It was around 4.30 pm on Saturday. The main square of North Kashmir’s Baramulla town was bustling with shoppers. Roads were clogged with vehicles moving at a snail’s pace because of a traffic jam.
Arjumand Majid Bhat, popularly known as Raju Mistery, was seated on a revolving chair at his chemist shop when ‘unidentified gunmen’ arrived and shot five bullets at his head. He was face down for 15 minutes, already dead, till a journalist called the police. The police station is less then 1.5 kilometres from his shop.
Raju, as everyone called him, was a 36-year-old man who had earned a name for himself in the past few years as a counsellor for drug de-addiction. In Kashmir, there has been sharp increase in the use of heroin and cocaine among youngsters since 2015. According to the police, most of the consignments enter the Valley through the Line of Control (L0C), mostly in the northern parts of Kashmir, and Baramulla town is the first major urban area that connects with the LoC.
As the use of banned drugs has become a menace, many state agencies, including the Indian Army and the police, are now involved in drug de-addiction campaigns, as well. This is where they roped in people like Arjumand, who was bold, witty and known to deliver.
Arjumand had started work as a drug de-addiction campaigner nearly nine years ago, his wife said. He ran a center with the support of the Indian Army in Baramulla town, which the Jammu and Kashmir Police had declared a “militancy-free district” in late January after three local Lashkar-e-Taiba militants were killed. It was the first district in Kashmir where, the police said, there was no surviving militant.
He was just 5.5 feet tall, with a heavy voice and an amazingly broad smile. Arjumand never failed anyone, distributed medicines for free among the needy, and his shop was also dubbed a “talking point” by many. He would also loose his tempter easily and once broke the window of a journalist’s car. But one could rely on Arjumand even in the most difficult circumstances.
He struggled financially. His brother, a doctor, would consult patients at his shop, allowing Raju to earn a livelihood. He would also work as a small-time contractor with army, supplying them food for parties the officers hosted for their Kashmiri guests.
Our grandfather would tell us that when an innocent person is killed in Kashmir, the sky turns red. The sky in Kashmir has been red for decades now. When people are killed for their political beliefs, we no longer mourn for them. We just add them to the gory war statistics.
Arjumand had recently intensified his campaign against the drug abuse in Baramulla, which many people, including police officials, believe was funded by the army. Some photos on his Facebook page also show him at a counselling session to drug addicts at an army camp.
“Militants had published his name twice for being an informer,” Baramulla Senior Superintendent of Police Abdul Qayoom said, “But he was not one. Anyone who helps the youth or goes to an army camp is not an informer. In all probability, he was killed by militants.”
On Saturday evening, Kulwinder Singh (name changed) sat at the gate of Arjumand’s house at Khwajabagh's Jetty area, weeping inconsolably. Singh’s son, Montey, was a drug addict. Two years ago, he had arrived at Raju’s shop with his son. “He was much younger than me, but I folded my hands and asked him to save my son. Raju helped him, got him out of the addiction, and he is doing good now. But Raju is nomore.”
To Montey and several others, Raju was an angel who pulled them out from the deadly world of drugs. Many of them cried over his body at his house. But Raju is now gone. And we are all aware who the “unidentified gunmen” who killed him are.
We don’t know whether Raju was an informer, a man of the army or of militants. But what we do know is that he had come to the rescue of many people and also changed many lives for good. For them, he will remain a martyr.
Updated Date: Apr 01, 2019 15:06:57 IST