Adieu My SON!

One more life lost. One more talented youngster silenced by the bullets. Arshad’s father tells Riyaz Ul Khaliq that how his son’s death has left a void that cannot be filled ever

Sopore-Encounter-SiteIt was just another day in Krankshivan colony in volatile apple town of Sopore in North Kashmir, till guns started roaring in the neighbourhood. A gun battle had started between Army and suspected militants, who had taken refuge in Muhammad Shaban Peencho’s house. Within no time the entire area was cordoned off; armoured vehicles lined the narrow deserted roads, reminding people of the peak militancy days of early 90s.

After heavy exchange of fire for some hours from both the sides, the encounter was suspended for the night. Next morning Army decided to unleash the final assault. Within no time Peencho’s single storey modest house was blasted and razed to ground. Peencho owns a band sawmill and has rented it to someone else.

As the news of final assault spread in the adjoining areas, a large crowd assembled nearby. Army had claimed that there were two militants hiding in the house. But after a long search people managed to extract one body from the rubble. Later Army said that the second militant had managed to ‘escape’. There was visible tension in the air. Hundreds of people were marching and raising pro-freedom slogans.

About same time, at the other end of Krankshivan area, Arshad Aziz Shah, 24, a driver by profession, was moving lazily towards the encounter site. It was more of a curiosity, than will, that made Arshad visit encounter site. But before he could have reached the site, an armoured vehicle carrying J&K policemen appeared on the scene. There were protests and stone pelting in the area. Without any warning a policeman alighted from the armoured vehicle and fired five shots towards the small crowd. “Three bullets pierced three civilians and Arshad was one among them,” a local said. The injured were rushed to local hospital but Arshad was declared brought dead by the doctors on duty.

As the news of Arshad’s death spread in the locality people came out of their houses and rushed towards the hospital. His body was brought home by a large procession shouting pro-freedom slogans. As the dusk took over, Arshad was buried in local martyrs’ graveyard. Arshad’s death added one more number to thousands of unaccounted deaths that happened in Kashmir in last two and a half decades of conflict. But for Abdul Aziz Shah and his family, Arshad was much more than just a number.

Abdul Aziz Shah, an employee in state Power Development department had pinned all his hopes on his eldest son Arshad.

On the night of encounter, Arshad, an IGNOU graduate and an ITI trained, had come from Pahalgham after a three days stay. “He came in the dead of the night,” said his father Aziz.

After completing his bachelors through IGNOU, Aziz bought Arshad a vehicle so that he could add to the family income. “In June 2011, after getting some loan from a bank, I bought Scorpio for him,” said Aziz.

Aziz rues that his family of five is now reduced to four. Besides, his wife Naseema, Aziz has now one daughter and younger son to feed. “On that day, as the situation was not favourable, I asked Arshad to be home for the day which he did like a good son,” Abdul Aziz Shah told Kashmir Life.

After learning pros and cons of good driving, Arshad then started working for a company. He would ferry its employees. On this fateful day, he had come from his last trip to Pahalgam. “He was there for three days before bidding us adieu,” Aziz said with moist eyes.

On Monday morning, Arshad drove his vehicle for the last time. Before going out to see the encounter site Arshad washed his vehicle at a nearby stream.

 “We never knew that in the evening, Arshad’s final bath was waiting,” Aziz said. After he was done with the washing, he came back to his home and slept. “We had some work in our kitchen garden and I thought of asking Arshad to help me but when I saw him sleeping with his younger brother on one side, I told my wife not to disturb them,” Aziz said.

Sopore-Youth-KilledOnce Aziz and Naseema came back, Arshad had already left. “I asked a boy from our locality about him, he informed that Arshad went to see the encounter site,” he said. “He did not come back.”

Ishfaq Dar, Arshad’s close friend, describes him as the most pious and intelligent youth of his area. “Confirm from any shopkeeper from the area, Arshad had no debit with anyone,” he said referring to day to day business that youth usually have with the shops in their areas.

“Our locality is unable to come to terms as we have lost a gem,” he added.

Arshad was an adventurous guy, his other friend said. “He was one of the best Rugby players in his locality,” he said. “He played Rugby at the national level in Pune a few years ago.”

Ask anyone in and around Krankshivan about cricket, they will definitely talk of Arshad as well. “There is not even a single cricket team with which he had not played,” Dar said. “He was a fantastic batsman,” he continued. “People would standstill when he was at the crease.”

Arshad worked hard to help his father. His hard earned money was being saved to marry off his sister, who is sitting shell-shocked in one of the corners of her home.

His younger brother Basit, Ishfaq said, is not mentally normal. “Doctors said that once he grows adult, he will be normal only then.”

“Arshad was a responsible brother who cared a lot about him but now the situation has changed a lot,” he said, adding, “Basit would have now to help his father.”

His mother is literally out of her senses. She only calls her slain son. “The family is shattered,” a neighbour quipped.

Aziz said that he was planning to marry Arshad but Arshad was not ready, “He would say that we will first build our new home.”

Sources said that army has divided the apple town Sopore into two halves between 22 RR regiment and 52 RR regiment to manage it quiet easily.

Locals also claimed that the elders of the area did meet the police officials before Arshad fell to their bullets. “They were requested to leave the spot as the youth were sloganeering after seeing the encounter site but they did not pay any heed,” a local said.

1 COMMENT

  1. Wish the author would have also bothered to visit scores of families who’s sons were brutally murdered by terrorists. They have the similar pain to share but ISI paid Kashmiri media will never ever write about those sufferings and those pains inflicted by terrorists to thousands of families. My cousin who was brutally mustered by a Pakistani terrorist and his local accomplice has 5 sisters still unmarried. There is no one to earn at home but Jehadi Journalosts of Kashmir will never bother to write about them. Shame on you.

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