It was Sunday, first day of September 1991, when Indian Army appeared in the midst of road surrounded by paddy fields in between Niloora and Litter villages of Pulwama district to lay an ambush.
After some time two militants identified as Ghulam Hasan Mir from Litter and Farooq Ahmad from Mattan Anantnag traveling unknowingly on a Tonga (horse cart) were heading towards the ambush, say village elders.
Witnesses say that as soon as they realized that they are heading towards a trap, they quickly jumped from the tonga and hid in surrounding paddy fields. The security forces were watching them and fired indiscriminately upon them triggering an encounter that continued for a while. Mir from Rakh Litter was killed instantly. The forces later cordoned the area to nab the Farooq who was hiding somewhere in the fields, but could not.
These were the early years of militancy in the valley and there were not many army bases in the South Kashmir. No one knew in the surrounding hamlets what had happened.
An octogranian, Ali Mohammad Ganaie remembers vividly what happened that day.
“Everyone was in immense fear and none was knowing what is happening around. We were just hearing gun shots,” Ganaie said.
Till next morning nobody in the surrounding villages knew what happened as they feared to venture outside.
Next day in the morning, Abdul Ahad Bhat went to fields to trace his missing son, who was working in the fields on that fateful day. When Bhat reached his fields he found his son Abdul Qayoom Bhat, 19, in a pool of blood and next to him were three more civilians, who were later identified as Mohammad Afzal Khan son of Abdul Gani Ganaie age 35, a government employee, Mohammad Sadiq Khan son of Ahmad Ullah Khan age of 45, a farmer and Abdul Ahad Ganaie son of Abdul Rehman Ganaie age 50, also a farmer.
“When forces managed to kill one militant and were unable to find other one, they started surveillance in the fields and started targeting civilians who were working there or had run for cover after the gunfight between the troopers and the militants,” Ali Mohammad Ganaie said.
Militants, who were present in nearby villages, on the other hand reached to a nearby hillock and fired indiscriminately in air to divert the forces’ attention. The hillock in Achan village of Pulwama which is about 2KM away from the Niloora village forced the government forces to enhance the search operations.
“At a hillock near the holy shrine of Syed Malik (RA), militants started aerial firing due to which they (Security forces) enhanced their search operation in more villages like Litter, Aglar, Nikloora and vast orchards and paddy fields,” said Mohammad Yousuf Ganaie Resident of Niloora village.
He added that they started beating ruthlessly whatever came in their way.
As the guns were roaring from the both sides, forces started dragging the villagers of Aglar out of their homes.
Five civilians from Aglar were dragged and were asked to stand in a queue and then fired upon. They were killed them on the spot in an orchard of Aglar village.
Gul Mohammad Bhat, a resident of Aglar village, now part of Shopian district said that their dead bodies were brought home next day.
“Forces further enhanced their operation and thrashed people from other areas as whole area was drowned in fear. These perpetrators shattered our moral, emotional and physical strength,” Gul said.
After forces let loose a reign of terror in Aglar village, they started their operation in Safanagar village and dragged seven youth from their houses and killed them in a jiffy on the same day evening after Magrib prayers.
Abdul Razzak, a resident of Safanagar village said that most villagers after hearing the gun shots coming from Aglar village left the village and very few residents were in Safanagari.
“The forces then barged into scores of residential houses and arrested over 60 persons from Niloora village,” says Sana Ullah Bhat, who was also arrested.
“They beat us ruthlessly for 7 days before releasing us however the relatives of killed civilians who were arrested were released after two days,” he added.
According to the locals, all these 16 civilians and one militant dead were laid to rest next day.