Shahgund: At 9:30 Friday night, Bashir Ahmad Rassa, 26, was standing outside his house in Shahgund village of Hajin when “three gunmen speaking Urdu” came near and took him along. At 2:30am in the night, the gunmen led him to the house of his uncle, Ghulam Hassan Rassa, 45, within hundred yards from Bashir’s house. As Rassa came out, “both of them were taken outside and dragged through the lanes of the neighbourhood to the masjid in Rahmeem Dar Mohalla, Shahgund, a kilometre away. “At exactly 3:00a, gunshots resounded in this village following pro-Islamic slogans probably shouted by the gunmen,” a villager in Shahgund told Kashmir Reader.
Saturday’s killings raised the number of civilians killed by “unknown gunmen” in Hajin area since 2017 to 6. The first killing took place in August 2017, when Muzaffar Ahmad Parry, 26, was found decapitated with his hands tied behind his torso. His family had to bear another shock last month when gunmen barged into the same house and abducted his brother-in-law, Naseer Ahmad Sheikh, 23. He was found the following day dead in an orchard nearby, with gunshot wounds in the waist.
Two days later, gunmen abducted a father-son duo. Though the father Abdul Gaffar Bhat was released after firing a bullet at him, his son Manzoor Ahmad, 26, was was found decapitated, with torture marks on his body, near Shahgund village.
The slain uncle-nephew were laid to rest in the martyrs graveyard in Shahgund village, right beside the grave of Farahat Ahmad Dar, one of the nephews of Ghulam Hassan who was killed after stone-throwing clashes with government forces in 2014 in the neighbouring village, Naidkhai.
The police have once again blamed the fresh killings as the work of a group of Lashkar-e-Taiba militants active in the area. But a statement issued by the LeT after Manzoor’s killing had refuted the allegations and instead blamed Indian agencies.
The fresh killings also come in the wake of a public threat by the LeT militants active in Hajin issued last week. The militants openly addressed the public at Hajin market and told people they “have a long list of informers and will eliminate all of them.”
Senior Superintendent of Police Zulfikar Azad said that “the killings are being carried out by the LeT group of three militants that comprises a local recruit and two foreigners from Pakistan.”
Ghulam Hassan Rassa, who according to doctors had an “entry wound at the left side of chest and lost the left side of mandible because of firearm injury,” while Bashir Ahmad had a firearm injury in the “occipital area of skull with herniation of brain matter.”
According to relatives, Ghulam Hassan was a pro-freedom activist associated with Tehreek-e-Hurriyat and also an ex-militant, having associations with militant groups like Albaraq and Hizbul Mujhadeen in the 90’s. He had served detentions on several occasions on charges of throwing stones at government forces and provoking people against India. His nephew Farahat Ahmad Dar was killed by government forces during clashes in Naidkhai in year 2014.
Hassan lived with his aged mother, Zoona Begum, and had divorced his wife only a few days back as he bore no child with her. He had sold his Tata Sumo and was now driving another passenger vehicle for livelihood. His father died last year due to old age.
His Nephew, Bashir, was a carpenter by profession. He is survived by two unmarried sisters and a handicapped brother, 12 years old, and a father who is a farmer. According to eyewitnesses, about fifteen hundred men attended his funeral.
On May 1, three militants were trapped by government forces when they were coming out of the local mosque after offering noon prayers in Hajin. In a brief exchange of gunfire, the militants managed to escape the spot. The uncle-nephew duo was killed at the same spot outside the Raheem Dar Mohalla Mosque, according to witnesses.
The SSP said of the public threat issued by militants, “Yes, they had threatened to kill the informers but the people they have killed weren’t informers. This all is their frustration at how security forces are getting the better of them.”
Police say there are five militants active in Hajin and the number hasn’t increased, but quite often there are floating groups from Pattan, Baramulla and other areas who keep moving, but five are permanently based in Hajin.