No buyers for Army version in Bandipora

By MUDASIR AHMED

Published: Fri, 27 July 2012 10:21 PM

Aloosa-Bandipora: No one in his calm but now angry neighbourhood believes the army’s claims of how and why Hilal Ahmad Dar was killed Tuesday night. Amid sporadic protests and a shutdown in the area Dar’s uncle, Mohammed Kamal Rather is restless.
Rather takes a hard walk with this reporter over seven Kilometers of a dusty track to the upper forests of Ashtingoo Bandipora and points to the spot where blood stains are still visible on a patch of grass. This, Rather says, is where his nephew Hilal Ahmed Dar was killed the previous night in a fake encounter by the army.
“We heard about a dozen shots around midnight in the forests but thought it was just a routine army affair. But as dawn broke, hell broke loose upon our world,” Rather told Kashmir Reader.
Hilal, 25, worked as security guard at Khyber Cements at Khrew – about 100 kilometers away from home, had come home on leave for three days. A devout Muslim, Hilal often used to lead prayers in his neighbourhood Mosque and would indulge in Tableegi discussions on Islamic awareness till late night, Rather says.
“He had never picked up gun in his life nor was he associated with any organisation that would suggest it,” Rather says.
On Monday, the day before Hilal’s bullet ridden body was found in Ashtingoo forests, he was to attend a similar religious discussion in the nearby Mosque of Helmathpora village.
But his uncle says, hours before Hilal went away to the so called Tableegi discussion, two unidentified persons had been making a clandestine enquiry about Hilal’s whereabouts. Later the same duo went to his home and asked his mother about Hilal, says Rather.
“She told them (the duo) that Hilal is away, and he would come back at about 5pm,” Rather says, adding that when Hilal was later told about the unidentified duo, he rubbished it off as his Tableegi friends who might have wanted to go with him.
But Hilal’s neighbour and his close friend, Feroz, a trainee constable in the state police, says that the story about the unidentified duo has a twist.
“The unidentified duo had recently converted to Christianity and Hilal was persuading them to revert, as it was a great sin to abandon the religion of Islam,” Feroz told Kashmir Reader. “Hilal’s persuasion did not go well with the duo and ever since they were stalking him.”
Hilal’s father, Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Dar says that before going away his son had specifically instructed the family not to bother him by making frequent calls as he would come back the next day.
So nobody bothered to call him. In the morning his mobile was coming switched off and that’s when we realised something is fishy,” the elder Dar told Kashmir Reader.
In the wee hours of Tuesday, Fayaz Ahmed Rather, a local labourer in the Ratnar, a village skirting Ashtingoo forests, routinely went to collect firewood in the upper forests of Ashtingoo. But he was in for a shock.
“When I reached the forests, a large posse of local Rashtriya Rifles (RR) battalion surrounded me from nowhere and asked me to put hands up and return. I started to slowly trek back, but I managed to look at the body of Hilal. He was lying face down lifeless,” Fayaz told Kashmir Reader.
When the news about the encounter spread in the area, people from all walks of life thronged the Ashtingoo forests shouting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans.
In the meantime army issued a statement that its 27 RR battalion had killed a militant in an encounter, a claim rubbished by Hilal’s father.
“His hands were tied from the back, his neck was broken, his ribs were shattered, his spine was shattered, there were visible tortured marks on his face and rest of the body and 11 bullets were sprayed in his abdomen. After all this how can they (army) say that my son was killed in an encounter,” Hilal’s father told Kashmir Reader.
“He was extremely tortured first at Ratnar Nalla and then shot there. After that his body was taken to the Ashtingoo forests. Even the local gujjars there came here saying that they heard cries and shrieks in the middle of the night.”
Meanwhile, the police who reached the spot refused to take in the body saying that Hilal was “an innocent and was killed by army in cold blooded murder.”
“They recovered a rusted rifle at the spot and an identity card of Khyber Cements from his pocket,” Hilal’s father said.
Hilal’s mother, Haleema, is yet to reconcile that his elder who was to marry soon is no more. The two words she keeps repeating between her wails are: “The two men took him…The two men took him.”

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