Srinagar: Twenty-seven-year-old Firdous Ahmad Khan returned home around the time Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander Abu Dujana was trapped in a house, barely a few kilometres from his Begam Bagh village in Pulwama. Firdous had travelled hundreds of kilometres from Jammu, where he would often go to sell vegetables.
Early next morning, he went out to water his paddy fields close by, where Dujana was trapped and engaged in a gun battle with the security forces. He saw that the roads leading to his house were sealed by a heavy deployment of forces. A security cordon had been laid down in the surrounding areas since 10:45 pm on Monday.
Unaware of the ongoing encounter operation, Firdous died within few hours of leaving his house as a gun battle ensued between the forces and the holed-up militants. While the police claim that Firdous had died because he was caught in the crossfire, his family and the local villagers deny those claims. His family members say that Firdous was targetted by the forces and had received a bullet to his hip. He died while being shifted to a hospital in Pulwama.
Firdous's death left his family in a state of deep remorse. His pregnant wife wailed over his body draped in a shroud before his burial and had to be admitted to the hospital after she developed pregnancy-related complications. She now has to take care of their one-year-old daughter and remains in a state of pathos.
On a grille in front of his house, a banner of many slain militants – including Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzafar Wani – could be seen. Mohammad Shaban Khan, his father, wept as he blamed himself for his son's death. "My son had come home only yesterday from Jammu and I only told him to go to the field and water the paddy," he rued, as he welled up.
Firdous's cousin, Raja Maqbool, said that he had received a bullet to the hip at around 10:30 am on Tuesday and was shifted to the Pulwama hospital, but had died on the way.
The police statement issued after Dujana's death, however, said that Firdous was injured near the encounter site during the crossfire and was shifted to the hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries. According to the police, the encounter had taken place between Dujana and his associate and a joint party of Pulwama Police, 55 Rashtriya Rifles, 182 and 183 Battalion of the CRPF.
"At some places, miscreants tried to create disturbances by pelting stones in Pulwama and the adjoining areas. While dealing with the situation, 10 persons were injured," the police said.
The locals, however, said that the government forces had evacuated the people from the area before the gunfight. Maqbool said the family had received information about the bullet injury to Firdous only after a while. He said that he was targetted and that the doctors had declared him brought dead.
In the adjoining villages of Harkipora, people said that the forces had resorted to indiscriminate firing, that had left scores injured. In Narbal area, Ali Mohammad Wani, a baker, showed the bullets holes left on the walls of his shop. "When the forces were moving out after the encounter was over, they fired indiscriminately and we were terrified," he said.
Sakina Banoo, a 30-year-old woman from Narbal, was among the at least 10 injured in the firing by security forces in the village after the encounter on Tuesday. Sakina’s mother, Rashida Banoo, said that she had gone to a nearby village, where she worked as an Anganwadi teacher when she was fired upon. A bullet had pierced her leg and she was immediately shifted to a hospital in Srinagar.
A local youth, Muzafar Ahmad Khan, said that after Sakina was injured she was rushed by him and some other villagers to the hospital. "The bullet had ripped through her leg. The doctors at Pulwama hospital advised us to shift her to the hospital in Srinagar," he said. He said that the forces also used pellets, besides bullets, to carry out the targetted attacks on people.
Another resident, Ali Mohammad Khan, said that many were surprised when the forces fired indiscriminately upon people. "Our village is many kilometres away from Hakripora, where the encounter took place... they targetted us as well," said the elderly Khan.
Updated Date: Aug 03, 2017 19:00 PM