‘We’re With You’: How Fasting Muslims Stood By Their Pandit Neighbours

Kashmiri Muslim neighbours sharing grief of their Pandit neighbours at Shopian. KO Photos by Qayoom Khan.

As soon as the news spread that a pandit pharmacist has been fired upon, an entire village rushed to his home to share his family’s grief.

MUKHTAR Lone was offering Magrib prayers on 4th April 2022 when a deafening din erupted outside.

In the melee-type of situation created by some resounding gunshots, Mukhtar stepped out to see his village pharmacist—a Kashmiri Pandit—being rushed to a nearby hospital in an emergency condition.

Like others, Mukhtar skipped his meals to be at the side of his ‘bleeding brother’ who had received bullet injuries on leg, arm and abdomen.

But while the fasting villagers of Choutigam, Shopian were trying to fathom the situation, the police in a statement said that militants fired upon a Kashmiri Pandit identified as Bal Krishan aka Sonu, 39, near his house at Choutigam Shopian.

He was immediately evacuated to a nearby hospital where he is recuperating fast.

But as soon as the news spread, the entire village rushed to Sonu’s home to share his family’s grief.

“Whatever happened is highly condemnable,” Mukhtar told Kashmir Observer hours after the incident sparked an overwhelming solidarity response.

“As a person and pharmacist, Sonu is very helpful who even attends a health emergency at midnight. The attack on him is an attack on us all.”

Inside Sonu's home.

A day after the attack, villagers in Choutigam were in a deep shock — standing in solidarity with the grieving family.

Anil Bhat, Sonu’s sibling, told Kashmir Observer that at around 7:15 on Monday, he and his brother were at their medical shop in Shopian when two “bike-born” assailants barged inside and fired upon Sonu—leaving him in the pool of blood.

“I was devastated as my brother was crying for help,” Anil recalled.

“We’ve been living here for decades and never faced any threat. Even yesterday, all of our neighbours were with us and many stayed with us for the whole night.”

Anguished villagers.

The village Choutigam has only two Kashmiri Pandit families, who didn’t leave the valley during 1990’s because of the “peaceful atmosphere and community cooperation”.

“We never thought of migration due to the cooperation between the two communities,” Sunita Bhat, Sonu’s sister, consoled by dozens of village women, said.

Sonu's family members.

Among the visitors who turned up at Sonu’s home to enquire about his family was a village head, Ghulam Rasool Mir.

The elder had a clear message for Sonu’s family: “We’re with you!”

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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