SHOPIAN: The courtyard of a village house was drenched with the blood of five children, among them one who lived in the house and who died in his mother’s arms, after an explosive device that the children may have picked up from Tuesday’s encounter site in Kundalan village, exploded. The child’s mother, however, says she saw something roll down the hill which exploded “beneath the legs” of her son, like a landmine does, in the courtyard.
Class 3 student Saliq Iqbal was playing with his four friends outside his house in Sheikh-Nad locality of Meminder village in Shopian district when the explosion took place at noon today. Saliq was killed and his four friends sustained critical splinter injuries. All four boys have been shifted to SMHS Hospital in Srinagar and the condition of two of the boys is said to be critical.
The scene in the courtyard was gut-wrenching when this reporter visited. People young and old were wailing, the slippers of the five kids were lying on the blood-smeared ground. The blast was so intense that it made dents on the concrete walls of the house and shattered the glass windowpanes.
Women including the mother of Saliq were beating their chests and tearing their headscarfs when Saliq’s body was being taken for burial.
Neighbours living close to the home of Muhammad Iqbal Gani, Saliq’s father, told Kashmir Reader that they heard the sound of a blast and as they come out of their houses, they saw kids lying on the ground amid heavy smoke rising from the courtyard.
“I was some 50 meters away, returning home from work. As I crossed the bridge which is adjacent to my house, I heard a heavy bang. When I entered my courtyard, I saw smoke and five children lying on the ground. Two of them were scratching the soil with their hands,” said Abdul Majeed Sheikh, who shares the courtyard with Muhammad Iqbal.
The four kids injured in the blast were identified by family members as Tahir Khursheed, Class 6 student, and Raziya Jan, Class 4 student, both children of Khursheed Ahmad Sheikh; Arsalan Aslam, Class 2 student, son of Muhammad Aslam Sheikh; and Suhaib Ahmad Ganie, Class 3 student, son of Shabir Ahmad Ganie.
Rukhsana Akhter, mother of Saliq, told Kashmir Reader that she was sitting some 15 meters from the children and herself suffered splinter injuries on her back. “The children had taken a mobile phone and all of them were watching a video. I was sitting there but my back was turned against them. All of a sudden I saw something roll down from the hill where the orchards are and it exploded beneath the legs of my son,” she said, adding that the smoke was such she could not see anything.
“I ran and grabbed two kids in my arms, including my son, and cried out. The neighbours when they came picked up the other kids. My son died in my arms,” she said, repeatedly saying that the children were not playing with anything but only watching a video on mobile phone.
A senior police officer in Shopian, wishing anonymity, told Kashmir reader that the kids brought this explosive shell from the Kundalan encounter site and they were playing with it at home.
Chief Medical Officer Shopian Dr Abdul Rasheed said that Saliq was brought dead to the hospital while four other injured kids were referred to SMHS Srinagar after initial treatment. “The condition of two of the kids was critical,” he said.
Saliq was laid to rest at his ancestral graveyard at Meminder village after thousands of men, women and children attended the funeral prayers at the village’s funeral ground near the local Jamia Masjid. The village echoed with pro-freedom, anti-India and pro-militant slogans and several Pakistani flags were raised during the funerals. The body of Saliq, eyewitnesses said, was wrapped in the Pakistan flag before it was buried.