Kashmir’s plea: Let police and militants fight, leave alone each other’s families
In his single storey house deep inside lush green Pulwama, Asadullah Naikoo spoke about multiple incidents of harassment he and his family have faced ever since his son, Riyaz Naikoo, left home to join militancy in 2012 and went on to become operational commander of Hizbul Mujahideen.
Pointing towards the windows and almirahs, Asadullah claimed his house had been raided and vandalised multiple times by security forces during these six years. “When the police detained me on August 29 at 11.20pm, that was the only instance among many during these years when I was not beaten up or abused and kept in a room instead of a lock-up at the local police station,” said Asadullah, a tailor by profession.
“They allowed me to wear clothes and shoes. The DSP (deputy superintendent of police) said ‘your son has issued a video statement talking about acid attacks on those taking part in panchayat polls’. He told me, ‘remember if something happens we will blast your home’,” Asadullah said.
Additional director general of police (law and order) Munir Ahmad Khan on Friday said the police do not vandalise property or harass militants’ relatives.
“We are a professional force and don’t believe in harassment of anybody. But any relative or friend of a militant who is involved in some illegal activity will be taken care of by the law.”
The detention of Asadaullah, along with the father and two brothers of another Hizbul militant, Abdul Lateef Dar (locally known as Lateef Tiger), Wednesday night, triggered a chain of abductions of relatives of policemen on Thursday night by militants, spreading fear among the families of local policemen.
A few kilometres away in Dugripora, Lateef’s mother, Fatima, narrated something similar. She said the police had swooped on their house between 11.30pm and midnight, and took away her husband Ghulam Hassan, a farmer, and their two sons, both wall painters.
“At the police station, they told him your son picked up the son of a policeman at Pinglish in Tral and we picked you up. They asked my husband to tell his son (Dar) to surrender and, in the same breath, conceded that he won’t listen,” Fatima said.
Eleven abducted people, mostly relatives of policemen in the four south Kashmir districts (Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian and Kulgam) were let off late on Friday after the police allowed the fathers of Naikoo, Dar and another militant, Adil Ahmad, to go home. Fatima’s two sons were also released. After the release of the policemen’s relatives, Naikoo too issued an audio statement alleging they picked up these men to make the police realise the “pain of a mother” whose son has been taken away.
He alleged that the police had been at the forefront, along with the army, in the effort to “ransack our homes and jail our family members under PSA” (Public Safety Act) whenever militants attack the army anywhere.
Families of Naikoo and Dar alleged that the police and army had been raiding their homes whenever any militancy-related incident occurred across the four districts of south Kashmir.
They narrated how the police vandalised their homes when a policeman was killed in October 2017, and how army soldiers knocked on their doors when army man Aurangzeb was kidnapped and killed in June.
“When a policeman was killed (in October last year), some 10 men beat me up and abused me. They damaged the household items and took away small electronic things. I, my brother and two other members in my family were taken into custody. They let me go after 17 days. At the time of Aurangzeb’s killing, security men again assaulted my family members,” Asadullah said, adding that the police are still holding the cousin of Riyaz Naikoo.
“What have uncles and brother-in-law of Riyaz done? Why are they being harassed?” he asked.
Fatima said her other sons and even guests were beaten up by the army on the day Aurangzeb had been kidnapped. She said that her two sons came home after spending four days in police custody before Eid.
The families have a message for both warring sides.
They not only want the police and army to stop harassing but also want militants not to target the families of policemen.
“Families of some 20 policemen live in my village. What is their fault? Similarly, the police and army harass us and even our neighbours. What is our fault?” Fatima said. “Many young men join militancy only because of this harassment. I have not seen my son for the past 16 months.”
Asadullah said families of the policemen and the militants should be left alone. “Let police and militants fight each other, they should not involve families in between. We don’t want civil war here,” he said.