Even as the magisterial probe has been ordered in the Shopian “cross-firing” case, the slain Kashmiri youth’s family is seeking answers to their queries.
On the field he was everything a model sportsperson could be: enthusiastic, eager, effervescent.
His passion for the gentleman’s game made him one of the genial characters in his hamlet. His caring and compassionate character at the same time touched many lives in a short time.
But when the same affable sportsperson became another conflict casualty in Kashmir on 15 May 2022, his teammates and opponents beat their chests in loss before standing shoulder to shoulder to give him a tearful farewell.
The killing of Shoaib Ganie was the departure of an ideal son who was “obedient, responsible and loving” person.
He was equally wary of his strife-sparked surroundings. But then, lamented his relative, even his mindfulness couldn’t save him from becoming another young grave in Kashmir.
While the boy’s killing shocked his parents and siblings, his aunt looked at his cabinet of trophies in his room and cried: “Aes naa chi ne wadan, aes chi wanwan.” We aren’t lamenting, we’re celebrating.
Her dirges and a deafening silence in a sleepy Shopian hamlet fed by Rambir Nallah made it some mourning habitat. Shoaib this past Sunday had gone to the same water body in his hometown Turkawangam for ablution.
It was the time for noon prayers and “he was wearing a camo print shirt,” said his inconsolable cousin. “Boys wearing a camo print shirt and black trousers have faced music in past.”
Then three gunshots echoed across the orchards—even before the Zuhr Azaan would be heard in Turkawangam, Shopian. And soon rumours and snapped internet fuelled fears.
Shoaib was the second child of his parents who spent most of his time attending to his new business. Just a few months before, he had opened a shop of car accessories. He was looking forward to a hassle-free life ahead of him.
“But his killing broke our back,” said his tearful sibling. “I don’t know for what crime he was done to death.”
Following those gunshots and rumours, the locals came out to demand the explanation for the 20-year-old’s killing. However, calling the fatal episode as a “chance encounter”, Kashmir Police Chief IGP Vijay Kumar tweeted that Shoaib was killed in “crossfire” between militants and armed forces.
Soon in a video message, Shopian’s Deputy Commissioner, Sachin Kumar, ordered a magisterial probe into the killing and said that “suitable action under law would be taken as and when the report is received”.
Inside his grief-torn home, Shoaib’s family members refuted the cross-firing version of the deadly episode.
“If he was killed in a cross-firing, then why was he let to bleed near the water body for 15 minutes before being allowed to shift to hospital?” asked his cousin. “What stopped them to take a timely action to save an innocent life?”
With anguish, the anger over the case handling had become the moot point among the mourners at Shoaib’s home. “See the futility of our lives,” said an elder mourner, “we can’t even counter their claims and campaign for justice. At the end of the day we’ve to accept the official verdict and move on with our lives.”
While the tragic loss is already making the entire hamlet lament over the “futility of life” in Kashmir, Shoaib’s mother stays in a petrified state.
“Amongst her four siblings,” said a relative, “Shoaib never made his mother feel the void of not having a daughter. He would help her with the household chores and do the dishes and clean up. She not only lost her son now, but also her daughter.”
For Shoaib’s aunt, who lost her only son as a child, the slain was her son born out of another womb. She has now lost him too.
“He was our calm and sober son,” the aunt lamented. “Our lives won’t be same again without him. I don’t know how will we survive this shock and sorrow now.”
At the twilight of his final homecoming, a sea of grievers gathered to attend his funeral. Amongst them was a woman from the other end of the village who had shown up with her daughter.
“He used to support me financially,” she said, placing her palm on her daughter’s head. “His killing has rendered me and my family helpless now.”
Amid sobs and screams, a mourner said that Shoaib fell to bullets at a spot where 13 years ago two Kashmiri women were found dead.
“Well, that doesn’t prove anything,” he said. “But yes, it does tell a lot about the justice in Kashmir.”