Srinagar: In less than 24 hours, militants in south Kashmir abducted 11 persons, all of them family members or relatives of serving policemen. Three of these abductions happened in a matter of minutes in an area less than 1 square km in Arwani Bijbehara.
At 8:05pm Thursday, Ghulam Nabi Sankar and his family were busy in household errands at their home in Kanipora Arwani when suddenly they heard a loud bang on their door.
Sankar’s son Nazir Ahmad Sankar is a police officer posted in Kulgam district in southern Kashmir.
Sankar’s another son, Arif Hussain, who was busy teaching his sons on the upper story of his house, ran down and unlocked the door. He was greeted by two militants whose faces were covered, Ghulam Nabi Sankar told Kashmir Reader.
“The militants asked Arif to accompany them to a nearby village as they were not aware of the alleys that lead to the village,” said Arif’s wife Tabssum.
Nobody dared to resist as the militants were heavily armed. Within a few minutes, Arif was gone.
Arif, 38, is a Rehber-e-Taleem teacher in the Jammu and Kashmir government. He has two sons, Saqlain Arif, a Class 3 student, and Majid Arif, a kindergarten student.
Ghulam Sankar said that the militants seemed to be attacking families of policemen as “tit for tat”. “Army and police have been brutalising and vandalising the families of the mujahideen. They harass the mujahideen’s families and now they (mujahideen) are doing the same to the policemen’s families,” he said.
On Wednesday night, hours after militants shot dead four policemen on the outskirts of Shopian town, government forces allegedly set ablaze houses of two Hizbul Mujahideen militant commanders in Shopian district.
On August 27, government forces had allegedly ransacked the house and beaten up family members of Lashkar-e-Toiba militant Waris Malik in Rakh-e-Mamnoo village of Arwani. Malik’s village is just 500 metres away from the Sankar familys house.
On the night of August 25, the house of another LeT militant, Azad Malik, was also allegedly ransacked by government forces.
Ghulam Sankar said that his police officer son, Nazir, had not come home for the past 25 days. “He is scared of the situation around. He also took away his wife with him, while his two sons are studying outside the state,” Ghulam said. He said that Nazir had informed him that he was feeling threatened about coming home.
Down the same alley where the Sankars live is the house of a Bhat family. The Bhats have two sons working in Jammu and Kashmir Police. Abdul Bari Bhat, 38, is posted in Srinagar, while Mehmood Ahmad Bhat, 32, is posted in Pahalgam. Both are married. Their father Muhammad Maqbool Bhat is a retired government teacher.
Tufail Bhat, another son of Maqbool Bhat, said that at 8:10pm Thursday, two militants appeared in their courtyard and started calling out the names of his policemen brothers. “My younger brother looked through the window and could sense that they were militants. He came out and the militants asked him to accompany them,” Tufail said.
While Tufail was conversing with the militant duo, his another brother Zubair Ansari came rushing and asked the militants to spare his younger brother and take him along instead. Zubair is a contractual lecturer at higher secondary school Hakoora and is also pursuing a PhD in English Literature.
Tufail said that the militants asked him to record a video and put it on social networking sites. “They told me to record a video and say that our two brothers were working in police,” Tufail said.
He said that the militants assured that they would not harm Zubair and would release him as and when the video was out.
Tufail said he failed to understand why his brother was picked up by militants when there are more than 100 families in Arwani area whose kith and kin work in the police and paramilitary. “There are dozens of families whose sons or fathers work in the police and are on good posts, including of SHOs and DySPs. Why only we are a target?” he questioned.
He said his policemen brothers Bari and Mehmood regularly visited home and came recently for Eid. “They never felt threatened nor have they committed atrocities of any kind,” Tufail said.
Further south in the neighbouring village of Kanipora in Arwani is a locality called Kharpora, where lives a family of three: Bashir Ahmad Makroo, his wife Aisha Banoo, and their student son, Raja Faizan Makroo. Bashir’s two brothers – Mushtaq Ahmad, 45, and Muhammad Rafiq, 35 – work for the police. Both are married.
Bashir is a teacher in the J&K education department and is posted at a higher secondary school in a neighbouring village. He said that at 8:15pm Thursday, three masked men knocked on his door. Their son, Faizan, a computer science student, went out to check.
“Faizan came running in and told us that there were militants outside who wanted him to accompany to his uncle’s (Mushtaq’s) house,” said Bashir.
Faizan’s mother told the militants that she would accompany them to Mushtaq’s residence. The militants rejected her offer.
“They took away Faizan and, within fifteen minutes, my brother rang me up and said that the militants had come searching for Mushtaq before they came for Faizan,” Bashir said.
When the militants had gone to Mushtaq’s house, they couldn’t find any male member there. “Some of them had gone for prayers while others were yet to return from work,” Bashir’s wife Aisha said.
Bashir and his wife made calls to a few relatives. Some of them informed the family that militants were out on an abduction spree and had picked up at least 9 relatives of policemen. The family was now sure that their son was gone.
Besides these three abductions, militants also abducted Zubair Ahmad, son of a policeman, from Arwani area; Sumar Ahmad Rather, son of a policeman, from Yaripora Kulgam; and Gowhar Ahmad, brother of a Deputy Superintendent of Police, from Katapora Kulgam. These five were also abducted Thursday evening.
Ghulam Nabi Sankar has appealed to the top brass of police to restrict their “war” to combatants only. “The police should stop barging into houses of mujahideen and harassing them. That is the only way this murkiness can be stopped,” he said.
Sankar said that he had asked his policeman son to resign because the situation was turning grave.
The families of Faizan and Zubair also appealed to militants’ commanders to release their sons.