Srinagar youth who was shot dead was no stone-thrower, say neighbours
Traces of dry, flaky bloodstains dot the spot on a narrow lane in Srinagar’s Batmaloo suburb where youngster Sajad Hussain Sheikh took a bullet to his head, fired by security force trying to disperse a group of stone-throwing protesters on Saturday.
This is Sunday, a holiday. But the neighbourhood is unusually quite even for a weekend. Batmaloo’s SD Colony, where the Sheikh family lives, is swarming with paramilitary personnel.
Besides strict curfew-like restrictions, separatists have called a strike across the Valley against what they called the killing of an innocent.
Sajad, his relatives said, was just 15, contrary to media reports stating his age as 22 or 23.
He was a class nine student at a private school in Batmaloo and helped his father, Ghulam Hassan Sheikh, run a small fast food stall selling kebabs from a barbeque in the evening.
Sajad, the youngest of Sheikh’s children, is survived by his parents, two brothers and a sister.
“The family is originally from Chandoosa in Baramulla district of north Kashmir and they have been living on rent in Srinagar for livelihood for a long time. They are poor and, hence, Sajad, apart from his studies, used to help his father at the stall,” a friend said.
“He was a budding cricketer and had a match today.”
Photos in Sajad’s Facebook profile capture a stylish teenager with a wavy hairstyle. The image shared widely on social media since Saturday evening is that of his forehead burst open by a bullet and the face smeared with blood.
Photos which till now had “looking cool” comments now have a sterile “RIP” written all over.
Residents of Batmaloo said personnel of the Border Security Force (BSF) fired in retaliation when youngsters started throwing stones at the three military vehicles passing through the area.
“But Sajad was not throwing stones. He was accompanying a friend, who was out to buy essentials, and was caught in the ensuing commotion in the locality. Unfortunately, the bullet hit his head,” said a neighbour.
“In fact, he was discussing his new slippers with the guy he was with minutes before he was shot.”
That’s the travesty of life in Kashmir, caught in a long separatist movement since the 1980s.
A senior Srinagar police officer an FIR has been lodged and an investigation is under way to ascertain the circumstances that lead to the death.
Hundreds had gathered for Sajad’s funeral prayers late on Saturday night, following which clashes erupted between protesters and security forces.
In Kashmir, the normal practice is to bury the dead in their ancestral graveyard. But locals in Batmaloo insisted on burying him at a local graveyard.
The family has left for Baramulla and could not be contacted for comments on Sunday.
Kashmir has been tense after Sajad’s killing in the heart of Srinagar. Most areas were shut on Sunday and the weekly flea market recorded a thin crowd.
Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed anguish over the Sajad’s death and asked security forces to “exercise maximum restraint”.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah had tweeted on the youngster’s killing, “Just so damn sad, this spiral of violence from which there seems to be no escape. One more dead today.”