A sudden shriek woke up Ghulam Qadir Lone from his afternoon siesta in his ground floor room at Marhama village, 12 Km from north Kashmir Kupwara town. His wife and two daughters, working in the family’s first floor kitchen, appeared to be in trouble.A plaster around the waist to correct a dislocated disk restricted Lone’s movement. Lone struggled to climb the stairs to the first floor room while the shrieks continued. As he climbed the last step, Lone could peep through the kitchen door to witness his daughter tossing utensils on a police officer who had allegedly attempted to molest the wife.
Lone says that three cops, including the Station House Officer Tanveer Ahmad, from Police Station Trehgam had come to his house and gone straight to the first floor kitchen while he had fallen asleep on Sunday, March 22. “All the three were in civvies,” Lone, 42, says. A class 4 employee in health department, he is a father of six girls, eldest among them 18 years old.
“My daughters and wife were agitated. I asked my daughter what had happened. She said that the SHO was trying to molest her mother,” Lone says. “I confronted the SHO. A constable too sided with me while accusing him of immoral behaviour. This attracted the attention of neighbours and the SHO fled through the backdoor of the house while the two constables were surrounded by villagers.”
Amid the confusion, villagers started querying Lone about the incident. “Noise emanating from the house attracted my attention. I rushed to see three persons in civvies at the spot. Qadir remained quite as two men accused the family of hiding illicit timber. He appeared in a shock. He was in tears,” said a villager pleading anonymity. “We later came to know that three strangers had managed to enter his house. Qadir’s wife, Saida Bagum, offered them tea. Gradually they began indulging in uncivil and shameful talks with Saida and her daughters. Then they tried a physical assault. Not bearing the immoral attack, Qadir’s wife caught hold of the collar of one of the attackers and tried to push him out of her house. Among the three, one stood up for the rescue of his colleague and the second one left the room.”
The villager said that the strangers later revealed that they were policemen from Trehgam police station. “They accused the family of hiding illicit timber and started to dismantle the ceiling of the house with the help of the SHO who had till then returned with more policemen and was dressed in a uniform. But they found nothing there.”
Lone says that SHO Tanveer Ahmad knew his family ever since his wife reported a family dispute to the police station four months back. “Since then, he visited my place many times. We would offer him tea and food. A couple of times he also stayed with me for the night. He would advice me to see a doctor he knew for curing my ailment. I didn’t know he was preparing ground to molest women in my family.”
Police claims that they had been searching for illicit timber and had also informed DFO concerned who deputed a party of forest officials to the village. The party, however, seized no timer from the house. “My house is 60 years old. My grandfather built it. The question of illicit timber did not arise at all,” Lone says.
DFO Kehmil Range, Bashir Ahmad, said that he had deputed a party of forest officials to the area on receiving the complaint by Police. He, however, said that the party neither seized any timber nor did it observe any violation of the forest rules on the spot.
Villagers say that the highhandedness of the police agitated them and they began marching towards Kupwara to report the incident to higher authorities of police. “Sensing public wrath the police men fled from the spot. But the very next day, police visited the village claiming that there was an FIR under forest act 279/6 against five villagers including Gulam Qadir Lone and two other teachers who are accused of resisting police action,” said a villager.
When contacted, Station House Officer Tanveer Ahmad termed the allegations “baseless and fabricated to hide the reality”. “Three police men of my station were deputed to Marhama with summons to some people in the area on that day. In the area they came to know about the illicit timber,” he says.
Tanveer says that there was a connivance between forest officials and the smugglers. “If there is smuggling, it is the fault of forest officials. They would not want that to be exposed.” The SHO says his men had gone into the area in civvies for the security reasons.