Another Militant Attack Shakes North Kashmir, 2 Families Left Devastated
Handwara: When he began to walk, most kids of his age had already begun running. A student of class 7, Hazim Shafi Bhat, had struggled with everything since he was born as he was diagnosed with delayed milestone, a condition where a child does not respond to development at an expected age. Even though he had struggled and won, Hazim could not escape the bullet that killed him as he tried to run away from gunfire to save his life on Monday in North Kashmir's Handwara.
Hazim fell in the crossfire after militants attacked and killed three CRPF personnel in Qazipora, Handwara in Kupwara district, around 70 km from Srinagar, at around 5:30 PM. After the gunshots stopped, Hazim's body lay on the road, with people suspecting him of being one of the assailants. It was only by 10 PM that his family received a message about his death that left them distraught.
A resident of Khaipora village, his father Mohammad Shafi says Hazim had left at around 2 o’clock in the afternoon to play in the orchard. "Since we are mostly busy in the orchards these days, so he would also be around playing with his ball that he carried even yesterday," Shafi said.
Khaipora vilage is close to the site where militants carried out the attack and the villagers heard the gunshots closely. Many from the village were in their respective orchards and Hazim was playing with other friends. When they heard the shots they began running.
Eldest among four children, Hazim was Mohammad Shafi's only son. "My son was fine and had overcome all the issues but he was still weak," he told NewsClick.
Following Hazim’s death, internet services in the area have been snapped. A strict curfew has been imposed by the authorities in and around Khaipora village with security personnel manning all routes around the area. Since morning, scores of neighbors and relatives have been visiting to mourn with Hazim's family. Only a few family members were able to attend the boy's funeral prayers. The authorities buried him several kilometers away in another North Kashmir district, Baramulla to stop any funeral gathering citing the COVID-19 outbreak.
However, a fear has taken over the villagers not just in Khaipora village but in the entire region.
This was the third such attack in North Kashmir in which armed forces have suffered heavy losses in militant attacks. Earlier in the first week of April, five army soldiers including elite para commandos were killed in Keran Sector along the Line of Control (LoC). In another deadly attack earlier on Sunday, May 3, five security forces personnel including a Colonel and Major rank officers were killed in Chanjpora village, which is 20 km away from Khaipora. Colonel Ashutosh Sharma who was among five security forces personnel killed during the encounter was the second Commanding Officer of the 21 Rashtriya Rifles that camped in the area.
The security around Chanjpora village is equally high but military check-posts appear closer than before. Dotted by pine trees, the village is in the vicinity of a forest area, Rajwar. An uneven dust road leads to the two-storey house of Abdul Khaliq built on an elevation across a small river stream at the near end of the village. In this courtyard, the militants carried out the attack on armed forces before the two were killed.
According to villagers, the Sunday attack was the first such incident in the village in a decade. "We witnessed such an incident after many years. The last time something like this happened was in 2010...at that time a militant was killed," a resident told NewsClick. The only other incident the resients remember is from year 2000 when a Brigadier rank officer was killed in an IED attack in neighboring Wadpora village.
Abdul Khaliq had left his home earlier on Saturday for work along with his teenage sons and his wife Saleema was out to fetch vegetables. "After I returned I was busy with cooking but then I saw soldiers around so I fled the house like everyone else in the neighborhood," Saleema said.
Since then she has not heard of her husband Abdul Khaliq who is currently held by the police. She has shifted to her relatives house with her children. The only thing she carried from her house is a small pouch which contains a passbook, a thick folder of prescriptions and medicines for her husband.
"My husband is suffering from a neurological issue. He can’t even work properly which is why he takes our sons along to help him. He has to be administered nine pills every day and since he has gone he has not taken them," she said.
The attack has drained all of the family resources and Saleema is concerned about her husband's well-being.
Handwara was one of the earliest hotbeds of armed insurgency in the early 1990s with many militants from the area joining the militant ranks. The recent attacks in these North Kashmir areas have shaken the region as well as the security grid who are expecting a further escalation in the wake of factors like formation of new militant groups The Resistance Front (TRF) and increased number of infiltration across the LoC. The three deadly attacks in a month, all in Kupwara district, that claimed 13 security personnel has led to an overall spike in violence. And, as the violence surges with increasing temperature in the region a "hot summer", security officials say, is "inevitable."
Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.