At the crack of dawn on Friday, Ghulam Mohammad Rather was awake along with his family, relatives and neighbours. He had spent the sleepless night wandering around and asking people “what is happening around”. Ghulam who is having psychiatric complications had no idea what had happened. His queries remained unanswered.
Little distance from Rather is his wife, daughter and daughter-in-law. All wailing. They knew the disaster which had occurred to their family. The family had lost their son, the only bread winner.
The sun made its way into the sky, so did the people to the house of Rather. The cries grew shriller. The significant number of both men and women occupied the lanes, fields, roofs. All roads were leading to Punchpora Sangam in district Islamabad.
At around 11:30 am, the army and police arrived at the spot. This time the reason was different. Along with the gathered people, the army was also among the mourners. They had come with the body of Rather’s son Ghulam Mohi-ud-din Rather.
“This is a different mourning,” one villager told another. Draped in tri-colour, an unusual sight, the body was driven home with full military honour. There were no slogans, only whispers “what will now happen to the family.”
Mohi-ud-din, a Lance Naik of 44 RR lost his life after militants ambushed a patrol party at Mulu Chitragam, Shopian in the dead of night. The government forces as per the police spokesman had gone to Kungnoo Shopian to carry out Cordon and Search Operation (CASO) and had returned without any arrest of recovery.
The joint party of 44 RR and police was attacked resulting in injuries to six army personnel, including two officers, of whom three succumbed to their injuries. A lady identified as Taja also died. Police says she was hit by a stray bullet inside her house during the cross fire.
Back home, Mohi-ud-din was received by mourners and carried on the shoulders to a field where his funeral prayers were held. Far away, his two-year-old son was playing with the bottle. Unaware about being orphan, the little boy was engaged by his relatives.
The women around the mother of Mohi-ud-din tried to stop her from wailing and beating. Recently diagnosed with tumor, the old lady was operated and is still in recovery phase.
Married for three years, young widow of Mohi-ud-din was inconsolable. The camera rolling around avoided to click her picture as she had torn her clothes.
Tragedy is not new to the family. Few years ago, the daughter of Rather was hit by a vehicle and later succumbed to his injuries. The other daughter who was married off was divorced last year.
The only breadwinner of his family, Mohi-ud-din managed to engaged his divorcee sister again recently and was set to marry her in the fall of 2017. He was set to retire in next few months from the services of the army as he was about to attain the age of 35.
A recently built single storey house of Rather is without roof. Wailing mourners around, the Rather family is shattered. With significant number of army and police around, they were consoling each other. No confrontation this time on the funeral. If people around were mourning the death of a son, the army men were bereaved as they lost a colleague.
The uneasy calm around was broken by the gun salute by the men of RR. After the soldiers were done, an officer of RR came and fired in air and said “this is my salute to you.”
Huddled in small groups, the mourners were discussing how the death has shattered the family as they lost the last hope.