On the afternoon of 31 August 2016, a man in his fifties sat outside the intensive care unit in the Trauma Centre, a special wing of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, a government hospital in Delhi. Dressed in a pheran, Abdul Rashid was pouring over pages from the day’s Times of India. His eyes were locked on a photo of a young man throwing a stone at a police van in Kashmir.
Rashid’s son, Rauf Ahmad, a constable with the Jammu and Kashmir Police, was admitted in the ICU. Ahmad was among the security-forces personnel who were injured in an attack by militants on 15 August 2016, in Nowhatta in Kashmir, about two hours before an Independence Day parade was due to start in the area. A commandant from to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was killed during the attack, and eight other CRPF personnel were injured. In a 16 August report published in the Indian Express, the CRPF Inspector General Atul Gerewal said of the attack: “Militants were engaged by CRPF and police teams, two militants were killed.”
That same morning, militants had attempted another attack, in the Uri region in Kashmir, but were foiled. Just over a month later, on 18 September, at around dawn, four militants attacked Uri again. Eighteen security personnel were killed in the ambush.
During the attack on 15 August, bullets had hit Ahmad in the neck, paralysing him. He was brought to Delhi that evening, and put on life support. Ahmad’s cousin, who requested anonymity, said that Ahmad’s windpipe and oesophagus were severely damaged. On 31 August, I spent a few hours at the hospital with Ahmad’s family, and a few other security personnel. Nearly two weeks after I met his family at AIIMS, on 13 September 2016, Ahmad succumbed to his injuries.
Ahmad’s cousin works as a schoolteacher in Kashmir. While I was talking to him, Rashid reached the part of the paper that carried a story about his son, along with their photographs. Ahmad’s cousin was not pleased by the report. “They shouldn’t have carried my uncle’s picture at least,” he said. But Rashid was unfazed. He agreed to let me take a photograph of him. When I set-up the camera, the cousin immediately stepped out of the frame.