Bandipora: Yarbalpora is a small and serene village by the river Jhelum in Bandipora. The greenery on the earth and the rawness in the air is refreshing. A stream flowing into the village brings along with it the hustle and bustle of chirping birds. Some shops and houses are situated along the stream on one side. On the other side, the calm and blue waters of the Jhelum provide a perfect setting for chit-chat on hot days, under the shade of Chinars. It is a routine pastime of the villagers during evenings.
Located far away from the madding crowd of towns and cities, the village has for its main industry the work of sand extraction from the river-bed of the Jhelum. Most of the men are in this work, along with those of the neighbouring village, Soudnoura.
Yarbalpora is so secluded it seems pristine. Guarded by trees and water, with not a police check-post or an army camp within many kilometres, the village, alas, could not remain untouched by the ravages that followed Burhan Wani’s killing last year.
On August 29, at 4:45pm, army soldiers suddenly entered the village. They had come from the Asham camp, many kilometres away. The villagers ran for their lives and went inside their houses. Ghulam Hassan Parry, 60, was one of those who did so. His 23-year-old son Aashiq Hassan Parry came running towards home to rescue his family members, knowing that they were in danger as their house wasn’t fenced and was still incomplete, with no doors and windowpanes. He took his mother, Saleema, 45, two sisters, Safiya, 16, and Maria, 13, into the neighbouring house, which was fenced and had a big gate. As the women took shelter here, a small door in the gate was smashed open and Aashiq was dragged outside.
“Some eight uniformed men dragged me out and then about fifteen army men pounced on me. They beat me with bamboo sticks and gun butts. I was also struck with an axe, which one of the men carried, on my legs. I felt my arm had broken. I pleaded with them to leave me but they kept me beating me. After they broke my right arm, I was dragged by the same arm. The last thing I remember is being struck with a gun butt on my head,” Aashiq told Kashmir Reader.
Aashiq, studying in the first year of college, was taken to Hajin hospital from where he was referred to SKIMS Bemina. His father and his elder brother, Aijaz Ahmad, remained beside him in the hospital for six days. As his surgery date approached, Ghulam Hassan had already exhausted his savings of 40 thousand rupees on Aashiq’s treatment. Ghulam Hassan came home to fetch more money for Aashiq’s treatment. His wife Saleema insisted that she wanted to meet her son. “Saleema insisted so much that she left on a motorcycle with a neighbour, even in the curfew, to meet Aashiq in hospital,” Hassan told Kasmir Reader.
In the hospital, Aashiq tried to keep up a normal appearance so that his mother wasn’t too alarmed. “I asked doctors if they could allow me to do certain movements which otherwise were restricted,” he recalled.
Aashiq ate the food his mother had brought for him. Saleema said goodbye to her son, prayed for his recovery, and left back for Yarbalpora on the motorcycle, but she couldn’t make it. Midway, she fell unconscious on the rear seat and fell from the motorcycle, sustaining a grave head injury. The neighbour who was driving the motorcycle took her back to the hospital where Aashiq was admitted. The next morning, she was dead.
Aashiq wasn’t told of his mother’s death till after some time. “The neighbour who brought my mother to hospital had told me about my mother’s injury, but later I was assured by doctors and attendants that she was fine. I was taken home and there I saw thousands of people gathered and a tent erected. I was carried inside the house on a stretcher. From the distance I saw my mother lying lifeless. I couldn’t hug her or touch her. I was half dead myself. I couldn’t move a limb. I couldn’t attend her Jinaza (funeral),” Aashiq’s eyes swelled with tears as he narrated this. Ghu;am Hassan began to wail, “The army took everything from us!”
Aashiq is now so depressed that he thinks his life has no value. “Why did I survive the assault? At times I wish I could consume some poison,” he said.
Hassan, who would find occasional jobs as a labourer, has not been able to gather himself together. His health has deteriorated. Medical checkups are routine now.
Aashiq, who is still recovering from surgeries, has bundles of medicines next to his bed. Several therapies have been prescribed to him by doctors. But he is still not able to move his right arm. As the financial conditions of the family have worsened, Aaashiq has stopped buying the costly medicines that doctors prescribe to him at weekly checkups. Each checkup costs around 700-1000 rupees. The elder brother, Aijaz, works as a stone-cutter in a nearby village and doesn’t earn much. Ghulam Hassan has already spent 3 lakh rupees on Aashiq’s treatment; now he has no money left.
In the apparently peaceful village, the violence visited by army soldiers has left a deep scar. “I cannot forget the shrieks, the assault, and the pain that this village endured that day,” an elderly villager, Ghulam Mohammad Hajjam, said.