Wedding plans cut short as militants shoot 21-year-old
Indian Express Dec 17, 2009
KELLER (SHOPIAN) : Sheeraza Akhtar was looking forward to her wedding in April next year to a boy from the nearby village of Sangam. The conversation on most nights in the family centred around the coming festivities. Till Tuesday, when a militant entered the house of labourer Mohd Maqbool Mir, asked him to point out Sheeraza and then shot the 21-year-old dead.
It was the sixth such incident in this area in the recent past, and the small village of Kellar in Shopian district, hemmed in on all sides by forests, was in a state of shock on Wednesday. Since April this year, unidentified assailants have killed seven civilians, including four women and a three-year-old child.
Mir recalled Sheeraza was serving dinner when the man came into the kitchen at 7.30 pm. “Clad in black phiran, this young man asked my younger daughter her name, then looked at Sheeraza and asked her name. When she told him, the man pumped five bullets into her body,” said the 70-year-old, breaking down. “I don’t know for what crime my young daughter was killed.”
Sheeraza’s younger sister Dazy, still to recover from the shock of seeing her sister killed before her eyes, said she didn’t utter a word as she lay there dying.
The Class X student recalled that they first believed their brother Tariq, who stays in Delhi, had returned. While the assailant wasn’t wearing a mask and speaking Kashmiri, Dazy said they hadn’t seen him before.
Neighbours remember Sheeraza as a caring, shy girl who loved her family. “We want to know who is behind this gruesome killing,” said Ghulam Ahmad Khan.
Station House Officer, Keller, Farooq Ahmad said they believed three men came to Mir’s house on Tuesday evening, and one of them went in and shot Sheeraza as the other two stayed outside on guard. “The killing is the handiwork of militants active in the area,” he said.
Sheeraza is the fourth woman to have fallen to bullets of unknown assailants in the past nine months. On April 4, militants had gunned down 60-year-old Reshma Begum near Kellar; on May 30, Sahib-ud-din of the same village was killed by unidentified persons; three days later, 26-year-old Nageena Akhtar was shot in the area; in July, another young woman, Parveena, was killed in similar circumstances; while later that month, Mohd Aslam Awan and his three-year-old son were shot by unknown gunmen in Gujjar Patti Keller.
Both factions of the Hurriyat Conference have condemned such killings.