Tral: In the middle of Chatrugam village in Tral, a flight of uneven stairs – made partly of concrete and partly of mud – leads to a large courtyard, occupied almost entirely by a tent. Inside the tent, a few children and elderly men are listening teary-eyed to Shabd-Gurbani (recitation of Guru Granth Sahib) as they mourn their beloved, Ratandeep Kaur, more affectionately known as Pinky.
Daughter of a retired employee of the JK Cement Factory, Pinky was studying for a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST). She was killed on Thursday in a grenade attack aimed at a PDP minister Naeem Akhtar’s motorcade in main town Tral. A 70-year-old man, Ghulam Nabi Trag, was also killed in the attack.
Pinky had just appeared in two papers of her second-semester final exams. She was due to appear in the third on Friday.
Inside the house of Pinky’s father, Ishpal Singh, people trickle in steadily to pay their respects to the deceased and to express solidarity with the bereaved family.
The adjacent room is occupied by Pinky’s sisters and her cousins, all of whom are in a state of shock.
“I was at the hospital when the injured from the attack were being brought in,” said Pinky’s elder sister, Saganbeer, who works as a trainee at Sub-District Hospital Tral.
“I was harrowed by the sight of the injured people. One of my colleagues caught hold of me and asked me to identify the body of a young girl,” Saganbeer recounted. “Why me? I asked the colleague, who kept dragging me to the lifeless body. It was of my sister.”
“I don’t know what happened after that,” Saganbeer said.
Saganbeer left the room as tears came flushing out of her eyes. Pinky’s other cousins began speaking of the horrible day.
“She had gone to Tral for some work and happened to stop at a grocery store to buy a pack of chips. She called my sister, Sunny, while she was buying the chips and told her she will call again once she reaches home. That was exactly when the explosion took place,” recounted Tejinder Pal Singh, one of Pinky’s cousins.
He said that Pinky had called him early in the morning as well, while he was in Amritsar.
“We are a very close-knit group of cousins. She had called me to wake me up. Had I know that was her last call, I would have prolonged it,” Tejinder said.
Her cousins described her as the humblest and most considerate among them.
“She was well behaved and sober, and took care of us all,” said Simple Kaur, another of Pinky’s cousins.
Simple said that the sight of her cousin’s lifeless body broke her heart.
“Her legs had wide gashes, apparently from the grenade splinters. But her face and the left side of her back had multiple pellet wounds. It was a horror I can never forget,” Simple said, holding back her tears.
Police have maintained that no pellets were fired at civilians after the grenade attack, but Pinky’s cousins said that the apparent cause of her death was blood loss due to pellet wounds, and the fact that “nobody was allowed to pick her up.”
“She lost too much of blood. We are told that indiscriminate pellet firing by forces did not allow the onlookers or people present to pick her up in time, and she died before reaching the hospital,” said a cousin, Veerpal Singh.
In respect for Pinky, her university postponed the exam scheduled on Friday.
A classmate at her university described Pinky as a wonderful human being. “I got to know that during Ramzan she stopped going to the university canteen and never ate in front of her Muslim classmates as a mark of respect. That shows how good a person she was. All our classmates, especially the female students, are in absolute shock at her untimely demise,” said Faheem, her classmate.
At about 6 in the evening, as we prepared to leave, the men singing the Shabd-Gurbani also picked up their harmonium and table to leave for the day.
“The Gurbani will continue for ten days, and the mourning for another thirty. The pain of losing her will last a lifetime,” Pinky’s father said and broke down in tears.
The shopkeeper from whom Kaur was buying chips is also battling for life at a Srinagar hospital.