Pulwama: ‘State terror’ has returned to haunt villages in Pulwama, after a brief respite in the winter. Midnight knocks on doors, noises coming from the darkness outside, and men in uniform with guns dragging away boys from their beds, are happening all over again across this south Kashmir district.
Living next to a graveyard in Muran village, Abdul Rahim Sheikh, an elderly man, recalled the terrible night of March 21 when government forces barged into his house breaking the main gate, and mishandled him and his two young daughters. “It was about 2:30am. I was woken by a screeching of tyres and noise outside. All of a sudden, the main gate was knocked down by the forces,” Sheikh said. “It took them less than five minutes to enter my room on the second floor. I was still in bed. The DSP Pulwama, Farooq Ahmad, and the DSP Kakpora were leading the policemen. The DSP Pulwama asked me to get up. I resisted. I said they have no right to come into my house and to arrest me. But he scornfully remarked that he will show me Azadi.”
Abdul Rahim is a follower of Jamiat-e-Islamia. He was detained four times during the last year by police, after being picked up from his house in a night raid. His son, Aqib Ahmad, 23, is also wanted for stone-pelting and protests against the police. “As he was not in the house, I was arrested. They knew that my son will show up at the police station as soon as the news of my detention reaches him,” Rahim said.
He alleged that the DSP Pulwama asked constables to detach the LCD TV from the wall of his house and bring it along, but fortunately the constables left without doing so.
His daughters claimed that they were locked inside a room on the ground floor when the police left their house. “We started crying and shouting at them to let us out, but they paid no attention,” the daughters said.
Rahim was taken to the Kakpora police station, where he was asked one question repeatedly: Where’s your son? “I asked them what is wrong in fighting for freedom? They called me mad and told me to rot in prison till my son shows up,” Rahim told Reader. He was released after four days when his son went to the police station. “My son knows that I’m on medicines for my kidneys, blood pressure, and heart illness,” Rahim said.
He hasn’t heard any news of his son since he went to the police station.
In Muran village, more than 17 youths, mostly students, have been arrested by police in night raids this month. Sakib Javid, 17, a Class 11 student, was arrested on March 22 at 3:30am. His father, Javid Ahmad, said, “We were disturbed by the unexpected pounding on the door in the middle of the night. I was frozen to death to see our house surrounded by security forces.”
When he opened the door, government forces searched the house without his permission. “My son was sleeping in his room. They seized him by his arm and asked me if he is my son. I nodded. They told me he is needed for questioning and that he will be released soon,” Javid said.
Sakib is in Pulwama police station since then. Javid said he visits higher officials each day to plead for his release, but they pay no attention to his pleas. “My son was never detained before. There is no FIR against him in any police station. I told the police that the detention will affect his studies,” Javid said. “They’re just trying to provoke us again. It is they who don’t want normalcy.”
Aqib Ahmad Mir, 21, a resident of Muran village, was arrested on the same night as Sakib was. He is in the second year of an arts course at college. Furqan, 16, was also arrested on the same night. He is in Class 11. Both are accused of stone-pelting. The families of both deny the accusation.
In Mitrigam Village, 5 people were detained in a series of night raids this month. Among them, three are students, one a shopkeeper, and one a driver. Mudasir Ahmad, 27, of this village had completed a postgraduate course as well as a BEd degree, and was preparing for a PhD. He was arrested on March 25 at 12:30am. His brother said that security forces first smashed the window panes of their house, then searched the house and assaulted him and his brother. “We were so terrified by their shouting and abusing that we didn’t even dare to ask them what were they searching for. They asked us who among us was Mudasir. Then they dragged my brother into an armoured car and left. We didn’t stop them from fear that they might start beating us again,” Mudasir’s brother said.
The family is yet to locate in which police station Mudasir is.
In Hanjan Bala village, a youngster was arrested in the middle of night in front of his ailing mother, who kept crying and begging for his release. Shakeel Ahmad Nangroo, 24, was arrested earlier this week at 1am. Saja Banoo, his mother, said, “Security forces knocked on our door with gun butts, as if we were terrorists. Without saying anything, they searched the house and took away my son. We didn’t realise in the dark that they had taken him out. When I saw him missing from his room, I ran out and begged the forces to release my son. They didn’t show any mercy and starting beating my son.”
Shakeel is detained in Pulwama police station. He is a college student. Since his detention, his father and brother leave early in the morning to meet senior police officers to seek his release. His mother said Shakeel is suffering from piles and police are refusing to allow any medicines for him.
In Drabgam main village, three youths were detained in night raids by security forces on March 17. Amir Razak Wani and Bilal Ahmad Mir, both shopkeepers, were released March 23. Sajad Ahmad Bhat, 19, is still in custody.
Bila Ahmad Amir said his brother was a militant who was killed in 2011. “Since then, security forces have been detaining me every now and then,” he said. Mir is a follower of Jamiat-e-Islamia, he said.
Sajad Ahmad Bhat has a three-month-old baby and his wife hopes that her husband will be released soon. Tariq Ahmad Bhat, his brother, said, “I visit Pulwama police headquarters each day to plead for my brother’s release. They said he will be released soon. He has never been detained before and has never been questioned by police before.”
In Aarbal village, Bilal Ahmad Lone was detained last week in a night raid for alleged involvement in organising protests. His six-year-old daughter and three-year-old son keep asking their mother for him. The SHO at Rajpure police station, where Bilal is detained according to his family members, denied arresting Bilal Ahmad Lone.
Five youths in Kangan village and in Zagigam village, 8 youths have been detained in night raids so far. In Pulwama town and other villages, countless youths have been detained according to sources.
SSP Pulwama Rayees Mohammad Bhat said that the police have evidence of the involvement of detained youth in stone-pelting and disturbing law and order. When asked if the police are detaining the youth because of the coming elections, he said, “There is no connection between the elections and the raids. We had been investigation cases of stone-pelting and we are only arresting those who were found to be involved in unlawful activities.”
Asked about the detention of an elderly man named Abdul Rahim and harassment of his two young daughters, the SSP said, “It’s all bullshit. These are just allegations against us. We first send a notice to the house if someone is asked to appear for questioning. Only if they don’t show up, we take steps to bring them for questioning.”
The SSP also refuted allegations that the police were looting and ransacking houses during their raids.