by Saifullah Bashir
SRINAGAR: At around 2 am on September 17, Abdul Majeed, a resident of Batamaloo (Srinagar) heard a knock at his door. It was cold and pitch dark. In a hurry, Majeed moved towards the main door and opened it. He saw security forces and came to know that the whole area stands cordoned off and searches were going on.
Cops asked Majeed about his family members. “Mehman hai koi andar,” one of them asked him specifically. By that time, his three sons – Izhar-ul-Islam (30), Idrees-ul-Islam (28), Shoaib-ul-Islam (26) came out as they had heard the conversation.
Without asking further questions, Majeed said the cops took them under detention. Majeed heads a seven-member family comprising his three sons, two daughters and his wife. Well qualified, Majeed’s are running a medical shop in the locality. After the detention of three members, Majeed was told to leave this house.
“I left the house and took shelter in the house of my brother in law,” he said. At around 5 am, a gunfight between militants and the counter-insurgent forces broke out and continued for three hours. “I was hearing the gunshots and loud bangs but I never thought that it would be in my house,” he said.
Majeed basically belongs to Anantnag. He migrated to Srinagar around 30 years ago. “It was at the end of encounter when I saw my house fully damaged,” said Majeed. All exit and entry points of Batamaloo were seized. Roads were blocked with razor wires and mixed contingents of CRPF and Jammu and Kashmir police were deployed on roads.
News of encounter spread like wildfire and youth came out on roads which resulted in a few quick clashes. The encounter ended with the death of three militants and a woman and a CRPF officer was also injured.
Jammu and Kashmir Police said all three slain militants were affiliated with Hizbul Mujahideen. They were identified as Zakir Paul, son of Nisar Ahmad resident of Aloora, Imam Sahib Shopian, active for the last more than three months; Ubair Mushtaq Bhat, son of Mushtaq Ahmad resident of Badragund Kulgam, active for the last 95 days and Adil Hussain Bhat, son of Abdul Rashid Bhat resident of Batapora Chursoo Awantipora, active as a militant for the last 27 days.
A local woman who according to police was killed in “crossfire” was identified as Kausar Reyaz (45) a resident of Firdous Abad Batamaloo.
Jammu and Kashmir police did not return the bodies of three slain militants to next of kin. However, the corpse of the woman was returned at 6:30 pm.
Kausar was running a bakery shop, the traditional Kandarwaan, which is at the distance of about two kilometres from her home. The distance from her home to encounter site is almost two kilometres. It was her daily routine to wake up at 3:30 am and move towards their shop. She used to accompany her son Auqib Reyaz.
“I used to help mom. I also run a provisional store but was managing this shop too,” said Auqib. Both Auqib and her mother were unaware of CASO. They were happily moving forward. They did not notice any unusual activity of security forces. When they travelled around half of the kilometre, they saw security forces holding positions and sensed the danger.
“After seeing a huge number of security forces I voluntarily turned the car, back towards my house but suddenly I was fired from back and bullets pierced the glass of the car and my mother was dead and she died on the spot,” Auqib said. “I did not even shift her to hospital as I realised she is no more but troopers came close to my car and directed me to shift (her to) PCR (police control room). It was a targeted killing.”
Auqib had married only a fortnight back. They had shifted to the new house barely a few months back. “The killing has broken the family,” one of Auqib’s friends, who was part of the mourning said. Auqib’s father works in the Chest Disease Hospital.
Briefing media, the Director-General of Police, Dilbagh Singh said the woman “was caught in the cross-firing”. He said: “Her killing is very unfortunate and the body will be returned to the family”.
By around 6:30 pm, Kausar’s corpse reached her home. Hundreds of men and women were waiting. It triggered sort of commotion and there was deafening sloganeering.
As hundreds of people joined the funeral and took her coffin for burial outside the Batamaloo shrine, drones were watching overhead.
In a statement, National Conference condemned the killing of a woman Kounsar Reyaz saying such incidents doesn’t augur well for the furtherance of everlasting peace in the region.
NC Spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar while condemning the incident said the killings like these will not help the situation improve. “Such incidents belie the claims of the government on zero tolerance towards human rights violence. The dignity of human life should be respected and protected at any cost. The incident should not be allowed to pass by without asserting the circumstances leading to the killing. I, on my behalf and on behalf of the party express unison with the grief-stricken family. We strongly condemn the incident in unequivocal terms and demand a thorough probe into the incident. We also express our solidarity with the grief-stricken family in their hour of grief,” he said.
Party’s Central Secretary Irfan Shah has also condemned the killing of Kounsar Reyaz and demanded a time-bound probe into the killing. He has also expressed solidarity with the bereaved family.