Heff (Shopian): During the past 23 years, Heff village of south Kashmir’s Shopian district has buried the corpses of 11 rebels, killed by the government forces during a series of encounters. The latest in the list were Wasim Shah and Irfan Ganie who died fighting the forces recently. Two militants belonging to the village- Sadam Padder and 40-year-old Bilal Molvi–who took to the arms in 2016, after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani are still keeping the villages’ rebel tag intact.
The village, 17 kilometers from district headquarters falls in Wachi constituency, which was once represented in the assembly by Mehbooba Mufti. The village is covered by expansive apple orchards and walnut trees, sometimes offering enough space to rebels to camouflage.
A dominant view in the village of 500 households is that they strive for the freedom of Kashmir. They boast of having boycotted 2014 assembly elections. “You can check the records that the villagers of Heff did not vote for the politicians who were selling our blood for their comforts,” he said.
Several days have passed since Ganai and Shah were killed but large number of people is still arriving at their residences to offer condolences. The vow to remain determined to the ‘cause of freedom’.
The village is predominantly inhabited by farmers and orchardists. There are around 20 policemen, several teachers and two gazeted officers. The villagers look at the outsiders with suspicion, even media persons are not spared of the scanner. “Why should I talk to you? I don’t know whether you are an informer of army or police,” a local said when this reporter tried to talk to him. It is hard to get details from the people who feel insecure to talk to the outsiders.
The villagers allege that the family of Sadam Padder was recently assaulted during a cordon and search operation. “They (forces) assaulted 50 young girls, injured 20 with pellets in village,” Zubair Ahmad Mir, a local said.
“Our village is cut off from the rest of the world. There is no development because we don’t go to the politicians with a begging bowl,” Ghulam Muhammad, another local said.
Locals said that recently an army camp was set-up by the government in a nearby village. “Establishing army garrison at Chilipora village was only setup to suppress us and get hold of militants who were active in the area,” a local said.
Villagers told Kashmir Reader that since past one decade forces did not succeed in the village in doing any encounter but they used thousands of troopers to lay cordon and assault people.
Villagers said that all slain militants belonged to well-off families.