A few days back, 10 army along with police personnel barged inside Farooq Ahmed Bhat’s house around 3:30 AM. They searched room after room, snatched all mobile phones in the house and took Farooq in their custody. When Farooq’s wife, asked the reason of the raid, she was told that it was part of general interrogation.
“I pleaded before the army asking the reason behind all this. I asked them how can they barge like this in the middle of the night inside someone’s house,” she said.
However, her cries went unheard, instead, as the army left the house, they locked the door from outside. It has been 20 days since, and she has no clue where her husband is. “If one goes by the hearsay, my husband and others are being kept in an army camp. But I am not sure. I haven’t seen him since last so many days. I don’t know where he is.”
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Farooq, who is in his 50s, is a teacher and in charge of a middle school. Farooq and his wife were the only people in the house when the army arrested him. Their two sons, who were studying outside, came back after hearing the news.
“I am in shock. My father is a teacher. He has a good reputation everywhere. He was never engaged in politics and always asked us to concentrate on our career. That’s why, we—both of his sons—are doing good,” said one of his son, who is studying veterinary medicine in Jammu.
When NewsClick travelled to Kishtwar, residents claimed that more than 100 people have been arrested so far and the families have no clue where are they kept. Rumours are doing rounds that they have been kept in a nearby army camp. The residents are so scared of the army camp that they are not willing to speak to anyone.
Farooq Ahmed Bhat, a school teacher, was one of the those arrested by the police as a part of major crackdown after a rifle-snatching incident. On September 14, curfew was imposed in Kishtwar after few suspected militants snatched a rifle from a Personal Security Officer (PSO) of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) district president of Kishtwar.
As per the police version, Special Police Officer (SPO) Mubashir Hussain was on duty at the house of PDP district president Nasir Sheikh when 2-3 suspected militants tied him along with Nisar’s family and snatched the rifles. It has been reported that the militants spent a night at the PDP leader’s house before snatching the rifles.
After the incident, a massive cordon and search operation was launched in Kishtwar and a number of residents were arrested by the army who barged into their houses in the middle of the night. However, residents doubt the veracity of this version. They believe that this was an engineered attempt to disrupt the peace in the region and deviate the anger over the abrogation of Article 370 and disintegration of the state.
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“If militants had to snatch weapons, they could have done so in the night. Why would they wait till the morning. And how can militants sneak in, when there are thousands of army men patrolling in the night. Isn’t it absurd?,” asked a resident, requesting anonymity.
Jammu and Kashmir has been under uncertainty since the region has been stripped of its autonomy, and the erstwhile state has been reduced to a union territory.
After every 3 days, Hafiz Manzoor Ahmed’s father-in-law visits the army camp with clothes, medicine and food. He is not allowed to enter, instead an army personnel takes the clothes and medicine from him and assures that it will be delivered to his son-in-law. “I don’t know whether the clothes and medicine reach him or not. I am trying to believe the assurances given to me. The way I am being assured that the food and other supplies will be delivered to him, I believe that my son-in-law is being kept inside the camp.”
Hafiz Manzoor Ahmed, 33, was arrested after the rifle snatching case. According to his family, the army barged inside the house and took Hafiz along. “We have daughters at home and they were woken up from their sleep. They started crying as they saw their father being taken by the army. It has badly affected them since then,” said Hafiz’s wife.
She said that she went till the nearby chowk pleading the army to tell her why he has been arrested. Hafiz is a popular man Kishtwar. He is an imam and has a sports shop. “My only question is – everybody knew Hafiz. They could have arrested him in an open manner. His shop is on the main road. He recites prayers everyday at the mosque. Was there a reason to arrest him like this?,” she asked.
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According to the family, Hafiz had developed skin infection lately and according to the doctors, he should change his clothes almost everyday. “I take clothes and medicines with me every third day. I hope it reaches him,” his father-in-law said.
Hafiz had earlier been arrested on the day Article 370 was abrogated. He was released 15 days later.
He has three daughters, the youngest one is 3 years old and eldest one is 8 years old. “I just keep on convincing myself that my husband is not the only one. More than 100 people have been arrested and they are equally suffering. That makes it a little bearable. When they will be freed, my husband will be released too,” his wife said.