Saderkote Bala (BANDIPORA): ‘The army has not spared even the stones’ is the refrain of most residents of Saderkote Bala village in Bandipora district.
One by one, the residents recount what they call as the “reign of terror” by the army.
‘Water supply stopped’
Two water tanks built by the Public Health Engineering department on villagers’ land in 1980 supply about 1.5 lakh litres of water to the village daily. An army camp that was set up in 2006 has occupied the tanks, the residents said. The camp has also encroached on a graveyard nearby.
The army camp, the villagers said, has snapped water supply to the village.
“We spend most part of the day in bringing water from a spring. There are very few potable water sources here,” said Hajra, a resident of Saderkote.
One of PHE workers engaged in operation of water tanks said on condition of anonymity that water supply is in army’s control and “it is up to them to allow us to operate it”.
“Army has denied us access to open the sluice valves of the reservoirs,” he said.
Villagers told Kashmir Reader that a dog was let loose on one of the employees who approached the camp for releasing water. He was hospitalized for dog bite, they said.
Five mosques in the five mohallas of the village have been desecrated by the army. The villagers showed mobile phone video of some residents entering a immediately after it was desecrated by the soldiers.
The video shows the mosque floor strewn with copies of the Holy Quran, a digital wall clock and two X-shaped, foldable wooden book rests.
The soldiers had broken the grill of the space holding mosque audio system and seized the system.
“The audio system was targeted as they were used to play freedom songs,” said a local Mukhtar Ahmad.
Many villagers can be heard crying in the video at the sight of the Quran on the floor.
“They raided the mosque (Masjid Usman) on Saturday afternoon. At first we thought they only stole the audio system but we were shocked to see the Quran on the floor,” said a village elder.
The villagers said they had contacted the District Development Commissioner after other mosques were attacked in a similar manner.
“He assured us that a Tehsildar will conduct enquiry into this incident but no one has turned up yet. We have now cleaned up the mosques because glass shrapnel were all over the floor and could have harmed nimazis,” the elder said.
Livelihood under assault
Saderkote is famous for stone quarrying and manufacture of stone slabs used in construction of Hamams and ornamental purposes in houses. Hamam slabs are sold by square yard, each yard costing Rs 5,000. These slabs are the main source of income for the villagers. (Also watch Livelihood under assault )
“They smashed the finished slabs with sledge hammers and crowbars,” said Ali Mohammad, a stone worker.
“They not only broke the slabs but also broke open some shops and looted potato chips packets, cigarettes and some LPG cylinders,” he said.
Asked if there have been stone pelting clashes in the area, he said, “We have no dearth of stones but stone fights are not a norm in our area. To attack the army camp is out of question as it situated on Saderkote mountain. The stones will land back in the village if thrown at the camp. They did this only to frighten us into submission.”
Kashmir Reader tried to contact army spokesman NN Joshi but his phone was switched off. We mailed him a set of queries about the story which he didn’t respond to.