Beehama: Forty-five-year-old Abdul Ahad is sitting in his house at Beehama, Ganderbal, in central Kashmir.
The room he occupies is lit artificially with electric bulbs. Despite the ceiling fan moving in full speed, he sweats profusely. The reason is that the tarpaulin covering the windows doesn’t let through the air or light.
“Although the sun rises in Ganderbal every day, we don’t see the sunlight,” Ahad told Kashmir Reader.
During the 43-day anti-India uprising, the paramilitary forces have, according to the villagers, damaged window panes of all the residential houses in the village by throwing stones. In the attacks, which the villagers said have become a routine, the local dispensary and anganwadi centre have been damaged too.
To prevent the damage and save the residents, almost every house in the village has blankets or sheets covering its windows.
“We cover our windows with tarpaulin to safeguard our children, as the forces throwing stones, mostly boulders, into our houses has become a routine,” Ahad said.
“The government forces, mostly of paramilitary CRPF men, come to the village almost every day and break the window panes of houses. It has become their time-pass to damage our property.”
The villagers said keeping windows covered all day has started to affect their health.
“We have forgotten the difference between the day and night, because the light doesn’t enter our homes and we are not allowed to move out because of the curfew. It is staring to depressing us,” Haleema, an elderly woman, said.
“It is suffocating us. Being confined to houses that have windows covered with tarpaulin has become unbearable.”
Another villager, a government employee, said that the government forces enter the village usually late in the nights to create panic among the residents.
“They have ruined our sleep and unleashed a state of terror in the entire area,” he said, adding that the forces also ransack the houses.
“Last time, the forces entered our houses during Isha prayers, when the men were out praying in the local mosque. They ransacked our houses and destroyed everything from glasses to vegetables that came in their way. It created panic among our women, who were also harassed by the forces.”
Irfan, a village head in his early twenties, said that the government forces have damaged almost 500 of the 545 houses comprising the village.
“Not a single house, including my own, has been left undamaged,” he said.
He said the government forces do it “without any reason” or provocation, as the village never engages in stone pelting.
“We protest, but we don’t throw stones. But despite the peaceful nature of our protests, the CRPF men throw stone at our houses and damage our property. It is quite shameful,” he said.
The village head also raised concerns about the educated youth of his locality being “deliberately targeted” by police officials.
“A list of youth wanted in stone pelting was sent to me by the local police station. All of them are highly qualified. In fact, one of them is a Ph. D scholar, and another has qualified NET. The police alleges that they are involved in stone pelting, but it is lie,” he said.
“Such means can lead to violence by forcing youth to give up their peaceful means of protest.”