Srinagar: He was ‘Gavaskar’ to his father and family, and ‘Martin Guptil’ to his friends. On Tuesday, before he was to leave for studies at a college in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, the budding Kashmir cricketer asked his friends to click as many of his photos as possible. Little did he know that pictures of his blood-soaked body were soon to splash across front pages of local newspapers.
The 19-year-old Nayeem Bhat was killed in a firing by army in this volatile north Kashmir town as protestors clashed with police over an alleged molestation bid by an army man.
Fondly called ‘Nanha’ (small) Bhat, the youngest among seven siblings had secured his admission in a physiotherapy college in Dehradun and was about to leave for Uttarakhand’s capital city in coming days.
On Tuesday morning, he went for a hike with his friends to a nearby hill forest, his brother Zahoor, a journalist, said.
“Nanha had been to a nearby jungle to get his photo-shoot done. He asked his friends to click only his photographs with his DSLR,” said Zahoor, struggling to speak as he consoled his sobbing mother and sisters.
He was the “most-loved and a pampered boy” in the family, the Zahoor said. “He was just a kid who dreamt of being an international cricketer.”
Zahoor said his friends called him Martin Guptill, after the cricketer from New Zealand, but their father, Ghulam Qadir called him “the Gavaskar of Kashmir” for his calm cricketing demeanour.
Nayeem had passed his Class 12 exams in December with 80 percent marks last year. “He was leaving for Dehradun on April 16. He wanted his pictures because he said he would miss homeland.”
Zahoor said as his brother returned from the hike, he was asked by the mother to buy vegetables from the market. He bought them and that’s when the protests erupted.
“He was not even involved in the protests. He was carrying grocery and vegetables. He was shot with vegetables and grocery bag still grasped in his hand.”
Zahoor said Nayeem had received several awards and had participated in Kashmir’s Cricket League (KCL) — a local version of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
“He was so happy to have batted once alongside Indian cricketers Suresh Raina and Parvaiz Rasool.”
The family is distraught now. His father is barely able to speak. The mother and sisters are speechless, hallucinating after seeing him dead.
“He was our hope. We have lost everything,” Zahoor said.
Nayeem was among three people killed in firing by army here on Tuesday. One more protestor was killed in a nearby Drugmulla village as Kashmir witnessed a tense day amid a shutdown call by separatist groups and a curfew clampdown by the government.