‘This is Zulm’: Kashmir Village Recounts Horrors of Police Vandalism

On 8th May, the police stormed into the village of Nasrullapora in Kashmir’s Budgam District and thrashed villagers besides ransacking homes- Pic Credit: Twitter (@salmanjourno)

Ground Report

Nayeem Rather | Clarion India 

BUDGAM (Kashmir)—Nasurullahpora, a village of 500 households, two kilometers away from the main town Budgam, is today a ghost town wearing desolate look. Walking along the streets, one is greeted by tell-tale signs of vandalism.

Most houses here are damaged with broken windows and doors; courtyards are filled with wreckage of furniture, washbasins, toilet commodes. Staircases too are broken while food grain, spices, salt and wheat flour are strewn all around the floor.

The vegetable gardens lay plundered; the vegetables have been destroyed and the green mound lay rotting in the courtyards of many houses.

Fayaz Ahmed, a local, while showing me around his house, which was destroyed in police violence of May 8, suddenly breaks down. “I cannot bear looking at my house. I had built it recently from the money I have earned from the labour of the last ten years. The police took just one hour to demolish it,” says Fayaz pointing to the badly damaged one-story structure. His wife and two children try to console him.

On the fateful night of 8th May, Fayaz was at his home when some policemen barged into his house. They beat him up with batons and yanked his wife by the hair and dragged her out. “Soon, they began to vandalise everything inside. They threw kitchen utensils out, broke two doors and destroyed everything,” says Mehmooda, Fayaz’s wife. She called it a “night of mayhem for the village”.

As I walked out of Fayaz’s house I found the dilapidated road that navigates through the village totally deserted. Shards of glass of broken windowpanes and vehicles lay spattered on the road. A dozen damaged trucks, cars, and bikes stood stranded on the road.

All the shops that flanked the road were shut while many of them partially or fully damaged. A chicken coop lay upside down. Mounds of rice, wheat flour, soap bars, a half-burnt weighing balance, all lay piled up in a dirty lane near a shop. As one proceeds, more and more destroyed shops come in view, with more and more articles rotting on the lanes and in the ditches of the road.

Firdous Ahmed, whose shop was ransacked by the police, says that everything that was there in his shop had been destroyed. “The police tore apart shutters of my shop with iron rods and pillaged it. They stole some the cash. I don’t know how to rebuild it. I am left with no money,” says Firdous.

According to locals, on 8th May, the police stormed into the village Masjid of Mir Mohala, and started beating up devotees for ‘violating the COVID-19 lockdown’. “The police entered the mosque with their shoes on. Incensed by the sacrilege, people present inside the mosque resisted the cops resulting in a minor scuffle,” said Ghulam Mohammad, a local.
In the ensuing scuffle, a deputy superintendent of Jammu and Kashmir Police, Fayaz Hussain, was injured in the head. Later in the night, the police, along with some army personnel from nearby camp Darharmuna raided the village. “The police and army went on a rampage; they even beat up women, children, and elderly. They destroyed cars, shops, and homes,” said Mohammad Jabar, an old man, who broke one of his arms in the police violence.

Jabar was in his house when he heard a commotion outside. He came out and saw a dozen policemen coming advancing towards his house. Before he could react, he recalls a policeman hit him on his arm with his baton.

“Then, they went inside my home and beat my wife. One man slapped her on the face. She came out crying,” says Jabar.

“This is Zulm, just that, Zulm”, he blurts out in a rage. The villagers claim that the police also sprayed ‘some powder’ that made many people unconscious. Zareena Begum, 47, claims that she was beaten up by the policemen. She showed her legs with scars which were still fresh. She did not dare go to the hospital fearing that she could be arrested.”

“I was beaten up after being dragged inside the bathroom. I was just trying to stop the policemen from vandalising my home,” says Begum.

Raids in the village continued five days after the police vandalism. According to the villagers, five or six boys have been detained and are in still in police custody. “The police have given an ultimatum to us, either produce 70 boys of the village or they will come again to vandalise the village,” says an elderly man on the condition of anonymity.

Fearful of the police threats, hundreds of people have fled to the neighboring villages. During the day, some villagers come and tend to their cattle and apple orchards and leave at night.

Mudasir Ahmed, an apple farmer, is so terrifies by the May 8 incident that says he did not visit his house since May 8 he did not dare visit his home ever since. “I still could not come to terms with what I saw on that night. There is no accountability. The police can kill anyone at will,” lamented Mudasir who lives with his relatives in a neighboring village. He says he feels like a thief in hiding.

Clarion India’s calls to Superintendent of Police of Budgam and Inspector General of Police, Kashmir for comment went unanswered. A report in a local website on May 11 quoted the SSP refuting the reports of police highhandedness and blaming the villagers for the vandalism.

(Nayeem Rather is a freelance journalist based in Kashmir)


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