Gadole Gun Battle


Of the four personnel killed in the Kokernag gun battle, three were officers from the army and police. Faiqa Masoodi and Raashid Andrabi detail the militancy spurt in areas on either side of the Pir Panchal range

IGP (retd) JKP, Ghulam Hassan Paid laying floral wreath on his son Humayun Muzamil Bhat’s coffin on September 13, 2023.

After relentless count-insurgency operations in the last few years, the return of the fugitives on either side of the Pir Panchal is creating news more frequently.

On September 11, the army started an operation in Rajouri’s Narla belt, which concluded three days later. Ravi Kumar, a soldier from Kishtwar, and two militants – both said to be Pakistan nationals, were killed as three personnel including an SPO survived and were injured. After successful contributions in at least 10 operations, the army lost Kent, 6, its Labrador sniffer, in Operation Sujaligala. This was in continuation of the cat and mouse game that the two sides have been engaged in the Pir Panchal valley in which about 26 militants and 10 security personnel were killed in 2023, so far.

“Pakistan is trying to make efforts from its side to send foreign terrorists here, despite the better internal conditions (security situation), so that they can create some kind of obstacle,” Northern Army Command Chief Lt General Upendra Dwivedi said after the operation was over. “This is because of the progress that we are making in Jammu and Kashmir.”

Gadole Operation

The Rajouri encounter was midway when the security grid got the information about the presence of militants deep inside Gadole forests. It is a vast mountain belt that connects Kokernag belt with Kishtwar region. It is the same area where a 4.5 km tunnel is proposed between Ahlan (Gadole) and Kishtwar. The tunnel would connect Vailoo with Chatroo in Kishtwar.

Colonel Manpreet Singh, Major Ashish, deputy superintendent of Jammu and Kashmir Police Humayun Bhat killed in the gunfight in Kokernag on September 13, 2023

Police officials quoted by the media suggest that it was an intelligence-based operation as the informer gave a lead about the presence of a group of militants in Hallpora Gadole forests. They left for the spot and were taken by surprise. Colonel Manpreet Singh, who heads the 19-RR was hit by the bullets and killed almost instantly. Major Ashish Dhonchak and DySP Humatun Muzamil Bhat were injured along with many others. As the security forces started evacuations, efforts failed as the well-trenched militants prevented the landing of the chopper for a long time.

Though the Srinagar-based 15-Corps commander Lt Gen Ghai and Director General Police, flew to the spot, it took a few hours to ensure the evacuations. By that time the two officers had suffered haemorrhage and died. The exact details of the incident are still not officially out.  So far, four personnel including a soldier are killed as the army and police insist they have almost zeroed in on a spot where militants are hiding. These include a local insurgent, Uzair Khan, who has reportedly joined militancy in 2022.

A Cop’s Son

Some details are now coming out from family sources or the cops and civil administration officials who know the Bhat family. Humayun Muzamil Bhat, 34, the Jammu and Kashmir Police DySP had made a call to his wife asking her to take care of their 42-day-old son. He had also talked to a friend and various family members and colleagues on the phone after being hit.

For the Bhats’ of Tral, destiny has been crafted with a twist. On February 28, 2018, the father superannuated and hung his boots. Son Humayun joined the police force on February 21, 2018, almost a week ahead.

DySP Humayun Bhat lost his life during a gunfight in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district on September 13, 2023

“I asked him (the day he figured in the JKAS list) you will likely get police, which is unlike you, given your quiet and introverted nature,” one of his mentors told Kashmir Life. “He said, the police are my legacy. God has chosen me to carry it forward.” At the time of confirming post-probation, one officer said the panel grilled him 40 minutes and he was logical and convincing in whatever he was asked.

Barely three postings later, he left behind his 42-day-old son, an orphan. Post probation, he served at Pattan, later moved to Cargo and was posted in Kokernag in June.

It was a hugely emotional scene when Ghulam Hassan Bhat walked 10 steps – accompanied by former colleague, Munir Khan, and laid the floral wreath on his son’s coffin at the District Police Lines, Srinagar. This might have been the heaviest step of his life. The tragedy is that Ghulam Hassan Bhat was in touch with his son after he was hit. He had suggested he roll down from the hillock in order to escape firing. Humayun responded: “I can’t move. I cannot move my legs.”

“He was in touch till 3 pm,” one officer said. After being hit, an informed police officer told Kashmir Life that he had made a video call to his wife. “I am hit, please take care of VVV (son’s name redacted),” one police officer, who met the slain officer’s clinical-psychologist wife said.

A close family relative said the couple had pre-booked a cake for September 27, when their first marriage anniversary would fall. Well before that Humayun, an erstwhile sketch artist, fell in the line of duty. It is now mourning, the fourth day and a perpetual gulf and no reason for any celebration.

Though hundreds of people went to Humhama to condole “Bhat Sahab’s son”, Humayun had started creating his own image. “A Burn Hall student, he was a topper in tenth, twelfth and was too shy and too disciplined,” one of his seniors, who knew him earlier, said. “He was in a way bookish, brought up in strict discipline and was someone who can never resort to mischief, whatsoever.”

Lt Governor Manoj Sinha visited the family members of DySP Humayun Bhat in Humhama, Budgam on September 19, 2023. Bhat was one of the three top officers who were killed in Gadole encounter. Image: DIPR

In the police also he was Bhat Sahab’s son. “He would carry the burden of his father’s legacy,” one senior officer revealed. “Many a times the senior officers, although in a lighter vein would put him under extra pressure of giving his best while citing references about his father’s professional competence and would in turn expect the same kind of wisdom and competence from him, which in a way helped him in his fast grooming as an officer.”

After his graduation, one of his uncles said the 34-year-old did his B Tech from SSM Srinagar and later was selected as district officer in the social welfare department. Then he took the JKAS examination and made it to the police service. “Barely a few weeks back, he requested me – Beh Kithkan Aaseh Roub Karan, Meh Chun Tangnie.” Admitted one of his seniors: “It would require making a struggle to get him to talk.”

Humayun had received a bullet very close to his spinal cord. His younger brother, a veterinarian, who saw him during the funeral bath, told his colleagues that he had a pelvic area wound.

Once hit, only Humayun knew the race had started between two things – his blood supply and the battery of his phone. While the blood retained his life, the phone kept him in touch with the rest of the world. “He had lost all his blood and I saw him like white,” one elderly Friends Colony resident, and friend of his father, said. The haemorrhage had drained the last pint of the blood, he asserted. Only an investigation will reveal the blood versus battery race, who departed from Humayun first.

Two Punjab Officers

By Friday, the mortal remains of Singh and Dhonchak were flown to Chandigarh and Panipat, respectively for last rites. Originally from the Sikh Light Infantry, Singh and Dhonchak were decorated with the Sena Medal for their contributions to counter-insurgency operations. While Singh got the medal on August 15, 2021, Dhonchak’s contributions were acknowledged on August 15, 2023. The down south Larkipora-based 19-RR manages Kokernag, Verinag and Achabal belts and is the same battalion that killed Burhan Wani in 2016. Singh had refused a peace posting in 2021 when he was elevated to the position of colonel.

Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi, the Northern Command Chief, being briefed near Gadole on September 16, 2023. Pic Northern Command

Major Dhonchak, 34, miraculously survived on August 10, when in a cordon and search operation in the Ahlan Gadole a grenade was hurled towards his team that left three persons injured including a soldier. He had built a house and the housewarming was supposed to take place on October 23. Apart from his parents, Dhonchak is survived by his wife, and daughter, two and a half years old. He was the only son of his father, a retired National Fertilizers Limited clerk. He has three sisters.

The operation continues and thousands of cops, paramilitary men and soldiers are scanning the area using the most modern machinery including drones and choppers.


The killing in the yet-to-be-finished encounter triggered a lot of heat and dust. “Terror machine has not been conquered. Attacks in J&K whether directed against the security forces or directed against the minority population or even the members of the majority pollution in J&K have continued all through,” Omar Abdullah said. “It is only the propaganda of central govt ably assisted by the same propaganda machinery in Jammu and Kashmir.”

Dr Farooq Abdullah said the situation will not change unless it is talked on the table. “Such incidents will continue if there is no dialogue. We are fools if we think that it (violence) will stop. We will keep losing lives,” Dr Abdullah said… “There is no way but dialogue. Both countries should give up their stubbornness and hold talks” His suggestions were quickly rejected by the BJP.

The Pir Panchal range continues to remain challenging on the security front. On May 5, 2023, five soldiers from the Army’s Special Forces were killed in an ambush in Rajouri. Almost a fortnight back, five soldiers were killed in Poonch when their truck was ambushed on April 20, 2023. On August 11, 2022, five soldiers were killed when an army camp came under attack. In October 2021, nine soldiers, including a JCO, were killed in two separate encounters with militants between Bhata Durian and Dehra Ki Gali. Barely a month back three soldiers killed in Halan forests of Kulgam.

Post Script

On September 19, 2023, the gun battle ended as the Police announced that the two militants including Uzair Khan have been killed. The overall death toll was seven including five security personnel and two militants. The charred bodes recovered from the hills will have to undergo DNA testing for identity. The area remained restricted as the security apparatus wants to scan the area. The gun battle was perhaps the longest gun battle in a long time in which all kind of modern machinery including drones, choppers, and mortars were used. Even choppers were used to attack the reported hideouts.


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