The property damage apart, the victim families also accused the forces of looting valuables from their houses.

The property damage apart, the victim families also accused the forces of looting valuables from their houses.

The wanton destruction of the houses got revealed to residents after the forces deinducted from the downtown area. Soon angry residents threw stones and bricks at police who replied with teargas canisters.

  • CNN-News18 Nawakadal, Srinagar
  • Last Updated: May 20, 2020, 11:33 PM IST

Share this:

Smell of charred houses and teargas still hang heavy in the air at the Nawakadal neighbourhood, a day after two Hizbul Mujahideen militants were killed by security forces in an encounter on Tuesday.

The wanton destruction of the houses got revealed to residents after the forces deinducted from the downtown area. Soon angry residents threw stones and bricks at police who replied with teargas canisters.

Residents alleged the forces used heavy weaponry on the houses in a bid to neutralise the militants. They said in a congested locality when houses are literally strapped on to one other, the forces could have been more careful.

“In early 2000, security forces killed the then Jaish Mohammad chief Ghazi Baba in the Qamarwari area which is not far away from here, but only one house had suffered partial damage,” an elderly man told CNN-News18 near the entrance of one house.

“They keep on claiming this is a clean operation. How is it a clean operation when 15 to 18 houses are damaged, some of them razed to the ground? You cannot bombard a locality by using heavy ammunition in an urban area in the name of fighting militants,” a youth shouted near a mosque where donations were being collected for rebuilding the line of houses. “They could have waited. Why the urgency?”

At 2am on Tuesday when Srinagar was eerily calm and getting ready for another Sehri — a predawn mealtime during Ramzan — security forces walked silently past a maze of lanes near a government college and ringed a cluster of houses.

They had credible leads that Junaid Sehrai — a militant commander and son of a top separatist leader and his associate were in one of the houses.

Soon an encounter ensued and through the day the area rent with firing and occasional blasts. Before evening both were killed. A policeman and three CRPF jawans were also injured.

Soon it became evident the gunfight had left behind a trail of destruction and shattered the life of residents who till hours ago had no inkling of what was to come when they were gotten out of the locality.

WhatsApp Image 2020-05-20 at 18.12.01



Angry residents throw stones and bricks at police.

On their return, they dreaded to see what had become of their beloved homes and belongings. Children, women and old men stood in trance looking at the destruction that had wreaked in the locality.

Videos and pictures of children in tears and women beating their chests and put on social media spaces invited both scorn and outrage against police. There were diverse reactions too with some justifying the action and blaming the residents for “sheltering” militants.

“Where will we stay? Who will allow us in their homes in this pandemic? We have to live under open sky?” a woman said. “We cannot even ask our relatives for accommodation in times of COVID-19,” she added.

“Only three houses have been permanently damaged and a few more have partial damages. The damage to other houses happened because they are packed close to each other and made of wood. There is no fire gap,” Srinagar Senior Superintendent of Police Haseeb Mughal told CNN-News18.

On whether heavy munition was used, Mughal said the target houses were only fired at and occasionally under-barrel grenade launchers (UBGLs) were used with precision.

“Residents are not experts on identifying the make and quantity of explosives used. We did not use IEDs. The damage to the houses happened because the fire had spread. We got eight to nine fire tenders within no time to douse the flames,” he said.

He ducked a question on whether the houses should be rebuilt, but said that as per norms, police are making a distinction between the houses which harboured militants from those which suffered collateral damage.

“In the latter case, we will give police clearance if the government asks us. We know who harboured militants and who didn’t.”

Srinagar Mayor Junaid Mattu, meanwhile, suggested the administration compensates people to rebuild their houses.

Deeply saddened to see the specter of devastation at the site of today’s encounter in Nawakadal, Srinagar.

Almost a dozen families have been left homeless and devastated.

The administration should announce immediate compensation and extent all possible assistance to rebuild.

— Mayor Junaid Azim Mattu (@Junaid_Mattu) May 19, 2020

While the houses in the hinterland and suburbs where militants seek sanctuary are blasted in explosives to neutralise them and avoid battle casualties of troops, Srinagar would generally see restrained use of explosives till a few years back because of it being congested.

The forces have now decided they will opt the “best” strategy to avoid risking the lives of their men.

The property damage apart, the victim families also accused the forces of looting valuables from their houses. One woman alleged that even the cooking gas cylinder from her house was stolen.

Mughal, however, said the allegations are baseless. “In a live operation, how is it possible that someone will do that? Moreover, there were drones covering the incident and senior police monitoring at the spot. It is a ridiculous allegation that a cop will take a cylinder worth Rs 800,” he added.


Read More