Aalima Jan, daughter of Firdousa Jan, at her new home in Qasbayar village of Pulwama district of South Kashmir. Photograph by Vikar Syed for The Kashmir Walla

Sitting with her 5-year-old daughter, Firdousa Jan was caught up in washing utensils outside her home in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district on 19 October 2018. Married to Khursheed Ahmad Sheikh, a salesman by profession, Ms. Jan had two children — Aalima, and Uzbha — and was 6-month-old pregnant with twins inside her womb. This was the small world she had.

Simultaneously, in the parallel world — right next to her house — militants hurled a UBGL grenade on 44 RR of the Indian army in Shadimarg camp. Following a routine — like a practiced drill — the exchange of firing started between the armed counter-sides.

Soon enough, a bullet interfered the conversation among the mother-daughter duo. 33-year-old Ms. Jan got a bullet in her neck and fell on the ground, alongside the twin in her womb.

Aalima held her hand, hoping she would survive, but neither the mother survived, nor the unborn sibling.

The Kashmir Walla had reported her killing and now visited the bereaved family after four months of the incident to find out what does the ‘collateral damage’ leaves behind.

“She (Ms. Jan) was brave. I used to get scared, but she wouldn’t. Now, my life has become hell. No one came to help us; that one-storey house was the only property I had,” said Mr. Sheikh, Ms. Jan’s husband, “Everything I had has been destroyed. I am only left with my two children.”

Around one kilometer away from his home and the army camp, Mr. Sheikh is living with his parents in village Qasbayar since his wife’s killing. Offering a cup of Lipton tea, the mother-in-law of Ms. Jan said, “They have a routine of firing rounds of bullets around residential areas even during night hours, what do they want? Do they want to kill everyone who lives near the 44 RR? What forces did with us, may Almighty do the same with them.”   

Local residents in the area say that the army personnel stationed at the Shadimarg camp open fire almost every night, soon after people finish having dinner. “It has become a regular affair,” says a neighbour of Mr. Sheikh, who witnessed the family leaving. “The militants don’t attack every night. When there is nothing, suddenly the army men will start firing, no one can say whether it is aerial or aimed at anyone. Several times the gunshots have hit the houses too.”

A few days ago, the same camp was also accused of torturing a man, whose brother serves in the army. As reported by The Kashmir Walla, Tawseef Ahmad Wani, 27, a resident of Achagoza area of Pulwama, said he was beaten to the pulp and tortured in the 44 RR camp of the army in Shadimarg, Pulwama.

With Aalima sitting in Mr. Sheikh’s lap, he said, “She left us. I am restless and anxious about my children.” Uzbah, son of Ms. Jan is studying in the fourth standard and desires to become a scientist one day.

“My mother is in Heaven; I don’t miss her,” naively fearless Aalima, responded smiling.

Though, the Deputy Commissioner of Pulwama helped Mr. Sheikh economically. He has also applied for the SRO case, which is still pending under files.

Now, four months after Mr. Sheikh lost his partner to the collateral damage of armed conflict, he cannot see his own house. “Since then, I have never walked alongside that place. I think I feel her shadow.”

Vikar Syed is a Multimedia Editor at The Kashmir Walla.

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