By Shafat Mir
Tral: The house of Mohammad Ramzan Ganie, where the two deceased militants were staying, has been completely razed to ground. The mangled utensils, tin sheets and other commodities lie scattered, with bullet piercings all over, along with several unexploded mortar shells.
Recalling the initial moments of the encounter, Ghulam Rasool Rather, owner of an adjacent house, said, “The army, SOG and policemen barged into our house and instantly started breaking windows and doors. After this they ordered us to leave the house immediately. We left everything behind and rushed out to save ourselves. After the end of the encounter, we found not only our house damaged, but that the troops had also looted our gold ornaments and cash. My son had got married just a few months ago and that’s why we had kept all the gold and cash at home. The walls and roofing of our house has been damaged and the walls have tilted due to use of heavy artillery. This house is unfit for staying now.”
Another neighbour, Ghulam Mohammad Sheikh, who lives adjacent to the encounter site, made the same complaint. “I had kept an amount of 50,000 rupees for buying a spray motor and other equipment for my orchard, but it is missing after the encounter. More than fifty army men came inside our house through the windows at the back. We were chased away and it was our Sikh neighbour, Nanak Singh, who provided us refuge during the encounter. The army men even tried to barge in his house but he didn’t open the gate. The windows and doors of my house have been broken as the army men took position from my house to take the vantage positions, as it is a three-storey house.”
As local people were visiting the encounter site, there were several unexploded shells lying around. Locals had either kept wooden planks or porous tin sheets around these shells.
“I fear for the safety of people. I am standing here next to this shell since the morning to direct people to not come near this spot. Some of the shells have gone missing since the morning,” said Abdul Rashid, a local, pointing towards an unexploded shell.
To collectively help the owner of the house that was razed to ground during the operation, locals were collecting funds at the funeral and also at the encounter site with people contributing in good numbers.
“It is our collective responsibility to help our brother in this hour of grief. He couldn’t retrieve anything before or after the encounter and has lost everything. Demolition of his house is the punishment given to him for giving shelter to rebels. We will do everything possible to rebuild this house,” said a local, requesting anonymity, while stacking bundles of 100-rupee notes.
South Kashmir Range deputy inspector general of police SP Pani, however, told Kashmir Reader, “It is the target house only which has come down and accusations of damage to other houses are inflated. People should appreciate that the collateral damage was minimum. Some of the damages are beyond our control due to the IED explosions. Nobody among the forces damaged anything deliberately.”
He added,”While being caught in a life and death situation nobody bothers about cash and gold and I strongly deny any of our men have looted anything, especially with so many senior officials present at the spot. We have also made a general appeal to the public to not venture around the area and we will be cleaning the place with the help of the bomb disposal squad.”