The house where Saturday's encounter took place | Azaan Javaid | ThePrint
The house where Saturday's encounter took place | Azaan Javaid | ThePrint
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Chanjmulla: Surrounded by small hills and divided by a narrow stream, the remote village of Chanjmulla in north Kashmir’s Handwara was largely calm over the past decade. 

The last time a gun battle took place here, say villagers, was in 2010-11, an encounter that led to the death of a local militant. But that was until this weekend, when a search operation for militants and the ensuing crossfire left the village reeling under a familiar fear amid Ramzan festivities.

Speaking to ThePrint, the villagers described a scene of utter chaos — how the security forces took position, asked the residents to flee for safety, and then launched a gun battle with two militants holed up in one of the houses.

The gun battle, which continued until 12.30 am Saturday night, led to the death of the militants but also exacted a heavy toll on the security forces. 

Five security personnel, including an Army Major who got married just four months ago, died — Col Ashutosh Sharma, who was commanding the 21 Rashtriya Rifles battalion, Major Anuj Sood, Naik Rajesh Kumar, Lance Naik Dinesh Singh, and J&K police sub-inspector Sageer Ahmed Qazi. 

The militants remain unidentified, police sources said. However, news agency ANI quoted inspector general of police (Kashmir range) Vijay Kumar as saying that one of them was a Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative named Haider. Meanwhile, The Resistance Front, an alleged LeT offshoot, has alleged that the two were local residents


Also Read: Shopian families who claimed bodies of 2 slain militants now asked to provide DNA samples


Fleeing for safety

Chanjmulla is located around 80 km from Srinagar. 

The stage for the encounter was set Friday, as a team of security personnel launched a search operation in the Rajwar forests nearby following intelligence about a group of militants. 

The team finally managed to locate the duo in Chanjmulla, at a house that lies on the edge of the village, surrounded by a boundary wall made of tin, tree trunks and large stones.

The house belongs to the family of Abdul Khaliq, a local carpenter, who lives there with his wife Saleema Begum, their two sons and a daughter. 

Saleema Begum told ThePrint that none of them was home when the militants took refuge in their house. Her husband had left early in the morning Saturday with their sons and she had dropped their daughter at a relative’s house before setting out to buy vegetables for iftar, she said.

Saleema Begum outside her home | Azaan Javaid | ThePrint
Saleema Begum outside her home | Azaan Javaid | ThePrint

When she returned home around afternoon, she added, she looked out the window and noticed the “Army taking position outside”.

“When I saw the Army taking position, I just ran out and didn’t stop running until I reached a safe place,” she said. “All my neighbours were running towards safety too. The security forces were asking us to leave the vicinity and so we did,” she added, seated beside her house, its walls standing testimony to the intense battle that took place in the village. 

As the residents crossed the bridge and passed by the security forces, the first shots were fired, villagers said. Moments later, both sides were exchanging fire. It stopped within an hour or two.

“The noise was relentless. It was as if lightning was striking our village again and again but it stopped all at once,” said Mohammad Abdullah Lone, the village head.

After the initial bout of gunfire, multiple villagers told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity, Army and police personnel led a JCB excavator towards the house to tear it down.

The excavator had started its assault on the boundary wall, the villagers said, when the two militants emerged from the house and started firing. Some of the bullets they fired hit security personnel, while others hit the excavator.

The Army statement issued after the encounter makes no mention of the purported excavator. 

“A joint operation was launched by the Army and police on Saturday. A team comprising five Army and police personnel entered the target area occupied by the militants to evacuate the civilians,” Army spokesman Col Rajesh Kalia said Sunday. 

“They successfully extricated the civilians. However, during the process, the team was subjected to heavy volume of fire by the militants,” he added.


Also Read: 15-yr-old boy killed in Handwara encounter was differently-abled and out playing with friends


The day after 

Chanjmulla native Rashid Lone said the firing then continued until 12.30 am. On Sunday, he added, the security forces sent five villagers, including the village head, to check whether the militants had been killed.

“I pleaded with them not to do this as it was risky, but they were relentless,” said Abdullah Lone. “Finally, we came to the house and saw five bodies of Army men lying next to the house. The bodies of two militants were lying at some distance from the house,” he added.

The gun battle has sent shock waves within the security apparatus, given its toll. The worries only deepened Monday evening as another shootout between suspected militants and CRPF troopers — triggered by a militant attack on a CRPF patrol team — claimed four lives. The fatalities included three CRPF troopers and a 15-year old differently-abled boy believed to have been killed by a stray bullet.

On Tuesday, the Army conducted an area domination exercise in Langate, where the three CRPF troopers were killed, leading to heavy security deployment in the area and frisking of local residents. 

Police also took down details of each vehicle using the national highway connecting Jammu and Srinagar.

The 21 Rashtriya Rifles camp, which lies on the national highway, disallowed any vehicle to move past by it by blocking a patch of the road. The vehicles were directed to take a detour through a village.


Also Read: Why Kashmir’s new militant outfit, ‘Lashkar offshoot’, signals possible escalation of violence


‘See what has happened’

Back in Chanjmulla, Saleema said she had no idea when the militants entered her home. 

“As far as I was concerned, I was alone (when I returned), waiting for my family to return,” she added.

Saleema’s family lived on the ground floor of their house, which is painted light green. The second storey, Saleema said, had been under construction for several years. 

Saleema Begum's family home now stands testimony to the intensity of Saturday's gun battle | Azaan Javaid | ThePrint
Saleema Begum’s family home now stands testimony to the intensity of Saturday’s gun battle | Azaan Javaid | ThePrint

“We have been trying to build a second storey by saving money… now see what has happened to it,” she added, pointing to the bullet holes that dot its facade.


Also Read: Ban on high-speed internet not proving enough to prevent rising violence in Kashmir


 

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7 Comments Share Your Views

7 COMMENTS

  1. All these incidents will end only when 3 million more armed INDIANS swarm into the valley and swamp out the local population.

    • NO 4 MILLION INDIAN RELOCATION PARTY
      INCENTIVE 4 ACRE
      THREE COWS
      INVADE AND SQUEEZE
      ARE YOU READY TO RELOCATE
      I SURE DONT WRITE WITH BIAS..OUTSIDER

  2. You do not mention that there were militants in Handwara?Azaan you are typical of journalist in the valley who get paid by India but always throw a story slanted to Muslims in tne valley.The woman you show sitting could be from PoK as far as we know?India will take a couple of years to clean all the militants fron the valley and make Kashmir safe for all its people not just Muslims.Wait and see how people rest of the country start buying land and tour comapnies and send militants to Pakistan.Journalist of Muslims haritage can move to Pakistan if they wished?

    • WHAT I SEE WITH YOU PEOPLE,ALWAYS BUT YOU DID NOT REPORT
      ON
      FOR ALL I KNOW
      YOU SUPPORT
      LETS GET THIS STRAIGHT
      EITHER POST ABOUT YOUR MOM AN YOU GAVE INFO OF HER DALLIANCE WAYS
      STOP WHINING
      NOT ALL ABOUT BLOATED YOU
      LADY LOST HAUS
      WHAT IF SHE EH COMFORT WOMAN
      OF BANGLADESH
      WHAT IF IS NOT JOURNALISM
      BUT BENEFIT YOUR VIEW
      THE ARTICLE NOT ABOUT
      MOMMY TAMARIND SEED
      SUBJECT IS GREENHAUS OCCUPANT
      SHE SHOULD BE COMPENSATED..SO WHAT IF SHE GIVES INDIAN BONEY BEEF TO MAN OF FIGHTING
      THATS WHO LIVE THERE
      SAME WAY MODI GETS
      POTBELLY PIG CHOP SUEY
      BY UBER

  3. Azaan Javaid narrated story in the Article is a lie & contrary to the story narrated by Army. Five Brave Army men died in attempt to free civilians in that house. How five army men body & two terrorists can be found near house. It looks like The Print rely & believe unverified article of biased Journalist rather than Army version.

    • HOW,ARE YOU EH DENSE WALL FLOWER OR
      EH CUTE UNTOUCH BOUGANVILLEA
      HOW CAN ARMY AND TWO MAN
      TRACKING.MAN OF PLEASURE
      TO THIS PLACE
      BANG BANG AT OK CURRYVILLE LEAVES.YOU WITH CASUALTIES
      YOU TAKE THE WORD
      OF ARMY FACE VALUE
      ARMY INTELLIGENCE REPORT SISTER EH WOMAN
      OF LATENITE RENDEZVOUS
      AMONGST SWEATY TRUCK DRIVERS OF PUMPUMVILLE
      BANGLADESH.
      YOU BELIEVE SHE EH FLOOZY

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