Twenty-one-year-old Shahid Aejaz Rather, who had quit studies after high school, would join his brother in apple picking during the season to earn livelihood.
A resident of Nowpora village in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, Shahid had left home last week, along with two of his neighbours, for Shopian to work in the apple orchards.
His younger brother, Zubair Aejaz Rather, 18, would also go to the neighbouring villages to pick apples and support family. When the weather conditions in Kashmir worsened on Saturday both the brothers had decided to return home on Sunday.
Speaking to The Kashmir Walla, Zubair said that he had sp0ken to his brother yesterday night over phone. “He told me that they [Shahid and his neighbourhood friends] are returning home tomorrow. I told him to wait so that we could go together,” said Zubair.
Next morning, at 8 am on Sunday, Zubair called on his brother’s phone number but it went unanswered. He tried to call his friends’ numbers too but no one received the calls.
In panic, he “kept calling for half an hour” until realising something was wrong. By now his brother, Shahid, was shot dead near a paramilitary forces’ camp.
As per reports, the police had said that the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) party was out for area domination when suspected militants fired upon them. “The CRPF personnel had retaliated, during cross firing, one person died,” said the police officials.
However, Shahid’s friend, who was with him at that time, said that they were neither asked to stop nor asked to prove identity but there were gunshots that killed him without provocation.
“It is doomsday”
When Zubair was waiting to hear back from his brother, he received a call from one of his friends, telling him that an incident had happened in Shopian. “My brother had been martyred,” recalled Zubair, who couldn’t believe it as “there was no reason for the army to shoot him”.
With heavy legs, Zubair dragged himself home. “I wanted to reach early but the roads became longer and longer. I couldn’t reach anywhere,” he said, adding that “he fainted four times on his way home”. “It was doomsday. I can’t even think about anything right now. I am not in my senses.”
One of Shahid’s friends, Ashraf Ahmad, who was with him at the time of the incident while speaking to The Kashmir Walla said that the trio had decided to walk from Zainapora village in Shopian as there was no cab at that moment.
When they had reached Babapora near the CRPF camp on the main road, they had seen a group of CRPF personnel stationed on the road. “They [CRPF] neither asked us to stop nor checked our ID cards,” said Ahmad. “All three of us were walking normally and Shahid was behind us.”
Ahmad said that all of a sudden, “we heard some gunshots and we ran into the lanes for our lives”.
“Armed forces show little restraint”
A picture circulated on the social media shows Shahid’s body, wearing a pheran, lying near a pick-up truck, with a small plastic bag and apples scattered around.
“I just remember that there were a few CRPF personnel there,” said Ahmad, adding that they believed Shahid must have run too. But a while later, Ahmad received a call from someone telling him that Shahid had been shot dead.
Ahmad recalls that the truck was already parked when they were walking by foot. “It was the CRPF who fired the shots as they were the only ones present on spot,” said Ahmad, feeling it was a miracle that he was alive.
The People’s Democratic Party President and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, took to Twitter saying that another “innocent civilian [was] killed allegedly by CRPF in Shopian today”.
“[It’s] sad that armed forces show little restraint & operate with such impunity. My heartfelt condolences to his family,” she added.
Shahid’s family was at the Zainapora police station to get his body. “The police have asked my father to give names of the family members and other details if we want his body back. Otherwise they will put a ‘militant case’ on my brother and won’t return his body,” said Zubair.
The Kashmir Walla tried to reach out to the senior officials of the CRPF and police for a comment but they didn’t respond yet. The story will be updated as and when they respond.