Aijaz Dar, who was killed by alleged cow vigilantes in Jammu’s Rajouri district, leaves behind a family who are too poor to even afford firewood in the winter.
Rajouri: Sitting on a chair in a dimly lit room, a grey-bearded man quietly wept. A walking stick lay by his side. Wearing a skull cap and talking to himself, Mohammad Afzal Dar barely noticed the goings-on around him.
Only a few days ago, his 24-year-old son Aijaz Dar, was lynched in the Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir, allegedly by ‘cow vigilantes’. He was the only breadwinner of the family, which includes his three younger sisters.
The senior Dar had suffered a massive paralytic attack seven years ago after which he hasn’t been able to walk without a stick. He mostly remains in bed and rarely comes out of his house.
Located on a hill in Rajdhani village in Thanamandi, Dar’s house is sparse, made up of stones and has only two rooms where the family of six, now five, lives. It is a 20 km drive from the district headquarters of Rajouri and after that, a nearly 500-metre walk to reach Dar’s home. The village has a population of nearly 3,000 people and a steady stream of locals, relatives and officials have been visiting the house since the night of Aijaz’s murder.
At around 9 pm on June 21, Aijaz Dar and his cousin Rashid Aziz had left home in a mini truck along with a driver, Maqbool Mir, to purchase a buffalo from Muradpur in Rajouri district. Having made the purchase, they started back home at around 2 am the next day. However, the trio was intercepted and attacked by a group of alleged cow vigilantes carrying batons and swords. The driver had managed to escape and drove to the Government Medical College Hospital in Jammu but Aijaz, who was badly injured, could not be saved. The driver and the cousin escaped with injuries.
The Muslim-dominated district was left in shock when the news of Aijaz’s murder spread like wildfire. Worried that the incident could spark communal tensions in the area, the police were prompt to act. Authorities have so far arrested five men.
Aijaz Dar's father, Mohammad Afzal Dar (centre), steps out of his home in Rajdhani village in Thanamandi. (Below) The three young sisters of the victim, who are now responsible for the household (Picture courtesy: Arjun Sharma)
Price of Aijaz’s life - Rs 25,000
“I want justice,” murmured Dar.
“Aijaz was our only hope as he used to transport loads, including sand and gravel to construction sites, on his two horses to earn a living. He was bringing a buffalo after purchasing it from a local market and not a cow,” the father said, asking if ‘Gau Rakshaks’ now even kill Muslims who carry buffalo.
The three sisters - Uzma Dar (20), Kalsoom Akhter (18) and Shaista Dar (16) - are unmarried and the entire responsibility of the household has now fallen on their shoulders. Their mother, Haseena Akhter, is unwell and is on regular medication. The family is so poor that they are worried about being able to afford firewood to survive the cold winter.
Some Muslim organisations have collected some funds for the family but that will not last long. The family was also provided with a relief of Rs 25,000 by the district administration.
“They have decided the value of my son's life at Rs 25,000,” said Dar, wryly.
The eldest daughter, Uzma Dar, has demanded that she and her sisters be provided jobs by the government to help the family face an uncertain future.
The local Panchayat has also decided to provide some funds for the family until they receive a government job. The Sarpanch of the village, Gafoor Dar, said that the panchayat has also decided to provide the family with a ‘pacca’ home under the union government’s housing scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awas Yojna. “We have written to the government for funds to provide a proper house to the family,” he said.
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