Lashkar throat-cutters enjoy field day in Shopian
21 June 2002
The Daily Excelsior
shopian: Street posters and handbills, pasted outside village mosques and other public places, have spread panic in this fruit belt of south Kashmir since the beginning of this year. They carry diktats from different militant outfits—asking hapless civilians to observe a particular brand of dress code and removing of barbed-wire fencing from the boundaries of their orchards. Few have had guts to ignore. ''Ignoring the (militants’) orders is taken as infidelity and punishment is nothing short of death'', says a 60-year-old shopkeeper, Abdul Gaffar. According to him, this brand of senseless terrorism has returned to Shopian after years. According to official statistics, more than 40 civilians have been kidnapped and killed by Pakistani militants since January this year in Pulwama district. Quivering under fear, everybody from civilians to officials here calls the killers as ''unidentified gunmen''. Two dozen of the people, killed as ''informers'', are those who have been slaughtered or chopped off into pieces with harrowing brutality. Blood-splattered organs of a number of bodies have been found amputated and littered around the spots of killing. Quite often the killers do not claim responsibility. ''They want both—to spread fear and to escape public criticism'', says a middle-aged schoolteacher who is keen to take assurance that he is not identified in the newspaper. With regard to the identity of the killers, he adds: ''But, Kashmir is a small place. Everybody knows who has killed whom. Once there is a public protest over a murder, it’s the handiwork of security forces, Task Force and local counter-insurgents. When there is total silence, the killing is undoubtedly handiwork of militants''. Out of 40, just two killings have evoked an outcry. A section of the population—mostly people of pro-Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami—appears to be believing that anti-people pronouncements like diktats on dress code, as also senseless killings came only from security forces to defame the militants. ''No militant would have chosen to eliminate the brother of prominent pro-Pakistan activist Hameed Fayaz'', asserts Abdur Rasheed of Nikus. However, others seem to be convinced that none but Pakistani cadres of Lashkar- e-Toiba were on the killing spree. ''Had it been counter-insurgents or STF, there would have been furore in whole of Valley. You see, even the Hurriyat Conference is intriguingly silent over these killings'', counters Meraj-ud-din, a student of Kashmir University at Pulwama. Reban-Sursan-Munand, Matribugh-Chakora-Nilu, Sedav-Aharbal-Tangmarg, Tahab-Naunagri-Wasora and Tral-Shikargah-Panzgam are the five main belts, which are infested with foreign militants in Pulwama district. A Victor Force official says that 103 militants were killed by security forces and SOG in 2001 and 78 more since January this year. He claimed that still around 300 militants—60% of them foreigners— would be present in Pulwama district. ''They maintain a particular level. We killed about 100 last year, they pushed in over 100 new recruits'', he said. But most of these killings have been reported in Shopian and Tral localities where foreign militants have been eliminating civilians with the label of being informers of security forces. Around 25 formations of Army’s Victor Force, the paramilitary Border Security Force and Jammu & Kashmir Police mean nothing for the terribly insecure civilian population. ''They all add to our miseries— by harassing innocent people, by abusing everybody as a terrorist. They just maintain killing of militants not militancy'', complains Mohammad Shaban Dar of Ahagam. The whole of his village perished in a fierce clash between militants and security forces four years ago. He admits there are ''exceptions'' in both sides. In Pulwama district, even a minor slip of tongue means death. Going to the MLA means death. Restoring power supplies to a military camp means death. Among those, who were kidnapped this year, just one person has been released with mild punishment. He is a Ghat Munshi of Reban Zainapora who was suspected to be a drunkard. Shabnam of Arshipora, a junior assistant in the state Heath Department, was gunned down last fortnight alongwith her sister, Humaira. Somebody had informed militants about her ''plans'' to marry MLA Shopian, Sheikh Rafee. Mohammad Ramzan Wani alias Ramba Fitter of Amarbug lost his life as, on a couple of occasions, he had been forcibly taken by security forces for repairing some electric fittings at their camp. A released militant was slaughtered as, on the day of forced weekly attendance at the camp, a Captain had whispered something into his ear. Showkat Ahmed of Lahand was a teacher at the local Darul Aloom, So-e-Sabil, at Khandaypora. He had uttered a few words against the Jehadi militants who, according to him, were not real Muslims. A day after, his severed head was found on a tree and the torso in a ravine. Student of 9th standard, Imran Mir of Maldera, was slaughtered a day after someone held him responsible for the arrest of a Pakistani militant. Just an allegation is sufficient to extinguish a life, however young. Rauf Ahmed and Javed Ahmed, sons of Abdus Salam Bhat of Ara Mohanpora, were kidnapped with the allegation that they had passed an information to security forces. Their heads were chopped off without any questioning. After a few days, militants returned to the village and tendered their apology, saying that they had been ‘misinformed’ about the young duo. According to the residents, those who had killed the duo, appeared in the village after some days and asked some shopkeepers to build a public water-point in memory of the two young boys. The only relief for the bereaved family came in the wording of the epitaph. Painted on the water-point, it mentions both the slain youngsters as martyrs. Sedav seems to be the most terrorised village. Last fortnight, militants appeared and butchered one Rafeeq Baniya whose uncle happens to be a counter-insurgent. An Army officer visited the spot and asked the 60-year-old village Chowkidar, Abdul Gani Ganai, how militants were killings civilians openly. To keep him in good humour, he suggested that the Army camp, which had been lately removed from the village, be brought back to Sedav. Next day, militants returned and slaughtered Ganai at the same spot where he wanted the camp to be relocated. At the same time, a young contractor was also slaughtered for his allegedly getting favours from the local MLA. ''They (militants) kill people on minor suspicions and pretexts. They kill everybody as an informer. But, I assure you, they have eliminated not a single of my informers since January this year. We have checked the antecedents of all those killed as informers. None of them worked for Army or BSF either'', says Vijay Kumar, SP Awantipore.