By Shafat Mir
Anantnag: A narrow deserted road that snakes its way through paddy fields in south Kashmir leads to the house of Ghulam Mohiuddin, the army soldier who was killed when militants ambushed his patrolling party in Shopian in the dark of night.
Mohiuddin was one of three soldiers killed when they were returning from a regular night patrol, at about 2am on Thursday. A local woman, too, was killed during the gunfight. Several other soldiers were injured.
Lance Naik Mohiuddin was a native of south Kashmir’s Punchpora Marhama village in Bijbehara tehsil of Anantnag district.
He left behind a two-year-old son, wife, mentally disabled father, and ailing mother who has a tumour in her brain. Mohiuddin had been working for the past 15 years in the army and had served at various postings across India. He was posted to Kashmir one-and-a-half year ago.
“Mahi, the nickname given to him by people who knew him, was the most gentle and sober man in our entire locality. He had never argued with anyone in his life,” said one of his neighbours, Ghulam Ahmed.
On Friday morning, a handful of relatives and neighbours were waiting in the courtyard of Ghulam’s one-storey house for his body to arrive. The women waiting there were wailing. Ghulam’s wife Shahzada suddenly began running away from the courtyard, bare-footed, her head uncovered. Other women chased her and caught hold of her. She fell to the ground and screamed, “I am feeling suffocated here. Take me to Shopian.” At this scene, the other women also broke down in tears.
Ghulam’s relatives were not willing to talk to the media. Shahzada’s uncle, whose name couldn’t be confirmed in the chaos, asked for forgiveness when some men present in the courtyard pushed away this reporter and asked him to leave.
As the day advanced, more people filled the premises of the house, but there was no gloom on their faces. They had only come to have a look. One such person pinched another boy and exchanged smiles as he gestured, “Let’s leave.”
An old man sitting behind them remarked, “Lukan banyoew shoeglah (People are coming and going as if this is a carnival).”
“Usually, as a Kashmiri, we consider the death of an army man or policeman as revenge. But in this case, the loss is real because Mahi was the most sober person in our locality who would do no harm to anyone. God alone knows what will happen to his family now,” said a neighbour, requesting to not be named.
Ghulam was supposed to retire within a year and was planning to seek an early retirement as he needed to take his mother outside the state for specialised treatment.
“He was at his home last week. His sister got engaged just a few days back. He had planned to leave his job to have his mother treated at a good hospital. His father, too, is not in healthy condition. The night he was killed, he had called his sister and complained of a severe headache,” said Fatima, an old woman who lives in the vicinity of the village.
After Ghulam’s body was brought to the house in a coffin by army soldiers, the women broke into loud wails and beating of breasts.
The soldier’s body arrived draped in a tricolor in a military coffin. Family members and neighbours, after receiving his body, instantly removed the flag and handed it over to the army officials present there.
After ablution, the family members preferred to move his body in a coffin brought from the local mosque. This coffin had black cloth with Quranic verses.
When the army personnel began their ceremonial gun salute, they again tried to put the tricolor over Rather’s coffin but the family members and the people present there prevented them from doing so.
When the coffin was being taken away for the last rites, Ghulam’s mentally disabled father frantically tried to stay close to the coffin of his only son. Other men helped him because his walk was unsteady.
Close to a thousand men arranged themselves in rows to offer final prayers for Ghulam. A youth, Aqib Ahmed, said, “There is not much crowd here. Many of the people are soldiers. It is a total contrast to what one sees during the funerals of martyred people. May Lord forgive his (Ghulam’s) sins and provide him heaven for the sake of this Friday.”
When the body was placed beside the grave, army soldiers lined up opposite each other and gave a gun salute to their fallen comrade with INSAS rifles. Scores of people watched the proceedings from several meters away.
As the body was about to be lowered into the grave, a bearded army major pointed his modified AK-47 rifle towards the sky and emptied the entire magazine.
By Shafat Mir