Srinagar: Farooq Ahmad Kuchay needed some cash because he was meeting his fiancee, to whom he had been engaged a month ago, for the first time on Wednesday.
Farooq, 30, was a truck driver but jobless since the fresh anti-India uprising began on July 8, the day Hizb commander Burhan Wani was killed. Therefore, he would occasionally do odd labour jobs at the Food Corporation of India in his native place, Lethpora, an emerging new saffron hub along the Jammu-Srinagar highway.
On Tuesday, he showed up very early at the godowns. He and a few other co-workers unloaded two truckloads of wheat and rice during the day.
“We met during the lunch time. He was happy to be earning again after going without work for several weeks,” said Farooq’s friend Ashiq.
In the evening he shyly asked the contractor Aijaz Ahmad, whose truck he drives, to pay him wages for the day.
“He told Aijaz ‘I am meeting my fiancée tomorrow. It is our first meeting after the engagement,’” Ashiq said.
The contractor paid him promptly.
Despite the financial distress, Farooq never complained. That is probably why he joined a protest that erupted after a police team had entered into the village and ransacked several houses besides attempting to seize the public address system from the local mosque that had been playing pro-freedom songs.
The police team was chased away by the protesters. At the same time a Scorpio vehicle, ferrying a top official, passed by. Panicked by the sight of the angry protesters, the official’s guard fired into the crowd, killing Farooq on the spot and critically injuring others.
The day of his scheduled meeting with his fiance, a girl from Shopian,became an occasion for the one of the biggest funeral processions.
Farooq had begun to chatting with the fiancee on phone. He was planning to get married soon because he believed this would bring relief to his blind mother and a mentally-challenged brother.
Kuchay’s father had passed away several years ago. His elder brothers live separately. He and his other trucker brother were taking care of their blind mother and the brother.
“They were yet to fix a date for the wedding but they wanted it to take place as soon as possible,” Ashiq said.
Thousands of people from adjacent villages of Khunmoh, Khrew, Shaar, Barsoo, Hatiwara, Kakpora, Indrus, Dusso and Ludhu traveled to Lethpora to attend his funeral. Residents of Awantipora and Pampore towns defied curfew to march towards Lethpora to bid adieu to the slain trucker.
Locals said that Farooq’s elder brother Riyaz Ahmad Kuchay was killed by government forces in the year 1991, at the same spot. Riyaz was a militant and had been captured by the government forces during a cordon and search operation. He was tortured to death in his own village. A few years later his father died and the mother had lost her eyesight.
The latest death in the area triggered massive resentment. Thousands of people chanted anti-India and pro-freedom slogans and blocked Srinagar-Jammu highway. Some angry youngsters brought in earth excavators to dismantle a portion of the highway to block it permanently.
However, some village elders pacified the youth to prevent the extreme step.
“The elders told the boys that the highway is vital for transporting injured persons to hospitals,” Bashir Ahmad, a local resident, told Kashmir Reader.