Srinagar: Two persons in civvies from an army intelligence unit killed a 24-year-old man in cold blood in Lach Mawar village of Handwara on Friday, said local legislator Engineer Rashid.
Rashid, who also belongs to the same village, narrated how he witnessed “a cold-blooded murder” that eclipsed “an innumerable number of human rights abuses” he had experienced, and suffered, firsthand in the past 25 years in this heavily militarised zone of north Kashmir.
He said that he got a call informing him that a blast had occurred in the village and scores of soldiers had cordoned off the blast site.
“When I reached the spot which is about 100 metres away from my home I saw about 100-150 soldiers encircling a badly injured man. They were not letting anybody go near him. He must have been about 80-100 metres away from the soldiers’ ring. They told me ‘he is a militant and a grenade is tied to his body’,” Rashid told Kashmir Reader.
“I pleaded before them to let me go near him so that I can persuade him to throw the grenade away and surrender,” he said.
More than a 1,000 villagers who were watching on were on the edge, fretting whether the dying man was not one of their own, Rashid said, adding the three policemen standing nearby seemed “as helpless” as anybody else.
“In the meantime, the injured man lifted his head and we identified him as Zahoor, our neighbour. He was known in the village as a pious and hardworking man. It was then that I decided to break the army ring. I told them even if they kill me I am going to save that man,” Rashid said.
The legislator, who represents Langate constituency in the state Assembly, said, that he, his Public Relations Officer Firdous Ahmad, village sarpanch Ghulam Mohammad and a village youth, Javed Ahmad, walked up to Zahoor, risking their lives.
“The grenade had been tied to the suspenders of his pajama. Using a knife I cut the grenade loose and tossed it away. We took Zahoor to Handwara hospital but he died. His hand had been blown away in the explosion and he was very badly wounded,” Rashid said. The grenade was later disposed of by the police.
According to Rashid the soldiers “wanted Zahoor to die”.
“Humanity demanded that they should have taken him to hospital themselves. Instead, they created hurdles in our efforts to save him,” the MLA said.
Before Rashid arrived at the spot, two men, identified by the villagers as Havaldar Chogle and sepoy Anees from a nearby army formation, had told the people that they had been injured in an accident involving their bike. The duo requested the people to take them to the army hospital at Nowgam.
But after Zahoor’s death, they “connected the dots”.
“One of the two grenades they tied to his body went off, which injured the soldiers too. Then they left him to die,” Rashid said. Zahoor, son of Ghulam Qadir, was a carpenter and 24 years old. He was off work today, like every Friday. He had left home at around 11.30am, Rashid said.
Rashid, who says he has been a victim of “army’s atrocities” in the past, said today’s incident, as it unfolded before his eyes, seemed like a “circus of death”.
The bike (No. JK01s-0147) and Zahoor’s mobile phone recovered from the spot were handed over to the police. According to Rashid, the two injured persons were under-cover army personnel.
When Kashmir Reader called army spokesman NN Joshi, he said he would get back with details. But he didn’t.
The police have said they have started investigations into the incident.