A family still unaware of death’s shadow at the door, another waiting for a body, and a third mourning the loss of a son and his father. The attack by militants at the Army camp in Sunjuwan in Jammu left six dead on Sunday — and five villages across the state shattered.
“Only his father is aware. His pregnant wife, six young daughters and aged mother only know that he suffered injuries and is recuperating in hospital,” says Hamidullah Qureshi, outside a two-storey house in Batpora village, up in the hills close to the LoC, 13 km from Kupwara town.
Hamidullah’s nephew Havaldar Habibullah Qureshi was among those killed in the attack targeting the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JKLI).
Inside the house, Qureshi’s father, Amanullah, a retired soldier, is silently gazing at a picture of his son in a corner. “When the camp was attacked, I spoke to my nephew over phone. When I called him around 2.30 pm, he told me not to call again as the situation was very bad and firing was going on. But I could not control my curiosity, and called him again after an hour… his phone was switched off. I was the last person from our family to speak with him,” says Hamidullah.
Another uncle, Mohammad Shafi, a retired JKLI soldier, said his nephew was evacuating injured soldiers when he was killed. ‘’He was hit by three bullets on his chest. Hours later, a neighbour based in the camp told us about his death,’’ says Shafi. ‘’In 1995, he became the 14th member of our family to join the army. It’s a huge, irreparable loss. The time has come for crucial issues to be resolved once and for all in this state. How long will our young soldiers keep on dying?’’ he asks.
Abdul Hamid, a neighbour, says Qureshi was planning to retire in two years. ‘’He never took his family to the camp because he loved his village and neighborhood. The last time he came home was for the marriage of his cousin in November. He was planning to retire in the next two years and had many plans. Unfortunately, he didn’t live to realise his dreams,’’ says Hamid.
At Maidanpora village, 30 km away, neighbours and relatives of Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) Mohammad Ashraf Mir are waiting for his body. The 43-year-old joined the army when he was barely 20 and was living at the camp with his wife, two daughters and a son. His younger brother Farooq Ahmad Mir is also in the army but based in a different camp.
At the village, Mir’s aged parents and a younger brother, who is a transporter, are receiving mourners. “I spoke to him hours before the killing. In the evening, I came to know he had been killed,’’ says his father. “I have known this family for years. They were poor and he was helping his old parents. Mir’s only son is studying in Class XII,’’ says Abdul Ahad, a neighbour.
Meanwhile, in Pulwama district, a family in Nigeenpora village is mourning the death of Lance Naik Mohammad Iqbal, 32, and his father Mohiudin Sheikh. “The women have not been told yet. The father had gone Jammu to stay with his son,’’ says Mohammad Iqbal, a neighbour.