Mohammad Shafi Dar had just trimmed his beard and had a haircut as he planned to meet a girl on 3 October, with a matchmaker in Srinagar.
For the 50-year-old Dar, who had been divorced twice, the idea of living with a partner had invoked cheers. “He was so happy. He told my mother that he will get a wife for himself now,” said Ruqaiya, 28-year-old Dar’s niece.
However, on the evening of 2 October, Dar was shot in a narrow lane, surrounded by houses on both sides, outside the main gate of his house. His nephew had heard the scream from inside the house: “I’ve been killed.”
The Jammu and Kashmir police in a statement said that militants had fired upon a civilian in Batamaloo area of Srinagar on 2 October. In the last one week, at least five civilians have been killed in Kashmir, including a non-local labourer in Srinagar.
The statement further said that it had filed a case in this regard under relevant sections of law and investigations had been set in motion.
Dar, a government employee in the Power Development Department (PDD), left home for the market at 4 pm. Before he would return, he called his niece and her son over at the house. “He had even bought a chocolate for my son,” the niece later told The Kashmir Walla, “it was lying there on the side of his body” that had four bullet marks.
In SD Colony of Batamaloo area, people are thronging Dar’s two-storey house. Women are swayed in a huge hall on the first floor, mourning his death. A woman brings along a box of juice and hands it over to Ruqaiya, a ritual common in Kashmir – when someone dies in Kashmir, the relatives visit them along with fruits to offer their condolences.
And Ruqaiya bursts into tears. “This is not a celebration. He was not an old man. He has been murdered,” she screamed. “Why are you getting these for us?”
“Lived alone, died alone”
Until February, Dar was living with his mother along with his elder brother, Mehraj-ud-din and his family.
But after his mother passed away in February, he started living alone in the same house. “After her death, Mamu got depressed as he lived alone,” Ruqaiya said.
After Dar was shot, Ruqaiya and her family went to Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital, in Srinagar, and waited outside the operation theatre for an hour.
At 10 pm, the family was asked to return home. Her elder uncle told them that Dar will be referred to SKIMS, Srinagar’s premier hospital.
“We were praying the whole night but we had no idea that he died in the middle of the night,” Ruqaiya said, sobbing. “No one should have to go through what we went through that night.”
The family said that if it was a militant attack, “then some group would have taken responsibility”.
“He had no political thoughts whatsoever. There is no way that he was killed due to a political or any other rivalry,” she added. “We are so depressed that we are doubting everyone, be it our relatives or our own family members.”
“Look at these marks on his body,” she said while showing the pictures of his uncle’s body on her phone. The killer should suffer the same way.”
The family have decided that they will lodge an FIR. “We can’t sit idle. We have to do something,” she said. “Today, it is him; tomorrow someone else will be killed. No one is safe here.”
Ruqaiya recalled Dar as a very kind human, who “would help even those who he didn’t know.” “How could someone kill him so brutally?” she said, adding that the family now awaits an answer: “All we want now is the killer to tell us: what was his fault?”
“If he wants to tell us secretly, let that be. Please send us a letter,” she added, with helplessness. “At least we deserve to know why he was killed.”