, studies or his work,” said Sameer, Shahid’s neighbour. “He was a very sober and sensitive person. He always used to discuss his problems related to his studies with me.”
Like others, Sameer went into shock when one of his cousins shared a picture of Shahid lying lifeless on the road.
“I could not believe it and felt that the earth beneath my feet was slipping away,” he said. “We just met a few days ago when he was going to Shopian for work.”
One of the elderly men consoling Shahid’s distraught father said the slain boy was his family’s only hope.
“He never indulged in any wrongdoings and always worked for his family welfare,” the elder said. “I wonder how this family will survive now.”
The welfare of the family whose boy breadwinner was killed near a paramilitary camp is on the administration now, the elder said.
“Their son was not a militant, neither he indulged in any wrong activity but still he was killed,” he said.
“Government has to take responsibility of his family, like they are taking care of the families whose members were killed in the recent attacks.”
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