Anantnag: Despite roadblocks put up by government forces, thousands of people reached Soaf Shali village in Kokernag on Sunday morning to take part in the funeral of Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Bashir Lashkari.
Bashir Ahmad Wani alias Lashkari was killed along with another militant, Abu Maaz, a Pakistani national, by government forces Dialgam area of of south Kashmir on Saturday.
Two civilians, including a woman, were also shot dead, allegedly by government forces, during the encounter. Police maintained that the civilians died in cross-firing.
The gunfight concluded at about 4pm Saturday and Lashkari’s body was handed over to the next of kin at about 7pm at an army camp in Anantnag. By then, thousands of people had already reached Soaf Shali village get a last glimpse of Lashkari.
As the body was being taken to Soaf Shali, people stopped the cavalcade at two places to offer funeral prayers. “One funeral prayer was held in Hangalgund area along the way, and another inside the compound of the Fisheries Department enclosure in Kokernag,” a local source, part of the cavalcade, told Kashmir Reader.
As the body reached Soaf Shali, the assembled people raised pro-freedom and anti-India slogans. Another funeral prayer was held at the village.
The people decided to hold the burial on Sunday morning to allow more people to come and pay their last respects to the fallen militant. The body was kept at Lashkari’s home where only his younger brother now lives. Lashkari’s parents are not alive and his sister is married.
At about 10:30pm on Saturday night, at least five armed militants visited the house of their slain commander and offered a gun salute. “An equal number of militants visited the house at the break of dawn again and offered yet another gun salute to Lashkari,” a local present at the house told Kashmir Reader.
On Sunday morning, people from across south Kashmir again started to make a beeline to Soaf Shali village, despite barricades erected by forces on roads leading to the village.
“The forces tried hard to restrict any movement towards Soaf Shali village. Despite that, more than 10,000 people reached and participated in the funeral prayers this morning,” sources said.
Lashkari was laid to rest at his ancestral graveyard amid pro-freedom, pro-Pakistan and anti-India slogans. The sloganeering continued for a long time after Lashkari was buried.
The slain Pakistani national, Abu Maaz, received a quite funeral and a burial in Gantamulla area of Baramulla of north Kashmir.
Meanwhile, people also poured into Dehruna village of Dialgam, where slain civilian Tariq Ahmad Chopan, son of Rustam Chopan, had been buried late Saturday night.
Tariq was injured by a bullet when government forces fired at protesters near the encounter site on Saturday morning. He was shot in his neck and was shifted to Srinagar from Anantnag district hospital. He succumbed to his injuries on his way to SKIMS.
His friends who were accompanying him alleged that the ambulance carrying him was stopped near Sangam by government forces for an hour. “We lost precious time and Tariq lost much blood,” Chopan’s friends told Kashmir Reader. “We were allowed to move only after some locals came out and intervened.”
The allegations were refuted by Senior Superintendent of Police Anantnag, Altaf Khan. “No, the ambulance was not stopped,” Khan told Kashmir Reader.
Tariq’s body was kept at Police Control Room Srinagar for several hours before it was allowed to be taken to Anantnag.
“Legal formalities had to be completed before the body could have been allowed to be moved,” Khan said.
Son of a farmer, Tariq was the only bread earner for his family, doing odd jobs to earn money. His father, Rustam, is afflicted with cancer. Taqri had been working hard to support his ailing father and the rest of the family, which included his mother, brother and a younger sister.
A complete shutdown was observed in all four districts of south Kashmir on Sunday. There were no reports of any clashes anywhere in the region.