‘Where is Mamma?’: Fear, mourning engulfs Srinagar after civilian killings

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Standing at the balcony, Jasleen was looking at people coming to her two-storey residence, in Srinagar, in hordes. “When will Mamma come?” the 13-year-old asked. “Where is she?”  

For an hour, she stood numb as people gathered around the body of her 46-year-old mother, Supinder Kour. After Kour served breakfast to her children, she left for a government school in the capital that she headed. In the afternoon, as per eye witnesses, three suspected militants entered the school and shot dead Kour and her colleague, Deepak Chand, 39. 

At 11:30 am, Jasleen got a call as she waited for her mother to return. “Where is your mother?” an unknown caller asked her. Finding it cryptic, she replied: “At the school.” The caller told her that Kour was shot dead at the school. 

Kour’s killing is being considered as a part of the rampant violence in Kashmir in the last one week: seven civilians, including four members of minority communities, were shot dead. Six in Srinagar alone.

This has sent the police establishment, controlled by New Delhi since the abrogation of the region’s limited-autonomy in August 2019, into a spiral of a security crisis as they ramp up the deployment. 

“Who killed her?”

Surrounded by lush trees, a school of three single- storey buildings, with a huge courtyard, has fallen silent. 

Inside the premises, the bloodstains on the pavement have dried up. A bullet hole has pierced one of the walls.

One of the teachers, who were at the school when attackers came, told The Kashmir Walla requesting anonymity that “Supinder was sitting outside with female colleagues when we heard a gunshot”. “It was shocking,” he recalled. He went out with male colleagues when people had gathered outside. “We saw the bodies lying there lifeless.”

Kour was a lecturer before she was transferred to this school in 2019 while Deepak Chand taught social science to students in higher secondary. Later, Kour was promoted to the principal rank, the teacher said. “She was a nice lady,” he added. “She was good with her profession and staff.”

“Maamu”

On the bund of Alouchi Bagh area of Srinagar, people from Sikh community gathered outside Kour’s residence. The lane that leads to her house is filled with the murmurs of a question: “Who killed her?” 

The Resistance Front, or TRF, a militant group, has claimed responsibility for the killings of the teachers, via a statement reportedly. Kashmir’s police chief Vijay Kumar told The Kashmir Walla that the attacks were carried out by “newly recruited terrorists … [and] in some cases, OGWs have been found directly involved.” Adding that the police “is working hard”, Kumar assured “strictest action shall be taken against them” and appealed “minority communities not to panic”.

But 48-year-old Kanwal Nain Singh, who came for Kour’s funeral, said that there is a state of panic everywhere. “We are a minority, we can’t afford to talk about anything,” he said, and added: “[However] we are also in Kashmir and it doesn’t matter if you are a minority or a majority, you can’t speak.”

Women surround Kour’s body, covered in a white linen sheet, lying in one of the corner rooms. The family has decided to cremate her tomorrow, awaiting one of her sisters, who is travelling from Chandigarh. “She was a gentle lady,” said one of her neighbours, Abhay Preet, with a sigh. 

Outside the house, one Showkat Ahmad was inconsolable. He was childhood friends with Kour’s husband, Ram Rashpal Singh. “[Kour] was like a sister to me,” he said.

Jasleen, Kour’s daughter, would call Ahmad “Maamu”, or uncle, who taught her Urdu and Kashmiri. “We had two houses but we were one family,” Ahmad said, breaking down. “I have lost my sister and I will never be able to fill this void in my heart.” 

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