At the crack of dawn, last Saturday, I called one of my colleagues and asked him if he was going to cover the funerals of three Hizbul Mujahideen militants in south Kashmir’s Tral. In times when there isn’t much interest paid to the stories after the gunfight, I was amazed at my colleague’s willingness to cover a long distance during hot summer. In next fifteen minutes, I received more than a dozen phone calls expressing their desire to go. Everybody seemed desperate to reach the gun-battle site as soon as possible. The first call I received was the senior photojournalist followed by my youngest photo-journo friend who despite his college is always keen to move to the field. All seemed settled, but a call from a colleague who was supposed to get his car along called to announce that the wheel of his vehicle had a puncture.
The responsibility to organize the journey was left on me, but the young colleague somehow managed. He buzzed to announce that he was on way to Press Enclave.
It took us more than an hour to reach the first funeral spot and we thought we are the first to cover the event, but to our astonishment foreign agency photojournalists were already clicking. It was a colleague who hails from the Tral town who took care of our refreshment. As a young photojournalist brigade we tried our best to shot the aerial clicks of Shahnawaz Ahmad one of the militants of Dadsara, Tral, but in vain. Soon after the first funeral concluded we rushed to another locality Lorgam for Ajaz Ahmad’s funeral. As soon as we reached, hundreds had already swarmed in for the funeral prayers and as usual a photojournalist had a confrontation with one of the funeral participants over the clicking of pictures. But the matter was doused in a jiffy. The positions we took for clicking were far better than the earlier funeral.
The third one was the massive gathering organized for the district commander of Hizbul Mujahideen Shabir Ahmad of Heyana village. More than 5000 thousand people participated in the funeral. Shabir was the youngest of the three. With a green cloth tied on his forehead people carried his body around the village. Women were chanting anti-India slogans, some showered flowers and some sweets. Now every one of us was anxious who will reach his office first in Srinagar and file the pictures. The only one who seemed worried about the situation was a reporter friend; he had to write the story before the deadline. We rambled back to Srinagar.
I had another memory itched at the end of the day: while I was covering the funeral of Ajaz everyone had a glimpse of his face except two veiled young girls who missed the scene .They just stopped me while I was leaving the graveyard and pleaded before me to show them pictures of Ajaz in my camera. As I showed them they kissed the camera display. It was yet another day where I was left with many unanswered questions.
Faisal Khan is a photojournalist based in Kashmir