|Early Times Report|
SRINAGAR, Sept 23: At a time when militant violence is summiting in the valley, common people have once again set an example of amity by rallying behind the family of Kulwant Singh, the special police officer who was killed by militants the previous day.
On Friday, when tragedy struck the family, the entire village was at their doorstep. Singh, 35, was among three police personnel who were abducted and killed by suspected militants on Friday morning in South Kashmir's Shopian district. A day later, the villagers rallied behind the lone Hindu family in Batagund village - from cutting wood for the last rites to ensuring that the entire village turned up for the cremation.
In the 1990s, when militancy erupted in the Valley, Special Police Officer Kulwant Singh's family had chosen to stay back, assured that their Muslim neighbours would never turn their backs on them.
On Saturday morning, Singh's neighbour Bashir Ahmad, who runs a shop in the neighbourhood, was among the first to reach the apple orchard in the village, where a piece of land had been marked for the cremation.
"I came here today to perform my duties. So what if our religions are different, we have been living in same village and it is our duty to help them at this hour," said Ahmad.
At Singh's house, villagers began gathering early Saturday morning to help Singh's elder brother Ranbir and his father Dhrub Dev with preparations for the cremation. Women neighbours sat around, consoling Singh's wife, their two children and his mother.
"I have known this family ever since I was child. How could we leave them alone at this moment," said a villager who didn't want to be named. He had taken a day off from work to attend Singh's last rites.
Mohammed Yousuf Baba, village head of Batgund, said Singh's family had been living in the village for over two decades. "We did what we could for the family," he said. Singh's uncle Gandrab Singh, who lives in Faridabad near Delhi, said he was moved by the presence of several hundred villagers at the cremation. "My brother's family never left this village because they always felt safe," he said.