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Inside the Life of Slain BJP Worker From This Prosperous Village in Pulwama

Locals in his village say that Shabir was the only person in the area who was so active in politics.

Aakash Hassan |

Updated:August 30, 2018, 4:03 PM IST
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Inside the Life of Slain BJP Worker From This Prosperous Village in Pulwama
A relative showing picture of Shabir Ahmad Bhat. (Photo by Abu Bakar)
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Pulwama: It was the day before Eid-ul-Adha. Javed Ahmad Bhat called his brother to remind him. “Are you coming home? It is Eid tomorrow,” Javed asked.

Shabir, his brother, made enquiries about the health of the family members, assured his brother of seeing him in time for Eid prayers and disconnected the call in about 30 seconds.

For Shabir not being home on Eid-ul-Adha, when family members are supposed to be together, was routine. He had skipped being with his family the last Eid also.

After an hour, Taja Begum, their mother, asked Javed to call his brother again. She thought her word will bring him home for the festival feast this time.

“But he didn’t receive our calls for over 30 minutes,” says Javed. Taja told her son to call him again later and went to bed.

As he was preparing his bed, Javed’s phone rang. It was Superintendent of Police asking if Shabir had come home.

“The call from a police officer was not surprising. My brother was a protected person and we used to get calls from the police officers at odd hours,” says Javed.

Thirty-year-old Shabir was youth president of Bharatiya Janata Party in Pulwama, one of the most volatile districts in Kashmir.

Three hours later, when the Bhat family was asleep, Javed’s phone rang again. The same officer was on the line informing him that his brother Shabir has been killed. Hundreds of people participated in the funeral prayers of Shabir the next day, the day of Eid.

Ghulam Mohammad Bhat father of Shabir
Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, Shabir's father. (Photo by Abu Bakar)

In 2014, Shabir had left his electronics business and joined the BJP just before the Assembly elections.

Born in the well-to-do family, known as Muqdams — the village head, his grandfather was Namberdar, or a powerful landowner responsible for revenue collection, of the village. No one, except Shabir, in the Bhat family had joined politics.

“We don’t know actually why he joined the BJP. But yes, he was always interested in social work,” says his elder brother, Javed Ahmad, who has a doctorate in political science from Aligarh Muslim University.

During the 2014 floods, Shabir’s friends remember his extraordinary relief work.

He collected relief material and worked tirelessly for the flood victims, say his friends, gathered under a canopy, pitched in the lawn of Bhat’s house for the mourners.

Javed says that Shabir started living in Srinagar and Pulwama since the last one year as the situation started turning ugly.

“He was under police protection for over a year. He would shuttle between Pulwama and Srinagar,” says Javed. But Shabir never told any of his family members that he was receiving any sort of threats.

Over 10 days before his killing, Mushtaq Ahmad, Shabir’s uncle saw him travelling without security.

“I had gone to drop my daughter for the tuitions in Pulwama and I was returning when I saw him travelling in his car from opposite side. Both of us stopped and I saw he was alone in the car,” says Mushtaq.

“I warned him that he should not take risk of travelling without security but his reply was — why will anyone harm me?”

His bullet-riddled body was found in Rakh-e-Litter village, around 10 kms from Pulwama. Police’s initial investigation says that he was abducted by militants when he was without security guards.

“We are working on the case and revealing more details at this moment will not be beneficial for our investigation,” Superintendent of Police, Pulwama, told News18.

For the party, it is a loss of an important asset.

“The loss is irremediable for the party. He was one of the important people in south Kashmir, working day in and day out strengthening the party on the ground,” says Altaf Thakur, BJP’s spokesperson for Kashmir. “Wherever we are stronger the anti-national elements try to target us there.”

Shabir was soft-spoken but proactive on social media. In one of the videos shared on his Facebook, he talks about the new central government schemes.

Shabir used to express his political thoughts openly. He was a proud member of the BJP and would call himself a "Student of BJP."

Another colleague from the party, Javed Qadri says, “At this point, Shabir was our important man. He was mobilising workers and working for the upcoming Panchayat polls.”

But Bhat was aware that his political work for the BJP was being monitored. In 2016, according to the family of Shabir, few men had barged into his home and abducted him.

“They were militants, perhaps,” says his brother. “He was taken for a few hours and was warned that they will kill him if he doesn’t stop his activities.”

Javed later remained at home for a couple of months but in time resumed his political work. He would run the BJP’s office in Pulwama.

His family says it was his personal conviction and belief for the party that he took such risks and finally laid his life.

“The family is very well economically. They have apple orchards and agricultural land,” says his uncle Mushtaq Ahmad.

Locals in his village say that Shabir was the only person in the area who was so active in politics.

Though Pulwama is one of the top districts where local youth have joined militancy, Shabir’s village has a different story. With around 120 households, there are two people in civil services, a dozen doctors, about two dozen engineers, professors, some others are working as government employees.

"No one in our village has joined militancy," says Javed.

Shabir is not the first BJP political worker to have been murdered in recent times.

In November 2017, 30-year-old BJP youth president of adjoining district, Shopian, Gowhar Hussain Bhat, was kidnapped from his home by militants in the evening. Later his dead body, throat slit, was found in an orchard a kilometer away from his house.

At the home of Shabir, his family is mourning. They are shell-shocked.

“He had political ambitions. He wanted to serve his people. You cannot kill a person for their ideology,” says Javed.

Mushtaq Ahmad, Shabir’s uncle remarks, with a hint of irony, “We are living in the times where the killer doesn’t know why he is killing and the one who has been killed doesn’t know why he has been killed.”

Meanwhile, the BJP has called a meeting in their Srinagar office and asked their workers to stay cautious.

“Try to work covertly. Avoid uploading your pictures and videos on social media,” a party leader conveyed to the district cadre. “You are our backbone. Looking at our work people are getting perturbed.”

(This story is part of News18 special series on BJP's growing footprint in Jammu and Kashmir)
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