Bilal Handoo / Muhammad Abu Bakr

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BOTENGO

Shell that landed in Botengo. (Photos: Muhammad Abu Bakr/KL)
Shells that landed in Botengo. (Photos: Muhammad Abu Bakr/KL)

Three shells that rained on two residential houses in Batengo Sopore Thursday night not only freaked out the villagers, but also set off a sense that Indo-Pak war has begun.

What made villagers certain about the outbreak of the war in this sleepy village—5 km from Sopore town—was its timing and peaked hostility between nuclear armed neighbours India and Pakistan.

Earlier that morning, Sept 29, army in a first from New Delhi stated that Indian army’s Ghatak forces had carried out “surgical strikes” on militant launching pads inside Pakistan-administrated Kashmir. Though Pakistan immediately rubbished the claims, but the war discourse instantly gripped the valley.

“It was around 11:30 in the night when two loud thuds rattled us,” Altaf Malla of Batengo’s Bhat Mohalla told Kashmir Life. “Before we could make any sense of the strike, two shells tearing down our rooftop exploded inside my house.” Luckily, he and his family escaped unhurt.

In nearby Herpora Mohalla, another shell rained on Ghulam Hassan Malla’s house, driving his shrieking family on streets. “We thought,” Hassan said, “the war has started between India and Pakistan.”

Three shells at the drop of a hat ended Batengo’s sleep as everyone anticipated further shelling. “It was a painful night,” Hassan said. “Everyone was expecting worse and shivering in fear.”

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Earlier in the day, villagers had seen a mysterious flying object trailed with a long, white smoke in sky. People from Srinagar, Islamabad and other major towns immediately reported the flying object. Many even confused it with rocket or drone; others said it was a shooting star.

What happened at Batengo hours later made the villagers sure that it was indeed the same object they had spotted on skies.

Next day, the villagers were told by army’s 22 RR regiment camped in Botengo that the nocturnal shelling was done by them after “sensing some suspicious movements” in the village. “Those shells were harmless and were fired on trail basis,” the villagers quoting a senior army officer as having said.

The Srinagar-based army PRO couldn’t be reached for comments despite repeated attempts.

But the fact it was first of its kind of shelling in Botengo — and that too, when Indo-Pak war “rumours” are flying thick, it was only apparently natural for Botengo to confuse it with the beginning of the war.

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