Frisal (Kulgam): An extraordinary scene of devastation is what remains of the Reshi family’s house in Nagbal village. Hundreds of people have been coming since Sunday, when the house was blasted to rubble by government troops, to pay homage and to survey the ruins. The most curious sight is of two corrugated tin sheets that lie perched high on the branches of a Chinar tree, carried there by the force of the explosion. Another piece of attraction is the hollow trunk of a Chinar tree, its opening covered with a tin sheet. In whispers, people tell each other that the hollow trunk leads to a cellar which was connected to the house through an underground tunnel. But when the inhabitants of the destroyed house come and lift the cover, the speculation meets with disappointment. There is nothing except shards of glass in the trunk.
“The forces dropped many grenades inside this Chinar trunk as well. They thought somebody was hiding inside,” owner of the house, Abdul Majid Reshi, said. “But there was only condemned glass and waste material.”
Reshi said that the two-storey house consisted of eight rooms and a recently constructed separate bathroom. All of it is now one heap of rubble.
“We retrieved one gold bangle and the box in which the children collected coins,” Reshi said. “We could not find educational certificates or any other valuable.”
He said the forces tied Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) to blast the house. “They used IED twice to dismantle our house. The blasts were so powerful, they demolished the stone foundations of the house,” Reshi said.
Since Sunday, the remains of the house have become a shrine for the entire area surrounding Nagbal in the aftermath of the encounter which claimed lives of four militants, two civilians and two Indian soldiers.
The Reshis said that thousands of people had come to see the remains of the house. The people tried to help retrieve the family’s belongings. Some men were rummaging through the rubble. One man had dragged out a half-burnt quilt, another was fiddling with burnt documents. People had pulled out some timber planks as well.
Reshi’s son Ishfaq was killed during the gun battle between government forces and militants. He said that the government troops killed his son.
An 18-year-old youth, who wanted to remain anonymous, said he had come from the nearby Redwani village to see the remains of the house. “When I first tried to locate the house, I saw nothing except the heaps of rubble,” he said.
Villagers have started collecting money to help the Reshi family build a new house. A few meters away from the rubble, a burly man with a cropped beard, Nazir Ahmad, was making appeals on loudspeaker for people to be magnanimous in donating money.
“The Reshi family is not economically well-to-do,” said Ahmad, a shopkeeper by profession. “We have decided that we would build his house without the help of government. We do not need any government help.”
He said the Reshi family was left with no shelter from the cold and rain. “They are staying at their neighbour’s house. It is terrible to lose a house during these times,” Ahmad said.
“It is our Islamic obligation to help our people. We will raise the money. We will build their house. If the government tries to punish us, we are ready to face the reprisals, which in any case have become routine now,” Ahmad said.
He said Reshi’s elder son was a baker and the killed son, Ishfaq, was a contractual employee in the water department. “They have no financial support,” he said.
Ahmad said people were angry and their anger could boil over anytime. “India should understand that it is time to come to terms with the political reality. It has to resolve the Kashmir issue. It has to implement the UN resolutions on Kashmir,” Ahmad said, surrounded by a large number of people.
“We are not begging; we are demanding our rights,” he said as others nodded in agreement.
“We have collected few lakhs of rupees. We will collect more in coming days,” Ahmad said.
As more people poured in, the situation became tense. A group of women, looking at the rubble, started raising slogans. “Hum Kya Chahte?” they shouted. The crowd shouted back, “Azadi.”