Born Orphan

Dead-body-of-Gowhar-Bahadur
Dead-body-of-Gowhar-Bahadur

Once a BSF lawyer, Bashir Ahmad Zargar, approached her and attempted to bribe her to withdraw the case. “Those killers thought trading blood of my innocent husband would save their skin,” a stern looks flashed on her face while saying, “but they are mistaken. They have to pay sooner or later what they did to me.”

By the order dated July 9, 2012, the CJM Srinagar noted that the BSF was not cooperating with the investigations and stated that the investigations must be expedited.

“It shouldn’t have happened to me,” she says. “They didn’t kill only my husband, as a matter of fact, they killed three of us.”

April 1996

On April 5 1996, Sikander Ganai, a pro-government gunman was found dead near Pampore on Srinagar-Jammu highway along with four other men in a private taxi.

Three of them were his close associates who allegedly helped Major (retd.) Avtar Singh eliminate noted rights activist Jaleel Andrabi after he was picked up by the army while on his way home. The fifth man killed that day along with Sikandar and his associates was later identified as Mohammad Afzal Malik, the driver of the Ambassador car.

On 10th of June, 2012 Kashmir woke up to the news of Major (retd) Avtar Singh killing his entire family in Selma California before turning the gun on himself.

Avtar Singh, who served in the Territorial Army in Kashmir during the height of militancy in early 90’s fled the country after he was being investigated by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) for allegedly killing Kashmir’s prominent human rights activist, Jaleel Andrabi.

Singh was also investigated for the murder of nine other people including Sikandar and his associates and a taxi driver.

All these years, 19-year-old Mohammad Afzal Malik remained just a taxi driver whose name was forever associated with notorious Ikwani Sikandar’s mysterious end.

Afzal’s father Ghulam Mohiddin Malik, who lives a detached life outside the main town of Budgam, looks much older than his actual 65 years of age. I saw him walking slowly, almost stooping, towards me. It was hard to convince him to talk about his deceased son Afzal. When he finally agreed to talk, sadness overcame his face and he began to sob like a child.

“He was just a taxi driver and had nothing to do with Sikandar,” said Mohiddin Malik in a barely audible voice.

“Three days before Malik’s body was found, he was picked up by Sikander from near his house in Budgam,” he said in between the sobs. “They (Sikander and his men) forcefully took him along as they needed a ride,” remembers Mohiddin.

Mohiddin’s neighbour who was sitting beside him told me that he saw Afzal pleading with Sikandar and his men to let him go as his wife was expecting a baby.

“But he did not listen. Too much resistance would have put Afzal in instant danger as Sikander was known to be ruthless in the area,” added Mohiddin.

For next three days Afzal was untraceable. “We filed an FIR with the local police station when he did not return that day,” remembers Mohiddin.

After three days, someone from the local police station came to Mohiddin’s house and said that they have found some dead bodies near Pampore and took him along for identification.

“The journey from my home to Pampore police station was the longest and the most painful. I kept praying for odds to be in my favour,” said Mohiddin in a shaking voice. “I kept praying all along. But, it was all in vain. Soaked in blood my son was lying dead along with four other people.”

Mohiddin later came to know that the other men killed with his son were all Ikwanis including the notorious Sikandar.

Hours after Afzal’s body reached home his wife gave birth to a baby girl. “Life plays games with us and we can’t help but accept His will,” said Mohiddin.

Three years later, Afzal’s wife remarried and left forever with her daughter. “She was our only hope after Malik left but we could not stop her from marrying again as she was young,” said Mohiddin.

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