Kulgam/Shopian: Last year, during these days, Huzaif Ashraf Kuttay was in Punjab to work as a labourer. He had passed class 8th from a local school four years ago but couldn’t join secondary school after his father, Mohammad Ashraf, was hospitalized for over two months to undergo a couple of surgeries. Huzaif’s documents had spelling errors and to take admission in a new school, he had to get it rectified. But couldn’t without his father.
Hailing from Manzgam Kulgam, over 90 kilometres south-west of Srinagar, he started doing odd jobs and working as a labourer to sustain himself. In June this year, Huzaif, third among nine siblings, including five sisters, started a bakery shop in Saidapora village, where his aunt lived. The village is nearly 25 kilometres away in adjoining Shopian district. In Kashmir, there is a bakery shop in every locality as people eat locally-baked bread in breakfast-tea and during the day, inclusive of the culture.
On the morning of November 17, 19-year-old Huzaif was abducted from his shop by militants along with his cousin Shahid Ahmad (17) and another local Farooq Ahmad Thoker (30).
In the evening, Shahid and Farooq were released but during the night throat slit body of Huzaif was recovered in Nikloora village, over 20 kilometers away. Militants released video of his assassination. They later released another video in which Huzaif accepts that he was an Army informer.
From last week seven such kidnappings have taken place in south Kashmir and two people have been killed and one has been injured. It is for the first time that militants in Kashmir released the execution videos and “justified” their act as killing Army “informers”.
A day before Huzaif’s assassination, militants filmed, pumping bullets on 17-year-old Nadeem Bashir from Shopian’s Safanagri village.
Hizbul Mujahideen has taken responsibility for the assassinations and released "confessional" videos of the slain. Huzaif and Nadeem both were, as per their confession in the purported video, in touch with the Army and passing them information about militants.
Huzaif says in the video that he was approached by the Army, asking him to give them information of militants and they will in return pay him Rs 10,000 after a militant’s killing.
How Abductions Took Place?
Farooq Ahmad Thoker says he was leaving for work on Saturday when a car stopped near his house and two gunmen bundled him in the vehicle. “I am working as an apple packer and was supposed to go to another village for work,” says Thoker, who has lost his left arm six years ago due to an accidental eclectic sock. The masked militants had already kidnapped Huzaif and his cousin from Bakery shop.
“We were blindfolded; the vehicle went through unknown places. They kept beating us till we reached a place after half an hour. We were made to sit and cover from our eyes was lifted and our phones were checked,” recalled Thoker in dreadful voice sitting in the porch of his single-story house where he lives with his parents, two days after the incident.
“It was an apple orchard and they kept beating us, alleging that we are in contact with the Army. They kept inquiring and asking questions till 3 pm,” he says, “after that, I and Shahid were released. They told us to leave the place without looking back and said that they will leave Huzaif later." However, Huzaif was brutally killed.
Two days ago, around same time in the afternoon in Safanagri village, three gunmen barged into the vast walnut-trees shaded compound of Bhat’s. They began calling for their son, Nadeem, a class 11 student. “He is not here,” his uncle Abdul Hameed told them. They searched the house of Nadeem and his uncle and left not finding him.
After 15 minutes, Nadeem came and his elder brother Sartaj apprised him. But Nadeem reacted sharply. “I asked him what has he done and why were militants looking for him,” says Sartaj. “But he was angry and said, ‘I am clean and have done nothing. Where are they I will find them?’ He left in search of militants,” says 20-year-old Sartaj.
The family members were not at good terms with Nadeem because of his smoking habits. Most of the family members, including his father, had stopped talking to him.
“He was smoking cigarettes and cannibals. His bad habits actually became the reason for our joint family to break apart a couple of years ago,” says his Uncle Hameed.
In the evening militants had kidnapped Nadeem and when the family members got to know they didn’t make any efforts to free him.
“I was happy. I thought the militants would beat him for his bad habit of drugs,” said his father Manzoor Ahmad who is a baker. But during the night his Uncle got a call from a friend, informing him that the dead body of Nadeem has been found in Algar village, seven kilometers away in adjoining Pulwama district.
Bhat’s are nine brothers and seven are living closely. The news was spread in the males of the family but they didn’t dare to recover the body during the night.
The militants had filmed the execution of Nadeem and next day released the video in which he accepts that he informed army on November 6 when his friend told him about the militant movement while they were smoking cannibals, as Nadeem reveals in the purported video, he checked again in his neighborhood and spotted two militants. “I made a missed call to army man and they cordoned off the neighborhood,” Nadeem says in the video.
Two militants were killed that day in the gunfight. One among them was Nadeem’s neighbor, Mohd Idrees alias Chota Abrar, an army soldier turned militant.
Costs of Conflict
Slain Huzaif’s father, Mohammad Ashraf who works as a tailor along with his two daughters says his son should have been pardoned. “If militants would have told me only once about him I would have taught him a lesson. But he is dead,” he says surrounded by his daughters.
At the house of Nadeem Manzoor, there is a different mood. Abdul Hameed, Uncle of Nadeem blames the political leaders for the bloodshed in Kashmir.
“Our son was killed because of two reasons: One he was into drugs and might have committed what militants blame him for,” says Hameed, “But more than that it is the politics of the mainstream political parties which is eating our young.”
Hameed, who is in his 70s makes a passionate appeal to the mainstream political parties asking the “to stop gaining from the blood of Kashmiris.”
“Our son was killed by militants, for informing army about other militants. Who died? Kashmiris,” he says. “Now the militants who did this will be killed but they are also Kashmiris.”
He blames the “conflict” and the “circumstances created by politicians” in Kashmir which lead to Nadeem’s killing.
The family also blames that police is not taking action against the drug addicts.
"The drug addicts like my son are not taken to task by police. I think their vulnerabilities are used," says Manzoor Ahmad, Nadeem's father.
Police said that they have identified those behind the circulation of the recent “execution videos” in south Kashmir. “Those who are propagating brutal killing videos have been identified and soon action will be taken against them,” Kashmir’s Inspector General of Police S.P Pani said, adding, “These execution videos of innocent civilians in Kashmir is reflection of ‘terror’ crimes.”
On Tuesday morning, four local militants were killed in south Kashmir’s Shopian. The gunfight raged in Nadigam village and four Hizbul Mujahideen militants were killed.
(The author is a Kashmir-based freelance journalist)