In Pictures: Burnt houses, and a trail of destruction

Oct 22, 2021 | Brutality by Occupying Forces

Back-to-back military operation in the valley have been ending with names of those killed, but it also leaves behind a trail of less-reported destruction, for home-makers to grapple with.

“Why did they burn our house?” Wahid has been asking his mother this question since early morning.

Eight, still in shock, he can make little sense of the situation around him.

He gets up, picks a shovel taller than him, and throws the rubble out of his partially destroyed house.

Wailing in her lawn, and looking at her youngest son cleaning the rubble, Tanveera inisists Wahid to come down, “I will be even more devastated if you fall down, Wahid,” she cries.

Anas, 5, walks through the rubble in his aunt’s garden whose house was partially destroyed in a military operation in Shopian’s Tulran. [FPK Photo/Zainab]

In between sobs, Tanveera recalled what happened on Monday, the 11th of October.

It was late evening when the news of the fourth military operation broke.

This time in South Kashmir’s hamlet of Tulran, a neighbourhood in Shopian district where the autumn harvest is keeping people busy throughout the day.

Wahid cleans the rubble of his partially destroyed home in neighbourhood of Tulran in Shopian. [FPK Photo/Zainab]

Like everyone else in the neighbourhood, Tanveera too was out in the orchard, picking apples till noon.

Linemen fix the electricity wires that were destroyed in a military operation in Shopian’s village of Feirpur. [FPK Photo/Zainab

“My sons were to come home for school, so I too left for home to prepare lunch for them,” Tanveera said amid sobs, recalling the last meal she had with her family.

Hearing the noises in the neighbourhood, Tanveera came out to see the armed forces around her house.

“I realised that forces had laid a cordon and search operation. They warned me to stay inside and not come out of the house.”

Wahid sobs in his mother’s arms after seeing his house destroyed during the military operation in Shopian. [FPK Photo/Zainab

Tanveera restlessly waited with her sons inside their home, and after a few hours, she came out again, in an attempt to run away from her home, which she realised was no longer safe for her given the heavy firing in the neighbourhood. She succeeded in her attempt and took shelter inside a nearby shop.

What one could gather from the whispers around was that “there were no militants inside this house, but in the adjacent house.”

“Why did they burn this,” Tanveera asked pointing to the half burnt boxes of apples that were lying in their garden.

In the military operation that lasted all through the night, the police have claimed to kill three militants.

They identified one of them as Mukhtar Shah associated with The Resistance Front (TRF), held responsible by the police for the killing of the non-local labourer Virendra Paswan in Srinagar.

“During the military operation, three houses and two sheds were burnt down,” locals said.

Human rights group, Jammu and Kashmir Coalation of Civil Society (JKCCS) had reported  in its bi-annual report mentioned that in J&K, the destruction of civilian properties by armed forces personnel during military operation or while dealing with the protestors saw an uptick in the first six months of 2020.

“From January 1 to June 30, 2020, at least 48 cases of destruction of civilian properties were reported in Jammu and Kashmir,” the report read.

“The destruction of civilian properties during encounters saw an increase during the COVID-19 lockdown enforced by the government, rendering many families homeless and without shelter,” reported JKCCS.

While the families of Tulran were still grieving their loss, another military operations started about 20 kilometres away from Tulran.

Bullet ridden wall of a house which was partially destroyed in a military operation in Shopian’s Feirpur on Oct 12, 2021. [FPK Photo/Zainab]

In Shopian’s Feirpur, the police had claimed to have killed two militants.

When the military operation had ended, villagers gathered outside the house partially damaged in the military operation.

A group of young boys who had come to console the family insisted that we do not take pictures.

“They will come and arrest all the boys they see in your photographs,” a man shouted.

A boy shows the empty cartridges that he collected from the site of the military operation in Shopian’s neighbourhood of Feirpur. [FPK Photo/Zainab]

“If they don’t even show this, then what else should they show,” another person shouted from the crowd, pointing to the bullet pierced windows of the house.

The late presence of media on the sites of military operations has made the locals hostile towards the press. And the late presence itself is a result of the curbs on the press, imposed earlier this year.

In April, Kashmir’s Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar “instructed” the press to not come close to military operation sites and cases “where there is a law and order situation”.

He issued directions to the media and ordered them to not carry live coverage of these incidents.

Rubble inside the partially destroyed house of Tanveera. [FPK Photo/Zainab]

In just last 48 hours, the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir witnessed close to half a dozen military operations in which 12 alleged militants and 5 armed forces personnel were killed.

The five of the 12 militants were killed in twin military operation in Shopian, in which 4 houses and 2 sheds were partially destroyed, rendering the families homeless.

Locals look at a slogan written on a burnt wall in one of the houses that was partially damaged in a military operation in Shopian’s Tulran. [FPK Photo/Zainab]

In a chaddar tied between the two small bushes, the neighbourhood of Tulran is raising money for the families to rebuild their homes. With winters just around the corner, Tanveera has no clue where she can take her family.

“Where do I roam in the winter nights?” she asks sobbing.

Zainab | Free Press Kashmir