Kashmir: Impunity From Silence?
Between the Army and the Militants
SRINAGAR: The Army soldiers on Friday night allegedly vandalised dozens of homes, beat up residents, including women, and damaged property worth millions in a village of south Kashmir, the epicentre of the ‘new age insurgency’ in the Valley.
According to reports, the Army soldiers laid a siege around Bhan village of south Kashmir’s Kulgam district at around 8 pm. Terse announcements were made from the loudspeaker of a local mosque, demanding the villagers hand over some youth who were reportedly involved in a stone-pelting incident in the area earlier in the day.
“The whole village fell into silence as the announcements rented in the air. When it failed to evoke any response, the Army soldiers went on a rampage. They barged into homes and beat up inmates including women. Windowpanes of almost every household were broken and even kitchen appliances were not spared,” Habibullah Dar, a resident of Bhan said over phone.
Panic spread in the village as residents began hearing screams of their neighbours. Locals alleged the Army even looted some shops, “More than four dozen private cars, tractors and load carriers were damaged by the Army soldiers,” Dar said, adding the assault continued till midnight when the Army finally retreated.
Before the siege was lifted, police sources said three youth identified as Faisal Bashir, Fasil Nazir, Muneeb Ahmad Sheikh, all from Bhan village, were rounded up and detained by the Army.
On Saturday morning, the village was boiling with anger when the local administration swung into action. Locals said the naib-tehsildar, a middle-rung administrative official in the area, visited the village and promised to compensate the losses.
“He made some promises and left. But nothing is going to happen,” Dar said.
This is not the first time that the government forces, in hot chase of militants and stone pelters, especially in south Kashmir areas, resorted to such an wholesale assault which makes no distinction between militants or their sympathisers and civilians.
Many such incidents have been reported in Kashmir in recent past, including in Shopian where the forces faced accusations of chopping down orchards owned by the families of militants or their relatives.
In one recent case from south Kashmir reported earlier this year, forces burnt down stacks of harvested paddy, after locals had helped militants trapped in an encounter in escaping by pelting stones at the security forces engaged in the anti-militancy operation.
“We have been dealing with this since last three years. We are being punished for siding with militants and espousing their cause, but these tactics only strengthen our resolve,” another resident, who didn’t want to be named, said.
Senior J&K Police officers and the Srinagar-based defence spokesperson could not be reached for their comments. An Army spokesman refuted the claims, “We did not indulge in any kind of ransacking or beating of people at all. These are baseless allegations”.
(Cover Photograph representational image)