budgam civilian killed
Rafiqa Bano, sister of Mehrejuddin Shah, who was shot dead by the paramilitary forces in Narbal area of Budgam district. Photograph by Bhat Burhan for The Kashmir Walla

On Wednesday morning, 26-year-old Mehrajuddin Shah was shot dead by government forces in Budgam district’s Narbal area, on the outskirts of Srinagar city. A computer operator at an internet solutions centre, Mr. Shah was travelling in his car when the paramilitary forces deployed on a road shot him dead.

The circumstances leading to Mr. Shah’s death remains unclear with the family contradicting the government’s version that he was killed after the government forces fearing a sabotage attack opened fire on a vehicle moving along “the wrong direction of the road” as a convoy of Indian Army vehicles approached.

A statement issued by the Jammu and Kashmir police stated that the Wagon-R vehicle being driven by Mr. Shah was “signalled to stop” by a joint checkpoint. The police have alleged that the “said vehicle ignored to stop and fled away from two Naka points in suspicious condition”. Without further elaborating on the judgement of the CRPF personnel in opening fire, the police said that “the Naka party opened fire at the vehicle to thwart the attempt”.

The family, however, has contested the government’s claims that Mr. Shah jumped checkpoints. Rafiqa Bano, sister of the slain, told The Kashmir Walla that her brother, Mr. Shah had stopped his vehicle at both checkpoints. “He was driving his uncle to work. At the first checkpoint, uncle had shown an ID card and they were let go. But at the second checkpoint our uncle showed the soldiers his ID card while Mehraj had gotten down from the car,” Rafiqa Bano said. “That is when he was shot by a CRPF man.”

His uncle Ghulam Rasool Shah is a policeman deployed at the Police Control Room. Mr. Shah’s killing has triggered anti-India clashes in many parts of the Budgam district, compelling several to disregard social distancing norms during the pandemic. Young men and boys blocked the iron-bridge leading to his neighbourhood as they held stones in their hands. 

On the other side of the bridge, young men and boys shouted anti-India slogans and threw stones at government forces; the latter responded with firing tear gas shells and metal pellets fired from shotguns.

Mr. Shah’s 66-year-old father, Ghulam Nabi, sat in a room on the ground floor attending to mourners as they kept pouring in. It was only a few hours ago that he was taking a bath when his other son rushed and knocked on the door. “He had to send money to a cousin in Bengaluru, who needed it to travel back to him, as the trains will be resumed. I asked him to do it after returning from dropping off his uncle. But after a while, I was informed he had been shot. I can’t recall what happened after that,” said his father.

He also adds that his son [Mehrajuddin] was never involved in any crime. “No FIR or any complaint has been filed against him. He was upright in all the matters.” Mr. Shah was buried in the family’s ancestral graveyard in the evening

Despite the lockdown enforced to contain the pandemic, mourners have thronged the Shah residence to grieve with the family. Men and women alike walked through the shallow water in the stream to reach Shah’s home.

At the Shah family’s two-storeyed residence in the Peth Makham village in central Kashmir’s Budgam district, the wails of his 41-year-old sister, Rafiqa Bano, echoed in the vicinity. The only sound overshadowing her was that of the teargas shells and the pellet-shots fired by governments as they clashed with protesters.

“[Narendra] Modi’s government has ordered this oppression. He has oppressed us—oppressed,” says Bano, as she recalls her younger brother’s killing. She asserts that Shah had done nothing wrong. “He was not a militant. He was innocent. Innocent! Innocent! My brother was innocent, and they killed him.”

Kaiser Antrabi is a Features Writer at The Kashmir Walla

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