It was an audacious disapproval of such innocent killings-everybody asking why a young, unmarried officer, who didn’t harm anybody, had been gunned down…reports Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
In sharp contrast to a sustained silence over scores of civilian killings by militants in the last 31 years, Kupwaras Vilgam zone has collectively condemned the 27-year-old Police Sub Inspector (SI) Meer Arshads assassination. While returning from a hospital, where he had delivered a detainee for the Covid test, the unarmed officer in uniform was attacked from behind by an unidentified terrorist in point blank range. Pumped into his skull, two pistol shots left him dead on the spot at Khanyar in Srinagar on Sunday, 12 September.
Droves of mourners thronged Arshad’s village, received his mortal remains and participated in the funeral rites late in the night on Sunday while sobbing, wailing and crying loudly. It was an audacious disapproval of such innocent killings-everybody asking why a young, unmarried officer, who didn’t harm anybody, had been gunned down. The condemnation was colossal, to the extent that the organisation which had owned up all such killings in the last two years, decided not to claim responsibility.
A pall of gloom that descended on entire Kupwara district was in place on Tuesday-three days after Arshad’s assassination. The slain officer’s father, Ashraf Meer, who works as a teacher at the Government High School Hangnikot, Vilgam, has been asking in refrain: “What was my son’s fault? Why was my son snatched away from me and my family?”
Nobody has an answer. The residents are expecting Director General of Police, Dilbag Singh, and IGP Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, to visit and answer Ashraf’s soliloquy on his slain son’s 4th day requiem on Wednesday.
Appointed as SI in 2019, Arshad was one among the 30-odd of his fellow villagers who joined different ranks in the Jammu and Kashmir Police with ambitions to rise high. A number of them are SIs and Inspectors. The first IPS from the area, and resident of the same village, is now an additional Director General of Police. Just two bullets from a terrorist’s gun shattered his family’s dreams.
Ashraf struggled hard to ensure the best possible education to all four of his children. After his elementary schooling at Kalmoona and the Middle school studies at Voice of Iqra Educational Institute Tarathpora, Arshad passed his 12th standard from Government Higher Secondary School Tarathpora. Thereafter, he did Bachelor of Science from Government Degree College Kupwara. Lastly, he passed Masters in Botany from a university in Bhopal.
While Ashraf’s daughter, Farheen (25), is completing her Bachelors in Unani Medical Science and also trying her luck through NEET, his second son, Asif (22), is pursuing Masters in Information Technology from a university outside J&K. His third son, Aqeel (20), is also in the middle of his Bachelors in Physical Education in a university outside J&K.
“His (Arshad’s) killers will rot in hell. He had not harmed anybody. He was one of the most brilliant students of our area”, said a government school teacher who taught Arshad in his 9th and 10th standard. “His death came as an unprecedented shock to the whole Kupwara district”.
Almost all the prominent leaders, including former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, extended their condolences to the bereaved family. National Conference leaders and former Ministers Chowdhary Mohammad Ramzan and Mir Saifullah, Peoples Conference chairman and former Minister Sajad Lone and Peoples Democratic Party’s Sofi Irfan are among the politicians who called on the bereaved family in the last two days.
“SI Arshid Ahmed martyred. May Allah grant him Jannat. The terrorists have yet again made an addition to the army of orphans”, Sajad Lone, the former Minister and MLA from Handwara tweeted. “To those who martyred this young man. The whole area has come out. This is brutal. This is tragic. We as Kashmiris need to send out a message. That Kashmiri lives matter”, Lone tweeted with a video of Arshad’s massive funeral.
“A violent death, a killing is not a statistic which it has got relegated to in Kashmir. Behind every killing is a history- a family, a son, a grieving father, a grieving mother and much more. These coffins hold not just dead bodies but brutally interrupted and truncated dreams”, Lone tweeted.
Omar Abdullah dismissed Arshad’s assassination as a dastardly act. “Strongly condemn the killing of SI Arshid Ahmad in a dastardly act of senseless violence. We express our sincere condolences to the family members of the fearless policeman killed in the line of duty. May his soul rest in peace & the family find strength to face the days ahead”, Omar tweeted.
Mehbooba tweeted: “Saddened to hear about the death of J&K Police Sub Inspector Arshid Ahmed killed by militants at Khanyar today. May his soul rest in peace & condolences to his family”.
Like 9 other districts, Kupwara has witnessed hundreds of killings by militants in the last 31 years of the armed insurgency. In the first 12 years, security forces too have been at the receiving end of the civilian killings from January 1990 when 21 people were killed on the eve of the Republic Day in Handwara.
This border district faced the brunt for being the route of infiltration and crossing over to the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir through the LoC. It used to be known as the gateway of militancy when hundreds of the guerrilla recruits would exit or enter and the bus conductors would call in the passengers for “Sopore-Kupwore-Apore”.
Even as the alleged excesses and aberrations of the security forces have fallen to the lowest point in the last 18 years-militants have been carrying out sporadic attacks on civilian soft targets and unarmed Policemen.
On most of such occasions, the common people remained muted. When a Lecturer’s family was wiped out some 19 years back, nobody dared to come out with condemnation. When a young dental surgeon of Handwara was kidnapped and killed mercilessly in Sopore, none of the leaders-including those who had frequently relished banquets at his home-condemned his killing or visited the family until the militants disowned his assassination.
For a change now, most of the non-combatant killings evoke resentment and condemnation from the common people as well as the leaders who have usually failed them on defining moments of the valley’s political history.