By Shafat Mir
Anantnag: Shameema Akhter still remembers the last time she talked to his son Afroz Ahmad on phone. It was July 8, 2016 and Afroz asked her to hang up the call as he was driving, and promised to call later. The promise remained unfulfilled.
Earlier in the day, Afroz, a special police officer (SPO), had left home in Mattan Anantnag to join his duties after having spending the day of Eid at home. Miles away in Kokernag area, popular tech-savvy militant commander Burhan Wani had been killed in a police operation, sparking an uprising in Kashmir.
Two days after the last call, Shameema was still waiting for Afroz to call back.
“It was Sunday, around noon, the news of his death reached our house. His body had been already brought into the Tik Bagh park in our locality where he had played cricket during his entire life,” Shameema recounts while looking towards the trophies adorning a shelf in their home.
According to police, Afroz was killed on July 10 after the police vehicle he was driving was pushed into River Jhelum by the agitated youth at Sangam, who were protesting in the backdrop of Burhan killing.
A passionate cricketer, Afroz was known in his hometown for his aggressive batting style, and had represented the state at local and national events. Still in his early twenties, Afroz had joined police a few years back on the “insistence of his family”, for whom he was the “only hope of a better future”. Earlier after completing his 10+2, he had worked at a hotel in Pahalgam.
“He was very passionate about cricket and never interfered in any other matter. All his life he had no animosity towards anybody,” Shameema said.
Drawing a salary of Rs 6000 per month, Afroz was hoping to get regularised soon.
“Afroz was supposed to get regularised soon. He had a dream to send one of his sisters outside the state for further studies as he himself couldn’t continue the studies himself,” Shameema said.
For almost a year Afroz was posted in Traffic wing of the police and just three months back, he was brought back into the regular police force along with 52 others. Since then, he wasposted at police post Sangam in Bijbehara.
Afroz’s uncle Abdul Majeed says they were not sure about the events surrounding his death.
“We are unaware about the actual cause and sequence of events that led to his death. Whatever happened on the day is known to the people present there and God alone. We take his death as fate and it surely has devastated the entire family.” Majeed said.
One of Afroz’s friends, who asked not to be named, said, “It didn’t seem that his death was caused due to drowning. The uniform he was wearing was dry. His shirt was torn and there was a wound on his arm. His head was covered with bandage.”
At the spot, where Afroz is said to have drowned in Bijbehara, Muneera, a woman living nearby said, “Nobody pushed the vehicle into the river. It seemed as if the driver lost control of the vehicle and since there was strict curfew in place outside, we couldn’t find out whether there was anyone inside.”
Abdul Rashid, a neighbour, termed Afroz’s death as the loss to their entire locality.
“Afroz was one of the most well-mannered and soft spoken boy in our locality. He would help even the strangers in times of distress. His cheerful smile and way of talking would bring charm to our locality,” Rashid said.
Afroz is survived by ten members of his joint family including three unmarried sisters.