Bandipora, Sep 24-2009: For thousands of residents of Banyari village of this district, Wednesday’s encounter was no less than a doomsday.
“It was a doomsday for us. Troopers were showering mortar bombs and we were watching helplessly,” said elderly Hajra Begum.
During the encounter, the three-storeyed residential house of Rehat Mir was completely destroyed. Besides, claim locals, in about 60 houses cracks have developed due to heavy shelling.
Mir has lost property worth Rs 20 lakh, including a three-storeyed house, cash 3 lakh, four sheep, two cows and other valuables in the house during the 26-hour gunfight.
“We were not aware of the encounter. Before entering the house, troopers were distributing sweets among the locals,” said Hajra Begum, adding “immediately after entering the house, we heard gunshots. We were terrified and tried to escape from the spot but were not allowed by the troopers”.
The family members of Rehat Mir alleged that they were kept hostage by the troopers when militants were forced to take refuge in their house.
“We were playing with our sisters who were invited by our father on the occasion of Eid. At 2 pm on Tuesday, two people entered our house and took shelter in my room and were trembling,” said one of the family members.
“They presented themselves as laborers of Uttar Pradesh. When I came closer to them I found them hiding two guns. I was terrified and tried to convey it to my parents,” he said.
“As soon as I reached the kitchen of our house, troopers forcibly entered our house and started searching without informing us, but they (militants) remained hidden and troopers came back empty-handed,” he said. “While informing their commander about the escape of militants, troopers told us to prepare Lipton tea for them before their commander arrived at the scene as he would not allow them to take tea,” he added.
“A Major tried to go upstairs in haste and was killed by militants along with the other trooper,” said another family member.
“Troopers kept our whole family hostage for about an hour till two troopers were killed. We tried to escape but troopers were not allowing us,” she said.
“We lost property worth lakhs and our family head is still missing and our elder brother is in police custody.”
LOCALS ALLEGE FORCE BY TROOPERS
A day after the encounter, the locals in Banyari village alleged that troopers forced them to clear the debris of the house razed in the gunfight.
“We were forced by the troopers to clear the debris under which they were expecting explosives, grenades and UBLs,” said a local, pleading anonymity. “We are helpless and can do nothing except speak before media people discretely.”
Troopers under whose supervision dozens of locals were cleaning the debris admitted that there was huge amount of explosives beneath. “There are mines, grenades, UBGLs and other unused explosives under the debris and locals are cleaning it,” said Mohan Singh, a subedar of CRPF.
Family members of Mir alleged that troopers keeping vigil on the locals engaged in clearance of debris looted materials and valuables recovered.
“Troopers are snatching every valuable item including mobile phones and cash,” said a local, adding, “We recovered a mobile phone and Rs 2500 cash from debris. The mobile phone was snatched by troopers while police took away the cash.”
“We are being threatened of dire consequences if we raise voice,” said a female member of the family.
The affected family has appealed the higher-ups to intervene in the matter. (courtesy:rising Kashmir)