Two crypts were dug for Friday’s burial at the “martyrs” graveyard in Ashtangoo village — one to hold the body of a young welder who allegedly fell to the bullets of security forces, the other for a policeman killed by unidentified militants.
Nasir Ahmad Sheikh, the 25-year-old welder, and Shazad Dilawar Sofi, the 30-year-old constable, who were killed in Srinagar on Thursday night, coincidentally came from the same village in north Kashmir, but the circumstances that led to their deaths could not have been more different, yet tied to the same problem.
Nasir, who worked in an industrial unit at Rangreth in Srinagar, had ventured out of his rented home Thursday evening to buy bread for friends who would break their Ramzan fast. There had been protests in the neighbourhood earlier. Agitators had clashed with Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel, one of many this summer in Kashmir. “But when Nasir left for the market, the protests had stopped,” said Showkat Ahmed, who knew the welder in Srinagar. “He was fired at directly by the SSB personnel and died on the spot.” An unprovoked firing, Showkat alleged.
Hours later in Srinagar’s Hyderpora area, unidentified motorbike riding gunmen shot Sofi and another police colleague dead.
Sofi’s death highlights the rising attacks on policemen in Kashmir. State police chief S P Vaid said in Srinagar on Friday this was happening because of the frustration of the militants with the police who were giving a tough fight. But he noted that “whether a militant is killed or a civilian or a cop, it is a Kashmiri who dies. The bloodshed will not take us anywhere, it is only the murder of humanity,” PTI quoted him as saying in Srinagar. Vaid laid a wreath in the police lines to honour Sofi.
At Ashtangoo, the news of the deaths kept villagers awake on Thursday. In Bandipore district, Ashtangoo is a settlement of around 15,000 people.
“Nobody in the village rested. We are mourning the deaths with the bereaved families,” said Mohammad Ashraf, a neighbour of Nasir’s family. He said hundreds of people from nearby villages had come to Ashtangoo to grieve.
Nasir is survived by his aged mother and pregnant wife. “He had not visited home for two months and told his wife he would for Id. Now, his body has come to the village,’’ said a relative.
The large crowd mouthed pro-freedom, anti-India slogans, common at funerals when someone falls to a security bullet.
As Nasir was laid to rest around 10.30 am in the “martyrs” graveyard, where Ashtangoo buries those who fall to bullets, whichever the side, another grave was being dug. It was for Sofi. Villagers said he was a good cricketer and always helpful.
When Sofi’s body reached the village, then too anti-India and pro-Pakistan slogans were heard. Sofi is survived by his aged mother. His wife is raising 17-month-old twins.