On the night of the Kulgam encounter on Saturday, Army searched the two-storeyed home of Abdul Majeed Reshi in Frisal village here several times, but found no militants hiding inside despite a specific tip-off.
With the Reshis ordered out of their home, the Army team conducted several searches. A neighbour, who did not want to be identified, told The Indian Express: “Each time they searched, they found nothing. The house was completely silent.”
The neighbour added that the team also forced him to accompany them inside the house several times. It was after another search attempt, this time without the neighbour, that the first gunshots were heard; and it soon turned out to be a fierce gunbattle in which four militants, two soldiers and a civilian were killed.
As it turned out, the militants were hiding inside an underground hideout that opened overground into the hollow trunk of a Chinar tree in the Reshis’ courtyard. After the encounter, villagers have been flocking to the Reshis’ house, to get a glimpse of the Chinar tree and its hollow trunk.
The gunbattle has turned the house into rubble. Now, shreds of clothes and tin are scattered on the ground, with parts of a mangled rooftop dangling several feet above from the Chinar tree.
In the gunfight, Abdul Majeed Reshi lost his son, Ishaq Ahmad (40). Ishaq was killed by a bullet that the Army says was fired by the militants, but the family is suspicious of this version.
“It was around 11.15 pm in the night when Army cordoned our house,” says Ishaq’s brother, Mohammad Shafi Reshi.
“They asked all the family members to come out. Ishaq and I were taken away by the Army men, while other family members were kept at another house close-by,” he added.
However, Shafi, father of four daughters, does not deny that militants were hiding in his home. “Yes, militants were present in our house…They had come only a little while before that. We were telling them to leave our house but suddenly there was cordon,” he says.
Shafi runs a bakery shop in the village with his father to support their extended family — aged parents, two unmarried sisters and two brothers and their families. Ishaq was working as a contractual employee in the Public Health Engineering department.
Shafi says that after they came out of their house, the Army went inside for search and after sometime he heard sounds of gunshots.
“My brother and I had been separated from each other…One Army team team took me along with them, while another took Ishaq with them,” he said.
One and a half hours later, the Army broke the news of Ishaq’s killing to his brother. “They (Armymen) came and told me that he (Ishaq) had been hit by bullets fired by the militants….I don’t know how he was killed. All I know is that he was taken by the Army men along with them,” Shafi says.