“This time, I will not leave Papa”, Knocking on heaven’s door: Tale of Zohra, daughter of a slain JK policeman

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“This time, I will not leave Papa,” says eight-year-old Zohra, whose poignant image of tears rolling down her cheeks during her father’s funeral last year had taken social media by storm. A year on, her family has managed to convince her that her father will return one day.

Abdul Rasheed Shah, an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) of Jammu and Kashmir police, was shot dead by terrorsits in Anantnag district of south Kashmir on August 28 last year. He was unarmed and had received bullet injury in his abdomen and later succumbed to injuries.

“She would keep asking where her father has gone. She was inconsolable. We eventually had to convince her that he’s gone for Hajj (religious pilgrimage) and will return soon. It has taken a lot of hard work for me and my mother, Naseema, to get Zohra to smile again,” Shah’s elder daughter Bilkees told PTI.

Zora appears to be convinced with her elder sister’s comforting words but said,”This time, I will not leave Papa.”

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Zohra, whose name means radiant white colour, plays with a toy plane as Bilkees shows pictures of the family during happier times. A shy child, her face lights up when someone asks who she loves the most. “Papa,” she says as her elder sister cuddles her.

Zohra was still in her school uniform with her hands covered with henna — which she had applied — when she had to attend her father’s wreath laying ceremony. With the images on social media going viral, many netizens across the globe expressed their sympathies. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said “I can’t bear the tearful face of his daughter, Zohra.”

It has been a difficult year for the family as well as Shah’s second wife, Shagufta as they grapple with the situation and the void left by him. With no relief apparently coming in from the police department, things have only become tougher.

Senior police officials, when contacted by PTI, said the department was ready but both the wives — Naseema and Shagufta — have to work out an arrangement.

Hailing from Qazigund area in South Kashmir, Shah left his first wife and married Shahgufta. However, his claims before a court that he had divorced Naseema, could not be proved and it was ordered that an interim payment of Rs 10,000 per month to Naseema should be provided.

After Shah’s death, that money has also stopped coming and “we are being looked after by our maternal uncles”, said Bilkees.

When contacted, Shagufta also conveyed that she had to run from pillar to post to make both ends meet. “It is pretty difficult to manage the household with a four-year old child,” Shahgufta said in Kashmiri.

The legal battle may take some time before a decision on Shah’s compensation could be arrived at and police officials were trying to negotiate with both the families to reach an agreement at the earliest, said a senior official.

Zohra, who stays in downtown Srinagar with her mother and sister, wants to be a doctor when she grows up. Her education is being sponsored by cricketer Gautam Gambhir.

“We do get a call from (Gautam) Gambhir sir at times. He asks about Zohra and ensures that her fee at the school is paid for,” Bilkees said.

After seeing Zohra’s photograph, Gambhir had tweeted: “Zohra, I can’t put u 2 sleep wid a lullaby but I’ll help u 2 wake up 2 live ur dreams. Will support ur education 4 lifetime #daughterofIndia”.

Asked about her favourite song, Zohra smiles and mentions a classic hit from 1967 film Taqdeer – “papa jaldi aa jana” (please come soon daddy).

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