‘The families of three civilians killed in Gagran recount their tragedies’
‘Ground Report By Majid Maqbool’
‘They killed him in cold blood’
Tariq Ahmad Mir, 24, a resident of Wakie village in Kulgam, left home at 10am on the morning of September 7. He told his father that he is going to Shopian to bring walnuts from a buyer. When he did not return in the evening, his father called his number. His mobile phone was picked up by a stranger from Gagran village in Shopian.
The family was extremely worried as they had heard about the encounter in Gagran earlier in the day. “Then one of my cousins called and said his brother who is in the police wants me to come to the Shopian police station,” says Ghulam Nabi Mir, father of Tariq at his home in Wakie. “I went to the police station and brought back the dead body of my son,” he says and then he breaks down…On that day, before Tariq left home, his father had told him not to go for work that day but he got a call to get the walnut consignment he had ordered from Shopian. “They snatched him from us,” Mir says as he breaks down. “Now there’s no one for us except Allah.”
Downstairs, Tariq’s mother and young wife are inconsolable since that day. Their wails pierce the occasional silence in the house. Married last year in May, Tariq has left behind his one and a half month old baby girl. After his marriage, he had started to work hard to consolidate his business.
This is not the only tragedy the family has suffered. Earlier, Tariq’s 24-year-old brother Ajaz, a militant, was killed in an encounter in Hanjipora.
No government official has visited the aggrieved family till now, except for some policemen from Kulgam who came for questioning some days ago. Tariq’s belongings, including his mobile phone, are in their possession.
“Ask our neighbors and they will tell you that my brother would never miss a single congressional prayer,” says his elder brother Gulzar Ahmad Mir, a daily wage employee in electric department. “The CRPF killed him in cold blood. They had fired bullets in his chest,” he says.
‘They have not even registered an FIR’
At the home of 19-year-old Touseef Ahmad Bhat in Baba Mohallah, Shopian, his father Gul Muhammad Bhat says they are tired of endlessly talking about the innocence of his son. Touseef was shot dead by the CRPF troops besides three other persons outside Gagran camp of paramilitary forces on September 7.
“Even after 11 days nothing has happened, they have not even registered an FIR against the CRPF troops involved in the killing,” says Bhat. “Those who were there walking on the street near the camp that day said my son was stopped by them, brought down from his bike and then shot at from behind.”
Bhat was called by the authorities to give his statement. “Even the local SHO there had told CRPF that day that they killed innocent boys,” he says.
The police saw it themselves, Bhat says, and they picked him up after he was shot at. “They know it all. They are the first witnesses,” he says. What more witnesses will we bring now, he asks, and who will come forward in this situation when people are locked up in curfew here?”
After appearing in his high school exam, Touseef was given a shop by his parents in the Shopian town market. “He used to first run a shop outside his home,” informs his father. “Some months back we got another shop in the main market for him. He had only recently brought new material for the shop,” his father says.
“Had he been a militant, how could he own a shop in the market here?” he asks. “How could he roam around freely in the market?”
In 2010, when Touseef was 15, he was detained under Public Safety Act in Kathua jail in Jammu for four months on stone pelting charges. But he was released later and all his charges were quashed.
Bhat says the CRPF troops killed his son in broad daylight on September 7. “It is only a father and mother who knows what it means to bury their young child,” he says. “Now we have to somehow live with this pain and survive on medicine.”
“All these ministers and rulers protect their children but they don’t care about the children of people like us,” says Bhat. “They only want to hold on to their chairs.”
‘We will get justice only in the hereafter.’
Muhammad Yousuf Sofi, 24, a resident of Durpora, Zainapora Shopian left his home for work at 9.30am on the same fateful day. He told his father that he is going to Shopian to bring paper material and other stuff required for packing apple card boxes. He was returning from Shopian that day when he was stopped near the Gagran camp by CRPF troops and shot at.
“In the evening we were informed by the police to bring his dead body from the Shopian police station,” says his father, Muhammad Shaban Sofi.“He was shot in his chest and he had died on the spot.”
Married only for two months, Yousuf has left behind a young widow who is now inconsolable. He had settled in his business and would take care of everything at home. Known in his village for being a kind hearted and helpful young man, Yousuf would never turn his back when it came to helping people. Doctors knew him as a noble man who would drive patients to hospitals and even bear their expenses.
“Can they return us our son now?” asks Sofi who earlier lost a son who was killed on the border in the 90s. “We did not even get his dead body,” he says.
“This home needed a son more than anything else,” Sofi says, adding that they don’t expect any justice from the present government. “Can they bring back peace of mind of my son’s young wife? He asks. “She hasn’t slept since that day.”
“Fist they said that they killed three militants and one civilian and the next day they said that the Behari civilian killed was a Lashkar militant,” says Gulam Nabi Naikoo, father in law of Muhammad Yousuf Sofi. “They are killing us because we don’t have any weapons,” he says with anger in his voice.
Sofi had bitter words to offer for the politicians who often visit the family of bereaved families. He didn’t even spare Peoples Democratic Party President who visited the family after 11 days of his son’s death.
“You (politicians) are all the same for us. Can you give us justice?” he asked her. “All politicians and their kith and kin are protected by these forces,” Sofi shot back at Mehbooba who had some words of console for the family.
“What can we do,” Sofi asks. “People walking on the roads are killed and labeled as militants.” “We are the mazloom and helpless people,” he says with moist eyes. “We will get justice only in the hereafter.”
‘Remove Gagran camp’
The residents of Shopian, reeling under over a week of consecutive curfews, say that they want the complete removal of the CRPF camp in Gagran. They don’t want any camp there, whether that of armed police or CRPF. The residents of Shopian say they will protest till the Gagran camp is removed. “We don’t want any armed police camp there either as our daughters have to go to the college near the Gagran camp,” the residents said.
On the way to Shopian town, in Mememdar, people showed broken windows of houses and mosques damaged by the CRPF troops. The residents have saved images of the damage caused to their houses in their mobile phones. They said bullets were also fired at their houses.
“The CRPF troops even steal apples from our orchids when the curfew is in place,” the residents alleged, adding that the troops don’t even allow the movement of ambulances in the curfew. “They broke the windows of our homes and fired bullets at our houses.”
“We are short of essential food items here,” said some of the residents of New Colony in Shopian. “We are facing many problems here as we are caught between the Gagran camp and the main town.”
A resident of New Colony said after many days of curfew he managed to reach his apple orchid. “When I reached there, I found six trees that were damaged by the troops and the apples were stolen,” he said.
The residents of the town said there’s shortage of essential commodities and they are not allowed to go out to bring household goods. “They enforce strict curfews in the morning but then they don’t announce any relaxation in the curfew in the evening, and the next day strict curfew is again imposed,” said a resident of New Colony in Shopian.
Amidst all the gloom and restrictions imposed by the authorities, some people from adjoining villages of Shopian get together to bring relief to the affected areas reeling under strict curfews. People from nearby villages are quietly sending in essential commodities and vegetables for the besieged people facing the maximum brunt in Shopian. “People from adjoining villages collect and send relief material on their own and then they distribute it among the affected families,” said a group of residents of New Colony, Shopian. “Then the elders in villages guide them to distribute it among the affected and deserving families who need this aid.”
Courtesy: Greater Kashmir