A teacher who would always invite his relatives in Jammu to visit Srinagar, pointing to the “good weather” and “very good people”. And a principal from his school in Srinagar who had taken her new car to work for the first time.
These were the two victims of Thursday’s attack by militants at the Government Boys’ Higher Secondary School in Srinagar.
In Jammu, at the home of Deepak Chand, his two-year-old daughter Rajni walks up to her mother as grief-laden wails rend the air. She can’t understand why so many people have gathered, and why her mother and grandmother are crying.
Just last week, Chand had come to Jammu to drop his wife and daughter home before returning to work in the Valley. “Around 7.30 pm Wednesday, he had called his elder brother, who is a tax consultant, to say he will come home on Ashtami (the eighth day of Navratra). He had also spoken to his aunt and invited her to visit Kashmir,” said Chand’s cousin Vicky Mehra, a local contractor.
Less than 24 hours later, Chand was shot by militants who also gunned down Supinder Kour, the principal at his school.
“Deepak was very happy and he used to call everybody in the family, asking them to visit Kashmir. He used to tell us there is nothing to fear, that the people are very good, the weather is good and that there is no tension,’’ said Mehra. “He had been teaching in Kashmir for the past four years following his appointment under the PM’s employment package for Kashmiri Pandits.”
Apart from Rajni, Chand is survived by his wife Aradhna and mother Kanta. “His father Lal Chand died last year. Others in the family include his elder brother Kamal Mehra and a married sister,” said the cousin.
In Srinagar’s Aloocha Bagh neighbourhood, meanwhile, Kour’s sister-in-law said she had taken her new car to school for the first time. “She had been learning to drive for three years,” she said.
Kour’s daughter Jasleen Kaur, a Class VII student, said she had spoken to her mother on phone later. “I was attending my online classes. And when I called again, no one answered the call,” she said.
“It was only later that the family was informed about the shootout,” said a neighbour, who did not wish to be identified.
Hailing from Budgam, Kour moved with her husband Ramresh Paul Singh, and their daughter and son who are students in Delhi Public School-Srinagar, to this locality about a decade ago.
Singh, whose parents also stay with the family, works in the Jammu and Kashmir Bank. Kour “used to treat each and every member of this locality with respect”, the neighbour said.
In Chand’s home, the sorrow was soon overtaken by anger. “You may kill us, but I want to tell you that we are not afraid of you,’’ said Mehra, the cousin.