Kachdoora, Shopian: Nazir Ahmad Sheikh, 40, died in a militant ambush when he was forcibly taken by the army to ferry its soldiers on May 4 in Shopian. His death drew not even “passing remarks” from the Delhi media, says his brother Abdul Hakim Sheikh, because Nazir was “just an insect who had been crushed beneath the feet.”
Pointing to the contrasting responses from the government and the Delhi media to the killings of his brother and of army officer Lieutenant Umer Fayaz, Hakim said, “The army man was a Kashmiri. He was the son of the soil. But he was also wearing a uniform. My brother Nazir was a civilian. He and his vehicle were taken against his will for a job that was not his to do. He was used as a human shield. How can the media and the chief minister be so blind to this tragedy?”
Hakim mentioned chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s condemnation of the killing of Umer Fayaz and her remarks that what kind of politics was being imposed in Kashmir with killings and bank robberies. “My question to her is what kind of politics she is playing? Why did she deliberately omit the mention of my brother?” Hakim said.
Hakim said that because Umer Fayaz represented the government, it suited the government and the “Indian media” to highlight the issue. “The Indian media and the government’s whole aim is to only show things that suit their politics,” he said.
“There seems to be a selective outrage. Our tragedies have no meaning. They feel we do not have hearts,” he said.
Hakim and his relatives keep saying that Nazir was used as a human shield by the army. “He was coerced to ferry the army soldiers in his Sumo vehicle, a job he did not wish to do. The army soldiers had their own vehicles, but they took my brother and his vehicle as a shield,” Hakim said.
On May 4, Hakim said, his brother left for work at 8:30am, never to return. “While he was driving his Sumo vehicle on the road from Shopian to Kulgam, he was stopped by army men at the Chowdhry Gund camp of 62 RR (Rashtriya Rifles). They ordered him to come inside the camp. He resisted. Then they confiscated his vehicle documents. The verbal brawl with the soldiers further complicated problems for him. He had no choice but to submit himself to the soldiers He was sent to the police station at Imam Sahib. The police there kept him hostage. They told him that he would be carrying the army soldiers of 62 RR, who were returning from a massive military operation in 22 villages that day, back to the Chowdhry Gund camp,” Hakim said.
While Nazir was ferrying the soldiers back to their camp in the evening, militants attacked the convoy of vehicles at Kiloora Imam Sahib.
“He was driving the third Sumo in the convoy. His was the only one that was hit by bullets,” Hakim said. “One bullet hit the left side of his back. The wound was so big that you could insert a hand in it. But there was no blood spilled inside the Sumo.”
Hakim showed pictures of the hole left by the bullet in Nazir’s body. He said the wound suggested that it were the army soldiers who killed Nazir.
The family members of Nazir said they were now worried about the future of his family. “He has left behind his son, daughter, and wife,” Nazir’s maternal uncle, Mohammad Yaqoob, said. “Who will take care of them? My nephew died so young.”
He said Nazir was the sole bread-earner of the family.
Friends, neighbours and relatives of Nazir described him as a gentleman. They said he worked hard, built the house, and raised the family by sheer hard work, driving taxis for the past 20 years.
“In his earlier days as a driver, he would drive an Ambassador car. After many years, he bought a Sumo,” the president of taxi stand number 1, Shopian, Aijaz Baba said. “He worked tirelessly to raise his family.”
Hakim said that the RC (registration certificate) and the fitness certificate of Nazir’s Sumo vehicle is still in Chowdhry Gund camp. “When we went to fetch the documents, the sentries did not allow us to even enter the gate,” he said. “When we tried to enter, the sentries told us that dogs would pounce on us. They completely denied the fact that they had the documents.”
Family members and fellow drivers of Nazir said that he had been picked up by soldiers of the RR camp at Chowhdry Gund several times. “Kachodoora village is near the army camp. Due to his frequent altercations with the soldiers, he had strained relations with them. He would always resist their coercion. The soldiers would often harass him. Once he was kept for for three consecutive nights at the camp as a punishment,” Nazir’s uncle Mohammad Yaqoob said.
Shopian Deputy Commissioner Manzoor Ahmad Qadiri said that nobody had complained to the police about army soldiers snatching the vehicles of Sumo taxi drivers. “We have registered an FIR into the killing of (Nazir) Sheikh. The FIR records the incident and circumstances that led to the killing of the driver,” Qadiri said. “We have prepared an ex-gratia relief in favour of the family. We will also be providing them a job.”
Army spokesman Rajesh Kalia refused to speak on the issue, saying he will first ascertain the facts.