Battle-Wrecked Saidapora Families Say Forces Destroyed Orchard

SRINAGAR: Two Saidapora families whose houses were razed in a 30-hour-long battle between government forces and militants outside Sopore earlier this week have alleged that troops had also destroyed their orchard by uprooting nearly a hundred fruit trees with earth-movers in the siege.

“Along with roti, kapda and makaan, we have been deprived of our means of livelihood too,” Ghulam Muhammad Dar, who, with his nephew’s family, has been housed by the government in the local panchayat ghar and a school building with 2 quintals of rice and two gas cylinders as relief, said.  

“The army and the police used JCBs to uproot nearly one hundred trees in our 13 kanal orchard,” Dar told the KNS.

Along with his nephew, Khursheed, the villager said that the 3-day-long siege in Saidapora reminded them of a military operation in 1995.

“During that long-crackdown in search of militants, my brother and Khursheed’s father, Nawaab Dar, was subjected to torture along with several other villagers,” he said. “He could not withstand the ordeal, and died, while I was disabled for life.”   

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, troops had moved into the village and sealed off a large area, asking the two families to step out of their houses at 7:30 in the morning, the duo said.

“We had heard gunfire near the village at around four,” they said.

“But there were no militants in our homes when the troops ordered us out,” he said.

“First the troops and police set fire to Ghulam Muhammad Dar’s cowshed, and then they blasted his single-storey house with explosives,” they said.

“The next day they razed Khurhseed’s home and cowshed, either by torching it, or blowing it up,” they said.

The sub-divisional magistrate in Sopore, Dr. Syed Haneef Balkhi, told the KNS that trees had been uprooted in the orchard, but did not give the number.

“I toured the village along with officers of the revenue, engineering and horticulture departments to assess the damage, and found trees cut in the orchard,” the magistrate told the new agency.

On the other hand, the superintendent of the police for Sopore, Imtiyaz Hussain, strongly denied that any trees had been cut in the Dars’ orchard.

“Some trees could have been damaged by the heavy Casper vehicles of the army who moved into the area during the operation,” he said. “The police and the army have not uprooted fruit trees of any villager.”

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