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J&K: Killing of 2 Young Men by Unknown Gunmen Stuns Anantnag Village :Nidae Kashmir

J&K: Killing of 2 Young Men by Unknown Gunmen Stuns Anantnag Village

   62 Views  |     |   Friday, January, 27, 2023

Jablipora, Anantnag: On the evening of May 29, Mehrajudin Bhat was chatting with Sanjeed Ahmad Parray outside a grocery store in the Parraypora locality of this south Kashmir village. Mehrajudin’s brother was also chatting close by with his friends. A motorcycle halted near them. “Are you Sanjeed?” asked an armed man in black trousers, riding pillion. His black t-shirt was partially concealed by a camouflaged pouch and his face was hidden behind a mask. Before the 25-year-old could finish his answer, the armed man held up a gun and fired multiple shots at him, hitting his skull, upper chest and arms. “Sanjeed collapsed on one side and his brain fell to the other side. I ran and hid behind a house,” Mehrajudin said. When the firing stopped in two minutes, Mehrajudin, 26, returned to the store. “I recognised my brother’s blood-soaked clothes. They had shot him too,” he said. Mehrajudin was in a state of inconsolable shock when The Wire spoke to him. His brother Shahnawaz Bhat (22) and his friend Sanjeed both died in the shootout involving unknown gunmen, leaving the village of 7,500 people in a state of complete bewilderment. According to eyewitnesses, while Sanjeed was shot on the road itself, the gunmen, all of whom were masked, looked for Shahnawaz who was inside the store. They pulled him out on the road and he, too, was shot multiple times. “Sanjeed died on the spot but I could feel Shahnawaz breathing. We first took him to the Bijbehara sub-district hospital. Doctors referred him to the Anantnag district hospital. By the time we reached there, he had passed away,” said Mehrajudin. Sanjeed Ahmed Parray, who was killed first by the ‘unknown gunmen’. Photo: Jehangir Ali Civilian killings are not new in Kashmir. In 2020, 43 civilians were killed in the region according to official data. While some civilians die in clashes with security forces when law and order situations escalate, hundreds have been killed over the past three decades of turmoil by “unknown gunmen” whose identities remain questions of controversy and mystery. Witnesses and locals who spoke with The Wire said three masked men were reportedly riding a black bike which halted outside the grocery store on Saturday. “All of them were armed and the attack lasted barely two to three minutes,” said Mehrajudin. The store is one of the three shops of a small complex built recently along the main road that connects Jablipora village with Anantnag, the district headquarter which is located eight kilometres away. Also read: In Kashmir, Despair Looms Large as Civilians Continue to Face ‘Targeted Killings’ The complex is a popular hangout for youngsters of the village, especially in the evenings after security forces enforcing the COVID-19 lockdown return to their barracks. The walls and iron shutters of the complex bear bullet marks. Photo: Jehangir Ali On Saturday evening, 10-15 local boys were present at the complex when the attackers struck, witnesses said. “Many of us were playing games on our phones when we heard the gunshots. There was complete chaos and we started running for our lives,” said Riyaz, a local who asked to be identified by his first name only. Although more than 18 hours have passed since the attack took place, a small patch of the road at the scene of the shooting is still smeared with blood. Bullets have made their way through the concrete walls and metal shutters of the shops. Shahnawaz Bhat, the second victim of the attackers. Photo: Family archives/Jehangir Ali Shahnawaz’s family is below the poverty line according to the government’s records. Their small, two-storey house has been overwhelmed by mourners. Across the road, a tent has been set up in a paddy field for female mourners. Shahnawaz’s mother and two married sisters are among those inside. Their wails can be heard from the house. Sanjeed’s house is barely a quarter of kilometre away. The small compound is full of women mourners who are sitting on bare tarpaulin sheets. A young girl in tears emerges from the main door with a steaming copper samovar. A tarpaulin sheet has been loosely tied over the compound to protect the women from the blistering summer heat, while dozens of men, unable to find space inside the few rooms of the house, loiter about on the road. Sanjeed’s father, 52-year-0ld Mohammad Azeem Parray, who worked as a dental technician at a private clinic, said that he had his evening tea with family on the fateful day at around 5:30 pm and then went to meet his friends. “At around 8 pm I heard a girl screaming that Sanjeed had been shot and then taken to the hospital,” Azeem, also a farmer, said. “There were lot of Armymen and policemen in the village and we thought there is going to be another attack. We drove straight to the hospital in a neighbour’s car but they could not save him,” he added. Mehrajudin Bhat, brother of Shahnawaz, being consoled by a neighbour. Photo: Jehangir Ali “We didn’t know what to do. We requested the hospital authorities to at least keep the bodies till the dawn broke but they refused.” Inspector general of police (Kashmir), Vijay Kumar, and senior superintendent of police (Anantnag), Imtiyaz Hussain, could not be reached for their comments. The story will be updated when they respond. “Terrorists involved in the double murder have been identified. Justice to bereaved families shall be delivered soon. Our heart goes out to the families of innocent victims, ” a police spokesperson tweeted on Sunday afternoon. Also read: As Violence Surges in Kashmir, a Trail of Shattered Families According to a senior J&K police officer, a cordon and search operation was launched in the village soon after the shootout but the attackers had purportedly managed to escape. Mohammad Azeem Parray, father of Sanjeed “The entire village was terrorised,” Sanjeed’s father said. On Sunday afternoon, roads were unusually deserted even though there was no deployment of security forces for the COVID-19 lockdown. All the shops were closed. “I don’t want to land myself in trouble by talking,” said an youngster at the scene of the shooting. “We have good relations with everyone. You can ask around the village yourself. I don’t know who targeted him and why he was targeted,” Sanjeed’s father said, adding that his son was the “backbone” of their family. “It feels as if my back has been broken,” he said. Shahnawaz, the second victim, drove a mini load carrier to support his family. Although Mehrajudin, his brother, works as a ‘seasonal employee’ in J&K government’s Public Health Engineering department, he does not have a regular income. “Their mother requires regular medicines which were paid for by Shahnawaz. He (Mehrajudin) works for five months in a year for which the government pays Rs 7,000 per month but he has his own family,” said a neighbour. Shahnawaz’s death has come as a double whammy for his brother. Their father passed away last year after protracted illness, the treatment for which cost them a fortune. “Their paddy field was acquired by government for laying down the railway line but all of the money offered in compensation went into the treatment of their father,” said Farooq Ahmad, Shahnawaz’s uncle. “This (killing) will sink them further into poverty,” he continued. “We can’t stop death from visiting us but we want to know who killed Shahnawaz and why,” Farooq said.

Jablipora, Anantnag: On the evening of May 29, Mehrajudin Bhat was chatting with Sanjeev Ahmad Parray outside a grocery store in the Parraypora locality of this south Kashmir village. Mehrajudin’s brother was also chatting close by with his friends.

A motorcycle halted near them.

“Are you Sanjeed?” asked an armed man in black trousers, riding pillion. His black t-shirt was partially concealed by a camouflaged pouch and his face was hidden behind a mask.

Before the 25-year-old could finish his answer, the armed man held up a gun and fired multiple shots at him, hitting his skull, upper chest, and arms.

“Sanjeev collapsed on one side and his brain fell to the other side. I ran and hid behind a house,” Mehrajudin said.

Mehrajudin was in a state of inconsolable shock when The Wire spoke to him. His brother Shahnawaz Bhat (22) and his friend Sanjeed both died in the shootout involving unknown gunmen, leaving the village of 7,500 people in a state of complete bewilderment.

According to eyewitnesses, while Sanjeed was shot on the road itself, the gunmen, all of whom were masked, looked for Shahnawaz who was inside the store. They pulled him out on the road and he, too, was shot multiple times.

“Sanjeev died on the spot but I could feel Shahnawaz breathing. We first took him to the Bijbehara sub-district hospital. Doctors referred him to the Anantnag district hospital. By the time we reached there, he had passed away,” said Mehrajudin.

Sanjeev Ahmed Parray, who was killed first by the ‘unknown gunmen’. Photo: Jehangir Ali

Civilian killings are not new in Kashmir. In 2020, 43 civilians were killed in the region according to official data. While some civilians die in clashes with security forces when law and order situations escalate, hundreds have been killed over the past three decades of turmoil by “unknown gunmen” whose identities remain questions of controversy and mystery.

Witnesses and locals who spoke with The Wire said three masked men were reportedly riding a black bike that halted outside the grocery store on Saturday. “All of them were armed and the attack lasted barely two to three minutes,” said Mehrajudin.

The store is one of the three shops of a small complex built recently along the main road that connects Jablipora village with Anantnag, the district headquarter which is located eight kilometers away.

The complex is a popular hangout for youngsters of the village, especially in the evenings after security forces enforcing the COVID-19 lockdown return to their barracks.

The walls and iron shutters of the complex bear bullet marks. Photo: Jehangir Ali

On Saturday evening, 10-15 local boys were present at the complex when the attackers struck, witnesses said.

“Many of us were playing games on our phones when we heard the gunshots. There was complete chaos and we started running for our lives,” said Riyaz, a local who asked to be identified by his first name only.

Although more than 18 hours have passed since the attack took place, a small patch of the road at the scene of the shooting is still smeared with blood. Bullets have made their way through the concrete walls and metal shutters of the shops.

Shahnawaz’s family is below the poverty line according to the government’s records. Their small, two-story house has been overwhelmed by mourners.

Across the road, a tent has been set up in a paddy field for female mourners. Shahnawaz’s mother and two married sisters are among those inside. Their wails can be heard from the house.

Sanjeev’s house is barely a quarter of a kilometer away. The small compound is full of women mourners who are sitting on bare tarpaulin sheets. A young girl in tears emerges from the main door with a steaming copper samovar.

A tarpaulin sheet has been loosely tied over the compound to protect the women from the blistering summer heat, while dozens of men, unable to find space inside the few rooms of the house, loiter about on the road.

“At around 8 pm I heard a girl screaming that Sanjeev had been shot and then taken to the hospital,” Azeem, also a farmer, said.

“There were a lot of Armymen and policemen in the village and we thought there is going to be another attack. We drove straight to the hospital in a neighbor’s car but they could not save him,” he added.

Mehrajudin Bhat, brother of Shahnawaz, being consoled by a neighbor. Photo: Jehangir Ali

“We didn’t know what to do. We requested the hospital authorities to at least keep the bodies till the dawn broke but they refused.”

Inspector general of police (Kashmir), Vijay Kumar, and senior superintendent of police (Anantnag), Imtiyaz Hussain, could not be reached for their comments. The story will be updated when they respond.

“Terrorists involved in the double murder have been identified. Justice to bereaved families shall be delivered soon. Our heart goes out to the families of innocent victims, ” a police spokesperson tweeted on Sunday afternoon.

According to a senior J&K police officer, a cordon and search operation was launched in the village soon after the shootout but the attackers had purportedly managed to escape.

“The entire village was terrorized,” Sanjeed’s father said. On Sunday afternoon, roads were unusually deserted even though there was no deployment of security forces for the COVID-19 lockdown. All the shops were closed.

“I don’t want to land myself in trouble by talking,” said a youngster at the scene of the shooting.

“We have good relations with everyone. You can ask around the village yourself. I don’t know who targeted him and why he was targeted,” Sanjeed’s father said, adding that his son was the “backbone” of their family.

“It feels as if my back has been broken,” he said.

Shahnawaz, the second victim, drove a mini-load carrier to support his family. Although Mehrajudin, his brother, works as a ‘seasonal employee’ in the J&K government’s Public Health Engineering Department, he does not have a regular income.

“Their mother requires regular medicines which were paid for by Shahnawaz. He (Mehrajudin) works for five months in a year for which the government pays Rs 7,000 per month but he has his own family,” said a neighbor.

Shahnawaz’s death has come as a double whammy for his brother. Their father passed away last year after a protracted illness, the treatment for which cost them a fortune.

“Their paddy field was acquired by the government for laying down the railway line but all of the money offered in compensation went into the treatment of their father,” said Farooq Ahmad, Shahnawaz’s uncle.

“We can’t stop death from visiting us but we want to know who killed Shahnawaz and why,” Farooq said.

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