SRINAGAR: It is dark, but scary in Nawa Kadal area of old city. Pall of gloom has descended around as a young man Bashir Ahmad Bhat just fell to bullets on the day of ballot. Wails, tears, slogans, smoke and shelling marked his funeral.
Bashir, son of Ghulam Muhammad, according to reports, was in early twenties. Resident of Gratbal Nawakadal, Bashir after changing few professions was now into needle work. He is survived by parents, two sisters and a brother.
With death of Bashir, hopes of his family are dashed. Bashir left without seeing his sister in bridal attire next month. And her would-be-bride sister is shell shocked, as her neighbours say, “the blood spilled over her mehandi.”
What happened on a relatively peaceful day? Locals say, as the youth engaged police and CRPF in stone pelting after culmination of polling in Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency, “enraged CRPF men fired indiscriminately” which left Bashir dead and other five others injured.
The bullet hit Bashir while ballot was being taken to ‘safer place’. Locals say that “Bashir was not a stone pelter and neither tried to snatch rifle.” He was, they say just standing on the roadside and had “nothing to do what was going around.”
Official sources told a local news gathering agency that paramilitary CRPF opened fire on a group of protesters at Nawakadal following injury to one of its personnel in stone pelting. They identified the man as Sandeep Kumar.
Police in its bulletin said, “In the evening after the polling was over a party of security forces came under severe attack by some miscreants in Nawakadal area in the jurisdiction of police station Safakadal, Srinagar. The miscreants snatched the weapon of a security force personnel. In the ensuing scuffle two persons identified as Bashir Ahmed Bhat son of Ghulam Hassan Bhat resident of Gratbal Nawakadal and Nazir Ahmed Kaloo resident of Nawakadal got injured. Bashir Ahmed later on succumbed to his injuries. While Nazir Ahmed Kaloo has got injured in arm and is out of danger.”
What locals said and police claimed, CRPF did not buy the arguments and vehemently rejected the allegations.
Public Relations Officer CRPF Kishore Prasad is quoted to have said, “Our men didn’t open fire. There were other forces as well.”
On being asked a CRPF man namely Sandip Kumar was injured in NawaKadal, Prasad said: “He was not injured at NawaKadal but was injured at Soura. He has been hit by stone in his eye and sustained grave injuries,” adding that he is part of 117 Battalion. He said that the 73 and 161 Battalions of CRPF were deployed in Nawakadal on Wednesday.
There was condemnation from across the sections. While State’s chief executive Omar Abdullah expressed grief over the loss of life. He also said that “circumstances leading to this tragic loss of life would be thoroughly probed.” His father and NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah claimed that “he stands with the family in this moment of inconsolable sorrow and loss.”
State’s principal opposition PDP president Mehbboba Mufti expressed her “heart felt condolence” to the bereaved family and said “killings with impunity only add to tragedies and it is unfortunate that at the end of a comparatively peaceful day a precious life was lost to disproportionate use of force”
Separatist camp also condemned the killing and called for shutdown on Thursday.
However, the pain and agony did not stop with Bashir’s death. Eye witnesses told that while Bashir was being taken for final journey, men in uniform fired several rounds of tear smoke shells to disperse the “unruly mob”.
With around 26 per cent polling in Srinagar Lok sabha seat, both NC and PDP claimed victory while separatists congratulated people for boycott. No matter who wins, the family in old city will never forget April 30, 2014-the day they lost reason to live and be happy again.
As Bashir was being laid to rest, a light shower made the soil moist. The protests were on. Still come to terms of loss, the family of Bashir is in shock. And official sources said that the day next would have restrictions in place. Bashir along with polling percentage is now another figure in the list.