On Thursday evening, Firdous Ahmad, 28, a police follower from Batagund — a sleepy village in Shopian — had returned home to announce his public resignation during the Friday congregational prayers at Jamia Masjid in the district due to the constant militant threats. But hours before he could do that, he was abducted by militants along with two other policemen from adjacent villages and shot dead.
The killings of the two police employees and a special police officer have sent shock waves across the country.
Villagers say the toll could have been higher as two other policemen were not present at home when the militants carried out a series of coordinated raids in the two neighbouring villages of Kaprin and Batagund, nearly 11 km from Shopian district headquarters.
Locals and families of the slain policemen said the raids started around 6.30 am in Batagund when a group of militants entered two neighbouring houses of police follower Firdous Ahmad Kuchey and SPO Kulwant Singh. The militants also barged into the house of another policeman in the village, but he was not present.
At Batagund, Firdous, who was posted at the railway police post at Kakapora in south Kashmir, was sitting in his room with his wife when they heard a noise in the corridor. His 18-month-old daughter Arwa and five-year-old son Aman were sleeping that time.
“My husband’s brother Rameez was being taken away by two men, who were asking him are you Firdous? After my husband heard them, he came out and told them he was Firdous. They then got hold of him and took him along. When everyone in the family resisted, they beat upus and also kicked him and took him away,” Firdous’s wife Rukhsana, 30, tearfully says.
Opposite their house, Kulwant Singh was forced out of bed. His mother, Puspa Devi, 65, resisted and ran after the militants, but without any success. Locals even requested the militants to release Kulwant Singh, posted at District Police Lines, Kulgam.
Half a kilometre away, the militant group barged into the house of Senior Selection Grade Constable Nisar Ahmad Dhobi at Kaprin. He was in the toilet when two militants entered his house looking for him.
“Two men came inside looking for him. He heard them in the washroom and came out quickly. The two men told him to get dressed and then took him away,” said Rukhsana Nisar, Dhobi’s wife. Dhobi was posted at Rajbagh in Srinagar.
At Kaprin, Dhobi’s family members and some neighbours even chased the militants and pleaded with them not to kidnap him.
The kidnappers shot in the air and threatened the villagers, a local said. The militants also abducted a relative of a policeman.
Nearly half an hour after the abduction, the three policemen were shot dead in an orchard nearly 2 km from Kaprin. As people heard gunshots, they rushed towards the area and found three bullet-riddled bodies. The bodies were shifted to District Police Lines for the wreath-laying. The militants, however, set free the relative of the policeman before the shooting.
The police said the killings were carried out jointly by the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e-Toiba
“It is established that the Hizb and Lashkar are behind the killings. The two militants involved in the killings have been identified,” Additional Director General of Police, Law and Order, Munir Khan told Kashmir Post.
A pall of gloom descended on the otherwise peaceful villages of the Shopian volatile district. “Kaprin has never seen a gunfight, but today’s killing has shocked everyone in the village. Nisar Dhobi was a gentleman and had not done any harm,” said a local who attended his funeral.
The killings came just days after the “resign or die” threat by militants issued to policemen, particularly SPOs.
Last month, militants in south Kashmir abducted 11 relatives of policemen but set them free later. The abduction followed the detention of Hizbul Mujahideen operation commander Riyaz Naikoo’s father by security forces.