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Families of Kishtwar riot victims united by grief,government apathy

Sheikh was handicapped and walked with a limp,therefore couldn’t escape from the mob.

Written by Maneesh Chhibber | Kishtwar | Published: August 19, 2013 3:00:58 am

When Danish,the 16-year-old son of Bashir Ahmed Sheikh,saw his father’s body at the Kishtwar district hospital,he couldn’t recognise him. Sheikh was handicapped and walked with a limp — the main reason he couldn’t escape the mob chasing him.

Related: 60 injured in Kishtwar Eid clashe

Less than a km away is Des Raj Bhagat’s house. The Bahujan Samaj Party district president’s young son,Arvind,was also a victim of the riot that was unleashed on the Kishtwar town after Eid prayers.

Today,the two families are united by grief.

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“He wanted to join the army but started working for an insurance company. That day,he was going to his pregnant sister’s house in Shalamar area,five km from Kishtwar,to take her to the hospital. On his way,he decided to drop some papers at his office,which is located in the main market area,where the riot happened. Suddenly,he was hit by bullets. Some people took him to the army hospital on a motorcycle but he had already died,” Bhagat told The Indian Express.

In the small house of the Sheikh family,Waheeda Begum,is inconsolable. Her son,though,is a picture of composure. “Why did they have to burn him? Where is humanity?” asks Danish.

Related: Beneath the communal violence in Kishtwar lies politics and creeping shadow of militancy

Incidentally,the only recent picture that the family has of Sheikh is on a mobile phone,clicked by his nephew the day he died. Before going for Eid prayers,Sheikh had visited his sister,who lives in the same village and it was at her house that his nephew took his picture on his mobile.

Nine days after the two deaths,the two families are also bound by another tie — official apathy. In both cases,it took the district administration over 24 hours after the deaths to release the bodies for last rites. Till today,no one from the administration or elected representatives has visited them.

Related: Kishtwar fights mistrust,fear eight days after riots

“I don’t know what will happen now. They don’t have any resources. Apart from the boy,there are two sisters and the mother too. Let’s hope,the government gives Danish a job,” the victim’s elder brother said. Arvind’s father,an ex-serviceman,is worried his son’s killers may never get punished. “The police know who killed my son. I hope they will be caught and punished,” Bhagat said.

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