Govt forces deny torching, vandalising militants’ homes; militants say police forced them into abductions
Srinagar: A series of abductions of relatives of policemen by militants in southern Kashmir this week, following allegations of police harassment of their family members and government forces torching houses of two militant commanders, have sent shockwaves across Kashmir valley.
Even as Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo said all the relatives of police personnel abducted by his group have been released, the open hostilities involving families of militants and police personnel has drawn public awe.
A midnight knock on Wednesday at the family home of Jaish-e-Muhammad district commander Shahejahan at Amshipora village of Shopian shook everyone inside out of their sleep.
When they opened the door they found armed persons wearing pherans right outside.
“The knock at the main door came at 12:30 in the night. I found forces personnel who were wearing pherans (traditional Kashmri gown). They took all the family members out,” said a close relation of Shahejahan, wishing not to be named.
“The forces personnel sprinkled some powder at our house and torched it.”
The family members said the forces’ personnel had already cordoned the entire village off beforehand.
“We lost all that was inside the house in the fire,” the family members claimed.
During the same night a similar incident happened at Nazneenpora village.
“Dozens of forces personnel came in civvies. They first searched our house and then torched its upper storey,” said a family member of Hizbul Mujahideen’s district commander for Shopian, Sayed Naveed.
“We were kept outside our house only to watch how they would set ablaze our house.”
The family says it was with the help of neighbours that the fire was controlled.
It was not the last such incident that night.
According to the family members of another militant, Lateef Tiger, special operations group (SOG) personnel from the J&K police raided the house and took away his father and two brothers.
“They were men from SOG. It was late in the night. They whisked away my husband and two sons,” said Fatima Akther, mother of Lateef.
And in a nearby village called Beighpora, forces entered into the house of yet another Hizbul Muajhideen commander, Reyaz Naikoo and detained his father Asadullah Naikoo.
“I was not put in the lock up but yes, I spent a night in the police station. They asked me a few questions and I replied,” Asadullah said after he was released Thursday morning.
After the series of incidents of targeting family homes of militants retaliation followed.
At least eight relatives of policemen, including senior officials, were abducted since Thursday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a police officer said the abductions in southern Kashmir sent shock waves across Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag.
“Yes, abduction of policemen’s relatives is a dangerous trend. In south Kashmir, there are 21,000 persons in the police. Abduction spree by militants has brought entire south Kashmir region to an edge,” the officer said.
“Many families of policemen have migrated to safer places to evade abduction.”
Additional director general of police (ADGP) law and order, security, Muneer Khan said the police force doesn’t believe in revenge or vandalising houses of militants.
“We are fighting militants and we will continue to do that,” Khan told Greater Kashmir.
“Over the past 30 years, policemen have been performing their duties in a professional manner.”
He said police were investigating who was damaging the houses of militants.
Another police officer said at least eight people, who are either family members of police men or their close relatives, were abducted by militants.
Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Swayam Prakash Pani said details were being ascertained.
“We will put the details in public domain after verifying the facts,” Pani said.
The army too distanced itself from the allegations of vandalising the houses of militants in south Kashmir.
“Army is not involved in any sort of vandalism. We carry out our task in a professional manner and are committed to minimal collateral damage to life and property during operations,” army spokesman in Srinagar, Colonel Rajesh Kalia told GK.
He said allegations about harassing families of militants were “totally baseless”.
But the issue is not new.
In June, chairman International Forum for Justice and Human Rights, Muhammad Ahsan Untoo had filed a petition in the State Human Rights Commission regarding torching of apple and almond orchards allegedly by government forces in south Kashmir.
“Though the chairman of the commission sent notices to the police top brass, but till date there is no response,” Untoo said.
On August 19, Untoo said, government forces barged into the houses of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Waris Malik of Redwani, Kulgam, and beat his family members up.
“On August 20, Waris released a video clip asking the forces not to involve families of militants,” Untoo said.
“I believe families of both, militants and policemen should be kept away from this fight.”
Last year, director general of police (DGP) Shesh Paul Vaid asked militants not to involve families of police personnel or else the forces would reciprocate.
Vaid had stated that in the fight between the police forces and militants their families should be kept out of it.
Meanwhile, in an audio statement released by the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Reyaz Naikoo, all the abducted relatives of policemen have been released.
“Police forced us to take this step (abducting their relatives),” Naikoo can be heard saying in the statement. (GK)