Sopore: Three civilians in Sopore town were used as human shield by the army in Hatishah locality in 1994, when the insurgency in Kashmir was at its peak. Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah, Farooq Ahmad Dar and Abdul Hameed Dhobi were put in front of army soldiers during a gunfight with militants and were later shot from behind by the soldiers. Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah, a retired bank employee, recounted that event to Kashmr Reader.
“I will never forget that day. It was the 2nd of March 1994. I was about to leave for my work when an announcement of army crackdown was made. I saw the army and BSF herding the men in our area like sheep. I had to join them. We were taken to Kranshivan ground, almost two kilometres away. There, the army began taking away some men to search for militants hiding in a house. It still sends a chill through my body, that memory of a soldier from the 5 Guards army battalion of Sopore pointing his finger at me. I don’t know why I was chosen, but I was not the only one: some other local men were also selected to accompany the army search party. We were taken back to our locality. A gun battle between army and militants was already on, as the gunshots could be clearly heard.
“They divided us into groups. Our group was left with three men and the soldiers of the army battalion. The other men with me were Hameed Dhobi and Farooq Dar. When we reached Nambli, a barren government-owned land in front of Hatishah mohalla, the soldiers with us came under heavy firing by militants who were hiding in a nearby house. Some army soldiers were injured in that firing. We were then placed in front of the soldiers and ordered to walk towards the house. Luckily the militants didn’t fire upon us. On seeing this, an army man walking behind us shot us,” Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah said.
“I was hit in my knee, Farooq Dar in his arm, and Hameed Dhobi in his leg,” Ghulam Mohiuddin said. “After shooting us, the soldiers left us in a pool of blood. Some women of our locality saw us and immediately picked us up. I was bleeding profusely, but when locals tried to take us to hospital, the BSF didn’t allow them, saying that they did not know if we were civilians or militants. Locals took us to the house of a nurse in our locality, who gave us first-aid. At about 5pm when the cordon was lifted, we were taken to hospital. By the time I was admitted to the Barzulla hospital, I had already lost a lot of blood. During the nineteen days I stayed in Barzulla hospital, I was operated thrice on my knee.”
“After a year, some man came with a reporter to my house and told me to give a statement that I was hit by militants. I refused to do so,” Ghulam Mohiuddin said.
Ghulam Mohiuddin is now retired from service and cannot bend his right leg even an inch. He still suffers severe pain in it, and cannot walk properly.
Farooq Ahmad Dar, the second man used as human shield in that episode, told Reader that the army soldiers took him along with the search party and fired upon him from behind. He said he still has parts of the bullet lodged inside his left arm. He said no investigation was carried out in the crime.
The third victim, Hameed Dhobi, who works in the police department, stays away from his home and this correspondent was not able to contact him, even after many calls made to his phone.
An FIR registered by 5 Guard army battalion in Sopore police station states that three militants were killed in an encounter on March 2, 1994, of whom one was a local and two were foreigners. The FIR says that three civilians were injured when militants opened fire on them. A copy of the FIR is with Kashmir Reader.