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Families of Kishtwar riot victims united by grief, government apathy

Security personnel checking documents of a vehicle during curfew in Jammu. (PTI photo)

When Danish, the 16-year-old son of Bashir Ahmed Sheikh, saw his father’s body at the Kishtwar district hospital, he couldn’t recognise him. Sheikh was handicapped and walked with a limp — the main reason he couldn’t escape the mob chasing him.

Related: 60 injured in Kishtwar Eid clashe

Less than a km away is Des Raj Bhagat’s house. The Bahujan Samaj Party district president’s young son, Arvind, was also a victim of the riot that was unleashed on the Kishtwar town after Eid prayers.

Today, the two families are united by grief.

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“He wanted to join the army but started working for an insurance company. That day, he was going to his pregnant sister’s house in Shalamar area, five km from Kishtwar, to take her to the hospital. On his way, he decided to drop some papers at his office, which is located in the main market area, where the riot happened. Suddenly, he was hit by bullets. Some people took him to the army hospital on a motorcycle but he had already died,” Bhagat told The Indian Express.

In the small house of the Sheikh family, Waheeda Begum, is inconsolable. Her son, though, is a picture of composure. “Why did they have to burn him? Where is humanity?” asks Danish.

Related: Beneath the communal violence in Kishtwar lies politics and creeping shadow of militancy

Incidentally, the only recent picture that the family has of Sheikh is on a mobile phone, clicked by his nephew the day he died. Before going for Eid prayers, Sheikh had visited his sister, who lives in the same village and it was at her house that his nephew took his picture on his mobile.

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