Srinagar, Dec 2: Behind one of the biggest gunfights of Kashmir that killed the poster boy of New Age militancy, Burhan Wani, and his two associates, in July 2016, pushing Kashmir to months of unrest, lies an untold story of a small hamlet and its stigmatised inhabitants.
This sleepy hamlet, Bamdoora, 82 km south of Srinagar, came to limelight on July 8, 2016, after Burhan, the most wanted militant, and his associates, Sartaj Sheikh and Pervez Ahmed, were killed in a brief but fierce gun battle in the house of Farooq Wani, the maternal uncle of Sartaj.
Shrouded in mystery
Though no one in the village is willing to share the exact details of what happened on the fateful day, Burhan’s killing changed Bamdoora forever as it is now labelled as the ‘hamlet of police informers’. People in the neighbouring villages believe that someone from that village had informed the security agencies, probably someone from the family that gave shelter to the militants for two days. Those enraged by this news burnt down 11 houses, including that of Farooq’s, in the days after Burhan’s killing.
The residents of the hamlet, especially Farooq’s family, are under tremendous pressure after the incident. Nobody in the neighbouring villages want their children to tie the nuptial knot with the prospective brides and grooms of this village. And Farooq’s family has been the worst victim as his four daughters of marriageable age are facing the brunt of this ‘social boycott’. People in the surrounding villages refer to the Wanis of Bamdoora as ‘traitors’.
Shabnam, one of the daughters of Farooq, who was pursuing nursing degree at a private college was even taunted and mentally tortured by her peers after the incident.
Her younger sister, who was studying in Srinagar, couldn’t continue as the family’s income dropped dramatically. Not only their house was burnt down, but a small orchard, which was their main source of livelihood, was also destroyed by a mob.
Farooq’s brother-in-law, Javed Ahmad, who works with the Central Reserve Police Force, says the future of the family was destroyed the moment they harboured Burhan and his associates. “Look at the frail face of Farooq.
He is waiting for death and who will take care of his four daughters after him? Why are those who claim to be the champions of the rights of Kashmiris silent on this issue,” he said, apparently referring to separatist leaders.
The death of Farooq’s wife two weeks ago added to the sorrow of the family. In July 2016, when Farooq’s house was burnt down, the mob abused his daughters, calling them “whores and Army informers.” For almost two years, Shabnam and her family turned a small, unused bathroom into their tenement.
Farooq Wani was reluctant to speak when asked about the allegations levelled by the villagers and the family of Sartaj.
“Where were you people, when a mob burnt my house and abused my daughters. Please get out of this place. I don’t want to talk to you,” he said.
Most of the families, whose houses were burnt down by the mobs that went on rampage, have started constructing new structures in the village. However, they are still apprehensive about continuing their stay in the village.
“We have been stigmatised to an extent that our children have to hide the identity of the village when they go out to study or to work. We are being punished for the sins we never committed,” a villager, who wished anonymity, said.
However, the paternal family of Sartaj, which resides in the neighbouring Peer Takia village, still believes that Farooq’s family tipped security forces about the presence of militants. Nageena Bano, mother of Sartaj, said,
“Martyrdom was written in the destiny of my son when he picked up the gun. But I have a regret that he couldn’t fight that day,” hinting at reports that the three militants were poisoned before they were killed by the security forces. As DH tried to As DH tried to dig deeper, she evaded the questions.
Sartaj’s paternal uncle, Bashir Ahmad Sheikh, an engineer with the state Power Development Department joined the conversation and said, “You must have seen hundreds of encounter sites in Kashmir over the years. Tell me in which encounter the house where militants were hiding, was not damaged?”
Victims of terrorism
“Please don’t ask questions that hurts her. Losing a son is a big tragedy and the way things unfolded afterwards has shattered her,” he said adding the two families have snapped the ties ever since.
A college student in the vicinity, who wished anonymity, claimed that the family of Farooq Wani had poisoned the militants. “Their bodies had become numb when they were raided, and they could not fight back. They were shot by the forces in a room and it was apparent that they were dragged out,” he said. While mystery shrouds the death of the militants, the villagers continue to suffer for no fault of theirs. (Deccan Herald)