Thirty-five bullets were allegedly pumped into a Kashmiri civilian’s torso, in the middle of the night. The peace of night was violated by the sound of gunshot.
Main breadwinner of Malik family was killed by the government forces in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
On September 27, 2018, in the middle of the night, a joint group of Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) and Special Operations Group reportedly appeared in Magray Mohallah, Noorbagh, and started cordon and search operation (CASO) in the area.
To reach to the houses, forces reportedly trespassed a gate which was the entrance to the eight houses of the Malik families. Due to the implementation of Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) in Kashmir, forces can enter any house at any time.
Soon after reaching the courtyard, one of the CRPF men knocked on the door of Mohammad Yaqoob Malik, a 47-year-old man. Yaqoob was helping his paralysed mother change her clothes, and asked his wife Shakeela, aged 42 years, to check who was at the door.
Before Shakeela could open the door, she heard the voices of many people who started banging all the windows of her house. On opening the door, she found a large number of government forces with their guns pointed towards the house. The CRPF and SOG were accompanied by the SHO of the concerned police station.
“Where is the guest who came from Pulwama, a cop asked me,” recalls Shakeela. “Guest” here implied a militant.
She reportedly told them there is no guest from Pulwama in her house. The team of government forces was acting on specific inputs about the presence of the militants in the area.
“Ask your husband to come out and speak to us,” said a cop to Shakeela. She rushed to the room, and narrated to her husband what she witnessed outside.
Holding his mother’s scarf in one hand, Yaqoob panicked and rushed towards the door.
“Are you Yaqoob Malik?” the cop asked him. “Yes sir, is everything alright?” Yaqoob replied to the cop. Cop reportedly asked him the same question which was asked to his wife, and his reply was same.
To confirm the identification, the cop asked Yaqoob if his son’s name was Mehraj. “No sir, my son’s name is Abid,” Yaqoob answered. “Mehraj is my neighbor’s son, his parents’ names are identical to my wife’s and my name.”
Another platoon was in the courtyard, a few among them took the position in the lobby and some asked Yaqoob to assist them to locate Mehraj’s house.
“His house is just on the backside of my house, there is no wall between our house, so I took them to the top floor,” says Yaqoob. “Cops told me that there are three militants in that house, so we need to blast it with IED.”
Yaqoob knew his neighbor well; they never had any involvement in the armed resistance movement. So, Yaqoob reportedly asked them not to fire on the house. He said he will go inside and check. “If there is any militant, I will take the civilians out of the house. After that, they can take charge,” he said.
One of the cops agreed, but soon another cop refused. “Frustration was visible on their faces. They fired on a wall where shadow of fan was moving,” said Yaqoob. “I told them there is nothing as such but they slapped me, and asked me to go back down.”
Forces locked Yaqoob and his family in a room.
Mehraj Malik, a 27-year-old, was not alone in his house, His parents, younger brother Saleem Malik, a 24-year-old boy and his sisters were sleeping in the house.
All the noise around awakened Saleem. He went out with a torch, and headed straight to the cowshed, on the left corner of his courtyard, to check on his sheep. Sheep lover Saleem was scared of thieves; his 5-8 sheep had been stolen earlier.
When he took a few steps, he saw the forces with guns aimed at his house, “I’m a civilian,” heard one of the neighbors of Saleem.
Before Saleem’s father can come out, forces fired towards the house heavily. “We couldn’t make any move, we lied on the floor to shield ourselves from the bullets,” recalls Saleem’s father Yaqoob. No one in the immediate area or the house knew what was going on; everyone was scared and were keeping a low profile in their houses.
“A few of the cops came down from the roof, and told us, we will start the encounter in the morning,” recalls Shakeela.
At the daybreak, Saleem’s sister Mubeena managed to peep from the window to see what had happened. Her eyes rested on a body lying in the corner of the cowshed. It was Saleem’s body drenched in blood.
Mubeena, rushed to the spot, she was accompanied by the rest of the family members. Saleem’s stomach was pumped with 35 bullets. His sister tried to shake him, but he was dead. “His body was cold, all of his blood had clotted on the floor,” recalls Yaqoob Saleem’s father.
Within no time, news of Saleem’s killing brought people out of their houses. They gathered near his dead body. People reportedly started chanting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans.
To stop people from entering Saleem’s house, police, who were outside, reportedly triggered tear gas canisters, which led to the clashes.
“There was no gunfight, no gunshot came from anywhere. Forces fired madly, and ended up killing an honest boy of Malik family,” says Shakeela. “Due to the fear of a backlash, after the killing of the civilian, forces tried to leave. All of them left and forgot to escort the group which were still on the roof top.”
When the remaining men of the forces were coming down from the stairs, Yaqoob (neighbor) reportedly shouted at them, “You killed a civilian. God will punish you for this.”
One of the CRPF men slapped Yaqoob, and held his gun on to Yaqoob’s nephew Dhamin Malik, a 5-year-old boy’s head. “We will shoot him, if you won’t come with us, and ensure our security till we call our group,” a CRPF man reportedly told Yaqoob.
After fifteen minutes, a rescue team came to the house, and took them along. For these fifteen minutes, Dhamin was reportedly held at gun-point against the wall.
The forces left the area, leaving behind the blood-drenched body of Saleem. Everyone kept asking, “Why was he killed?”
Holding Saleem’s coffin on the shoulders, mostly the young men of the area, had tear gas canisters, allegedly fired on them by the forces, when they tried to reach the Eidgah.
“My sister touched the feet of an officer and pleaded with him to stop shelling till the funeral ends,” said Saleem’s father Yaqoob.
The plea fell on deaf ears. Mourners reportedly offered funeral prayers amid the sound of pepper and tear gas shelling in the background. Saleem was buried in the martyr’s graveyard, Eidgah.
With the blood red eyes, Saleem’s father kept looking at the place where Saleem had been lying, with a lot of answered questions in his mind.
Saleem was very close to his father. Since childhood, he had noticed Saleem’s love for sheep and pigeons. He dropped his studies in standard VIII to help his father.
Saleem would do different labour jobs to earn money, and support his father.
“My son was a big support to me, since the age of 16, he has worked like an adult,” said Yaqoob.
People living in this area recall Saleem as a peace-loving man.
There is nothing his father can do about his killing, but he has made all of Saleem’s responsibilities his priority. “His sheep and pigeons remind me how Saleem used to spend his time with them,” said Saleem’s father Yaqoob.
Yaqoob calls Saleem’s killing as a cold-blooded murder. After many attempts to file the FIR against the killing, police have allegedly refused to file the FIR.