by Shams Irfan
SRINAGAR: On early Monday morning a mixed contingent of various counter-insurgent government forces launched a massive Cordon and Search Operation (CASO) in at least ten villages of Pulwama district. It led to tensions and clashes as youngsters, at various places, came out of their homes and clashed with forces.
The contingents comprised Rashtriya Rifles – 44, 55, and 53, two battalions of CRPF – 182 and 183 along with the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Jammu and Kashmir Police. The clashes led to use of tear-smoke shells and, at certain places, live ammunition as well, to disperse the protestors.
Within no time all ten villages: Rahmoo, Bellow, Putrigam, Matrigam, Frasipura, Goosu, Kuchepura, Murran, Thokerpora and Drabgam, were on the edge.
In the morning, around seven boys including Fayaz Ahmad Wani, 26, a graduate who had joined Lal Ded Diagnostic Centre in Pulwama two months back, were standing near a roadblock in Chewa-Kalan village. This road-block was the exit point of CASO, which was laid since early morning. The second check-point had emerged in the main-Chowk of the village, was manned by army vehicles.
As Fayaz and other boys loitered around the make-shift road-block, an army Casper vehicle made its way towards them. When the Casper came near the road-block, it stopped. “Within no time five or six army men got down from the vehicle,” said an eyewitness who wishes to stay anonymous. “When they (boys) saw army men getting down aggressively, they started running in all directions.”
As Fayaz and one of his friends started running towards a small graveyard, which is located at the foot of a Karewa, an army man fired three gunshots in his direction. “One bullet hit him just below his eye,” said one of his relatives.
When the bullet hit Fayaz, he was barely twenty-five feet away from the shooter. “It pierced his face and came out from the back of his head,” said his relative. “He collapsed on the spot.”
After Fayaz was hit, his friends tried to evacuate him but with army present nearby, they couldn’t do it. “For next ten minutes, they (army) didn’t allow anyone to go near him. He bled to death there and then,” said a relative.
Ten minutes later when the Casper left, a number of people rushed to the spot and evacuated Fayaz to nearby Pulwama hospital. “When we shifted him to Pulwama, he was lifeless but his body was warm, which gave us some hope,” said his relative. “But the hope was short-lived.”
At 1:30 pm, Fayaz reached Pulwama hospital in a near dead state, where a team of doctors quickly tried to revive him.
When the news of his revival from “near death” state spread, his relatives and friends, got hopeful that he will survive. “He was young and resilient. We were sure he will fight back,” said a relative over phone amid sobs. “But he couldn’t.”
After his pulse was revived Fayaz was referred to SMHS hospital in Srinagar with a word that he is “five per cent alive”. As the ambulance carrying Fayaz rushed to Srinagar, parts of Pulwama started to shut down. “Since it was a neurosurgical case, we sent him to Srinagar for specialised treatment,” said a doctor who treated him at Pulwama hospital. “He was at Pulwama for just twenty minutes.”
“We received him from a primary health centre and in a very bad state,” Dr Abdul Rashid Parra said. “Somehow, we were fortunate to trace his pulse and we worked on it and he resumed breathing.” He was revived but was highly critical, the doctor said. “So we sent him in a critical care hospital to SMHS,” Dr Parra said.
At SMHS Srinagar, Fayaz was declared brought dead.
Youngest among three brothers and two sisters Fayaz’s friends recall him as pious, down-to-earth and dedicated human being. In July 2018, Fayaz was hit by pellets in his right arm while returning from his sister’s house in Pulwama outskirts. “He had over fifty pellets still in his arm which he didn’t get removed,” said a friend. “He was riding a bike when a policeman targeted him and fired a pellet shot.”
After that day Fayaz used to tell his friends that he feels lucky to survive. “He shot straight at my face but missed,” he had told one of his friends. “I might have died had he not missed.”
But Fayaz had no idea that he will run out of luck a month later, that too twice in a single day.
Once Fayaz’s body was handed over to his family and relatives at SMHS hospital, they started their painful journey back to Chewa-Kalan. But before they could have made it out of Srinagar, a few police vehicles began following the ambulance carrying Fayaz. “They didn’t let us take him home,” said a relative who was with him till his end.
After a cat-and-mosque kind of chase, the ambulance carrying Fayaz was intercepted by policemen and driven straight to Police Control Room (PCR), near Karan Nagar, Srinagar. “At the PCR, cops did some paperwork and permitted us to go home after about twenty minutes,” said the relative.
In the evening when the ambulance slowly made its way into sleepy Chewa-Kalan village, where Fayaz used to roam around with his friends, making plans about his future and life, people couldn’t help to weep over the irony. “He was just a boy full of life and dreams. Why did they kill him,” asked a friend?
Was slain Fayaz part of stone pelting? Police in Srinagar said yes he was. Reports said the main stone pelting took place in Muran, almost four km away from the spot where Fayaz was hit by bullets. One police source in Srinagar said there was stone pelting on the forces when they were leaving the village.
But why was he hit by a bullet when pellets are also in vogue? “That is a matter of investigation,” SSP Pulwama Chandan Kohli said on phone. He said there were clashes and stone pelting too. Asked if the police have any record about Fayaz’s involvement in stone pelting, the SSP said: “We were busy in the law and order situation and have not actually checked it.”
For the first time, the police in Srinagar has not issued the routine statement that usually offers the police version of the developments during the day.
Besides, there has not been any statement about why the major operation was launched and what the net outcome was when it concluded with one young man being killed.
PDP Man Survives
As the town was closed in protest, another incident was unfolding in the main town. A PDP activist Mehrajuddin Parra, a resident of Naira, had gone to watch a match in the local stadium. The match was over and he was moving out when a suspected militant fired a bullet on him, taking aim of his head. He sensed trouble and jumped to safety. Though a second bullet was fired, he somehow managed to escape. Reports said Parra took some route out of the exit and reached the police. After he had his injuries – received during the escape, he fled to Srinagar.
Mehrajuddin is Waheed Parra’s cousin. Waheed earlier survived a similar attack in a Budgam village.
Postscript, reports received at the timing of filing this copy suggest Muran has been taken into a tight cordon again, no details were immediately available.