Amid sobs of mourners at their humble dwelling in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district, eighteen-month-old Madiha and four-year-old Sahil are unable to understand why their mother, Aarifa cries inconsolably as she tries to feed traditional salt tea to her toddler girl.
The militant attack on a J&K Bank cash van in the town on May 1 claimed the life of their family head Muzaffar Ahmed Laway, leaving the kids orphaned and the woman widowed. On that fateful day, five policemen and two guards of the state-owned bank lost their lives in one of the deadliest attacks by the Hizbul insurgents in the Valley.
With Laway’s death, his family has lost their sole bread-earner. He had been serving the bank at a meagre salary of Rs 6,000 per month. Similar holds true for the family of his slain colleague, Javed Ahmed Bhat, who was also shot dead in the same attack. Bhat had been serving the bank for the last ten years.
Call it fate or coincidence, there are many similarities between the twin killings. Both the slain guards were aged 36. Both hailed from same Kulgam district. Both used to wear khaki uniforms but both were unarmed guards, working through a private agency for the state-owned bank. Both have left behind widow and two small kids each, and some other family members.
The J&K Bank’s response towards both the families has been the same. Officials say that the kin of both the slain guards won’t get any relief from the financial institution, which, otherwise spends millions in the name of Corporate Social Responsibility.
A top executive of the J&K Bank told InUth.com that there was no scope for giving any relief to the bereaved families expect for a word of condolence for they were not direct employees of this financial institution but worked for some private agency dealing with the security.
But then, were these unarmed security guards lesser martyrs as compared to the slain cops? This question strikes your mind on seeing the difference in government response towards the kin of the deceased.
While no official, other than the J&K Bank manager of the local branch, visited the families of the deceased bank guards to offer condolences, the government top brass has been making a beeline at the residence of the slain cops promising all support.
Official handout reveals that on May 2, the Director General of Police Dr SP Vaid, flanked by other top brass including Inspector General of Police Kashmir range SJM Geelani, personally visited families of the deceased jawans.
The police assured all possible support to the bereaved. “While interacting with the families of the martyrs the DGP said that whole police department is at the back of the bereaved families and shares their grief and sorrow. He assured that all support would be provided to the families of the martyrs,” a police handout said.
The J&K Bank, on the other hand, has been very choosy in its words of condolence, lest it makes any commitment of support to the bereaved. In a formal condolence statement, the J&K Bank Chairman, Parvez Ahmad Nengroo, said: “We at J&K Bank are pained over the killings of these security personnel who were on way to Kulgam after delivering cash remittance at the Bank’s Manzgam Aharbal branch. My heartfelt condolences and deep sympathies to the bereaved families.”
Meanwhile, as the traditional mourning continues at the Kulgam residence of slain Muzaffar Ahmed Laway, little Madiha looks reluctant to have the salt tea. But then, why is she being offered salt tea? “Baby milk is very costly. Till now her father would manage to buy it. But now it’s going to be difficult for the family. You have to prepare the kids for the worse,” explains one of the mourners, as the helpless widow cries loudly. The brother-sister duo look scared; suddenly the orphan duo cry, unheard!