Mystery surrounds yet another incident of civilian killing near an army camp in Budgam district of the conflict-torn Kashmir valley. The killing followed by contradictory statements is a specimen of the growing uncertainty of life in Kashmir.
As long-faced mourners entered Ishfaq’s single-storey residence in Budgam’s Magraypora, his young widow and mother wailed inconsolably, while his father slouched silent in a corner — oblivious of the empathetic footfall around him. Between those screams and the silence gripping another conflict-torn home in Kashmir, an escalated sense of unleashed dance of death is overshadowing the valley.
Ishfaq Ahmad Ganaie, 28, was shot in the head in Chattergam’s Kuthipura village on Friday at around 6:30 in the evening, about a kilometer away from where a Rashtriya Rifles camp is stationed.
He succumbed the other day at 1:30 in the night in Srinagar’s SKIMS hospital. Ishfaq, a carpenter by profession, is survived by his widow, four siblings and ailing parents.
At his home, Ishfaq’s widow Rafia was seen accusing the Indian army of killing her husband, as she repeatedly lamented: “O! Why did you [Indian Army] snatch my beloved? Why did you kill him? Was my beloved a militant or was he carrying any arms?”
In her tormenting frenzy, she continued: “I won’t take it so easily! I will block the road and won’t let anyone cross till I get justice.”
“I will fight for my beloved, I will fight for my husband, I will fight for my Ishfaq…”
A relative, Mohammad Younus, who accompanied Ishfaq when he was fighting for his life in SKIMS, fumbled in pain as he described his cousin brother’s injuries.
“He was drenched in blood. It was so painful to hear when the doctors revealed that the bullet had broken his skull bone. The right side of his head was completely dressed, yet, the blood flow did not stop.”
“Finally, he was declared dead.”
Soon after being shot, contradicting statements came forward from the Indian army’s end, while, the family and the eyewitnesses have a different story to narrate.
Media reports quoting the army floated across the social media, where it said that the militants hurled a grenade on the stationed army camp, and in retaliation, the army fired on the party resulting in the killing of civilian Ishfaq in the “cross-firing”.
However, the army then publically issued a statement, in which, Srinagar-based Indian Army PRO Col Rajesh Kalia termed the earlier reports “baseless”.
“The reports of individual lobbying the grenade on Army Camp and Army retaliation are completely baseless,” he said.
Kalia justified Ishfaq’s death “a case of (militant) committed atrocity”.
“Ishfaq Ahmad Ganie of Magraypora was shot at by the (militants), 500-600 metres away from Army Camp at Chattergam. When the Army troops heard the sound of firing, the ‘Quick Reaction Team’ immediately rushed towards the direction of fire to find out what was happening,” he said.
“When the party reached the spot, they saw Ishfaq in a pool of blood. He had bullet injuries, one in the head and the other in the leg and was immediately taken to Chattergam hospital from where doctors shifted him to SMHS,” Kalia added.
But this is not the first time an act of civilian killing has surfaced in this Chattergam area.
The first recorded incident occurred in 2012, when the Indian army fired at a Tata Sumo Taxi, which resulted in the killing of one of its own man, in civvies.
The investigation carried out by the army said that the troopers had opened fire on suspicion that the occupants in the car were militants. One Ghulam Ahmad Sheikh, a local army man had died and two others were left severely injured.
Again, in 2014, the Indian army men of the very same camp indiscriminately opened fire on a Maruti 800 vehicle coming towards them, in which, two teenagers were shot dead, two sustained critical injuries and one had managed to escape.
An inquiry was initiated, and the army had then termed the incident as a “mistake“.
The local police after every such incident issue a public statement. However, in the case of Ishfaq, the police is yet to issue any official account from their end.
In fact, as per the victim’s father, Nazir Ahmad Ganaie, the police, for the first, intervened in the case at around 11:00 in the night when Ishfaq was being operated at the SKIMS hospital. “The police took the doctor’s account and left immediately,” he said.
Ishfaq was declared dead at around 1:30 in the night, says the family. “Hour and a half later, at around 3:00, SHO Chadoora called one of the family members and said he is going to send his team to monitor the dead body for post-mortem. But until 6:00 am, no one had come,” Nazir said.
The family then took Ishfaq’s lifeless body back to the village, where, at around 9:30 he was laid to rest followed by the funeral prayers. “After that,” Nazir claimed, “three of our family members went to the Chadoora Police Station to file the FIR, which they initially refused to. Later, at around 2:00 in the afternoon, the official called and asked the family to visit the police station at 5:00 pm with two pictures of Ishfaq in order to file the FIR.”
The FIR was finally lodged, mentioning Ishfaq was killed in “cross-firing”, as per Nazir.
However, an eyewitness told this reporter that at around 6:30 in the evening, an army Casspir had passed by the Kuthipura village.
It was dark and the temperature was as cold as 6 degrees. The eyewitness said that the Casspir stopped at a distance of some 400 meters from the camp, on a narrow a village road that was leaning towards the right.
“In absence of street lights, it was only the Casspir’s headlight that shined bright. And on the other side of the road, a biker was coming.”
The villagers thought it was the daily patrolling. “Until,” the eyewitness recalled, “the sound of two bullets shot one after another spread across. After a brief pause of about 30 seconds, another round of around 20 bullet shots rang in the air.”
Even as the silence fell immediately, no one could make sense of the rattling event, he said. “Fearing more fire coming nearby the camp, everyone ran into their houses. As I lumbered to safety due to my injured leg, I saw four more Casspirs coming and moving towards the other side of the road.”
For about half an hour, the Casspirs remained there. “There was some movement, but I couldn’t see what exactly was going on. Later, after the Casspirs went away, I, along with other villagers went there and all we saw was heavy blood marks on the road. And shortly, I came to know that the fallen was none other than my dear villager, Ishfaq Ahmad Ganaie!”
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