Sopore: Four women whose heads were tonsured by an overzealous army officer in early 1990s to create scare among the local population have not forgotten the horrible event that turned their lives upside down.
The residents of Dooru village in Sopore sub-district of north Kashmir refer to the day as one of the darkest in the history of the village when womenfolk of the village were ruthlessly beaten up, dragged and tortured. They recall that an officer of the local Seelu army camp, one Major Batra, swooped on the village along-with his men, and wreaked havoc on the population. Four women whose hair was cut were left devastated for the rest of their lives.
Aisha Begum, (now 57), wife of Ghulam Mohammad, a resident of Mohalla Kashipora, Dooru, said the incident was the most horrible and she was not the same woman after that day.
It was September 1997. I was in the front yard of my house, all alone, washing utensils. There was no one else in the house. The men had gone out for work and children to schools. I saw soldiers entering from the gate. I tried to escape from the backyard but was waylaid by the soldiers, Begum narrated the woeful tale. “An army major called AK Batra grabbed me by my hair and yelled as to where the militants were hiding. “I was so scared and helpless that I was not even able to reply to their shouting and yelling,” Aisha told Kashmir Reader.
They grabbed me by my hair and put a big roof in my neck and dragged me to the houses of neighbours to search for the militants. This continued for more than two hours. “When they didn’t find any militant, they started beating me up with their gun butts and left me almost half dead,” Begum recalled.
“They hit my eye and damaged it irreparably. I am not able to see anything from my right eye ever since. Whenever somebody tells anything about that episode, it feels as if it has happened yesterday and gives me sleepless nights even now,” she said.
From the horrible day, Aisha is a chronic patient of backache and pain in joints.
Haja Begum (now 65), wife of Abdul Rahman Reshi, a resident of Dagh Mohall of Dooru village is another victim of that day’s torture that has left her crippled. She is not able to walk without the help of a stick.
“I was doing domestic chores when the soldiers swooped on my home. The officer who led them was tall, well-built with dark skin. His appearance was enough to scare. I told him nobody was in the house but he did not listen. When he did not find anybody inside, he came out growling and caught hold of me to beat me up. I cried and begged to leave me but he never listened and dragged me outside. He broke my leg with intense beating,” Haja Begum recounted in front of her youngest daughter who eyes welled with tears. She doesn’t give description of how her head was tonsured.
Kahtija Begum,( now 70), has disjointed memory of the fateful day as she has lost her memory since the day.
When this reporter asked her if she recalled anything about the incident she immediately tried to connect the threads. “He (referring to army major) abused me, beat me up, and cut my hair. He was searching for militants. When he did not find them he pounced on four women. I was one of them,” she said in broken sentences.
“He (officer) also cut the hair of Zoona Begum, my neighbour, who is dead now,” Kahtija Begum recounted and abruptly stopped talking. After a brief pause she went to her room and slipped into silence.
Zoona Begum, another victim of that horrific day has died in 2013 after a brief illness. According to other three victims, Zoona was beaten ruthlessly too and her hair was cut by the officer.
“We will never forget that horrible day and the tenure of AK Batra at Seelu camp. He terrorised the local population including women. I have seen worst army officers but nobody was like him,” a local resident, wishing anonymity said.
“He had beaten up the entire village many times but on the day when he tortured the four women of our village, we protested and lodged complaint against him in Sopore police station. When he came to know about this, he picked the sarpanch of our village and threatened to kill him if the complaint was not withdrawn. After sustained protests in Sopore, he released the sarpanch,” he said.