Sopore Shootout: Slain Street Vendor’s Deadly Deduction

A woman mourns the loss of a civilian in Sopore. KO Photos by Abid Bhat.

Amid widespread condemnation, a street-vendor’s prediction became the telling comment on the uncertainty of life in Kashmir.

Sopore: The sheer suddenness of the strike was exactly as street-vendor Bashir Ahmad had predicted during his long conversations with his friends over the years.

Growing up amid blazes, blasts and barricades, Bashir had seen his townspeople falling to the sudden armed clashes in north Kashmir’s Sopore town.

During his freewheeling tête-à-têtes with his apple town Sopore’s street characters, he would talk about the uncertainty of life and more so could tell a sudden end: “Tomorrow, some of us would end up dead on these streets. Such is our life.”

This fatal forecast had almost become repetitive after an HMT man lost his life in the cross-firing in Sopore last year.

A year later, on 12 June 2021, as Bashir was out to gauge the weekend mood of the curfewed town, he met the same sudden end he had predicted for years.

Bashir figured in the list of four slain, including two cops, when, as DGP Dilbag Singh said, Lashkar Toiba militants opened fire on the police patrolling party in the town.

Some clips of the attack show people running for their lives in the town amid the gun rattle, with a police jeep standing in haze of smoke.

But in the ensued hush and settled dust, the town had shrunk in fear, before a battery of cops arrived to block the entry and exit routes, and launched a manhunt.

After the attack, the forces stand guard in Sopore Town.

“Death is certain but why do we Kashmiris always have to face such an end,” said Saleem Farooq, an elderly man from Sopore.

“I knew Bashir Ahmed of Takiabal Sopore and Manzoor Ahmed of Shalimar Colony Sopore. Both were street vendors. Both were out to earn bread for their families. And both were innocent to die like this.”

Like most of the civilians, Bashir used to refer Sopore as “an unpredictable township” which had transformed from the “Chota London” to the politically-uncertain zone after the armed movement erupted in Kashmir during late eighties.

“Bashir would remember and often recall those consumed by the armed clashes in front of his eyes in the town,” the slain vendor’s wailing relative said. “He was somehow fearful of the same end. Alas, his hunch wasn’t wrong!”

The attack once again became a collective condemned cry, with who’s who in summer capital sending out the strong statements against it.

LG Manoj Sinha denounced it as the “despicable and cowardly act” which will not go “unpunished”.

Such attacks must be condemned without reservation, former chief minister Omar Abdullah said. “The government must ensure a stop to such brutal loss of lives,” Omar’s party, National Conference, said.

A grieving gathering at Sopore.

The trail attacks like the one at Sopore leave behind mutilated bodies, ravaged homes and murder of dreams, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) reacted. “Our souls have been scarred for decades now by such wanton acts of violence.”

Gun, said Sajjad Lone of Peoples Conference, came to Kashmir in 1989 and 32 years down the line, “I can unambiguously state that gun enslaves the very people that it purports to fight for. The gunmen really need to ponder whose war they are fighting.”

Regardless of any political, ideological or religious motivations, said Altaf Bukhari of Apni Party, “violence in any of its manifestations is unacceptable”.

Standing up for the farewell.

Back in Sopore, Bashir’s family members and friends recall his trysts with the town’s uncertain mood with a rapt clarity. But the man, they say, never hesitated to step out on the same streets for the sake of his family’s welfare.

“At the same time he was mindful of the suddenness of this strife,” said Parvaiz Ahmad, Bashir’s relative. “And his end came exactly as he had predicted while talking about the uncertainty of life in Kashmir.”

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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