“Targetted killing,” says father of 19 year old Kashmiri shot dead by CRPF

“We lost our son, we are devasted,” lamented Aijaz Ahmad Rather, Shahid’s father. “Following my illness, I had pinned my hopes with Shahid to feed the family.”

On Sunday, an image of the lifeless body of Shahid Aijaz Rather,19, wrapped in his pheran, leaning to a tyre circulated on social media. Next to him was a bag filled with apples, he had picked on his way back home.

He was shot dead after being caught in the “cross-fire” just outside the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp in Babapora village in Shopian district.

A day after the tragic death, the family members of the slain are in utter shock and unable to come to the terms and the circumstances that lead to his death.

Living in a single-story old-fashioned mud house — housing three families — in Nowpora on the outskirts of Kulgam district, a pall of gloom has descended upon Shahid’s family members.

On Monday, mourners were seen visiting his home to offer condolences to the family. Under the canopy erected just outside the temporary entrance to Shahid’s house, female mourners have gathered encircling Shahid’s mother, Firdousa Begum, condoling her.

His mother is wailing, singing lullabies. “Moej lajyo myane gubro, kus bachpan neuhayo” (Your mother be sacrificed upon you oh my son, they have nipped your childhood).

“This is not their house, they are living in a single room adjacent to this house. They have shifted here since people began to visit,” a man among the visitors said to Maktoob.

“We lost our son, we are devasted,” lamented Aijaz Ahmad Rather, Shahid’s father. “Following my illness, I had pinned my hopes with Shahid to feed the family.”

“I sit at my home along with my wife who is also suffering from multiple ailments,” he told Maktoob. Shahid used to work as a labourer and bore a major share of the medical and daily expenses.

“I would not have been sad if my entire property would have been reduced to ashes by fire,” he continued. “All my desires have finished with my son’s death.”

Gul Mohammad Wani, uncle of the slain said to this reporter that Shahid was working in an apple orchard.

“He had moved a few steps ahead when a CRPF trooper opened fire at him,” Gul said.

On Sunday, Shahid left the orchard to visit his family, picking some fresh apples and vegetables in a bag. However, before he could cross the barricades erected just outside the CRPF camp, he was shot dead.

Police in a statement said that Shahid Aijaz Rather was hit by bullets outside the camp of CRPF’s 178 battalions, at Babapora, Shopian.

“Around 10:30 hrs unidentified (militants) attacked a Naka party of 178 Bn, CRPF at Babapora, Shopian. CRPF retaliated the fire and during cross-firing, one unidentified person got killed. Further details are being ascertained,” the Shopian district police claimed in a tweet.

Family rejects police statement

“It was a targeted killing,” Gul said while breaking in commotion. “They shot him in broad daylight. If it has happened with us it can happen to anyone. They have adopted a new tactic of killing unarmed civilians and brandishing them as militants. We can’t take revenge instead demand justice.”

“We are living in a police state. They (security establishment) are ruling the state. No one would listen to us. No one would help us except Allah,” rued Mohammad Yousuf Rather, a relative of the deceased.

“He was such a noble guy that we had not even thought that he would fall victim to bullet,” Rather continued adding we are powerless and can’t hold the killers accountable”.

“If police is claiming he was caught in crossfire let them come up with the CCTV footage of the incident to attest their claims,” Gul said adding they are making drama to cover up the crime they committed.”

Shahid was the sole bread-earner of the family comprising of father, mother, grandmother and four siblings. Besides, was a class 12 student at Boys Higher Secondary School Arwani – 2 kilometres away from the home.

“He shouldered the family responsibilities in his young age and would feed his family following long closure of schools after lockdown. Was that his crime? What if he would have been a militant would he have been carrying vegetables for home even at the time he was killed,” Aijaz said in a murmuring voice.

Picture went viral

Next to his body some fresh apples are lying scattered and a while bag which contained them apparently.

Following the incident, Aijaz said, we were having morning tea at home when police had called a guy in my vicinity asking about the driver Shahid, he refused of having any driver of this name here.

Then in the meantime, Rather said, my son while surfing the Facebook came across a photo from the scene of the shooting, which went viral on social media, shows his head against the tyre of a vehicle, hands inside pheran – the woollen cloak wore in winters and legs stretched.

Next to his body some fresh apples are lying scattered and a while bag which contained them apparently.

The picture shows the door of the driver’s side is open with few blood stains visible on the metal body suggesting the victim was boarded in the vehicle before he was captured in the camera.

Family members quoting the driver of the vehicle said, the vehicle was seized in that very CRPF camp and when the incident happened they ordered him to go fearing “public uprising.”

“The driver when saw him drenching in a pool of blood, he tried to take the victim to the hospital and rescue him, however, Shahid had breathed his last before he could help him,” Hussain said quoting the driver – a milkman’s employee.

Following which some persons clicked his picture and posted that on social media apparently to ascertain his identity.

Burial in the dead of night 

Soon after the incident, family members claim that they got a call from the nearby police station asking to report to the police station immediately.

“We boarded in a car and reached there and saw higher police officials had already taken their seats,” says Gul. Superintendent of Police Kulgam consoled him and assured him that Shahid was innocent and a civilian.

“He was a civilian. His killing is unfortunate and could have been avoided,” Gul said quoting SSP Kulgam as saying.

“The police assured us of filing an FIR and bringing culprits to task,” Gul continued hoping for a sincere investigation.

“We were asked to wait till 7:30 pm in the evening and then they handed Shahid’s body to us apparently to avoid the large gathering and social media glare,” he said adding in the dead of night they buried him in the local graveyard amid pain and agony.

“They (CRPF) have inflicted pain upon us by killing our son. They would feel it till they won’t lose their own,” rued Mohammad who is in his mid-sixties.

“The killing us shocked us beyond imagination.”

Not the first incident

This is the second civilian killing in this month so far wherein CRPF forces are involved. The second killing took place at a time when union minister Amit Shah was on a visit to the union territory of J&K.

On October, 7 a nomadic person, Parvez Ahmad Bokra a resident of Anantnag was killed after he allegedly failed to stop a car near a checkpoint despite being signalled to do so.

The police in a statement had said, “it [the car] rushed towards the checkpoint. It was then challenged by the on-duty troops. Troops fired upon [the car] in self-defence, in which one person died. But the driver of the vehicle managed to escape from the spot.”

The family had accused that CRPF killed him in hurry without following the standard operating procedure. The family had demanded an impartial probe into the incident.

Both the CRPF and J&K Police have not revealed the identity of the second person travelling in Parvez’s car. 

The killing had rendered his family including two minor daughters, a 9-month pregnant wife and an ailing father at the mercy of Allah.

Pertinent to mention that Kashmir valley has witnessed a surge in killings in the past month leaving 12 civilians – mostly migrant workers dead.  

Official statement and condemnation

Public Relation Officer, Central Reserve Police Force, Gul Junaid Khan while talking to Maktoob rejected the family allegations and said he was caught in the crossfire.

When asked about the CCTV footage, Junaid said, it is the ambit of police to investigate the matter. “We are unaware about the progress of the case,” he added.

Maktoob tried to reach out to Senior Superintendent of Police, Shopian, Amrit Paul Singh, however, he was not available for comments. We will update the story accordingly once we will receive comments from him.

Soon after the incident, a PDP spokesperson condemned the attack while mocking the Union Home Minister’s statement saying, “this how you want to befriend youth of Kashmir, how you want to ‘establish’ peace @AmitShah ji? Are we allowed to even condemn ‘other’ victims like Parvaiz & Shahid? I don’t know about golden letters in history but pages of Aug 5 book are certainly stained with lot of blood”.

The party chief and former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: “Another innocent civilian killed allegedly by CRPF in Shopian today. Its sad that armed forces show little restraint & operate with such impunity. My heartfelt condolences to his family.”

National Conference’s provincial spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar said, “Heartwrenching image of a young man killed in Shopian. Shahid Ajaz, they say, was in his milk van, his arms inside his pheran, trying to make ends meet and was caught in cross-firing. No accountability. Pain that Kashmir has borne and continues to bear is beyond anyone’s measure.”