Night of Pain

A day after Burhan’s killing in nearby Bemdoora village, restive tourist hotspot Achabal reacted quite unexpectedly. Aakash Hassan reports how three deaths have left the area in mourning

Achabal-victims

Within minutes of Burhan Wani’s killing in Bamdoora village, almost everyone in Achabal area, 15 kms from Kokernag, known for its alluring Mughal gardens, came on the streets to protest. By night fall, Achabal witnessed thousands marching towards Kokernag, who wanted to see where Burhan was killed. Most of them were on their way to Tral, to participate in Burhan’s funeral.

That night, said one of the eyewitnesses, no one slept in Achabal. There were clashes outside police station till 2 am.

The next morning, once again people gathered in Achabal chowk, while a huge procession of people from Chiturgul, Magraypora, Nowgam, Dialgam, Brinti, Shehlipora villages began marching towards the chowk.

Within minutes people clashed with government forces and CRPF, who responded with tear-smoke shells, pellets and stones.

After an hour, forces withdrew to their garrison and police station. But, the anger among protestors by now was at its peak, as they circled the police station. “It seemed like police and CRPF will run out of ammunition,” said an eyewitness. “They rained pellets, tear-smoke shells and bullets.”

One bullet hit Sakib Manzoor Mir, 16, in the head. He was from nearby Khundro village. “He left home to buy medicine,” said Sakib’s wailing mother Shakeela Akhter.

In 2007, Sakib, a cricket buff, survived miraculously when Khundroo ammunition depot caught fire. “That time he was hit by an explosive shell, had to get through multiple surgeries,” said Sakib’s brother Rameez.  “He had 103 stitches on his body. Only his head was left.”

“This time he was hit on the head,” said his mother amid sobs.

Rameez said, Sakib could have been saved had CRPF not stopped and beaten him at Sangam. “They wasted precious one hour,” said Rameez. “They (CRPF) beat us all ruthlessly.”

Rameez remembers CRPF men saying him that, ‘he is already dead. Now we will kill you too.’

It was only after CRPF beat everybody that the ambulance was allowed to pass. “Doctors (at SMHS) apologized to the family saying, ‘he had lost too much of blood because. You came late.’”

Around same time, Danish Hussain, 17, from Magraypora and Abdul Haseeb Ganie, 18, from Brienty village, were hit by bullets. “They too died the same day,” said a local.

Danish’s killing has set a pal of gloom in his family. “He was first male child among 12 girls in the family. He was their hero,” said Mohammad Ayoub Shah, his father.

Danish had recently appeared in Class 10 by-annual examination, after he missed the main exam due to poor health. “He was out to buy curd from Achabal market when CRPF fired at him,” said Shah who sells shawls in Kishtwar. “I had arranged a feast for my sisters at my house.”

However Danish’s friends say that he was keen to join protestors; that is why he left home to buy curd in such a situation. “He was angry like everybody else,” said one of his friends. He too was hit in the head like Sakib.

Third boy killed that day was Abdul Haseeb Ganie, a Class 12 pass out, who ran a grocery shop at Brinity village of Dialgam.

“We were watching from a closed alley while a cop fired directly at us,” said Ganie’s brother.

Immediately, he was shifted to Islamabad hospital, from where he was referred to Srinagar.  “But as CRPF and STF were stopping ambulances from reaching hospitals, crucial time was lost. And he died midway,” said his brother. “I watched him bleed to death. He was in lot of pain.”

With three boys dead in a single day Achabal was on a boil. A local told that people had identified one policeman, who was firing from the bunker. “Another one was shooting a video,” said an eyewitness who wished not to be named. Frustrated and pained by the civilian killings people marched towards the police station and tried to set it ablaze. But they were stopped.

Then people marched towards the house of the cop in Gopalpora village, who was firing from the bunker, and set it afire.

The days that followed July 9, saw more than hundred people getting injured from Achabal in clashes with CRPF and police.

“I have never see people so angry. I have never seen such a bloodbath either,” said an elderly from Achabal.

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