SRINAGAR: On the morning of Oct 2, 2002, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian army laid siege to Arin village in Bandipore, suspecting the presence of militants there. At noon, Ali Mohammad Najar, a carpenter, finished his lunch and went outside the house he was working in to have a breath of fresh air. When he came out of the house, the army soldiers took him away.
“At noon he had his lunch and went outside,” Fareed, the shopkeeper who had hired him for work that day, told Kashmir Reader. “But he did not return. When I went outside to look for him, I saw two armymen in uniform taking him along.”
Abdul Rashid Lone, another carpenter, said he, too, was taken away by the army on that day. “We were told that we were required for questioning. But they later intimidated us and told us to check the houses, one by one. When we resisted, we were beaten. So we quietly checked almost all the houses,” Lone said.
The two carpenters along with another local went into several houses before they entered the one where the militants were hiding. The army soldiers were observing from a few blocks away.
“We entered the house and checked the first room. Then we slowly climbed to the first floor. Ali was at the front. As he slowly sneaked into the room, we heard a loud burst of bullets. He instantly fell on the ground. He was still alive. We were terrified. We rushed out of the house to save our lives,” Lone said.
Ali was left behind in a bloodied condition with bullets fired by the militants slowly snuffing out his life. Lone and two others were later sent by the army to take out the corpse of a militant who had been shot dead in the gun battle.
“We slowly walked into the compound of the house. We were scared. The militant was lying dead with a grenade in one hand and an AK-47 in the other. When we started dragging him, the grenade in his hand went off and we were injured,” Lone said.
The injured locals were shifted to the nearby hospital. Lone had suffered severe damage and gave up carpentry.
Ali’s mother, Zeba Begum, could not stop herself from crying while speaking of her lost son. “Ali was born after five sisters. He was my beloved son, our only source of income.” Wiping her tears, she said, “That day, the army major came to our house. He said that my son was safe and we should not worry.”
“Next day, we came to know from Rashid in hospital that Ali was sent inside the house,” Ali’s mother said and broke down in tears.
Shafiqa, Ali’s wife, who is now married to his younger brother, said, “At about 2pm the next day, the army left the area after making sure that no one in the house came out alive. They let it burn for 24 hours without letting anyone to go nearby.”
It took some time for the horrified villagers to search the rubble where they found a few bones. It was not clear whether they were Ali’s remains or the militant’s. “When we heard that only a few bones were found, I almost fainted. But I kept hoping that they won’t be Ali’s. But they found the bone of a right arm with burnt skin and threads of the red sweater that Ali was wearing that day. His watch was still attached to that bone,” Zeba Begum said.
“A few bones were buried in the grave. He died as a martyr but we regret that we had nothing to bury except for a few bones,” said Ali’s father, Wali Mohammad Najar, who has weak eyesight and can hardly hear.
After a few days, a part of Ali’s leg was found in the rubble, revisiting agony upon his family. Ali left behind his ailing parents, his wife and two children, all of whom are living a miserable life. His parents recall that Ali was born in autumn and he died in autumn as well.