Civilian Murders in J&K: Kin of Deceased Feel They Deserved to Die
Did Nadeem and Huzaif “deserve to die” just because they were allegedly Army “informers”?
18-year-old Nadeem Manzoor, a student, was kidnapped by suspected militants on the eve of 15 November, in south Kashmir’s Shopian district. Two days later, Huzaif Ashraf, a young baker, was abducted from his shop early morning as well. In between these two disappearances, Kashmir saw a total of eight abductions taking place within72 hours.
While six of them were let off, Huzaif and Nadeem didn’t make it. The bullet-riddled body of Nadeem from Shopian was found in an orchard in a Pulwama village while the throat-silt body of Huzaif was spotted some 15 kms away from his home.
‘He Deserved It If He Was An Informer’
Tragically, the families of some of the deceased, have fallen prey to the belief that their sons deserved to die, if they indeed were informers.
“If my son was an informer, then he deserves what he got,” Nadeem’s father, Manzoor Ahmad Bhat told The Quint at his home in Safanagri, a nondescript village in Shopian.
Bhat’s elder brother Abdul Hamid interrupted him. “This punishment is less for him if he has really done what people are talking about in the video (on social media),” he said. The Bhat clan, consisting of seven brothers (all married) live in same locality. Since Nadeem’s killing, members of the extended family haven’t left their homes.
More than the death of Nadeem, Manzoor and his brothers talked about the “disrespect our son has brought to the entire family”. “Imagine if somebody asks for the reason my son was killed, what will we say. My back is broken,” said a distraught Manzoor.
In the Kashmir Valley, where deaths of civilians trigger massive protests, the lack of mass anger and protest is conspicuous, an indication that militants were behind the acts.
‘This Was Written In Our Fate’
In a video released by militants on social media, Nadeem, who had completed his class 11 examinations last month, admits about informing the Army about the presence of militants in his neighborhood on 6 November. Two militants were subsequently killed in an early morning encounter the following day.
“That evening as the encounter raged on, he (Nadeem) rushed to my room and complained of having developed sudden pain in his heart… he was frightened. That was for the first time he wanted to sleep in my room,” said Nadeem’s elder brother, Sartaj Ahmad, as his father and uncles listened to him keenly.
52-year old Manzoor, who works as a baker, said in hushed tones, “My son (Nadeem) was a drug addict. I had repeatedly pleaded with police and district administration to arrest him and lodge him in central jail hoping he would give up his bad habits. But the police never listened to my pleas.”
Over the past four days, the Bhat family has seen a trickle of mourners visiting them, mostly relatives and neighbors from the locality. However, his funeral had seen few in attendance.
“This was written in our fate,” sighed Nadeem’s uncle, Fayaz Ahmad, a government teacher.
More than 30 kms away from Safanagri, in the remote Manzgam village of Kulgam, the Kutay family fails to understand what led to the killing of their son, Huzaif.
“They came to my shop and asked me to work as their informer. They took my mobile number and called me in the evening, promising they will pay me Rs 10,000…they forced me to work for them as an informer. Our family is very poor. I won’t repeat this mistake,” Huzaif admits to acting as an informer for the forces, in another video released by militants.
The eldest of eight children of Mohammad Ashraf, Huzaif had set up his own bakery in Saidapoar village in Shopian seven months ago, and was living with his maternal aunt there.
On 17 November, masked men arrived in a car at his shop at around 10 am. “They bundled him in the car and before fleeing the spot they also took along my son and another local youth,” recalled Mohammad Amin Ganai.
His son Shahid Ahmad Ganai and Farooq Ahmad were released, but Huzaif reached home – dead – his throat slit.
‘We Last Saw Him On Eid’
According to Shahid, after driving them around for some time, the “masked men” covered the faces of their victims and took them away in separate vehicles. “I was released in the evening. That is all I know,” a frightened Shahid said, refusing to talk further.
“Please leave me alone,” he said at Huzaif’s home, before rushing to his cousin’s grave, barely 100-meters from the Kutay house.
At his modest double-storey house, 59-year old Ashraf, surrounded by a group of elders, said he didn’t know anything about his son’s activities except that he was running a bakery in Sadapora.
“At home he never indulged in any wrongdoing. I don’t know what the allegations were,” he said.
Then, after a brief pause, the elderly man continued: “The last time he came home was on Eid (20 August). He was a baker, and that is all I know. We were all yearning to see him, not knowing that he would be brought home dead.”
“I couldn’t even gather courage to see his face for the last time,” said Ashraf, his eyes welling up.
The Making of a Murder
This isn’t for the first time that Kashmir has witnessed the killings of civilians, accused by militants of working for security forces. This summer, Hajin town in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district saw a series of such assassinations; one of those killed was beheaded. However, the fact that the killings of Huzaif and Nadeem were recorded and the video clips released on social media, is something that has happened for the first time.
A video clip shows a masked man with a long knife in his hand near Huzaif’s corpse drenched in blood, while another video clip shows some masked men questioning Nadeem before he was shot dead.
A senior police official from south Kashmir said the Hizbul Mujahideen was behind the killings. “We have credible inputs that two groups of the outfit carried out the killings separately,” he said.
“Probably for the first time in the history of terrorism in J&K, a slaughter committed by terrorists has been filmed and circulated. There have been many in the past but those weren’t filmed…,” senior superintendent of police Imtiyaz Hussain, wrote on Twitter.
(The writer is a Kashmir-based journalist. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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