People throng soldier’s funeral in terrorist hotbed, recall the man who always had a smile

The skies were grey, seemingly tuning into the sombre mood of the town, as about 1,500 people gathered here to take part in the funeral procession of Lance Naik Mohammed Iqbal Sheikh and his father.

The two sons of Tral, the town known to security officials as a hub of Jaish-e-Mohammed sympathisers and activists, were killed in an attack on the Sunjuwan military camp in Jammu by the terror group.

As the bodies of Sheikh and his father Mohi-ud-din Sheikh were brought here, the Rishipora area echoed with the wails of the soldier’s young widow, Shabnama.

Iqbal, 32, who had served the Army for 12 years, married Shabnama two years ago. Their son is 18 months old.

The area is known to be a stronghold of the Jaish-e- Mohammed (JeM), which carried out the fidayeen attack on the Army camp, killing seven people;six army men and the civilian, Mohi-ud-din Sheikh, who was living with his son.

“Iqbal had insisted that his father come and live with him in his camp. It was his first posting to the home state and he wanted his father to live with him so that he could avoid the harsh winter of the South Kashmir area,” Tariq Ahmed, the soldier’s cousin, told .

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, an official said such a large gathering for the funeral of an Army man showed the local people’s opposition, however nascent, to acts of terrorism.

People may have attended the funeral of Hizbul militant Burhan Wani in large numbers in 2016 because they feared the local terrorists, but the gathering for a jawan’s funeral procession showed they were ready to defy the diktats of terror organisations, the official said.

“What is happening is not right,” said a local resident.

“These were our own people. What crime did he commit to deserve this death? The bloodshed must stop,” he added.

Another person present at the funeral recalled that Iqbal was a jovial man who always had a smile on his face.

Cousin Ahmed remembered how happy Iqbal was on being posted to Sunjuwan.

“This was his first home state posting in his 12 years of Army service during which he was posted across the country,” he added.

A group of Pakistan-based JeM terrorists had struck the Sunjuwan military camp in Jammu early on Saturday, killing seven people. Three terrorists were also gunned down. PTI