Bandipora: Three coffins and a devastated family

On Thursday afternoon at Muslimabad locality here, as people were readying themselves to give final ritual bath to the body of Sheikh Wasim Bari, they talked in whispers.

Bari, his father Bashir Ahmad and brother Sheikh Omar Sultan were killed late on Wednesday night by suspected militants outside their residence.

The trio was affiliated with the BJP. Bari was the party’s Kashmir programme coordinator, and former district president, Bandipora.

None from the mourners present in the premises talked about what happened yesterday, until the lull was broken by the arrival of senior BJP leaders including Ravinder Raina, Ashok Kaul, Sofi Yusuf, Altaf Thakur and others.

With tearful eyes, they queued to have a final glimpse of Bari’s face, while mumble prayers for their fallen comrades.

After some hiatus, the coffins of three family members are shouldered by people for final journey, as women wail and shower candies.

One among them, Syed Falak is wailing profusely. In her late 20s, she is the wife of deceased Bari.

Inconsolable, Falak faints,. After sometime she regains consciousness and recalls the incident.

“He (Bari) and I went to my parent’s home yesterday. We arrived home late. We saw Omar and Daddy at their shop. It must have been around 8 pm. Waseem (Bari) went downstairs to fetch chocolate for our child. He locked the room since he was apprehensive for our two-month-old baby boy. He loved him much,” said Falak.

PIC: HABIB NAQASH/GK

She said after a few minutes she heard gunshots, while security people deployed for the family were moving up and down.

Subsequently, she went downstairs towards the shop run by her father-in-law Sheikh Bashir.

“There must have been some six to seven gunshots. I shouted loud and asked security people to unlock my door. After sometime, someone did and I straightway rushed downstairs and found Daddy (Bari’s father) and Omar lifeless, while Waseem was in a pool of blood on the other side. It was all blood,” said Falak.

Falak questioned how the incident could take place when they were living at a stone’s throw from Bandipora police station, and while around a dozen policemen were posted for the family’s security.

“How could it happen in this high security zone?” relatives surrounding Falak say in unison.

Family’s close aide and locals said Sheikhs had rendezvous with politics when Bari’s sister Gousia joined the National Conference a decade ago. Years later, she switched sides. In 2014 Bari joined BJP, remembers his colleague and BJP’s headquarter incharge Mohammad Tahir Mir.

Over the years, Bari rose in the party ranks and set up BJP’s office inside his home. At Muslimabad, adjacent main road, BJP flags along a tricolor in the middle are hoisted atop a building owned by Sheikhs.

Economically Sheikhs are well off, and locals remember how decades ago Bari’s father migrated to Bandipora, all the way down from south Kashmir’s Anantnag district. It was after Sheikh married a woman from nearby Nussu village.

Last year, Bari’s mother died in an accident in Ganderbal and now his relatives say the Sheikh family has been wiped out. Bari’s sister Gousia is battling tumour and as per relatives has undergone six surgeries making him akin a “living corpse”. The only living members in the Sheikh family are now Falak and her two kids, including a two-month old baby boy.

J&K Bhartiya Janta Party President, Ravinder Raina blamed Pakistan for the killings.

Talking to reporters after attending the funeral of the trio, Raina described the killings as “murder of humanity.”

Raina along with other senior party leaders including Ashok Kaul, Sofi Yusuf, Altaf Thakur and others visited the family to offer their condolences.

Later, Raina said the sacrifices of Bari and his family members would not go in vain.

“Wasim was a brave son of India. He was true patriotic who always put efforts to strengthen nationalism in Kashmir”, Raina said. “He was a tiger of our party and those who killed him will not be spared.”