The night soldiers became ‘beasts’
Residents of two Shopian villages recount the barbaric assault by troopers who broke into their homes, beat up women, vandalised property, and left 20 injured, with fractures in arms and legs, all in the middle of the night
SHOPIAN: Indian Army soldiers carried out a ghastly, vengeful attack on two villages in Shopian on Monday night in which they assaulted women and children, destroyed vehicles, vandalised homes, and left twenty persons injured, several of them with fractures in their legs and arms. The army has flatly denied the allegations but the injured lying in hospitals and in their homes bear the marks of the barbaric attack that lasted for an hour.
In Turkwangam village, some 12 kilometers from district headquarters Shopian, army soldiers arrived at 11 in the night and barged into residential houses, breaking down the doors. Then they began beating the inmates ruthlessly, some within the house and some after dragging them out. Several women of the village told Kashmir Reader that they had injuries on their bodies that they could not show. “How can I tell you how they dragged, thrashed and kicked us. They had become beasts last night,” a woman said with tears rolling down her face. Another said, “O brother, we don’t have the strength to tell you and you have not the heart to hear how they beat us.”
Villagers said that some local youth had hurled stones on army vehicles during the day. “At that time they (soldiers) didn’t retaliate, but during the night they came,” a villager said.
“I was sleeping when just after the Taraweeh prayers I heard noises outside. There were men shouting, ‘Open the door or we will shoot you.’ We didn’t open the door. The men outside screamed and said, ‘We are giving you two minutes to open the door. If you don’t, we will shoot every single person who is inside.’ “After hearing this, my father opened the door and about 30 armed soldiers barged into our house and began beating us. When my mother and sisters tried to shield us, they beat them, too, dragging them out of the room. I cried and begged them to leave my sisters. I said, ‘Please kill us and leave them safe’,” said the son of Ghulam Rasool Lone, one of the residents of Turkwangam village.
His mother, Fatima Banoo, 65, said that the army soldiers left after beating her family for an hour. Then, another group of the police SOG (special operations group) and the army barged into her house. “We told them that one of your party has just left after beating us. They didn’t listen and began beating us all over again. They dragged my two sons to the neighbour’s courtyard and beat them there again for half an hour. We cried, but due to the large contingent of forces outside, nobody come to save us,” she said.
Ghulam Muhammad Sheikh, 50, told Kashmir Reader that the army broke down his front door and barged into the house. He said the soldiers beat up his family, including his 65-year-old sister who suffered multiple injuries.
Ghulam Mohammad said, “They beat us for thirty minutes. They broke the left arm of my son, beat my daughters, wife, sister. We cried but it was a war-like attack on our village.”
The family of Abdul Gani Sheikh was another that was beaten by the soldiers. Abdul’s rebel son Muhammad Shafi Sheikh was killed by government forces in 1997 in a brief encounter at Trenz village. “The SOG and army broke our gate and the doors of the rooms of our house, where everyone was sleeping. They yelled, ‘You are the family of a militant. Come outside or we will kill you.’ When we refused to come out, they ransacked our property and beat up women, men and children inside our house,” Haleema Banoo, an elderly woman from the family said.
The photos of the injured went viral on social media drawing outrage against the assault.
Before this incident, above 17 villages in the district were put under siege and when the troops were returning to their camp, one of the private vehicles they had forcibly taken to travel in, had come under a militant attack and a civilian driver had been killed.
Army attack on Vehil village
The second village to be attacked by the army on Monday night was Vehil, soon after villagers burst firecrackers to celebrate Pakistan cricket team’s win over Sri Lanka in the Champions Trophy. When soldiers of the nearby camp in Chowdhrigund of the army’s 62 RR (Rashtriya Rifles) heard the firecrackers, they attacked the village. Fired bullets in the air, they damaged several vehicles and residential houses, locals said.
“After Pakistan won the game, some boys burst firecrackers. Recently, when Pakistan was beaten by India, the soldiers at the Chowdhrigund camp fired many bullets in the air to celebrate. Why were they irked when yesterday we celebrated?” a local said, requesting anonymity because of the fear of the soldiers.
Locals told Kashmir Reader that the soldiers damaged about 25 vehicles, including cars, taxis, load carriers, and dozens of residential houses.
“Yesterday night we feared they will bulldoze every single house in the village and will kill us all. The continuous firing of bullets forced us to lay down on the ground,” an elderly man from the village said.
Shopkeepers in Vehil said that the soldiers “broke the locks of their shops, damaged and looted their goods”. “Army soldiers from the Chowdhrigund camp of 62 RR come to our village firing many rounds of bullets. They damaged our houses and the vehicles parked on the streets and in the courtyards of residential houses,” a resident of Vehil village said.
Shopian Senior Superintendent of Police SA Dinker was not available to comment, despite many calls on his phone.
Srinagar-based army spokesman Rajesh Kalia said that no army soldier was involved in either of the incidents. “No army trooper was involved in beating people, damaging houses or any other property,” he said.
When asked why people of both the villages were alleging that army soldiers beat up people and ransacked property, he said “They told you and now I am telling you that no army personnel was involved in either of the incidents.”