When the news of militant commander Burhan Wani’s death reached Tral, Lata Devi (name changed), a Kashmiri Pandit woman, rushed to his home wailing, like hundreds of other women of the area.
“I did not eat anything that day, I swear of my son. How could we eat? He was like my son,” Devi said at her home in Tral-i-Payeen locality of the town.
Raju interrupted her mother and was all praise for Burhan’s family. “Muzafar Sahib (Burhan’s father) taught me mathematics in 11th and 12th class in school as well at his home. He did not charge me a single penny. Burhan was a kid then. Muzafar Sahib is a great personality. He always treated us like his sons”.
Raju remembers how Burhan would crack a joke with them at his home. “When Muzafar Sahib was not at his home, Burhan would tell us that he would teach us today,” he said.
Most of us Pandits were at Burhan’s home for all four days from dawn to dusk to pay tribute to him like all others, he said.
At a stone’s throw from Lata Devi’s house, Toota Devi is all praise for her Muslim neighbours.
“They are always available to us for anything. Whether it is good or bad day for us. They are very supportive of us. Govt abandoned us. We are here only because of support from locals,” she said.
Her son, 38 year old Ashok, who is a baker by profession, said that he never felt different from his Muslim friends.
“We have studied together, we have grown up together. We have shared everything. Even when eatables are depleting in kitchens, we don’t have issue, I can myself get any eatable from Mushtaq’s (his next door neighbour) kitchen. So can he,” he said at his home where many of his Muslim friends are sipping tea.
Raju accused Government of neglecting them. “We are three brothers, all are unemployed. We are not here because of Government doles and benefits, we have lived here all these years because our Muslim brothers never gave us the feeling we are others. Our grievances are same, our aspirations are same”.
In the main town Tral, 500 meters away from Burhan Wani’s home, around 10 Pandit families live happily alongwith their Muslim neighbours.
“No one harmed us. Government has set up a police post here, but we are not secure because of them; we feel secure in presence of our Muslim brothers,” Ashok’s father Sanat Ram said.