Shopian’s loss resounds as pain in Ramadhan

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In one of their uncluttered rooms, Mohammad Khalil and his three sons are sitting side by side. A lemony tablecloth is laid with dishes, bread, thick slices of watermelon, and rice. After a daylong fast as the family starts its dinner, Khalil puts a morsel of bread into his mouth and asks for his youngest son Suhail Ahmad and his Iftar meal. Soon an uncanny quiet fills the room. Khalil’s wife Misra enters with an empty copper plate and breaks the silence: “This is his plate but who will now eat from it”. While Khalil snivels covering his face with both hands, Misra, with misty eyes, leaves the room keeping the door ajar. Taking a sip of water from a copper glass Khalil says, “ This is how we break our fast without my youngest son ”
On April 4, Suhail Ahmad (19), a student of class 12th along with a local laborer was driving towards his native village Pinjoora in south Kashmir’s Shopian district from a neighbouring village. When he reached near Pahnoo, army men, who had laid an ambush for militants, rained bullets on his car killing both of them on the spot.
“My son was neither a militant nor a stone pelter. He was killed in cold blood” said Khalil. 
“Shahnawaz Ahmad, the poor laborer was also an innocent person. He too had nothing to do militancy. He would do menial jobs to make his ends meet” he added.
Two more civilians Shahid Ahmad and Gowhar Ahmad Lone, residents of Malik Gund and Imamshahib respectively, were also killed minutes later in the same ambush.
“During Sehri ( pre-dawn meals) his mother always dishes out food on his plate. We are yet to come to terms with his loss” Khalil said.
Poiniting towards a corner of the room he said that he ( Suhail) would sit there during Sehri and Iftaar time. “The place is now empty” Khalil said, adding that in Kashmir there are thousands of houses having such empty corners .
 A few paces down the street stands the modest house of the late Ab. Ahad Kumar. Kumar’s wife Siada Begum, who lost her son Mohammad Umar Kumar to bullets, opens the door of his son religiously in order to awake him for the Sehri.
“He would fast for the whole month since he was twelve. Our mother would wake him up during Ramzan for Sehri. She still enters his room at the Sehri time” said Kumar’s sister.
On May 2, an exchange of fire between the militants and government forces took place in neighbouring Turkwangama village. And as local youth made a dash for the spot, Umar Kumar(15) left his school bag at home and also rushed towards the spot. However, when he reached near Darazpora village–more than a kilometer away from the actual encounter site—he was shot many times by the government forces.
“He had bullets wounds in his neck, thighs, abdomen and chest” said his sister.
During this Ramazan, the family says it prepares Phirni, a sweet pudding people take in valley usually at iftaar time, a couple of times but no one in the family consumed it.
“It tasted like blood without him. Phrini was his (Kumar’s) favorite desert” said Saida. 
A few kilometers away in Ganowpora village, Javed Ahmad Lone’s family observe the Ramzan in a similar fashion with his son Suhail Ahmad alias Rahul no longer around.
Rahul (17), a student of class 12th was killed by the government forces on January 27, three days after a local militant Firdose Ahmad was killed in an encounter in the area.
“He was outside his house when some army personnel from a nearby camp patrolled through the village. They fired indiscriminately after youth pelted them with stones. My son received many bullets and died instantly” said Lone.
Lone says that both during the Sehri and Iftar time a plate in his Kitchen remains empty and a seat vacant. And there are such 12 empty seats and corners in Shopian district alone as twelve civilians have been killed since January this year.
 

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