Batgund, Shopian: A Class 6 student, Yudvir Singh sits calmly besides the bullet-riddled body of his father, Kulwant Singh, a Kashmir policeman who was killed by militants on Friday morning after being abducted from his home.
A tall, bearded man wearing a skullcap, fans the corpse with his bare hands to keep hungry mosquitoes away. Yudvir doesn’t move an inch from his position. He looks intensely at his father's face without blinking his eyes.
“I saw them (militants) taking him away but I thought he would be back soon, like he always did whenever we called him and asked him to return home,” Yudvir said.
“My father was good man; he was a Rajput,” Yudvir said.
The Rajputs are a tiny minority in the Muslim majority Kashmir valley. They have lived here for hundreds of years and speak fluent Kashmiri and Dogri. But in recent decades, their population in the Valley has decreased. The youngsters prefer to live outside the state than living in the rural areas of the Valley.
The Singhs are the only Hindu household in this small neighborhood of Batgund village. More than 40 other families live in a cluster of villages spread across Shopian and Kulgam districts. Although all the Kashmiri Pandit families moved out of the Valley when the turmoil broke out in the early 90s, the Rajputs had consciously decided to stay back.
Pushpa Devi, 72, Kulwant's mother, is being consoled by her Muslim neighbours. At least seven militants had cordoned their single storied house before gaining entry. They awakened Kulwant while his mother was making rotis in the kitchen.
"Are you in the police? Show us your identity card,” the militants asked Kulwant.
“He showed them his identity card and told them that he was announcing his resignation from the police department at 4 pm and that he was happy running a small cosmetics shop,” said Pushpa.
"He worked day and night for us. Yesterday, we worked in the orchard together, we ate together and in the morning when they (militants) created noise in the house, I got up and looked out from the window. I saw him being taken away," said Yudvir, adding, “I will never forget that.”
Three policemen were killed by militants on Friday after being abducted from their houses in a carefully planned operation. According to local sources, a group of nearly two dozen militants swooped down on the village and split into two groups.
“Four days ago, he (Kulwant) put a Rs 100 note in my pocket at the bus stand, saying I might need this. I said no, but he insisted. He was such kind of man," reminisced Naseema Begum, Kulwant's neighbour.
Rajender Singh Jamwal, a pharmacist, informs that every Rajput household has few orchards which are their main source of income; some from the community also work in the government sector.
He says that when Kashmiri Pandits left in the early nineties, the thought of migrating also came to their mind but the community never left their villages. Kulwant, be informs, is the first Rajput to die in the 29 years of conflict in Kashmir.
“No one in safe in Kashmir, neither Hindus nor Muslims. But this is our land and we will never leave this place. We were born here and we will die here,” he said.
Updated Date: Sep 22, 2018 12:57 PM