Shadimarg (Kashmir): Ghulam Nabi Mir had finished a chemotherapy session last week, but the frailness brought about by cancer did not dampen his spirits, neither did it stop him from helping others. If Patel, as he was famously known here for his one-time association with Congress leader Ahmad Patel, were to be alive today, he would have been crushed by the way every mainstream political outfit for whom he worked as a foot soldier for 40 years, disowned him after his assassination on 25 April afternoon.
Inside his heavily guarded two-room government accommodation in south Kashmir's Pulwama, Mir received dozens of petitioners from his village and its surrounding areas every day; some would seek a lane be built in their locality, others needed his help to evade bureaucratic nepotism. He helped everybody in whichever way he could.
But after two bullets punctured his face and a few hit his abdomen in an attack on Wednesday, no such rush was witnessed at his solemn funeral, or at his two-storied dilapidated house in Pulwama's Shadimarg village. Even among the people on whose behalf he had petitioned government officials, few turned up to condole his killing.
It was as if the universe had conspired to deny him dignity in death.
At the entrance to his house, his grave is covered in a plastic sheet with glossy plastic flowers. A few feet away, a board announces the construction of a lane by the rural development department of the state government, ironically sanctioned after Mir's intervention. The lane will soon be made, but the man who fought for it won't see it happen.
To be a political activist of any mainstream party in the Valley these days, particularly in south Kashmir, means risking your life and that of your family — just like it was in the early 90s, during the heydays of the insurgency.
Mir himself was kidnapped twice by the militants — in 1995 and 1996, at a time when Kashmiris associated with mainstream politics were called "blood sucking parasites".
It also invited multiple attacks. In one of them, his driver took a U-turn moments before the militants fired at the white ambassador he was traveling in, and Mir survived.
However, on Wednesday afternoon, at around 3 pm, he could not save himself for the third time. "The attackers, three of them, fired a volley of bullets. Two of them hit his face and he died on spot," SSP Pulwama, Muhammad Aslam Chaudhry, said.
Outside Mir's house in Shadimarg on the Pulwama-Shopian border, a makeshift tent has a few female mourners. His wife Amina Mir is wailing and her cries are audible even at some distance. "Hata myani Patel Saba be kasu travthas trai shur hait (Oh my Patel Sahib, why did you leave me with our three children)?"
There were less than a dozen men outside the tent, as if even mourning the death of a political activist could invite the wrath of militants. "Last time he joined PDP. He helped Drabu (Haseeb Drabu, former finance minister, now shunted out) in the elections. Then we went and begged for votes for Drabu. I went to the polling booths to tell people to vote for Drabu. But when he was diagnosed with cancer, no one came. Today he is dead, but no one came," Amina told Firstpost on Thursday afternoon.
On Wednesday, Patel left his official residence in Pulwama's high security zone and told his three personnel security officers not to carry weapons because it was dangerous. He lived a few hundred meters from the house of Sameer Tiger, a famous militant who the police believe is behind the killing.
That an army camp stands less than 1,000 metres from Patel's house was no guaranty of his safety; it simply did not matter in these difficult times. He was going home, to his village. His daughter is getting married next month and he was to look after preparations. But he soon left after spending 45 minutes there.
"Someone might have tipped off the militants. When he reached Rajpora Chowk, three armed men appeared in front, pulled their pheran and fired at him," Chaudhry said. "After killing him, the militants came for the policemen, who were unarmed. The policemen shouted that they have no guns, but the militants drew closer and fired at them too."
However, what sets this killing apart amid an unabated spree of violence is the way the slain leader was treated after his death. The ruling PDP president and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and the Congress party, on whose ticket Mir contested an election in 2002, condoled his killing, but they didn't own him.
Mehbooba called his son, Sartaj Ahmad Mir, at around 10 pm on Wednesday, but said only three words to Amina: "Patience, patience, patience!" she told her, Sartaj recalled.
Sartaj, a first-year student, said his father had joined the PDP before the 2014 election, and shared stage with Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, Hasseb Drabu and others leaders. "When Drabu sahib said Patel sahib joined PDP, Mufti sahib patted his back, and said he has not joined but come back to his home. He said he was working with PDP, but we had differences of opinion. Now Mehboobaji is saying he is not ours. He has lost his life because of the PDP," Sartaj said.
The democracy and electoral politics that New Delhi sells to the outside world as an indicator of "normalcy" in Kashmir is facilitated by people like Mir. Hundreds of Kashmiris have laid down their lives for it; he was not the first one.
But in his case, neither the political outfits who dumped him, nor the militants who allegedly killed him, owned their responsibility. "He died a poor man. He has nothing; no good house, no car and no fat bank balance. But he served his people, and for that, he paid the price," his brother Abdul Ahad Mir said.
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Updated Date: Apr 27, 2018 16:41:48 IST