When the Dars heard security forces at their front door on September 16, little did they know that most of their family and neighbours would suffer grave torture in the hours to come.
Srinagar: On September 16, at around 11 pm, 24-year-old college student Mudasir Ahmad Dar, was sitting at home in Khwaja Bagh of Baramulla district with his family.
Like many families across the Valley, Dar preferred to go to bed early given the situation of unrest with Jammu and Kashmir struggling for normalcy in what has now been a 51-day shutdown with no communication. Dar and his family said their goodnights. They then went to their respective rooms.
Soon afterwards, vehicles stopped at their gate. Someone knocked on the door. It was not the usual knock. So the Dars turned the lights on quickly. The eldest member of the family, Mohammad Ramzan Dar, a man in his sixties, opened the door. A row of uniformed, armed men entered. So did the station house officer (SHO) of the Baramulla police station.
“Sabi mard baher aajaw (‘All men come outside’),” said one of the gunman. All five men, including their grandfather, went outside. More uniformed gunmen waited inside their courtyard.
“In a local accent, they asked us to display our identity cards. We identified them quickly as Special Operations Group (SOG) personnel accompanied by Jammu and Kashmir police. After checking our ID cards, they asked me, my brother and a cousin to board the police vehicle,” said Mudasir.
As the women in the family asked why they were being taken, the forces started abusing them. A blow landed on the eldest Dar’s head, resulting in a severe injury. “He was bleeding a lot and we started shouting for help. They did not stop and started thrashing the others too,” he told The Wire.
As Mudasir ran to help his bleeding father, a member of the forces fired a volley of pellets at him. “I thought I would save my father but for a while I felt like I had received bullets in my body,” said Mudasir. He is now undergoing treatment at Srinagar’s SKIMS hospital.
Standing near his bed, his 31-year-old elder sister Mehmooda Akhtar, broke down. Mehmooda said the actions of the forces have made the family feel as if they have plans to kill the whole family. “Our father has eleven stitches on his head and is not able to utter a word,” she said.
Mehmooda said that after the forces fired pellets on Mudasir, they dragged him through the lane and started beating him ruthlessly. “We begged them to free him, but they listened to no one. Later, they harassed me too,” she said.
Mudasir’s body contains quite a few visible torture marks. Mehmooda said doctors have not been able to remove all the pellets from his body because some are lodged deep within the muscles. “They showered hundreds of pellets on him, resulting in a grave injury near his heart,” she said.
On that night, recounted members of the Dar family, even neighbours’ pleas went unheard as the security forces continued with their torture on the Dars and eventually turned on all those who tried to help them.
“The SHO and other personnel were asking us to join them to the police station with quite some force. We assured them that whatever the matter is, we would report to the station in the morning but late at night, we could not leave the women and children alone at home. They then started beating us brutally,” said 30-year-old Javaid Ahmad, a driver by profession.
His wife, 25-year-old Shugufta Jan, said that she rushed to rescue her husband from the forces. “They fired pellets directly at me, I screamed and fell right there. I feel like hot iron rods were being passed through my body,” said Jan who now occupies the bed next to Mudasir, in the Surgical Observation Ward.
The pellets fired by the forces have not injured her chest but some have damaged her ears too. Shugufta has a son, 18-month-old Aahil Javaid.
“I have acute pain in my body, but the pain I have for not being able to feed my son is greater than this. Only a mother will know the pain of this situation,” she said.
Her son, she added, has been looking for her. Worried about who would look after him if she was to die, she added, ”They fire pellets on innocent people, torture us, harass us inside our homes. They have guns in their hands and can therefore show us the kind of power they have over common people.”
A neighbour of the Dars said that after firing pellets and teargas shells in the darkness, the security forces smashed all the window panes of their houses and damaged their cars while leaving the colony.
Among neighbours who came to help, nine were injured, six seriously.
“We were taken to Baramulla district hospital from where we were referred to Srinagar for further treatment. They provided us with four ambulances but when it came to leaving the hospital premises, the Senior Superintendent of Jammu and Kashmir Police along with SOG personnel did not let the ambulances pass for about 30 minutes,” alleges one Ahmad.
Ahmad said the Chief Medical Officer of the Baramulla hospital asked police to let them go as their condition is serious. “One of the SOG members opened the door of the ambulance and after seeing Mudasir scream in pain told us mockingly, ‘Aawa wen maze’?” he said. The phrase translates to ‘are you now enjoying this?’
Like Mudasir, 28-year-old Iqbal Lateef Khan, a father of one and a carpenter by profession, was hit with pellets. He had wanted to save the Dars from the forces. Both his eyes are now damaged.
According to his 31-year-old cousin Naseer Ahmad, he was bleeding so much that doctors at Baramulla hospital could not even touch his eyes. “I felt like they had fired a tear gas shell directly at my head and that I was in the last moments of my life,” said Khan in a low voice.
An ophthalmologist at the hospital said the future of Khan’s eye sight was suspect at this point. “He has grave injuries on his eyelids and unless the bleeding from the retina does not stop, we cannot say anything. We have conducted one emergency operation but excessive bleeding stopped us from removing all the pellets from the retina,” she added.
Rampant use of pellet guns in the Valley has been widely condemned by international bodies who have noted its worst effects on the people of Kashmir. Thousands in the Valley have been blinded by such guns, their lives changing almost overnight.
The ongoing shutdown in the valley amid the communication blackout has not only affected normal life but has also hit economically weaker families, such as the Dars.
The Dars earn from mini XUV’s used for public transport. Since August 5 there has been no business.
“I have not earned a single penny since the shutdown and now such brutal actions are making a poor person’s life even more miserable,” said Javaid, who is deeply worried about the rising cost of medical care.
The Khans and Dars are convinced that the only solution is to protest. “How long we will tolerate their brutality and oppression? We are made victims for no reason,” said one of the Khans’ relatives, Manzoor Ahmad, who had come to visit the family at the hospital.
Manzoor is tired of the claims of normalcy. “How can they bring peace with such actions? They are forcefully pushing us towards taking the wrong steps. They don’t actually want peace here, they are enjoying this state,” said Ahmad.