Zandpal, Tangmarg: On Thursday evening, Tariq Ahmad Malik — a security guard in Jammu and Kashmir's forest department — spread out a prayer mat in his kitchen. He then asked his daughters, Raunak and Zeenat, to make tea while his wife and niece were chatting. He had just returned home for Eid celebrations from Doodhpathri, a popular resort in central Kashmir's Budgam district.
Moments after he started his prayers, a metallic nozzle broke through the translucent glass of the window. Four shots were fired, of which three bullets hit Malik, while another hit a wall.
“When the shots were fired, I cried out aloud and the gunman removed the nozzle from the window,” said Raunak Tariq, a Class 12 student, who was sitting three feet from her father when he was shot.
“Blood started oozing from him. There was blood all around. It was as if sheep had been slaughtered. Everything turned dark before my eyes,” she said.
On Friday afternoon, cries of wailing women emanated from a dimly lit room at Malik's house in Zandpal village near Tangmarg. After Malik's death, there has been a steady stream of mourners dropping by to offer condolences. The village is located just 20 kilometres from the highway in Kunzar area of Tangmarg that connects Srinagar with Gulmarg.
Zandpal is nestled among dense alpine forests and presents a picture perfect image of a rural area. There are no roads and no shops. Although the village is connected to the grid, there is rarely any electricity. To reach here, one has to walk nearly seven kilometres.
Malik, 49, was the fifth Kashmiri to be killed at the hands of suspected militants in five days.
Villagers admiringly called him "judge" for his wisdom, foresight and negotiation skills. Thousands of people participated in his funeral prayers on Friday morning, in a testament to his popularity. Elders remember Malik as a man who had been fighting to get a road and an electricity transformer for the village, and who had been taking care of orphans.
Tabassum Bano, Malik's niece, said, "He is a shaheed (martyr). He was a kind soul. Why did the gunmen kill him? What had he done to deserve this?”
“He had been beaten up by army and police officials many times, and kept in custody,” said Ajaz Ahmad, a resident who had come to offer condolences to the family. He further said, “This is among several mysterious killings in Kashmir which have thrown up more questions than answers."
A police statement said that Malik was killed by Lashkar-e-Taiba militant Yousuf Dar alias Kantroo. However, the militant outfit on Friday evening condemned the killing, terming it as a “murder.” “Killing a worshipper before the Lord is the vilest form of terrorism (sic),” a statement issued by LeT spokesman Abullah Ghaznawi said
According to the police, Malik had worked as an overground worker of militants for some time, and had been arrested several times on these accusations. This has resulted in an element of mystery to the murder.
According to family members, an officer from a nearby army unit had earlier visited their house thrice looking for Malik, but he was not there. They say the officer had told them that he should present himself at the army camp on Friday.
However, the police also say that he had been silent for some time. A senior official said, "The LeT may have killed him as they did not like his silence and inaction."
When this reporter visited the Kunzar police station on Friday afternoon, the police officials were yet to visit the family.
“With what face will they come before us? They harassed and tortured him earlier. Now what will they tell us? We don’t know who killed our father, but we know who had made his life miserable all these years,“ Raunak said.
Updated Date: Aug 25, 2018 18:50 PM