August 14, 15: When Army ran amok in Soibugh to 'terrorize' villagers

August 14, 15: When Army ran amok in Soibugh to 'terrorize' villagers

Bilal Ahmad Malik had just reached his uncle’s home when dozens of army men hurled rocks at the windows before forcing their entry inside the two-storey house.

A young mini-bus driver with a fractured arm, broken jaw and bruised limbs is one among dozens of people ruthlessly beaten by army to “terrorize” the villagers during two raids in central Kashmir’s Soibugh in Budgam district on August 14 and 15.

Bilal Ahmad Malik had just reached his uncle’s home when dozens of army men hurled rocks at the windows before forcing their entry inside the two-storey house.

“They pounced on me, beating my legs with baseball bats for around 10 minutes. During this time they were only asking ‘do you need Burhan?” recounts Malik. “Later, two men caught hold of my legs and two others my arms and tossed me down from the second storey into the alley of the house.”

Another group waiting downstairs dragged Malik for over 50 metres in the courtyard where they hurled abuses and attacked with lathis on everyone, including the women, who tried to save him.

“They were beating and dragging him like animal. I tried to save him but those beasts hit me on my foot,” said his aunt Habli while pointing towards the wound. “One of my daughters was hit so bad on her ear that I thought she lost her eardrum.”

Malik has had two surgeries on his arm at the SKIMS Bemina where he was admitted for four days, but getting back behind the wheel “seems like hoping against hope”.

“I don’t think I will be ever able to move or raise my arm and drive again. I have given up hope,” he says.

Similar stories of beatings, pillage and harassment were repeated by people in Bagat Mohalla of the village.

62-year-old Abdul Rehman Hajam says that he is not able to sleep since August 14 when army men flexed muscles on him while he was trying to save his son.

“Look at the bruises on my legs and back. They don’t let me sleep during the night,” says Rehman as he asks to photograph them.

He said that the army men were carrying sticks, iron rods and axes as they made their way into their house after smashing windowpanes.

“Dozens of army men let hell loose on my son by beating him with sticks and then dragged him out. His 13-year-old daughter was also beaten as she tried to save him,” says Rehman.

“They wanted to terrorize the people for shutting their businesses and taking part in pro-freedom marches.”

After running amok for around 45 minutes, the army men made their way into the house of Rehman’s brother through their kitchen windows.

“They broke the boxes, stole goods, smashed windowpanes before pouncing like animals on my car,” says Bashir Ahmad Hajam while he shows us around his property.

“We thought it is the end of our lives as we hid ourselves in one corner of the house,” says his elderly mother.

A few blocks away from Bilal’s, the family of Ashiq Ahmad Alayee is dumbfounded since August 14 when army men in an “inebriated state” made their way into the house after coming down from the main gate.

“They started with breaking windowpanes and damaging my load carrier and car parked inside. Then they barged into our kitchen where we were having tea,” recounts Ashiq Ahmad Alayee.

Alayee, 23, says that he refused after army men ordered him out. “They asked me to come out and shout pro-Azadi slogans because they wanted to pick up some boys. When I refused, they beat me up with guns and sticks until they broke my arm.”

“More than myself, I fear for the safety of my mother and sisters,” he says.

In the adjoining house of Mohammad Ismail Wani, the story of pillage is depicted by the broken Washing Machine, a dented motorcycle and stolen taps.

The septuagenarian Wani says that he has lost eyesight in his left eye due to teargas shell that was fired into their house.

At the main chowk, shopkeepers narrate the stories of pillage by army men on the afternoon of August 14.

“The army men were seen looting my ready-made garments shop by people from the health centre overlooking the chain of shops at the main chowk,” says Saif-u-din Mir. “I was told that they broke open the locks and dumped the stolen goods on their truck.”

A nearby cellphone shop has also been looted, he said. “I have suffered losses to the tune of Rs 12 lakh. Overall loss to the shops here is more than 60 lakhs,” says Mir.

Earlier, angry youths had hoisted the national flag of Pakistan less than 200 metres from the 2 RR camp, triggering clashes.

Three youths were injured when army men opened fire to disperse the protesters.

Following the army raids, the residents demanded the shifting of army camp. However, on August 16, the village elders were called to the Daharmuna camp for “truce”.

“They (army) apologized for the raids and assured that such incidents will not be tolerated or repeated,” said an elder who was part of the meeting. “This came with a rider: no mass movement of protesters will be allowed on the road passing through the camp. They can cross in groups of three and protest anywhere, but not within 300 metres of the camp.”