Just like the young Indian Army officer Lt. Ummer Fayyaz who was abducted and shot dead by terrorists in Shopian in South Kashmir, Nabeel Ahmed Wani defied and upset many of his own people when he joined the Border Security Force after topping the recruitment exam last year around the time the Kashmir Valley was on the boil following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
But since Ummer Fayyaz's abduction and killing – his bullet-riddled body found 30 km from his village in Shopian -- Nabeel Ahmed Wani is now worried about what lies in store for him and his family and all those from the state who have joined the forces.
''I’m not scared for myself. But I am scared for my mother who lives alone in my village (Latti, some 100 km from Udhampur). I’m scared for all Kashmiris who have joined the forces. I have no expectations from the government of J&K as they have done nothing for their own people in the past so many years. But I want the Centre to take up some strong measures to ensure the safety of Kashmiris serving in the Indian Army or the central paramilitary forces. Otherwise, no one will join the forces in future,” says the 26-year-old officer, now an assistant commandant Border Security Force (BSF).
“The stone pelters are in a better position than us. There is no one to target them or their families,'' he adds.
Speaking exclusively to New Indian Express on the telephone from the BSF Training Academy in Tekanpur near Gwalior, Nabeel Wani said that he has asked for an appointment with the BSF’s director-general in the next couple of days to share his concerns.
“Like Lt Fayyaz, I too will be visiting my village in July for the wedding of my cousin. Latti too is terrorist-affected. I am now worried, not for myself, but for my family and all those Kashmiris who are serving in the Army or paramilitary forces. We Kashmiris join the forces despite a lot of opposition, which takes a lot of courage. Now, with this trend of killing Kashmiris serving as soldiers, a sword hangs on us and we can no more move freely. This is a very disturbing trend,'' Nabil Wani said.
The young officer said the circumstances leading to the slaying of Fayyaz are distrubing.
"I’m 200 per cent sure that it could be one of Lt Fayyaz's relatives who passed on information to the terrorists. The same thing can happen to me or my family. I am sorry to say it but if the Centre does not take any concrete steps to ensure our security, we may not be able to serve without have to worry about the security of our families,” Wani said.
Asked what can be done to improve security for families of Kashmiri service personnel, Wani said that centre can have defence enclaves where the families can stay. It can also allow them to carry personal weapons when travelling.
''When I topped the exam and joined the BSF last year, senior officials offered to provide security for my family. But I refused then. Now, I don't think I can refuse it any more. It is shameful that the movements of an Army lieutenant on leave (Faiyyaz) were tracked. He was abducted from a wedding and killed,” said Wani.
The officer warned that if the Centre does not act now, Kashmiris will hesitate to join the forces. “We join the forces for the love of the nation,” he said.
Wani, whose sister Nida Rafiq is a civil engineering student in Chandigarh and aspires to join the combat units of the Indian Army (if she does join the Army, she will be the first woman from J&K to join the Army), says that mere condemnation by political leaders is not enough.
'I want my sister to join the Army without any fear of her family being attacked. So should be the case with all those Kashmiris who aspire to join the forces and serve our nation.''
“After Sukma (where 25 CRPF jawans were recently killed by the Maoists) and after Fayyaz's murder, I watched politicians condemning it. But we don't want that. We want concrete measures on the ground. There is no risk for soldiers from other parts of the country. But here, the situation has become worse, post Fayyaz's killing. I can see what is in store for Kashmiris like myself. I was so disturbed after Fayyaz's murder that I was unable to concentrate on my training and immediately spoke to my mother and sister,” Wani said.
The young cadet said that after Fayyaz's murder, there is every possibility of people boycotting his family back home.
“Anything can happen now. I don't want to be a cry baby but I feel that if this continues then it is better to be a stone pelter. No one targets their families. After I joined the BSF, there were thousands of Kashmiris who sent me messages and said that they want to follow in my footsteps. I don't know what will happen to them now.''
Wani will complete his training in June and will return home and then leave for Meghalaya where he is posted.