Sheikh Nadeem/ Muteeb Makhdoomi
24 year old, Rouf Ahmed Ganie, a resident of Anchidoora in South Kashmir’s Islamabad (Anantnag) township was hit by a bullet in his throat during the clashes that erupted following an encounter in the Czogam, Qazigund area.
In south Kashmir, South Kashmir has increasingly turned into Militant stronghold following the killing of a popular commander, Burhan Wani, by Government forces in 2016. Since then, more people have openly supported the cause of armed groups battling Indian rule in Kashmir.
The youngsters come out openly in defiance of anti militancy operations to give a chance to Militants to escape. In the past few months, stone throwing has become a norm in Kashmir to engage the cordoning Army men to give a chance to trapped Militants to escape, a report released by Intelligence agencies of India the last year claimed that ‘Stone-pelters helped 25 Militants flee since 2016.
Despite constant warnings, the involvement of young boys and girls in the stone-pelting and other massive protest demonstrations speaks volumes about the present scenario of the valley.
On 15 September 2018, five Militants were trapped by Government Forces in an encounter at Czogam area of South Kashmir’s Kulgam District and after a fire fight of nearly three hours all of them were killed.
As soon as the news of encounter spread, civilians from as far as Islamabad township reached Czogam to give engage the Government Forces and give a chance to trapped Militants to escape the encounter.
In the ensuing clashes, many protesters were injured, some of them critically as Forces opened fire on unarmed civilian protesters, one of them identified as Rouf Ahmed Ganie succumbed to his injuries after being hit with a bullet fired by Government Forces on his heart.
“He was working as a labourer and was helping in the construction of a local mosque, we do not know how he reached there,” his father Abdul Salam Ganie told The Kashmiriyat. He said that Rouf was a generous boy and helped people in every possible way he could adding that he had constructed a new house for his family and worked as a labour for that.
“He was happy that we had a new house and we were planning to shift before October this year, he was very excited as he had worked very hard for the same, but we did not know that he had to die,” he added.
Rouf had went to the encounter site with his friend on a bike,which they parked in a residential house at Sopat in Kulgam, about two kilometers away from the gunfight site, the troops went berserk and barged inside the house, they fired bullets on all the vehicles upon spotting at least fifty vehicles parked inside a house.
“The Encounter was over, the Government Forces were coming back from the encounter site and they upon spotting youth gathered on the streets started firing upon us, Rouf was just ahead of me, i Crouched down to save my life, but he couldn’t bow down, i saw him falling down, blood oozing from his chest,” an eyewitness told The Kashmiriyat.
We rushed him to the Devsar hospital, but the doctors referred him to the District hospital in Kulgam after observing his condition to be critical, but he was shifted to Srinagar from there and he died on the way to Srinagar. “He was moving his lips, he wanted to say something, but his vocal chords were defunct, tears rolled down his cheeks, he certainly was trying to say something, but he couldn’t. Before he closed his eyes forever, he shouted his mother’s name, ‘Mummy’.
Rouf was nowhere near the encounter site, he said adding that, ‘we are two kilometers away from the encounter site, it is just that Civilian killings have become a norm now, without any accountability, they worry about nothing, the forces are fearful of nobody.”
The reality is that the armed forces enjoy immunity under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the government can’t initiate any action unless it gets sanction from the defence ministry. “We had no idea that our son (Rouf) was at the encounter site. We went out looking for him, then we suddenly noticed people gathering near our house. only if we knew, we all would have rushed to die,” said a grieving relative of Rouf.
Civilians dying near the encounter sites has increased manifold as more civilians continue to rush towards sites of encounters between Militants and Government Forces, reports reveal that more than two dozen civilians have been shot dead near encounter sites in clashes between Government Forces and unarmed civilians.
Since 2016, a notable rise in tensions is being witnessed, as the region erupted in protests following the killing by Indian security forces of a popular militant commander.
The civilian killings in are being seen as a blow to the government’s move to build bridges with people, particularly the youth, in south Kashmir. With anger simmering in the Valley, there is a shadow looming over the panchayat polls scheduled later this year.
The result is that, even outside times of full blown conflict, the region suffers depressingly regular convulsions of violence, with cycles of protest against the Government forces followed by killings, crackdowns and military curfews that bring life to a standstill.
The roots of the Kashmir issue date back to 1947, the partition of British India into the new states of India and Pakistan. Kashmir today stands divided between India and Pakistan, with a de facto border known as the Line of Control. The two nations have fought three wars over Kashmir, in 1947, 1965 and 1999.
Unofficial estimates suggest that since then more than 90,000 people have been killed in Kashmir