Army hands over counter-insurgents to Kashmir Police
19 April 2002
The Asian Age
Balahama: Life in Balahama village will never be same again. A group of counter- insurgents or nabdis, as the renegades are known in Kashmir, gunned down five innocent civilians who dared to question their authority. Some other villagers are battling for their lives in hospital. Stunned villagers have, amid widespread protests, buried their dead, including two school-going children. Prior to Tuesday’s massacre, Balahama had seen fewer, insignificant violent incidents during the 12-year-old militancy in Kashmir, which actually left some neighbouring villages ravaged in many ways. Everybody at Balahama seems to be in a state of deep shock, unsure what their next step should be. “Where do we go? Who should we approach? Who will listen to us?” are some of the questions being raised by the victims’ relatives and neighbours. As thousands of irate villagers took to the streets on Wednesday to protest the killings, the authorities ordered the arrest of three counter-insurgents, at present working with the Army. The three former militants are allegedly involved in the gruesome incident. The counter-insurgents, who reportedly took shelter in a Army camp at a neighbouring village after committing the crime, descended on Balahama around 7 pm on Tuesday and went straight to house of one Gulam Mohiuddin Sheikh. “They had covered their faces with bandannas and we thought they were mujahideen,” recalled one of the family members. The unwanted guests asked for food, but when refused on the plea that the Army will later harass their hosts, the trio turned hostile abusing the family and brandishing their weapons. The Sheikhs raised an alarm attracting the attention of their neighbours. Everybody started rushing towards their house to help the family. Meanwhile, Sheikh, showing tremendous spirit, removed the bandanas from the faces of his unwelcome visitors and the assembled villagers and others recognised them as nabdis or counter-insurgents. However, Sheikh and four others, including his son Majnoon Ahmed, had to pay a heavy price. They fell victim to the gunfire of angry counter-insurgents. The others who died due to indiscriminate firing are Zahoor Ahmed, Gulla Mir and Abdul Hameed Mir. Gulla Mir’s wife is among the injured villagers. The most disturbing part of the gruesome incident is that the assailants identified as Altaf Khan, alias Chadya Khan, Akbar Khan, alias Akbarya, and Jamaal, alias Kana, escaped to the Army camp at neighbouring village of Shala Kot and remained there, alleged the villagers. They also complained that 28 Rashtriya Rifles soldiers who, according to them, were watching the mayhem from a distance did not allow the injured villagers to be moved to hospital. “Policemen from the Panzala police station arrived on hearing about the incident but they too could not remove the injured to hospital on time because of the Army hindrance,” alleged one of the villagers. Abdul Hameed Mir could have been saved if he had got medical attention on time. Army officials deny the charge. A spokesperson of the Kilo Force said militants had asked for food and shelter for the night and when refused by the villagers who surrounded them and shouted for help from the nearby Army camp, they opened indiscriminate fire. “The police and Army visited the site and found fired cases of an AK-74, an weapon not used by the Army or the Ikhwanis (counter-insurgents),” the spokesperson added. A case of murder has been registered at the Panzala police station. Army officials have handed over two of the accused to the police so that it can complete its investigations. In fact, Jammu and Kashmir works minister Ali Muhammad Sagar, minister of state for home Khalid Najeeb Suharwardhy and a host of officials visited the village on Wednesday and ordered for the arrest of the three renegades responsible for the massacre. The ruling National Conference believes the attack on this remote Kashmiri village is part of a “conspiracy” hatched against the party in the run-up to the Assembly polls. “They want to malign us by indulging in such brutal acts but let the word go to all that we have not sold out to anybody and do know how to protect our people,” said Mr Sagar, a close confidant of chief minister Farooq Abdullah.