In Pulwama people continue to lose properties to encounters

In Pulwama people continue to lose properties to encounters

The residential houses of four Hajam families were destroyed during a 17-hour long fire-fight between the militants and the government forces on Tuesday leaving them homeless.

Amid hostile weather conditions, Hajam families are struggling hard to erect a shed from the half burnt-out corrugated tin sheets at their shared courtyard in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

The residential houses of four Hajam families were destroyed during a 17-hour long fire-fight between the militants and the government forces on Tuesday leaving them homeless.

On Monday night, the four families sharing same courtyard woke up to a heavy sound in their neighbourhood, frightening life out of them.

"We all huddled in a small dingy room and sank in the corners," said 62-year-old Mohammad Abdullah Hajam, head of a family. Same held true for other three families of Mohammad Yousuf Hajam, Noor Mohammad Hajam and Abli Hajam.

An hour after midnight, an eerie silence descended the whole area which lasted till seven in the morning.  Feeling insecure at their dwellings, all the four families shifted to another house, standing a few meters across the metalled road of village. Soon gunshots rattled the morning quiet.

"This time the firing started from the rear side of our houses. We all feared for our lives," said Abdullah Hajam.

The gunfight, punctuated by brief pauses continued as the day wore on. In the evening, the battle ended leaving all the four houses and three cowsheds of Hajams devastated.

"We saw our property turning charcoal before our eyes but we could do nothing. We were even able to salvage some important documents. There was devastation all around," said Mohmmad Yousuf Hajam.

Three militants and four army men including a Major were killed in the fire fight while six officers among ten forces’ personnel suffered injuries. 

The Hajam families come from low socio-economic strata. While Mohammad Abdullah is a cook, Abli lives off his small farming land.  Noor Mohammad and Mohammad Yousuf work as barbers. 

"In the gun fight I also lost two cows. The milk was one of the main sources of my income," said Noor Mohammad, adding that every day he would sell 10 to 15 litters of milk.

While the families are busy in constructing a tin shed as a temporary dwelling, five-year old Munaza, granddaughter of Abli is poring over her half burnt notebook and asks her mother to find her books from the detritus.

A revenue official, wishing not to be named, told Greater Kashmir that the affected families would get compensation only if they got police clearance that they had not provided refuge to militants killed during the encounter. 

Since May 2018, this the fifth incident in Pulwama town when locals have lost their properties to the encounters.