Sarpanch’s killing: 7 young kids, a young widow wait for justice

Anantnag: For 35 year old Shabeena Banoo bringing her 7 children without the support and help of her husband has been an uphill task. Shabeena’s husband Sajad Ahmad Malik alias Bita, a former Sarpanch of Halqa Batagund of Verinag was killed by army men in a ‘gunfight’ which the family refuted saying that he was killed in a fake encounter. 

Shabeena is yet to come to terms as a year has passed since her husband died. Her seven children, barring the elder one who is 15 years old have no idea about the tragedy that has struck them.

“My children are so young that they still believe that their Papa has gone to Srinagar for some work. I do not want to shatter them emotionally so I tell them every day that Papa will be back some day with goodies for everyone,” she says.

“Except my elder son who appeared in his 10th class exams no other kid knows the reality. My teenage son knows the pain I have been going through so he has decided to go to Jammu and work as a labourer to help me raise the family,” says Shabeena with moist eyes.

“I know he is quite young for the job but what can I do about it,” says an emotional mother, who still fails to understand that why was her husband killed.

“Sajad was affiliated with a militant outfit however, after his arrest and later release from the jail he joined Congress and was quite active with the party. He was taking up all the issues that confronted the people of his village. So much so that he was elected the Sarpanch,” recalls Shabeena.

Ironically, Sajad had to leave politics in 2016 when things took a turn for worse in South Kashmir in the aftermath of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani’s killing.

“Sajad was under tremendous pressure to quit mainstream politics,” says Shabeena. He announced his resignation from the party during a pro-freedom rally and even participated in some rallies to make it clear to everyone that he has quit mainstream politics, adds she.

“He was very worried for his children and was telling me that he will take up some menial jobs and start working as a civil contractor so that he can feed his family,” recalls Shabeena.

However, Sajad’s plans failed as police arrested him for being involved in organizing pro freedom rallies.

“Sajad was so kind hearted that during the unrest of 2016 when people were not able to even manage two square meal, Sajad sold his walnut trees and brought many quintals of rice and distributed it among those who were in need,” said, Abdul Rehman, Sajad’s neighbour.  

“Sajad was kept in police lock up for almost two months and on November 30 news about him getting killed in an encounter reached us,” says Shabeena.

“Since then I have been waiting for justice so that I can get some relief in raising my family comprising of minor kids,” she says, adding that the family has also filed a case in the High Court but no one pursues the case from our end.

Notably, Sajad Ahmad Malik alias Bita of Batagund Verinag – a former Congress Sarpanch – was under police custody in Dooru police station for his alleged involvement in protests during the summer unrest in 2016.

However, police claimed that he had only been summoned to police station and was killed after he ran away with a weapon he snatched from a cop in the evening.

“Sajad overpowered a Special Police Officer (SPO) and ran away with his service rifle,” a police official had said.

He said that as he reached near Aagnoo village some 2 Kms away, army had already cordoned off the area. “The exchange of fire took place in which Malik was killed,” a police official said.

However, family and locals belied the police claims saying he was killed in custody. “Sajad was under police custody for one and a half months and despite bail from court he was not released,” said his family.

The family version was also substantiated by locals. “It is a custodial killing,” they claimed at that time.

Congress State Chief and former MLA Dooru, Gulam Ahmad Mir, termed Malik’s killing as politically motivated and had even demanded a judicial inquiry.




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