There is complete silence under the shamiana as they wait for his body to arrive. Until a wail breaks through. “Why are you all here? Have you come for his wedding?” cries a woman, who has entered the courtyard of this one-storey house at Parray Mohalla in Hajin, Bandipore.
Habla Begum, her left arm wrapped in a bandage, is still in shock. On Wednesday night, she was one of those injured as a group of suspected militants stormed the house, dragged her nephew out and shot him dead. Mohammad Ramzan Parray was 30.
Not many in Hajin are ready to talk about what happened to BSF constable Ramzan. And those who are willing to, do so in worried whispers and on the condition that they should not be named.
“He was on his phone outside his house when the militants first passed by. They asked for his phone and identity card. He resisted and that led to a scuffle. But his aunt intervened and they let him go after snatching his phone,” says a neighbour.
Around 15 minutes later, says another neighbour, the militants returned and tried to drag Ramzan out. Sensing serious trouble, he says, Ramzan and his family resisted the attackers.
“Two of them stayed outside while two entered the house. When we tried to stop them from dragging him out, they stabbed us with a knife,” says Ramzan’s cousin Showkat Ahmad Parray. “He (Ramzan) caught hold of a gun held by one of them and there was another scuffle. Then, they shot him five times. They also fired several shots in the air,” he says.
“They had initially let him go. But we presume that they checked the photos in his phone and got to know that he was a BSF man. They returned and tried to abduct him,” says a police officer at Hajin in north Kashmir’s Bandipore.
According to police, Ramzan’s father Ghulam Ahmad Parray (65), aunt Habla, and two brothers, Javid Ahmad Parray and Mohammad Afzal Parray, suffered stab wounds in the scuffle. Doctors say Ghulam Ahmad, who was stabbed in the abdomen, is in a “critical” condition.
Ramzan is not the first member of the Parrays — a close-knit clan of families staying in a cluster of houses — to join the Army or paramilitary forces. “Two of his cousins are in the Army, another is in the BSF. One of our cousins is an Army Captain,” says Showkat.
Ramzan was serving in the 73rd battalion of BSF and posted at the force’s sector headquarters at Singhpora in Baramulla. He had come home 22 days ago on leave for a month.
On Thursday, the wreath-laying ceremony for Ramzan at the Hajin police station was attended by BSF DIG Arvinder Kumar and Bandipore SSP Zulfikar Azad. A local police officer said many other security personnel who wanted to attend the ceremony stayed away because they felt their participation “could cause problems for the family”.
While Ramzan’s killers are yet to be identified, Hajin is said to have a strong presence of Lashkar-e-Toiba cadre and is turning out to be a militant stronghold in north Kashmir.
Ramzan’s house is also barely a stone’s throw from that of Wasim Parray, son of dreaded counter-insurgent Kuka Parray who was killed by militants in 2003. Parray’s house is secured by a team of CRPF personnel.