In his village, Mohammad Altaf Dar was known as just another police officer. Even his childhood friends and neighbours did not know that Dar was considered the brain behind key anti-insurgency operations in the Valley. A day after the 37-year-old sub-inspector was gunned down by suspected militants in Bandipore, villagers gathered at his home here to mourn his death with the family.
Dar’s five-year-old son, Aryan, has not been told about his father’s death. ‘’We have not told Aryan, although he has asked about his father many times. He thinks that his father has gone on an assignment,’’ says Dar’s brother, Mohammad Ashraf.
Aryan has a two-year-old brother. ‘’What will happen to his wife and two children. My brother sacrificed his life for the police department. It is the responsibility of his officers to look after his family now,’’ says Ashraf, who works in the education department.
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The family is going to miss Dar’s monthly visits. “We are four brothers and three sisters. Whenever he used to come home, we would remain awake till late in the night,” recalls Ashraf.
Another brother, Tariq Ahmad, says Dar last visited the village four days before Eid. ‘’Our younger sister was getting engaged, so he stayed with us for two days. He had promised to arrange everything for her wedding, but he died before that,” he says.
He claims that police officials told them that Dar had been injured in the attack. “We came to know about his death through social media,’’ he says.
Dar’s father, Bashir Ahmad Dar, is a small-time fruit merchant.Ahmad says his brother did well in his studies and was also a good cricketer. Villagers remember Dar as a cricket buff who would make generous cash donations to the village team, Murtaza Warriors. He had recently arranged a cricket kit for the team.
“After passing his Class XII exams, he joined the police department. He was the first person from our family to join the police. If he had not been a policeman, he would have been a scientist. He loved his job,’’ says Ahmad.
“Soon after he joined the police department, he bought a laptop on loan and later became a computer expert,’’ he recalls. Because he was tech-savvy, Dar was often called “Altaf Laptop”.
Besides villagers, some top police officers also attended Dar’s funeral on Thursday.
“We never knew he was such a high-profile officer. We knew him as a village boy who would help his friends, relatives and neighbors,’’ says Mohammad Rafi, Dar’s childhood friend and neighbour. “Only a few months ago, we played cricket in Ashmuji village. He was a good wicketkeeper and batsman,’’ he adds.
A police officer describes Dar as an encyclopedia on militancy in Kashmir. “For the police department, this loss cannot be filled easily,’’ he says.