YouTuber, Sole Earner: Who Was Kashmiri TV Star Ambreen Bhat?

Days after her murder, Kashmir's Ambreen Bhat's Instagram account has been removed. The family is clueless about why someone would kill her.

Kashmir: It has been five days since Ambreen Bhat, a local TV artist and performer was killed. Neighbours, relatives, friends and acquaintances continue to pour in the Bhat family's two-storey home in Hurshoo area of Chadora in central Kashmir to offer their condolences. The Jammu and Kashmir police said two Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists, suspected to be involved in the killing, have been shot dead in a late-night encounter in the town of Awantipora. But the family still can't fathom why someone would want to kill their 32-year-old beloved daughter, let alone terrorists.

"There was no threat to her life. No one had ever even objected to her work," Ambreen's father Khaizar Ahmed Bhat told BOOM. Ambreen, he said, started working as an actor and performer in 2007. "There were many militants in this locality then but they never objected or asked her to stop," he said.

What Happened On The Fateful Night?

On 25 May, around 8 pm, two young men entered the Bhat family's home. They greeted Ambreen's elder sister Razia Bano, who was at the time milking their cow in the yard, and asked if Ambreen was home. Without thinking twice, Razia instructed her 10-year-old son Farhan to call his aunt, who was in her room at the time. The two men followed the child. Ambreen came out. The men stood at the gate and after a brief conversation with Ambreen, one of them shot at her with a pistol.

Ambreen ran back into the house even after the bullet hit her neck, Razia said. But one of the armed assailants followed her and shot her again, leaving her in a pool of blood.

"They told her that they needed a singer for a wedding in Budgam. She refused and told them that she doesn't perform at weddings. When she stepped out a little further onto the porch of the house to ask them where they were from, the younger of the two men fired at her with a pistol," Razia said.

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Razia said she raised a cry for help when the attackers fired at her sister but her father who was inside the house didn't hear anything until the gunmen ran away. "My father came out and asked me why I'm crying for help. He thought there was a short circuit in the house," Razia narrated, describing the fateful night.

"I told him Ambreen has been shot."

Ambreen was critically injured and died on the way to the hospital. Farhan received a bullet in his arm; he was later discharged from hospital on Thursday.

Ambreen Was The Sole Breadwinner Of The Family

In 2007, Ambreen expressed her desire to quit school and pursue acting. But her father was hesitant to let her take that career path. "I told her it's not a respectable thing to do," Bhat said. But Ambreen's mother stepped in and supported her. "She was a strong woman, who took care of the house," Bhat fondly recalled about his wife.

A year later, when her mother passed away, Ambreen took over the breadwinner's role. As the only earning member of the family, she started to support her family. "She would take care of everyone's needs, even of my children," said Razia, who lives with her husband and two children in the same house. Razia's husband works as daily labourer.

Besides being a regular face on local drama shows, Ambreen had quite a bit of a following on social media platforms. On Instagram, she had over 25,000 followers. The YouTube channel that she had started just last year had over 14,000 subscribers. She would post videos of drama skits and her songs in Kashmiri on the channel. The family said she would also perform at government functions in Kashmir.

"She had performed at Independence day events, Republic day events and other events hosted by the government. She went to perform in Delhi, Dehradun, Patiala and other places in India," Ambreen's father said.

Her family members said there was no opposition to her work. "If anyone would have told us that they oppose her work, we would have asked her to stop," her father said.

In recent years, militants have warned Kashmiris against participating in government events including Republic Day and Independence Day celebrations.

A woman appearing on TV shows or being a social media influencer, or dancing in public is not looked upon with much esteem, in Kashmir. It is looked at with suspicion if they are performing at government events.

Just days after her death, Ambreen's Instagram account disappeared. The family said they have no knowledge about it since her phone was taken away by the police.

BOOM reached out to the Senior Superindentent Of Police, Budgam for a comment, but he refused to comment saying he is 'busy'.

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As the harsh winters would set in Kashmir, Ambreen would travel with her father, who suffers from a chronic chest ailment to Jammu for six months. "She dealt with all my medicines and my health check," Bhat said. According to the family, she earned ₹ 50,000-60,000 per month for doing shows and performing at events.

Raziya Bano, her husband, and their son show the trophies Ambreen had received. Photo: Adnan Bhat
Raziya Bano, her husband, and their son show the trophies Ambreen had received. Photo: Adnan Bhat

The 32-year-old, the family says, was very passionate about her work. "She didn't care much about food or other things. She just wanted to be better at her work," he sister said.

In 2012, she married a man she met at one of the events she performed at. He was from North Kashmir's Baramulla district. The man had told her that he is a software engineer. She found out that he had lied after they got married a few months later. She left her husband's home three months later.

"Even in those three months there were many fights," her father said. "We had spent over Rs 8 lakh on her wedding. When she came back home she told me not to worry about it as she will work and earn that money for us," her father said.

Recently, when a matchmaker came to Bhat's house with a marriage proposal for Ambreen, she told him that she would only marry the man if he allows her to continue her work, her father said.

From Mehbooba Mufti to Omar Abdullah, all the politicians who have visited Ambnreen's family over the last few days to offer condolences have criticised the union government for the deteriorating security situation in the Valley. Ambreen was the second civilian to be targeted by gunmen this month. Earlier, Rahul Bhat, an employee at the revenue department, was killed in a similar fashion.

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For Ambreen's family, her death has left a gaping hole in their lives that may never be filled again. "By killing her they have devastated our entire family," Razia said.

Updated On: 2022-05-30T15:13:55+05:30
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