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In hotbed of J&K militancy, hundreds turn up for funeral of Indian soldier killed by Pak

Martyr’s widow raises anti-Pakistan slogans in village where many support Kashmiri militants such as Burhan Wani

india Updated: Jul 18, 2017 20:20 IST
Abhishek Saha
Abhishek Saha
Hindustan Times, Tral
Kashmir,Indian army,militancy
The wife and mother of Naik Mudassar Ahmad weep while waiting for his body in Buchoo village of Tral, 40kms from Srinagar, on Tuesday. (Waseem Andrabi/HT)

For a region that has emerged as the epicentre of a new-age militancy, south Kashmir’s Tral saw hundreds gather on Tuesday to pay their last respects to an Indian soldier killed by Pakistani forces.

Naik Mudassar Ahmad was one of two casualties — the other a five-year-old girl — when Pakistani soldiers opened fire across the Line of Control in Poonch district, the latest in a series of ceasefire violations that has the Jammu and Kashmir region on edge.

His home is less than two kilometres from the school of Burhan Wani, a Hizbul Mujahideen militant whose death last year plunged Kashmir into one of its worst periods of unrest that has claimed at least 100 civilian lives.

“The high school in which Burhan studied is just two km from here. His family home is perhaps six km and even Sabzar Bhat’s village is very near,” says Shahid Ahmed, a class 10 student and a relative of Mudassar’s who had come to attend the funeral in Mudassar’s ancestral home in Buchoo village in Tral.

Bhat, killed in May this year, was widely seen as Wani’s successor.

On Tuesday morning, Naik Mudassar’s wife Shahina and his mother Hafiza wept loudly under a tarpaulin sheet erected as a shelter for the scores of women mourners. Shahina shouted slogans against Pakistan, rare for a village where militants like Wani are looked up to.

Mudassar’s father, Mohammad Afzal Rather, sat with a group of men in the sitting room. “He had last come home on July 3,” said Afzal, visibly holding back his tears. A relative next to him pointed at a photo of the soldier on the shelf and ask, “Is this an age to die?”

Bad weather over the Pir Panjal mountain range thwarted attempts to airlift Mudassar’s body. Till the time the report was filed, the funeral had not taken place.

As the rest of the family anxiously waited for the body, Mudassar and Shahina’s children — Burhan (7) and Mehram (4) — were playing with neighbourhood children, oblivious to their father’s death. “Burhan has still not understood that his father is no more,” a relative said.

Mudassar’s home in Buchoo village of Tral adjoins vast forest areas dotted by streams where locals often report militant presence. Almost every pillar or electricity post carries graffiti such as: “Burhan is our hero”.

But, villagers say, many locals are also enlisted in the forces, including army and police. Mudassar’s brother Farooq Ahmad, for instance, is serving in the Army.

“Many residents of villages in Tral are in the armed forces because they see it as a good source of livelihood, a stable income. As far as political ideology is concerned, that depends on the individual and each one alone can answer for himself,” said Ashiq Hussain, a teacher at a local government college.

Hussain adds that although a strong secessionist sentiment runs through the area, the families of soldiers have never suffered any social discrimination by society.

He was vindicated by the turnout at Mudassar’s home.

Shahid, a student at the Government Higher Secondary School Dardsara — the one Wani went to before he took to the militancy — said the conflict seems to claim only Kashmiri blood.

“Everywhere only Kashmiris are killed in this conflict -- be it the militants, the cops, soldiers on the border, or civilians. When will this bloodshed end?”

Shahid’s uncle Nasir Ahmed is in the army and serves on a border front in the Jammu region, not far from where Mudassar was killed.

First Published: Jul 18, 2017 18:54 IST