On Monday afternoon, Jana Begum in her fifties is wailing, singing lullabies under an open canopy at her home located alongside a busy railway track in Chattbugh village in central Kashmir’s Budgam district.
“Mahraz ha neyham khudayoo (my bridegrooms were snatched). Wala exam ha chui myane gubro, (you have to appear in exams! My son). Yeman kus khata oos (what was their crime?),” she cried inconsolably while a number of women mourners try to console her amid sobs and tears.
On Saturday evening, militants killed Jana’s two sons; Ashfaq Ahmad Dar, 25 – a Special Police Officer (SPO) and Mohammad Umar Dar, 21 – a student.
Both the siblings, according to their family members were at home when they were shot dead from point-blank range.
Living in a two-story house, Ghulam Mohammad Dar is being visited by hundreds of mourners to offer sympathy. Dar has a daughter who is married and had 4 sons; three working in the police department and one as a graphic designer.
Rameez Ahmad Dar, elder brother of the duo who is also working as a special police officer (SPO) while talking to Maktoob said that Ashfaq had died on the spot while Umar breathed his last in the hospital.
“He would have survived, had he been taken to the hospital early,” Dar said. After remaining in an Intensive Care Unit for a night he succumbed to death on Sunday”.
Dar said that Ashfaq was recruited by the police two years ago but did not want to continue at that post and was instead looking for better options.
“He had worked day in and day out and was confident of cracking this examination and joining the police department as a Sub Inspector”.
Dar said, Ashfaq was posted at District Police Line in Budgam, however, he was pursuing a one-year diploma in stenography through the department since October 2021.
Umar, on the other hand, was still a student but was interested in graphic designing. He ran a small shop in Wadwan to design posters and fliers. “Ashfaq was studying while Umar was busy on their laptop when they were attacked at around 8 pm. Gunmen first fired at Ashfaq and then shot Umar dead,” he said.
‘It was a targeted killing’
While narrating the sequence of events, Nighat Ara – sister-in-law and eyewitness said that at around 8 pm in the evening, unknown persons barged inside the house and headed straight away to Ashfaq’s room.
“We were sitting in a room on the ground floor and Ashfaq was sitting in his room preparing for the Sub-Inspector exam, scheduled the next day. Umar was busy with his laptop in another room,” she said.
“it was a targeted killing. It seems they had full information in advance. They didn’t enter any room randomly, rather straightaway made their way to Ashfaq’s room”.
“There was a noise in the corridor, and we opened the door and saw two men fighting with Ashfaq. I asked them what are you fighting for? Is there anything you owe each other? We will sort out without engaging in fighting, but they didn’t respond,” she continued.
“As Ashfaq managed to hide in the washroom in the corridor, they [gunmen] kicked the door and shot him first in the head. As he fell down, they pumped several bullets inside his body and he died on the spot,” she continued.
She said that Jana pleaded before them not to kill him.
“She caught hold of his gun, but they pushed her back and killed him in front of our eyes.
After seeing his body drenched in blood, we were so frightened that we moved out to run for our lives, but the shooter chased us and shot Umar in his leg and he fell down on the lawn”.
“As he tried to get up the gunmen fired a volley of bullets upon him. “He was lying on the ground. Blood was oozing out of his body and he was asking for water. I offered him a few drops of water but that was not enough to save him,” she continued.
“After they went out, they fired a few more rounds in the air to create a sense of fear among the people. It delayed neighbours to reach out and help,” Nighat added.
Thousands attend funeral prayers
On the very next day, thousands of mourners thronged Dar’s home to attend the funeral prayers of the deceased. The bodies were first taken to District Police Line Budgam and later were handed over to the family members for last rites.
Both men and women were seen crowded alongside a railway track just outside their house chanting slogans in favour of the slain siblings.
Aijaz Ahmad Dar, another brother of the slain, who is working as a constable in the police department while addressing the gathering apologized publically. “Maafe deyzeho, agar galti asehai. Jan ha neewu, ze gulab ha neyu. Aar te oow na khudayoo (You should have pardoned us if we had committed some crime. You snatched my life, you snatched my two roses. Don’t you have mercy? Oh God),” Aijaz cried inconsolably Infront of the funeral gathering.
Budgam witnessing surge in militant attacks
In the month of March, so far at least eight targeted killings have been reported across Kashmir. Four people have been killed in the Budgam district alone including Sameer Ahmad Malla, an army cop who was abducted near his home and then found killed in a nearby orchard, followed by the killing of Tajamul Mohiuddin Rather who was shot dead outside his home in Gotpora. On Saturday evening, Ashfaq, and his brother Umar were also killed by the gunmen.
Political leaders condemn the attack
PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti, while expressing condolences to the family, said death and destruction have become a norm in Kashmir Valley.
“In Kashmir, we watch helplessly as young lives are snuffed out. Death & destruction have become the norm. Sadly GOI doesn’t seem to care since Kashmiri lives have little value for them. Deepest condolences to the family,” she tweeted.
Condemning the killings, CPM’s Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami termed it heinous and barbaric and demanded that perpetrators be identified and booked.
“It has sent shock waves in the whole region and everyone is pained and grieved,” he said.