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A Final Farewell To Tanzil Ahmed, The Officer A Nation Forgot To Mourn

05/04/2016 3:52 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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Ieshan Wani

It ended where it started for him. The sun is setting, its rays reflect on the coffin. Nothing has changed, except that he is dead and is surrounded by his classmates, friends and family, who have come to bid the final adieu.

The plank of the coffin, in which his body arrives, is lifted. People have gathered in large numbers, grieving the sudden death of an officer.

India's premier National Investigation Agency (NIA), which was formed to combat terror, has lost Deputy Superintendent Mohammad Tanzil Ahmed. He was shot dead at midnight when he was returning from a wedding with his wife and two children in Uttar Pradesh's Bijnor-- his home town.

Top officers from the NIA, police and Border Security Forces are paying their homage. Yet, no sign of any minister.

Dressed in white shalwar-kurtas, men of all age groups throng the Jamia Millia University premises in New Delhi. On the coffin lies the tricolour, reminding everyone that he is a martyr.

The family members are anguished, and anger crackles in the air. "Not a single official from the central ministry has come here. They don't want to recognize him as a martyr," says a relative of Tanzil, addressing a group of youth.

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Image by: Ieshan Wani

Top officers from the NIA, police and the Border Security Forces-- which he was initially recruited to before being deputed to the NIA--are paying their homage. Yet, no sign of any minister.

The sun sets and lights are turned on. The BSF vehicle in which the body arrived is decorated with flowers. People are taking photographs of his body which is covered with a shroud; only his face is visible.

Tanzil was part of a team which was probing the Pathankot Air Force Station attack and had handled several high-profile cases in the past. "He was a real life Singham," says a neighbour to his friend at a corner of the hostel building.

Tanzil was part of a team which was probing the Pathankot Air Force Station attack..."He was a real life Singham," says a neighbour.

Flowers are being showered; he is a hero for many tonight. His body lies adjacent to the place where he took his first step towards joining the security agencies. "He joined the NCC (National Cadet Corps) here and was my close friend. I used to live in the hostel here and he was my mate there too," says a man, who has come wearing formal garments.

Tanzil's alma mater is this university, which now Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi--in the aftermath of the Batla House encounter of 2008--referred to as a place that was "run on government money" and was "daring to spend money on lawyers to get terrorists out of jail." To this, he added, "Go drown yourself."

Today, a soldier, whose foundation was laid Jamia Millia Islamia, lies dead in its premises, his short life dedicated to fighting the terrorists his university was accused of supporting. The media have gathered with their cameras and lights rolled out.

A siren sounds in the distance, become louder as it nears. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's car enters the premises. He soon steps out and, closely shadowed by the media, he approaches Tanzil's body. He prays for the departed soul and announces ₹1 crore as compensation for the family. There's tension in the air. Some members of the family say the compensation isn't enough to cover the family's expenses and the children's education. The CM walks away, the police making way for him, as some men raise slogans against the compensation.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal prays for the departed soul and announces ₹1 crore as compensation for the family. There's tension in the air.

Suddenly, an angry man shouts, "ALLAHU AKBAR" meaning "God is great". He then tells a news channel that Tanzil's wife Farzana (who suffered four bullet wounds and is hospitalized in critical condition) and children will need to be given more than the government is willing to offer. People in groups are conversing about the man, some wondering who he is. "Riyaz was the warden of the hostel when Tanzil was here," says a former roommate.

The atmosphere is reverberating with Islamic verses and suddenly someone calls people to make rows, to offer Jinaza.

His non-Muslim friends and colleagues stand heads down, as the namaz is being offered. All of them have NIA identification cards around their necks. There is silence as the imam (priest) prays.

The lull breaks as a tall man starts to talk to the media, angrily. "He was doing the investigation of Samjhauta Express blast, Pathankot attack, Bijnor bomb blast, why wasn't security given to such an officer?" He questions why such an officer wasn't declared a martyr. This sentiment ripples across the gathering and people shout, "Kendra Sarkar Murdabad"--down with the central government.

The coffin is closed in the meantime and is ready for the final journey. The tricolor is draped over it and the march-past band of the Border Security forces leads the way. The graveyard isn't far; it's behind the hostel where he loved to stay. He would have never thought that he'd be buried here one day.

A soldier, whose foundation was laid Jamia Millia Islamia, lies dead in its premises, his short life dedicated to fighting the terrorists his university was accused of supporting.

Wreaths are laid on the brown coffin before it is hoisted on to the shoulders of pallbearers, who are already sweating due to the heat.

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Image by: Ieshan Wani

The gravedigger has done his job and the gaping earth awaits the interment. It's not just time yet. The officers gathered at the site offer their homage to the officer. Guns are raised and fired, thrice on the command of an officer. Now it is time. As the coffin is lowered into the ground, so are the heads of those present.

An officer hands over the tricolour to Tanzil's brother and says something which most of the people don't hear. His teen son is standing in front, as the body is laid to rest. Everyone starts to put soil to fill the grave.

Prayers again and people begin to leave, uttering their final condolences.

Dust fills the air as everyone leaves the graveyard. Tanzil is alone now, in the soil from where his passion emerged.

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