SHOPIAN: More than 15 villages in Shopian have suffered night raids, beatings and vandalism at the hands of army soldiers in recent weeks, but no villager has filed a complaint with the police because of distrust and fear of reprisals.
The attacks by army soldiers have been taking place ever since more than 4,000 troopers along with SOG of Jammu and Kashmir Police launched a major cordon and search operation in 17 villages in Shopian to hunt down the two dozen native militants believed to be active here.
When the army was returning from the operation, a civilian driver was killed when militants attacked the vehicle the soldiers had taken from the Shopian taxi stand. The family of the killed driver has said that the army had used him as a human shield.
The operation faced huge resistance from villagers, with clashes reported from Chitragam, Sugan, Turkwangam, Maldair and some other villages. At Turkwangam and Maldair, the troops allegedly smashed 200 cars, vandalised 150 houses and injured dozens of protesters.
In Maldair, the troops allegedly barged into a residential house where they beat every single inmate, including the eight-month pregnant daughter, wife and another teenaged daughter of Ghulam Muhammad Mir.
“About 30 troopers barged into our house on May 4 and beat us for half an hour. They suffocated my younger daughter (15) with her head scarf, beat my pregnant daughter Rafiya (24) with gun butts and even thrashed my wife (55),” said Ghulam of the assault.
Abdul Ahad Mir, Numberdar of Turkwangam village, told Kashmir Reader that the villagers have not made any complaint in any police station or human rights organisation. “Once a person came here and told us that he is from the police. He asked about the damage done by army soldiers and the names of persons who were beaten by them. But we didn’t tell him anything as we feared that the named persons may be arrested,” Mir said.
Later, several other villages were attacked by army troopers in night raids. They injured dozens of people and damaged property worth lakhs. The villages include Turkwangam, which was assaulted on two consecutive nights. The assaults left 25 persons injured, including young women who suffered fractures in their legs and arms. Two days later, the soldiers again assaulted the villagers, and damaged several vehicles.
The villages that were assaulted and vandalised by army troopers in the past two months include Turkwangam, Maldair, Chitragam, Kannipora, Nadpora, Wathoo, Brathipora, Sando-Shirmal, Heff, Vehil, Saidpora, Ramnagri, Shamsipora, Chakoora, and Kundalan. Villagers from Turkwangam and Kundlan have accused the army soldiers of looting their shops as well.
Property in Vehil village was damaged soon after some boys burst firecrackers to celebrate the Pakistan cricket team’s win over England in the Champion’s Trophy, which Pakistan went on to win with a huge 183-run win over India.
Gulam Muhammad Mir, Numberdar of Vehil village, said that there is so much fear in the villagers that complaining against the army men is out of the question. “How can we complain to the police? The police and army are brothers-in-arms. They would not listen to us as their job is to beat civilians and create terror among people,” he said.
Villagers of Kundalan, which falls in Nagisharan area where a new army garrison was established on June 20, said that they were forced to chant anti-Pak and pro-India slogans by the army men. When they refused to say the slogans, the soldiers beat up 20 persons in the village.
An elderly person from the village said that army soldiers were “beating people, looting and vandalising property without reason”. “They will get nothing but more hate from the public,” he said.
Recently two new army garrisons were set up in Shopian, one at Nagisharan village on June 20 and the second at Dobipora village on July 18.
Srinagar-based army spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia has said of the new garrison, “this is routine redeployment based on operational requirements.”
After every attack on the said villages, Colonel Kalia has refuted the allegations of villagers and said, “none of our troopers was involved in assaulting people or damaging property”.
Deputy Commissioner of Shopian, Muhammad Aijaz, has said that he recently held a meeting with the Commanding Officer of the army unit to make sure that human rights violations do not happen in the district.
Prominent human rights activist Khurram Parvaiz told Kashmir Reader that such assaults are supposed to create fear among people. “They want to bring back the fear that was prevalent in the 1990s, but on the ground their mission has failed, as the more they assault people, the more people are getting involved in the resistance movement,” he said.
Khurram said that the people who have faced assaults must go to the nearest police station and register a case against the troopers. If the police refuse to file an FIR, then a case can be made by human rights commissions and organisations such as the one Khurram works at.
Khurram added, “If the people who were beaten by troops, like the young women at Turkwangam, come to us with their complaints, we will fight their cases in court.”
Senior Superintendent of Police Shopian, SA Dinkar, told Kashmir Reader that he did not know anything about assaults by army soldiers on villages nor has he received any complaint.