A 30-year-old lecturer from Shaar-Shali locality in Khrew area of South Kashmir's Pulwama district was beaten to death by Army in a nocturnal raid while at least 100 people—including elderly and children—received grave injuries in ruthless thrashing by soldiers during the dead of the night, reports and witnesses said on Thursday. Over 90 vehicles including tippers were also damaged by soldiers while windowpanes, doors and electronic gadgets of over 200 houses were smashed during the night-long raid, they said.
The residents of Shaar-Shaali alleged that soldiers of Army's 50 Rashtriya Rifles also 'looted' saffron worth Rs 30 lakh from various houses while mobile phones and cash were also stolen. "It was a doomsday for us. We thought it is the end of our existence," said the village elders who requested not to be named for fear of army reprisals. "It was the Army and they hit everything that came in their way. Even children and elderly were not spared."
The slain youth was identified as Shabir Ahmed Mungoo of Shaar, who is survived by his wife, father and a 15-month-old son, Nouman. For Mungoo family, killing of Shabir is the second tragedy in a span of three years. Two years ago, Shabir's mother was hit by an Army vehicle at Lethpora area on Srinagar-Jammu highway after which she died. With the killing of Shabir, the death toll in the 41-day-long unrest has reached 66 while over 7000 have sustained injuries.
Wali Muhammad Mungoo, the father of slain Shabir, said a team of Army men carrying knives, iron rods and axes reached their Shaar village and "unleashed a reign of terror." "My son had finished his dinner and was sitting in his room. All of a sudden Army men barged into our house and dragged out my son," said Mungoo. "We tried to stop the soldiers, but they kicked us and whisked away Shabir. I could see they were beating him ruthlessly."
The Army men took four people, including Sarpanch Abdul Ahad and Shabir, along. "Today morning (at 6), my son returned home dead. An ambulance dropped his body here," Mangoo told Greater Kashmir.
He reiterated that the soldiers were carrying iron rods, sticks and knives. "They first ensured that electricity is put off. They hurled an iron rod at the high-tension line after which electricity went off in the entire area," Mungoo said. "It was around 10.30 pm. They started entering every house and beat up everyone who came in their way. They damaged our Sumo vehicle too."
Residents said the soldiers beat up Shabir ruthlessly at a nearby bus stand and later tried to hand over his body to police.
"The police sought details about Shabir's death which the Army refused to divulge. The soldiers left the body at a police post. Perhaps it was the soldiers who had managed the ambulance that ferried Shabir's body to his home."
Another witness Abdul Ahad Sheikh said he was taken to army camp in Pampore where three other men from his village were already present. "One of the three was (slain) Shabir Ahmad. He wasn't able to talk or stand up as he had been beaten badly," said Sheikh.
After some time, he said, all the four persons were taken to Police Station Pampore. "I was vomiting and Shabir was in a really bad condition. The Pampore Police Station refused to take custody of Shabir and other person as they could see that both of them were badly injured," Sheikh said. "Minutes later, Shabir asked for a glass of water. He took some water and fell down, and collapsed. We could feel Shabir was no more."
The body of Shabir was taken to Sub-District Hospital Pampore where doctors declared him as brought dead.
Sources privy to Shabir's post-mortem revealed that "he died of cardiac arrest caused by intense beating."
Chairman of Saffron Growers Association Abdul Majeed Wani, who was also beaten by the Army, said the soldiers were shouting pro-freedom slogans. "We thought some protest was going on. And within no time, they barged into our houses and beat up every one. They broke windowpanes, doors, and also damaged belongings including refrigerators. My four sons were beaten to pulp. One is still in a hospital while three have been discharged," Wani said. "The soldiers were from Army's 50 RR. I could recognize them. They even took away Saffron worth Rs 30 lakh from the entire village. It seemed they were drunk. They locked us in a single room before leaving our house. They even beat up a six-year-old boy."
He said neighbours were shouting and crying for help. "Such was the terror that we couldn't help each other," Wani said. "The soldiers came thrice after taking a break of 10 minutes. The beating continued till 3:30 am."
Wani's son Farooq Ahmed said he is going to register a complaint against the Army.
Residents alleged the soldiers also took away mobile phones and cash from people whom they beat up. "At least 200 houses were damaged while 100 people were beaten to pulp. Some were shifted to SMHS hospital, some to Bone and Joints hospital and many were admitted at Primary Health Centre Khrew. Many were discharged after being given the necessary first-aid," they said. "We have never seen such atrocities of Army before. It seemed the soldiers were drunk."
Asked whether there was any provocation from youth, the residents said that on Wednesday evening (at around 4 pm), there was mild stone-pelting on Army vehicles which passed through the area. "There were no intense clashes, but yes, some youth hurled stones at the Army convoy. But the terror unleashed by Army men was without any provocation," they said.
Meanwhile, thousands attended the funeral of slain Shabir amid pro-freedom slogans. He was laid to rest in nearby martyrs' graveyard.
POLICE REGISTERS CASE
Police registered a murder case against unknown security personnel. "A case under sections 307 (attempt to Murder), 302 (murder), 427 (mischief causing damage to property) and 120-B (Criminal Conspiracy) of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) has been registered against unknown security personnel in connection with the killing of Shabir Ahmed at Khrew," police said.
According to a statement issued by Zonal Police Headquarters Kashmir, during the intervening night of August 17-18 "after stone pelting, a clash took place between army and some locals of village Shar-Shali, Khrew resulting in death of one person Shabir Ahmed Mungu and injuries to four others." The statement said that the police have taken cognizance of the matter and investigation has been taken up. Locals however maintained that there was no stone-pelting in the area.
Curfew continued to remain in place in most of South Kashmir towns for the forty-first running day even as pro-freedom rallies were held in many peripheral areas.
Strict curfew remained in place in Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam, Shopian and Pampore towns while restrictions were imposed in Bijbehara, Mattan, Awantipora, Pampore, Tral and Kakpora areas. A massive pro-freedom rally was held in Rajpora Pulwama, reports said. The rally was part of unity (Itihad-I-Millat) conference of various sects. Thousands attended the rally in which people were seen shouting pro-freedom, pro-Pakistan slogans and also waving Pakistani flags, witnesses said.
A similar rally was held at Ura in Chatrsoo area of Awantipora and Harmain village of Shopian. Thousands attended these rallies which were addressed by religious clerics of various sects—Deobandis, Barelvis, Ahlihadith and Jamat-I-Islami, besides Tehreek-I-Hurriyat district president Shopian Muhammad Yusuf Falahi.
Another pro-freedom rally was held in Chinagam village of Qaimoh area Kulgam. In a freedom-cum-unity rally held in Seer Hamdan area of Anantnag district, several people associated with pro-India parties announced to cut their ties with them and join the ongoing freedom movement. The activists included BJP's Block President and several Panchs and Sarpanchs associated with PDP, NC and Congress. The rally was addressed by Tehreeki-I-Huriiyat District President Mir Hafizullah, JKLF District Secretary Showkat Ahmad and religious clerics of various sects. Hurriyat chief Syed Ali Geelani addressed the gathering telephonically.
MLA'S HOUSE ATTACKED
Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters attacked residence of MLA Shopian, Advocate Muhammad Yousuf Bhat last night and set his guard room ablaze. The PDP leader was however not present in the house that time. Reports said police raided many houses in Mimender area of Shopian during night to arrest youth. However, the police party faced stiff resistance from people who held nocturnal protests.
"As soon as the police party left the spot, angry protesters attacked nearby residence of MLA Shopian Muhammad Yousuf Bhat. They pelted stones on Bhat's house and attacked even PSO's guarding it," they said.
Reports said PSOs guarding PDP leader's residence fled from the spot following which agitated people set ablaze the guard room. Police confirmed the incident.
"A violent mob assembled and attacked the house of MLA Shopian (Advocate Muhammad Shafi Bhat) last night. The mob set ablaze the belongings including a motorcycle of the guard personnel posted for protection of the house (sic)," said a spokesman.
Reports of protests were received from Pampore, Tahab, Gosso, Ruhmu, Tral in Pulwama district and Pahnoo, Pinjoora, Alyalpora, Krawoora in Shopian district.
Protests were also held in Bugam, Mohanpora, Yaripora, Frisal, Kujar, Kaimoh, Khudwani in Kulgam district and Achabal and Larkipora-Dooru in Anantnag district.
MAJOR RALLY IN RAJPORA
Reports said a massive pro-freedom rally was organised at Rajpora Pulwama in which more than 50,000 people including women and children participated. The rally passed from various areas and later culminated peacefully.
While strict curfew was imposed in old Srinagar areas, curbs were in place in uptown areas to foil march to UNMOGIP office in Sonwar. All roads leading to UN office were sealed with barbed wire. In Batamaloo area, scores of men, women and children staged a sit-in near Astani-Aaliya. They also offered prayers on road. The protesters were chanting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans. A protest sit-in was also observed at SD Colony and Dhobi Mohalla, two localities in Batamaloo. Other areas of Batamaloo remained under curfew. "We tried to proceed towards the UN office, but forces didn't allow us to proceed," locals said.
A sit-in was also held at Nawa Kadal area in old Srinagar to protest the continued killing of civilians in Kashmir. Scores of men, women and children gathered at Ansari Chowk Khanqah-e-Sokhta and staged the sit-in which was led by Hurriyat (M) leader Masroor Ansari.
Reports of night protests poured in from Nowgam, Lasjan, Hyderpora and Humhama areas. Witnesses said night curfew remained in place for the second consecutive day as police and paramilitary CRPF men didn't allow anyone to move around in Srinagar areas. People of Kounser Colony and Pamposh Colony Parimpora alleged that forces beat inmates there.
AMBULANCE DRIVER HIT BY BULLET
Meanwhile, an ambulance driver was hit by a bullet fired by forces at Safa Kadal in old Srinagar when he was ferrying patients from Kangan to SMHS hospital Srinagar. Doctors said the driver was hit in the arm and was being operated upon. "He is, however, out of danger," a doctor at SMHS hospital said.
Reports from Ganderbal and Budgam districts said a complete shutdown was observed there against the civilian killings. Locals alleged excesses by forces in various parts of Ganderbal and Kangan areas. Vegetable and milk distributors there alleged they were stopped by police. "There seems to be a plan to choke supply of essentials to Srinagar areas," the distributors said.
Late night reports said in Nishat area, police used pellets to disperse protestors while a police official aimed a pellet gun at a local journalist Jasim, who had ventured out his residence to buy baby food. Five persons sustained pellet injuries in police action.
The authorities here continued with strict restrictions during the day and curfew after 6 pm. In old town Baramulla, a huge protest march was taken out this evening. The protesters amid pro-freedom slogans marched through old town and later held a peaceful demonstration in Azad Gunj Chowk. Reports of restrictions being in place came in from Pattan and Palhallan areas. Reports from Kupwara district suggested that peaceful protests were held in various areas that include Trehgam, Lalpora and Lolab. A complete shutdown was observed in Sopore while reports of protests poured in from its various areas including Arampora, Batpora, Krankshivan, Main Chowk, Bomai, Muslim Peer and Bomai.
Reports said earlier in the day, a 27-year-old youth was injured at Batergam area of Kupwara district when forces opened fire to disperse a procession. Hundreds of people organised a march from Batergam to main Chowk Kupwara but government forces opened fire to disperse the protesters, resulting in injury to one youth. Hospital sources in Kupwara said the youth was hit by a bullet in his leg and referred to Srinagar for specialized treatment.
(With additional reporting from Khalid Gul, Altaf Baba, and Sheikh Nazir)