On September 12, 25-year-old Arshad Ashraf Meer, a sub-inspector with the Jammu and Kashmir police, was killed by militants in Srinagar. Over the days that followed, thousands gathered to pay their respects as his body reached Kalmoona village in Kupwara district.
Here, three of Meer’s childhood friends pay tribute to their fallen companion.
“A friend is a treasure,” is a saying our teacher repeated often. But he never taught us how devastating a tragedy it is when a friend is gone too soon.
With heavy hearts through these testing times, we have somehow managed to assemble to jot down a tribute to our dear friend – Arshad Ashraf Meer, a green-eyed handsome, medium-statured lad whose looks often came up in conversation; a policeman who would inspire the masses when he donned his uniform; a champion who roared in the cricket field.
Arshad was a common Kashmiri boy whose journey started at a local school. He excelled in academics, earned a Masters in Botany and strived hard to become a respectable policeman. But his aspirations did not end there – he was also preparing for the civil services examination.
Full of aspirations, dedicated and studious, Arshad would burn the midnight oil on most days. He would often exhibit his thankfulness for whatever he encountered. Never do we recall a moment where he complained about something or the other. His natural tone and tenor was appealing and he would quickly earn the label of being cool-headed. His colourful, joyous and jovial mood would make even a kaleidoscope shy.
He would sit next to us in classrooms, at the playground and halls. But we are now left bereft of the same warmth. He has left behind a deep void by escaping our circle of friendship that can never be filled.
The reality of his death is too hard and heavy to bear, and hardly any among us have to come to terms with it. We often hear his voice, recall his face and feel his presence – these inescapable reveries feed our minds and broken hearts. Social media and our inboxes are full of stories of his charm and wit. In place of a long future together, we are now simply left with memories – memories that will be with us forever. The mere thought that we are to live out the rest of our lives pushes us further into the abyss.
While we collectively go down memory lane, here are some snippets of a life that will be immensely missed.
Our tryst with cricket came about solely because of his feats and achievements. How can anyone forget his glorious 55 runs during a final match all the way back in Class 9? That knock set sent the whole village into a frenzy and we would rotate his trophy merrily.
Much to his delight, our village would encompass in its lap two streams – Kehmil and Dangerwari – perfect places to swim. While chiding us, much to our chagrin, our parents would often quote his qualities and attributes.
Be it the school, sports or the police uniform, our beloved friend would look the most dapper, dashing and adorable. His penchant and appetite for tours and outings was limitless and he would constantly press for the same. Until he got inducted and got a car, we would often try hard to arrange one – especially when Eid would come about. He would take the lead in arranging our travel plans with finesse.
A fortnight before the fateful Sunday we lost him, we roamed around Dal Lake, had his favourite barbecue and chit-chatted in a happy-go-lucky mood. Little did we know this would go down in our memories as our last bite together.
As one of us recalls:
On September 12, I received numerous calls. Upon realising that our beloved friend had been hit by multiple bullets and was being taken to SKIMS for treatment, I rushed to the hospital, trembling and tortured. I felt numb, and my throat was choked. I somehow forced myself to march towards the emergency ward where he was undergoing an operation.
I cried and wailed, but to no avail. The doctors had already told us to be prepared for any situation as his chances of survival dipped from 50% to 10%. Minutes later, my ears were subjected to the harshest words they have ever been forced to hear. The news of the passing away of my beloved friend shook me to the very core. His bullet-ridden body lay immotile on a bed. This visual dimmed my own will to live. The ambulance took us to the Police Control Room. His parents were there, shocked and tormented. Upon seeing my face, they instantly hugged and embraced me. Consequently, his mother fainted.
A battery of dignitaries were present at the wreath-laying ceremony, as his body lay in a coffin. The end of the ceremony, replete with drums and disciplined forces paying tribute, saw us in the ambulance bound for our native village – Kalmoona. The three-odd hours in the ambulance along with his broken father, narrating incidents interspersed with mournful sighs, seemed far longer.
DGP J&K Sh Dilbag Singh leads Police,Civil,CAPF officers & relatives in paying floral tributes to Martyr SI Arshid Ahmad Mir at a Wreath laying ceremony at Srinagar.Says every life lost is cause of concern for us
& perpetrators of criminal act would be brought to justice soon. pic.twitter.com/ADPcmhvZko
— J&K Police (@JmuKmrPolice) September 12, 2021
As we reached his home, a gathering of an unfathomable extent stood waiting in the dark hours of the night to pay their tribute – a fitting goodbye to a most noble soul. The crowd was so big that though many tried to get a last glimpse of the last rites, they were unable to.
Arshad leaves behind a bereaved family that may never recover, an unfinished house he keenly built for which a house-warming ceremony was on the cards, a broken marriage prospect and a volley of expectations. And then there’s us and many more near and dear ones who are still attempting to navigate the shock.
One friend lamented his misfortune – Arshad was due to pick him up from the airport to attend the marriage ceremony of another friend. The friend then had to arrive a day earlier than expected to attend Arshad’s funeral service.
Arshad had a full life – he loved those around him and he was loved in return. His acts of benevolence and bravery continue to inspire each one of us. May he rest in power for sacrificing his life to protect others.
Our dear brother, as we would plan to retire (from services) on the same day – given that our birth months coincide – you have retired long before your run was due to be completed.
For those reading this, we pray you never have to weather such difficult storms in your life. Cowardly killings are on the rise in Kashmir and our friend was a victim of a cold-blooded murder. This indiscriminate, haphazard and illogical streak of violence finds its culmination in another set of violence, and it is we who keep on losing our loved ones.
The vicious cycle of killings must end so that no one has to read a bereaved memoir again.
Zakir Hussain, Danish Farooq and Zubair Meer are friends of Arshad Mir, the J&K police sub-inspector who was shot dead by militants earlier this month.
Featured image: Pariplab Chakraborty