Will never forget or forgive: Survivors recall horror

Will never forget or forgive: Survivors recall horror
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Aripanthan killings anniversary

Budgam: Two years after four civilians were killed in firing by government forces in Aripanthan village in Budgam district, the survivors say the “massacre remains a recurring nightmare”.
On August 16, 2016, four civilians, Manzoor Ahmad Lone, Javid Ahmad Najar, Javaiad Ahmad Sheikh and Mohammad Ashraf Wani were killed in the firing in the village, while as scores were injured.
“It haunts me still,” says Tawkeer Ahmad Bhat, who was critically injured in the firing. Tawkeer lives in a single story house along the Magam-Beerwah road.
“On the fateful day, as I ventured out of home to buy a newspaper what I saw was chaos all around. A horrible feeling was caused by the night-long raids by the army men in the village,” Tawkeer said.
A day before intense clashes had taken place between protestors and government forces after a middle rung official was barred from hoisting the flag on Indian Independence day, he said.
“The memory of that night still troubles me. On 16th morning as I reached near the chowk or what we call the check-post, because the army camp is near to it, I saw a CRPF vehicle coming from Magam road”.
“Without any provocation they started firing tear gas shells. This created panic among the people especially those who were out to buy vegetables and bread.”
“I began to move towards a safer place but the forces’ personnel were already in the lane, so I ran along the link road leading to Iskandarpora”. Soon, bullets started flying, he recalled.
“I took cover in a drain along the road. Another man, Manzoor Ahmad Sheikh, had also been hiding in the same drain. After a brief pause, Manzoor stood up on the road to see the situation around. I was crawling through the drain to reach near to him, but before he could see around, a bullet hit him in the chest and pieced through his back.”
“I have never witnessed such devastation. Everywhere you looked, people were drowned in blood. There were bodies around. Everywhere you turned, there were wounded people crying for help.”
Tawkeer says, as Manzoor fell on the road with blood oozing out of his body he came out of the drain for his help.
“He (Manzoor) told me, ‘Bullet hit my heart and I will die now’” Tawkeer recounts.
“I tried to take him on shoulder but as I knelt a bullet hit my face and pierced through the neck and another hit my shoulder and pierced multiple organs”.
“I fell down and don’t know what happened afterwards. When I opened my eyes after few days I found myself in a hospital,” Tawkeer said.
He spent 31 days in coma and had been administered 65 pints of blood on the first night, he said.
“Since that day, believe me, I have not even earned a single penny. I have gone through eight surgeries but am still struggling to recover completely,” Tawkeer said.
Another survivor, Farooq Ahmad Bhat, was hit with bullets in his head and is still motionless and speechless.
His family is broken and waiting for the justice which they say is a “mere dream”.
Farooq’s elder sister, who takes care of him, said that two years on they have not received a single promised penny from the government.
Hajira Begum, who was shot in her arm, says she had gone to the chowk to look for her 12-year-old son.
All the three survivors said that justice has eluded them, and added that they will never “forget” or “forgive”.

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