“The family members had alleged that army men in the dead of night put the sheaves of hay grass around their house and then set it on fire while they were asleep.”
Shopian: 2018 was marked by vandalism and abductions, with both government forces and militants exacting revenge on each other. While the forces raided militants’ homes, the latter abducted many policemen and their kin.
Soldiers from a nearby camp on May 31 were accused of attempting to burn down the house of a militant Adil Ahmad Dar in Gudibagh area of Kakapora, Pulwama. The family members had alleged that army men in the dead of night put the sheaves of hay grass around their house and then set it on fire while they were asleep. This was followed by plethora of such incidents where government forces were blamed for damaging the homes of militants. The incidents mostly took place in the southern Kashmir’s powder keg districts of Pulwama and Shopian.
On August 30, family members of Jaish district commander for Shopian Shah Jahan and Hizbul Mujahadin commander Syed Naveed accused forces of setting their house on fire. They alleged that forces discreetly entered their native villages of Amshipora and Nazneenpora respectively during the night and set ablaze their properties. Similarly, residential houses of Hizbul Mujahidin operational commander Riyaz Naikoo and his associate Lateef Ahmad Dar in their respective Begpora and Dogripora villages of district Pulwama were also allegedly ransacked by government forces. All such incidents evoked strong distaste from the militant outfits. On July 14, LeT chief Mehmood Shah in a statement asked government forces not to drag families of the militants into the ongoing fight between militants and forces.
Similarly, militants in various parts of south Kashmir forced their entry into the houses of policemen and ransacked the household goods.
In 2018, an unprecedented trend of abductions and killings of government forces vacationing at home prevailed in the Valley.
Although it started in 2017 when militants kidnapped and killed young army officer Lt Umar Fayyaz in Shopian, the trend gained momentum in 2018. At least eight policemen including an army and CRPF personnel were shot dead after being kidnapped by militants in Shopian, Pulwama and Kulgam districts since January 2018.
On August 30 and 31, militants went on abduction spree and kidnapped as many as 12 family members and relatives of police men working with state police, causing much consternation among the security agencies.
The move came close on the heels of arrests of relatives of militants’ including the father of Naikoo. The abductions took place all the four districts– Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag districts– of southern Kashmir.
As police released the kin of militants, the later also set free the abducted family members of the former. While the abductions were first seen as an unqualified ” tit- for- tit”, they later, according to the police, turned out to be the part of militant strategy.
” Barely three weeks later, they ( militants) abducted three policemen from the restive Shopian district and shot them dead,” said a middle- ranking police official who did not wish to be named. He said the militants wanted the lower ranking police official to quit their jobs. “ So they began abducting and killing them. This was a change in militant strategy and thinking,” he added.