As human shield Ali received the first volley of fire

On Oct 2, 2002, Ali Mohammad Najar, a carpenter, was allegedly abducted by Indian Army in Arin, Bandipora. “At 12 pm, he had his lunch and went outside the house,” Fareed, a shopkeeper, who had hired him for work. “But he didn’t return. I became sceptical and went outside to see him. I saw two Army men in uniform taking him along,” he recalls.

The Army had cordoned off Arin village in the morning, suspecting the presence of militants in the area. It was not clear where the militants were hiding and the Army allegedly engaged ordinary locals like Ali to search the houses.

Abdul Rashid Lone, another carpenter, one of the witnesses, said he too was abducted by Army for questioning along with two others. “We were told that we were required for questioning. But they later intimidated us and told us to check the houses, one by one. When we resisted, we were beaten. So we quietly checked almost all the houses,” he recalls.

The last house was still unchecked and this was where the three militants were hiding. The Army was observing the search operation a few blocks away to avoid direct contact with militants and the three men got in. “We entered the house and checked the first room. Then we slowly got up to first floor. Ali was leading in the front. As he slowly sneaked into the room, we heard a loud burst of bullets. He instantly fell on the ground.  He was still alive.  We were terrified.  We quickly rushed out of house to save our lives,” Lone says.

Ali was left behind in a bloodied condition with bullets fired by the militants slowly snuffing out his life.Abdul Rashid and two others were sent again by Army to take out the corpse of a militant who was shot dead in the gun battle.

“We slowly walked inside the compound of the house. We were scared.The militant was lying dead with a grenade in one hand and an AK-47 in the other. While we started dragging him, the grenade in his hand went off and we were injured,” Lone says. The injured locals were shifted to the nearby hospital. Lone had suffered severe damage and gave up carpentry.

Ali’s mother, Zeba Begum,could not stop herself from crying while narrating his son’s story. “Ali was born after five sisters.  He was my beloved son, our only source of income.” 

She pauses to wipe her tears. “We never knew that our son was inside the house.That day, an Army officer came to our house. He said my son was safe and told us not to worry,” says Zeba Begum.

“Next day, we came to know from Rashid in hospital that Ali was sent inside the house,” she pauses and again breaks down.Shafiqa, Ali’s wife, who is now married to his younger brother, says, “At about 2 pm next day, the Army left the area after making sure that no one in the house came out alive. They let it burn for 24 hours without permitting anyone to go nearby.”

It took some time for the horrified villagers to search the rubble where they found a few bones. It was not clear whether they were Ali’s remains or the suspected militant’s. “When we heard that only few bones were found, I almost fainted. But I kept hoping that they won’t be Ali’s. The right arm with burnt skin blended with red sweater that Ali was wearing that day. A neck chain and a watch was still attached to his skinless right arm,” Zeba Begum says.

“When we saw the watch, chain pendulum and red sweater, we could not stand on our feet,” Shafiqa recalls with her eyes sunken. “A few bones were buried in the grave. He died a martyr but we regret that we had nothing to bury except for a few  bones,”  says  Ali’s  grief-stricken  father,  Wali  Mohammad  Najar,  who  has weak eyesight and can hardly hear.

After a few days, a part of Ali’s leg was found in the rubble which escalated the family’s agony. 

Ali left behind his ailing parents, wife and two children who are living a miserable life. His parents recall that Ali was born in autumn. He died in autumn as well!

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