Kashhmir Scan, July Issue
After decades of turmoil, militants are training guns at cops who largely see their job as a source of livelihood. The recent example is the killing of a J&K Police’s ASI, father to 11-year-old boy and a pious Muslim, in Anantnag. A Kashmir Scan report.
When he didn’t don his khaki uniform, Bashir Ahmad Ahangar was referred to as ‘Molvi sahib’. But his job became his nemesis, transforming him into an enemy within his own community. “If job can wash away a person’s good deeds and turn into the cause of death, I will then request everyone to rather take up begging than become a police officer,” said Shameema, widow of the assistant sub inspector, Bashir, who was shot dead in Anantnag last month, orphaning his 11-year-old son.
“If he wore khaki uniform, that didn’t cease his right to be a Kashmiri. A man’s character should not be judged on the basis of his job. My husband was a highly religious person. He offered five time prayers. He never participated in any counter-insurgency operation. In his entire service, he didn’t fire a single bullet,” Shameema said.
Bashir was shot dead in Anantnag along with his colleague, a constable, for unknown reasons on June 5. In his professional career, according to his service record, he never participated in any encounter or counter-insurgency operation. He was an early riser who offered daily mid-night prayers (Tahajud) without break and recited Quran most of the time. The long-bearded Bashir was killed only because he was in a police uniform.
According to people who know him, Bashir was a good hearted person, as was evident by his charitable nature. He donated a portion of his land for a mosque in his community. “He was a good-natured person and always a helping hand for others; he would shell out money from his own pocket to arrange for the marriage of orphan girls and ensure their well-being,” said a neighbour, requesting anonymity.
“We were about to retire for the day when, at around 9:30 pm, his phone rang. He had to leave and report for duty. I had no idea it was going to be his last night! I didn’t want him to leave but he insisted,” his distraught widow said.
“I want to ask all my Kashmiri brothers; be it militants, locals, police personnel or anyone who is a Muslim and a Kashmiri: Was my husband’s uniform the only reason of his death? Wasn’t he a good Kashmiri and a good human being? A matriculate person can’t become a doctor, an engineer or a teacher. With his qualification, a job in police was the only option for him to earn a livelihood and sustain his family,” Shameema said in a broken voice.
Over the years of turmoil, Kashmir conflict has transformed intricately. Police officers perform their duties, like any other employees in other fields do. But in Kashmir, their uniform makes them enemy of their people. It is easy to pass judgement on them, given how they have been turned against their own people.
The nature of Kashmir conflict today is such that Kashmiris have become enemies of each other. If ASI Bashir happened to be in civvies, he was called ‘Molvi sahib’ because he sported a flowing beard and almost always carried a string of beads, ‘Tasbi’, in his right hand.
“We were together for one year in the secretariat. I never saw him get angry; he was a calm and disciplined person. He always followed his orders religiously and never missed his prayers, even during duty hours. His death is very unfortunate. I fail to understand why society hates their own Kashmiri brothers and treat them as their enemy.” said Abdul Rashid, one of his colleagues.
At home, Bashir’s widow says, he would help her with domestic chores. When she tried to stop him, he reasoned that men and women are equal in the eyes of Allah and a husband should always perform his end of domestic responsibilities.
When the video by the now slain Hizb commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani went viral on social media, it created a sense of fear among some police personnel. But ASI Bashir never bothered about it. He believed no one would harm him, as he himself never intended to harm anyone.
“When I saw Burhan’s video, I was genuinely scared. I told him not to venture out for on-road duty, but he would always say that no one will kill him. He would say they are all our brethren and they would never attack innocents,” said Shameema.
After Bashir’s death, the sense of brotherhood has somewhat disappeared because of which only people will suffer. “I always console my son by telling him that his father will come back but sometimes I can’t control myself. I break down in front of him. I have never felt this helpless or weak before. He was everything I had. Now I have nothing,” she said.
The family of Bashir and many other policemen who have died in militant attacks will surely suffer from an unending trauma. But the police department has left no stone unturned in rehabilitating their families. The department has ensured that their families are supported with sufficient monetary relief so they can continue their lives.
“We do provide some monetary relief to such families. In Bashir’s case, over Rs 19 lakh will be given to his family out of contributory police welfare fund and other welfare schemes of the department, besides job under SRO-43,” said a top official in the police department adding: “The department has introduced schemes under which these families get various kinds of benefits in education and other fronts.”
But no amount of money can compensate the loss of a loved one. Kashmir is seeing the darkest of times where people have been pitched against each other. There is no light at the end of this tunnel.