Drabgam: Shamima Bano was talkative, witty and a ‘crisis manger’ in the closely knit ‘Bhat’ clan of Drabgam village in Pulwama district. In this south Kashmir village, Bhats comprise about 40 families of masons, carpenters, lowly traders and some labourers too. Tall, broad-shouldered and mother of two children, Shamima would mobilise people, mainly women, and run barefoot to police stations and military camps whenever a local boy was arrested or picked up for being involved in stone-pelting.
Her courage and negotiating skills earned her the sobriquet ‘Shamima DSP’.
On 1 May this year, Sameer Ahmad Bhat, popularly known as Sameer Tiger, a Hizbul commander, was killed in a fierce gunfight at a house owned by Shamima’s brother, Shabir Ahmad Bhat.
Among the five single-storied houses that the Bhat family owns in the village which is nestled among apple orchards, two were destroyed in the encounter, less then five hundred metres from the house of Sameer Tiger.
On last Friday, Shamima was back in her village from Koil, where she has got married and lives with her husband and two children. She arrived at 9.45 am and at 12.45 pm, after having a quick lunch, she was chatting with her younger sister inside their home when two militants barged in and fired a volley of bullets at her.
"She was hit by at least six bullets: one in neck, two in chest and three in midriff," Mushtaq Ahmad Bhat, 37, the elder brother of Shamima, told Firstpost on Monday morning at his home.
Barely ten feet away, beneath the hollow frames of the windows of the house where Sameer Tiger was killed, shards of glass from the day of the encounter were still glittering in the unusually hot morning.
Outside, the village square wore a deserted look. Even the usual hustle and bustle of Eid, which is being celebrated on Wednesday, was missing. Young boys discussed politics on pavements and shop fronts. I joined one group, curious to know what they thought about her killing.
“She was ‘muqhkbir’ (informer), that is why she was killed. And they did good. There is nothing wrong in it,” Farhad Ahmad, 17, a higher secondary student said with a cold expression.
Dressed in a pair of jeans and a sky blue tee, Farhad often wiped his forehead with a handkerchief as he spoke. “Everyone who indulges in ‘mukhbiri’ will meet the same fate,” he says nonchalantly.
In Kashmir, the killing of women at the hands of militants is rare. Not many women have been killed in recent years, making the disturbing silence over the killing of Shamima even more criminal. It is like those political killings where, while the killer has already been identified, few buy the official version. On the streets, everyone seems to know on whose order the assassination was carried out. Villagers in Drabgam talk about Shamima in whispers but when they do open up, they talk with the enthusiasm of a child.
It is as if what her life symbolised was a sin, as if she needed to vanish and her murder was the only way out, as if she was the last person standing between 'azadi' and 'occupation'.
Ask anyone here — residents, brothers of Shamima, sympathisers of militants, even the father of Sameer Tiger — no one seems to know for sure what was going on in her life. If she was an informer, why wasn’t she given a second chance? What made her life so unworthy? Did she know too much?
“If my mother was an informer like the other informers,” Musaib Ahmad Bhat, Shamima's son, said in Koil village on Sunday, “why didn’t militants shoot a video of her, like they have done, naming the names? We have seen videos in other cases. Why did they not talk to her? Why did they directly pump bullets into her body?”
Musaib, 18, works as a salesman in a local automobile showroom, and he said he did not drop his mother at his uncle’s place in Drabgam because of some urgent work.
Apart from the fact that the house of Sameer Tiger is less then five hundred metres away from some of the houses owned by the Bhat family, the dead militant commander and the dead woman share the same caste; they are relatives too. Sameer Tiger’s father was lying on the floor when I knocked on the door.
“People say she was responsible for the killing of my son but I don’t know. There is no reason why she would be killed," Maqbool Ahmad Bhat, the father of Sameer said. “Her killing is not revenge.”
Shockingly, the brutal killing of Shamima was underplayed by most newspapers in Kashmir.
There was silence on social media over the killing of a mother, who was raising two children. No statements of regret or calls for shutdown were issued by Hurriyat Conference. The mainstream parties too didn’t find time to condemn the killing.
“I want to go with these two children and appear in Srinagar’s Press Colony,” Shabir said at Shamima's grave. "I want answers, I want to know if she was responsible for the killing of Sameer, why did they not tell her family? Why was she killed so swiftly?"
What happened after the death of Shamima was more disturbing than her death. When one of her brothers desired to bury her in her ancestral graveyard in Drabgam, the villagers refused. On Friday evening last week, she was buried in Koil village. Among her companions in the graveyard are few other victims of conflict, including a militant.
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Updated Date: Aug 21, 2018 21:03:35 IST