For Ghulam Jeelani Bhat, a labourer earning just Rs 3,000 per month, getting a job as a driver in Jammu and Kashmir’s State Road Transport Corporation was a huge jump. The new job promised double the salary — Rs 6,000 per month — and job security.
However on April 25 — just 20 days into his new job — as Bhat was ferrying polling staff for the ongoing village council elections in the state, a group of miscreants began pelting stones at his bus.
The 28-year-old resident of Srinagar lost control and rammed into a nearby shop, sustaining grievous injuries. He was shifted to a hospital where he died on Thursday.
In his two-room hut on the banks of the Dal Lake, his wife, Sameena, 25, and their three children, all under four years, are inconsolable.
“He had called his wife, just 30 minutes before the accident, asking her to save some fish they had prepared for dinner,” said Bhat’s cousin, Abdul Majeed, 45.
“His father had left him (Bhat) on my lap when he died, some 22 years back. And now he (Bhat) has left his children on my lap,” Majeed said.
His widowed mother, 60, and his sister and her two children also lived with them in their modest house.
“We were all happy when he got a job with the corporation. But fate had other things in store for him. He could not even receive his first salary,” said his colleague, Shakeel Ahmad Kuchay.
Family members refused to comment on stone throwing in the Valley. But the rising incidents of protesters targeting civilian vehicles, public transport and school buses is certain to prompt a change of heart even among ardent supporters.
After the incident, separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani appealed the youth to desist from stone pelting.