- Troopers beat people, ransack houses, smash cars
- Villagers clash with forces during search operation
SHOPIAN: Reminiscent of 90s, a massive cordon and search operation involving some 17 villages and thousands of army, police and paramilitary personnel was conducted in south Kashmir’s Shopian on Thursday.
The villages which include Turkwangam, Sugan, Maldair, Heff, and Chitragam – separated by orchards and mustard fields – were cordoned off at the break of dawn by large contingents of government forces.
While it was billed as an operation to flush out militants believed to be present in the area, no “contact with militants” was established in the day long operation. However, clashes broke out between people and government forces at a few places. Residents alleged that forces resorted to large-scale ransacking of properties and beating of people.
Residents said that forces arrested two persons, Ghulam Rasool Sheikh son of Ghulam Ahmed Sheikh of Turkwangam, and a 13-year-old boy Sakib Shafi Khan son of Muhammad Shafi Khan resident of Kongnoo. That said that an 11-year-old boy was injured after a trooper hit him with butt of his gun.
Khatoon, a woman from Maldair villager, told Kashmir Reader that forces beat up her two daughters. One of them, she said, is pregnant. “They entered our house and beat-up my pregnant daughter and suffocated other daughter,” Khatoon said. Family members said the pregnant woman was admitted to a hospital at Zainpora with apprehensions about the health of the mother and the unborn child.
Residents from Chitragam village told Kashmir Reader that they saw huge deployment of forces in the area as soon as woke up. “I saw heavy number of armed forces deployed and I feared something bad is going to happen. I stayed home. Later youth assembled and pelted stones on forces while they retaliated with teargas and pellet shells,” Aijaz, a resident of Chitragam said.
Residents of Sugan village said that they saw forces cordon off the neighbourhood at around 7 am in the morning. “It was huge deployment of army and other government forces. Later we heard that other villages were also cordoned,” a villager said. One boy from the village, Sakib Ahmad, was injured with a pellet in his eye, residents said.
Residents of Turkwangam and Maladair alleged that forces thrashed civilians and looted shops and houses during the operation. They said that around 150 houses were ransacked in Turkwangan while 50 houses were ransacked in Maldair. Around a hundred vehicles were smashed in the two villages.
“Forces entered in our houses and ransacked it,” Bashir Ahmad, a resident of Turkwangan said. Another shopkeeper told Kashmir Reader that forces broke open his shop and looted it.
A family in Turkwangam, who had a wedding scheduled, told Kashmir Reader that forces smashed all the windowpanes, mixed different food material in their house. “Forces indiscriminately thrashed civilians, damaged houses and parked cars,” a resident of Maldair alleged. A group of shopkeepers alleged that forces looted shops, including food materials like milk, gas cylinders, chicken, disposable items and matting.
Besides houses, shops, cars, and motor cycles, forces also damaged two school buses of a local school of Maldair village.
Clashes between forces and youth, which erupted following the cordon, continued for several hours in Turkwangam, Sugan, Chitragam and adjoining villages. Ten persons were injured in Turkwangam and Maldair villages, including four boys who were thrashed by forces. Youth threw stones on forces near Goal Chowk and Court road Shopian after the cordon ended, and they retaliated by firing pellets and tear smoke. A boy was injured when a tear smoke shell hit him in the head, eye witnesses said.