Budgam: Charred utensils, broken furniture and spilt food stocks are all that meet the eye in Nasrullah Pora village in Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir.
It has been a week since the Jammu and Kashmir Police raided the locality after residents attempted to pray at a local mosque despite the lockdown due to Covid-19, but terrified villagers have accused the police of ransacking their homes and businesses, and are reluctant to return.
ThePrint visited the locality Thursday, finding several homes deserted; their owners having taken refuge at their relatives’ houses far from the site of incident. One villager, a shopkeeper called Riyaz, described the impression given by these empty structures as a “storm” hitting Nasrullah Pora and “taking with it all things of value”.
Budgam district has remained tense since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander Riyaz Naikoo on 6 May, and has witnessed minor clashes. However, the situation deteriorated after the incident in Nasrullah Pora, and later, after the killing of a 25-year-old youth by CRPF troopers Wednesday.
Soon after this killing, 2G internet services, which had just been restored after having been suspended since Naikoo’s killing, were snapped once again.
The incident and the allegations
The incident occurred last Friday when residents gathered inside a mosque to offer prayers. Villagers allege that a deputy superintendent of police (DSP) entered the mosque to disperse the gathering, resulting in a commotion.
They alleged that the DSP and his team entered the mosque without taking their shoes off, upsetting the villagers.
“The police didn’t take off their shoes; that’s what made some elders angry,” said Farooq Dar, whose home was among the ones attacked. Dar is brother of the Nasrullah Pora sarpanch Ghulam Mohammad, who belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Asked why the people had gathered to offer prayers during the lockdown, Farooq Ahmed, a relative of the sarpanch said: “Some people had gathered to offer prayers, but we are not stupid. We know that there is a pandemic and people were maintaining social distance when they were in the mosque for a brief prayer.”
Violent clashes then erupted, forcing the DSP and his team to leave the area. Some policemen were caught on camera damaging shops and houses after the clashes with the DSP and his team.
Villagers alleged that the same night, at around 11.30 pm, joint teams of the J&K Police and the Central Reserve Police Force raided Nasrullah Pora. Residents claimed these teams “vandalised” and “ransacked” the entire locality.
Budgam’s senior superintendent of police Amod Nagpure refused to meet this correspondent on a visit to his office.
Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar, meanwhile, did not offer any comment for this report, while calls and messages to Director General of Police Dilbag Singh did not yield a response.
However, police sources denied the villagers’ allegations, saying the DSP and his team had gone to disperse an assembly of people who might have gathered to offer funeral prayers for slain militant commander Riyaz Naikoo, who was killed on 6 May.
Responding to these allegations of the midnight raid, police sources said it was carried out to arrest miscreants who had thrown stones at the policemen earlier in the day, and refuted allegations of ransacking and vandalism.
‘How will Khuda help you?’
Ateeqa Dar, who is in her 50s, said the midnight raid was more than the police arresting a few miscreants. She is among the several villagers taking refuge at their relatives’ homes since 8 May.
She visited her damaged home Thursday, and told ThePrint: “There were clashes during the day, but we thought by evening, everything had settled down. But in the night, dozens of policemen entered our home.”
Ateeqa further alleged: “They broke everything, our windows, our television set, gas stove and even ripped apart our wooden staircase. They dropped our kitchen supplies and rubbed salt in my eyes.
“Hearing me and my husband cry, my 80-year-old father Abdul Gaffar Dar came to help. He was thrashed and taken away, and tied to a tree for hours.”
Ateeqa and her husband Rashid Dar are carpet-weavers.
“When they were beating us, I cried out for help from Khuda. One police official asked me ‘how will Khuda help you’,” she alleged, adding that her father was still in police custody.
Another resident, Sidiq Dar, returned home with his wife and four daughters Thursday.
“We had been staying at a relative’s house nearby. I was too scared to come home. So today, I first came alone and checked if the police raids had ended, then told my wife to bring the daughters home,” said Sidiq, assessing the damage to his home. Windows of his small house were shattered and his kitchen garden trashed.
“There are still many who don’t want to return. They think the police will raid their homes again,” said Dar.
Sarpanch not spared either
One of Sidiq Dar’s neighbours is the village sarpanch Ghulam Mohammad. His home didn’t escape damage either, nor did his Maruti 800 car, which was parked outside his house at the time of the raid.
“The police and CRPF must have come in 40 trucks. They destroyed everything in their path,” said Mohammad.
His brother Farooq Dar said: “This is a sarpanch the government claims is empowered. If his property is attacked in this manner, what about common people?”
Shops bear the brunt
Local shopkeeper Riyaz showed ThePrint that dozens of shops had been destroyed in the raid.
“They spilled our stocks, masalas, rice, oil and even burnt fridges. The DSP and the SHO were actually carrying axes with which they destroyed our homes and shops. Shops selling hardware were trashed. I had 10-15 chickens at my shop, and when I returned, there were none,” he said.