Enemy territory

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A sister kisses a good bye to her sister who was killed in 2010 unrest. PiC: Bilal Bahadur

A sister kisses a good bye to her brother who was killed in 2010 unrest. PiC: Bilal Bahadur

People of Palhallan have been incarcerated in their homes without electricity and access to healthcare, nor are they allowed to harvest paddy or pick apple. Security forces ransack and allegedly loot houses. A Kashmir Life report.

When even a pro-India legislator says that Palhalan area has been converted into a big concentration camp, things must be really hard for the local population. There has been no relaxation in strangulating curfew since Sept 12.The small area with a population of around 25000 has seen many protests and ruthless reprisals during the last three months, with eight deaths and more than 60 others injured.

PDP legislator Molvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari says that government forces were harassing and beating up people (of Palhallan area) for no reason, hundreds of houses have been ransacked, doors windows and panes smashed and household property looted or damaged, while youngmen are “stripped and paraded naked” through the villages.

“(A) free license has been given to forces to commit atrocities on people… Army, paramilitary forces, police, Ikhwanis (pro-government militants) and some NC workers are working in tandem to carry out the war against innocent people,” Ansari said, “Even harvesting operations are being stalled and people are being prevented from reaping paddy crop which could result in heavy damages.”

Palhallan is a classic example of unreportability of Kashmir as in the small besieged population, hardly anyone is ready to talk on record for fear of reprisals at the hands of government forces. Moreover, journalists are not allowed to go inside the besieged village.

Police on September 5 stopped journalists of daily newspaper Greater Kashmir team from visiting the village, though they were carrying valid curfew passes. “You cannot go as curfew has been imposed,” GK quoted a policeman as saying before escorting the vehicle to the office of Deputy Superintendent of Police, Pattan, Sajjad Ahmed Shah, three kilometers from Palhallan.

“There are strict instructions from higher-ups not to allow anybody inside,” GK quoted the police official at Pattan as saying.

The curfew in the area is being enforced by army and paramilitary CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force).The only allopathic dispensary in the village has been shut down, power supply is disrupted and water supply is scant.

Around 1200 households have been living without electricity as troopers damaged (locals say deliberately) four transformers in the area by firing.

“Troopers are targeting transformers to disrupt electricity. They directly lobbed ammunition on them to snap electricity supply to villagers,” GK quoting locals reported.

PDP leader Ansari also hinted at the deliberate systematic ploy to punish the local population and “depriving them of all fundamental rights”.

“Even as more than a dozen people most of them youth were gunned down by government forces in the area about sixty lay injured…forty of those having received injuries in the area at the hands of government forces are facing the prospect of life-long disability,” Ansari said, “Many of the youth have been targeted deliberately to damage their limbs and vital organs”.

Palhallan is prosperous area with good agriculture and apple produce. The troopers are not allowing the people to harvest paddy or pick apples.“They are trying to break people by collective punishment and by inflicting economic  deprivation…the state wants to make an example of us and teach us a lesson using its might on a small dissenting population,” says a local, who has fled to Srinagar, obviously not wishing to be named.

Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari (2)There is acute shortage of food and vegetables and a real threat of impending disaster as people fear to venture out of their homes. Locals say they are on the verge of starvation.There are reports of police and troops preventing people from working in orchards and paddy fields. They have been chased with batons and teargas.

“Villagers used to go to fields evading the eyes of troops and police, but then they began to get into fields. Few days back police arrested nine youth from fields, tortured them and released them after nine days,” said Sajjad Ahmad a local resident.

Many young men have fled from the village, whenever they got an opportunity to escape. Residents say security forces show up in villages, barge into house and resort to beatings and arrest.“The policemen were breaking window panes of a house, when a girl from inside questioned them. Four policemen, took hold of the girl, Rabia, and beat her badly,” Rabia’s neighbor told Kashmir Life.

Similarly when policemen were trying to arrest one Nasir Ahmad Tantray from his house, his sister Zahida tried to resist. She was, according to witnesses, caught and flung towards the police jeep leading to facial injuries including a broken nose.The only dispensary at Palhalan is under the control of security forces, and thus inaccessible to residents. It took residents a lot of time to somehow take Zahida to Sub district hospital at Pattan through internal village alleys.

“It has become routine for them to barge into houses, ransack household items and beat up inmates,” locals told Kashmir Life over phone, adding that windowpanes of more than three hundred houses have been broken over past three months.

The police have detained many youth including minors. However, no official was ready to talk on the number of arrests made in the area.

To evade constant harassment, hundreds of youth have fled their homes and taken refuge at relatives’ houses. Police, army and CRPF are also raiding the relatives of Palhallan residents in Pattan area. If the troopers deployed in areas around Palhallan find any resident of Palhallan, (during routine frisking) he is severely thrashed or even detained.

The protests in the area became fierce after a 14 year old boy was shot and allegedly beaten up by CRPF leading to his death.

Palhallan, 30 kilometres north of Srinagar, is flanked by two major army camps (Hyderbeigh in the north and Babateng in the south). The area is heavily dominated by army and CRPF.

“Omar Abdullah government by resorting to such inhuman practices was trying to silence a population that is engaged in a serious struggle for justice…Kashmir had moved far ahead in its awareness and would neither be exploited emotionally nor subjugated through force,” MLA Ansari said.

During the ongoing unrest, eight persons have been killed by forces in the area. Twelve-year old Adil Ramzan Shiekh was allegedly shot by troopers in sub-district hospital Pattan on July 30. Four persons including two residents of Wusan were killed on September 6 in police and CRPF firing.

The deceased were identified as Feroz Ahmed Malik (17), Noruddin Tantray (22), Muhammad Ramzan Mir (42) and Mudasir Ahmad (18). One of injured, Muhammad Ashraf Mir (25), succumbed to injuries at SKIMS later. Two more civilians, Ansarullah Tantray (24) and Ali Muhammad Waza (30), were killed on September 18.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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