WHERE THE bullet shattered the stained glass almirah, the only thing visible is a toy pistol. As Inspector Mohammad Ashraf Dar fell to bullets in his own kitchen, blood splattered across his daughter’s clothes and the gunshots stunned his two sons, in the adjoining room. The celebration of Eid turned into an occasion of grief as gunshots rang in three homes across South Kashmir and three men of the J&K Police were gunned down, on Eid day, by suspected militants.
At 8.30 am, in Zazripora Kulgam, 34-year-old constable Fayaz Ahmad Shah took his three-year-old daughter Suhana to the local Eidgah to buy her a gift for Eid. “As he stopped at a stall, three men, two wearing masks, asked him to get into their car. He resisted, they held him by the nape of his neck and tried to bundle him into the car,” Bilal Ahmad, his brother-in-law who witnessed the killing, told The Indian Express. “He pushed his daughter into the crowd towards me. They shot him in the leg so he would stop resisting and get in the car but when they could not, they pushed him to the ground and fired bullets at him killing him right there.”
Fayaz Shah had returned home for Eid last Sunday and had been training following a promotion just five months ago. Through her tears, Tabassum Abbas, his wife, makes only one plea: “Why didn’t they give him a warning? If they wanted him to leave the force, they should have said once. I would beg but not let him return to duty.”
Just short of her fourth birthday, Suhana is scared of returning home, says her mother, for fear of being killed. “She has not understood that her father has been killed but she thinks someone will shoot her if she comes home,” she said. The family was hoping to construct a house as soon as he finished training. Whenever his wife worried for his safety, Fayaz Shah would tell her, “Have I ever killed anyone? Why would anyone kill me?”
At 5:30 pm at Loswani in neighbouring Pulwama, Mohammad Yaqoob Shah walked out of his home carrying his tiffin box for an overnight stay at the District Police Lines. His family narrates that masked men came out of a Maruti car and riddled his body with bullets. “He was third among four brothers and he supported our children,” his brother, Nayeem said. They picked up his body from the road and took him to the nearby hospital where he was declared brought-dead. His mother, Malla Begum, worries for the loan he had to repay. “He supported four families, not one. He was our only hope,” she said. Police have claimed to have established the complicity of militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen in the incident.
As the day gave way to evening, another name was added to the list of funerals South Kashmir witnessed on Wednesday. At 8:30 pm, Shehla Gani stepped out of a room on the ground floor of her house, to find two men in her lobby. One, she said, had a knife to her nine-year-old son’s throat and another was holding her 13-year-old by the arm.
“They took my phone and asked me where Ashraf was. I told them he had gone out for prayers and I don’t know when he will return,” she said on Thursday. Inspector Mohammad Ashraf Dar walked into his home holding his year-and-a-half old daughter, and seeing the men holding his family hostage, he asked them to let them go. “I begged them to let him go. One of them kicked me and Ashraf began explaining something to them and within the next ten seconds, he fell.”
Shehla had managed to lock the kids in the other room to run to her husband’s rescue but one of the militants, she said, “snatched my daughter from his arms, before shooting him. Her clothes were covered in blood and she started shrieking”.
According to the J&K Police, 24 policemen have been killed in the valley this year; many including the three killed on Wednesday, were not on active duty. Between January and August, 126 militants were killed in Kashmir, 62 in South Kashmir alone. Condemning the killings, Inspector General Police, (Kashmir) SP Pani told The Indian Express, “Three lives were lost in an act of terror. These incidents show the militants’ desperation. We are pursuing all these cases and all culprits shall be brought before the law soon.”