Nasrullahpora, Budgam: On Sunday afternoon, fifty-eight-year old Ghulam Mohiudin Dar was lying under a blanket in a room, writhing in pain after being beaten up. Several windows of his two-storey house, in Nasrullahpora village of central Kashmir’s Budgam district, were broken in a raid by the government forces the previous night.
Clean shaved and wearing a skullcap, Mr. Dar, a farmer, said that his three sons were picked by the police in a late-night raid on Saturday. “As soon as I opened the door they beat me up,” he said. “They beat up men and women. My three sons were taken.”
Residents of Nasrullahpora have witnessed multiple raids since 8 May, when the government forces raided the village, allegedly ransacking public property. Videos, viral on social media, showed them setting shops on fire. The Kashmir Walla had exclusively reported that during the raid, the police personnel had detained and beaten up several residents, whose properties were also ransacked.
Speaking to The Kashmir Walla, the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) in Budgam, Amod Nagpure, called the raid as a routine police exercise to arrest people involved in different cases and five were detained on Saturday.
“There are pending cases of rioting, stone pelting, vandalism, and anti-social crimes like involvement in NDPS cases,” he says. “The recent one being three days back. Stone pelting has always been a kind of refuge and excuse for these criminals who would always indulge in stone pelting so that security forces don’t visit the village. As soon as the police forces visited the village, they started stone pelting.”
“Pick gun or do tilak”
Mr. Dar’s younger son, Javaid Ahmad Dar, was released on Sunday but his two other sons, Mohammad Ashraf Dar, 35, and Sameer Ahmad Dar, 30, are still in police detention. Speaking of Mr. Javaid, Mr. Dar said that “he has been beaten up badly and the police asked him to come again.”
Mr. Javaid was at the police station when this reporter met the Dar family.
“We are caught in this tragedy,” said Mr. Dar. “Isn’t there justice? Justice of Allah? Women went to the officer pleading for pardon. Villagers went to him and pleaded for pardon. If they have to kill us, they should bring kerosene and finish us. Today they did this to me and tomorrow they will do it to someone else.”
The Dar family, joined by local residents, had gathered around Mr. Dar in the room. He is angered at the government forces for allowing non-locals labourers to operate in the district despite the coronavirus pandemic.
In recent weeks, reports of the inflow of non-local labourers entering Kashmir Valley to work at the brick kilns have been increasing. Many see the rise colliding with the government’s changed domicile rules for allowing people to become residents of Jammu and Kashmir, which was turned into a Union Territory and revoked of special status granted under articles 370, 35A.
Mr. Dar said that in the current situation he was helpless. “Either we have to all pick guns or do tilak,” he said, implying that to save themselves, they needed to disassociate from their Muslim identity. “What have we done? They should settle non-locals and poison us. Even Allah doesn’t listen to us now anymore.”
Local residents also accused the forces of ransacking their vehicles and breaking windows of the houses. Weeping profusely, Mr. Dar screamed that he can’t even sit properly because of his bruised thighs. “I had gone to Budgam [town] for [a visit to the] hospital but I felt uneasy and came back. Our only mistake is that we are Muslims.,” he added as he choked and asked for a glass of water.
“What can you ask?”
Mr. Dar’s wife, Fatima Banu, showed her bruised hands as proof that the forces had beat her up with batons. “They were beating my son and I took those blows,” Ms. Banu said. “His [Mr. Javaid] clothes were torn and he was put into a vehicle. They didn’t allow anyone to come near our house. [Teargas] shells were fired in our courtyard and also aimed at our neighbours.”
The government forces had also raided another house, just a few hundred meters from the Dar residence. Sitting in the front balcony of the one storey house, Shafeeqa Banu (not related to Ms. Banu), said that at around 11:30 pm, she had heard someone outside saying that a raid was being conducted. She told her children to sleep but within a few minutes, 48-year-old Ms. Shafeeqa says, “[the] police barged inside our house and took my older and younger sons.”
“My daughters and I tried to ask them why they were taking them but they abused us,” said Ms. Shafeeqa. “By then my sons and one of their cousins [who lives in the next house] were taken. They fired a [teargas] shell in the lane.”
“We told them my son is not involved in anything but after a point what can you ask?” said Ms. Shafeeqa.
Within some time, her younger son, Abrar Ahmad Dar, 17, and his cousin were released as he was unwell. Her older son, however, continues to be detained at the Budgam police station.
Mr. Abrar Dar, a class ten student, walked in the courtyard as he spoke in a hoarse voice. “I was beaten up at the house when I was taken,” he said. “They told us that they are detaining people they get their hands on. We were kept in the courtyard of the police station and there were a few more from this area. I was unwell so I was let go.”
Mr. Abrar, however, despite being a minor has been asked to present himself at the police station again in the morning. According to the Juvenile Justice Act, armed police personnel are not allowed to summon or detain minors, the police are duty-bound to coordinate with the district juvenile boards who are authorised to detain a minor if need be.
His older brother, Asrar Ahmad Dar, 20, a college student, is also still in detention. When their father went to speak to the police about his release on Sunday noon, he was turned back and told that a higher officer was not present.
However, the SSP, Mr. Nagpure, called the accusations of beating up the residents as “fake, baseless allegations that they have been making for the past many months but nothing has been proven.”
“These allegations because they don’t want police to arrest people,” he says. “We have zeroed down the names of the individuals involved in the cases. Gradually, we’ll be taking actions against these individuals so that the place is rid of criminal activities and peace-loving citizens take a sigh of relief.”
But due to these raids since May, when the Nusrullahpora village witnessed one of the raids, residents have been living in the constant fear of being arrested, their homes raided by the forces, or getting beaten up if they move out of the village.