Residents narrate a woeful tale

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SRINAGAR: At the entrance of the lane leading to this congested locality, the Sarai Bala in civil lines, the protesters including women are engaging cops in pitched battles, while inside, a group of dozen odd women are sitting pensive outside the house where a shootout took place last night.
Some of the female folk are trying to console Sabreena Akhter, who is sitting at the entrance of her ransacked house. While police says two militants were killed in encounter there, the locals, particularly the landlords, have a different story to narrate.
The inhabitants said apart from killing the duo, living as tenants in the area, the cops stole all the valuables, including precious jewellery and other goods, which the poor family had raised out of hard earned money for Sabreena’s marriage, scheduled for September.
The girl in her late 20s cries inconsolably. For Sabreena, while all her valuables have been stolen by the cops, she is equally helpless to know whereabouts of her little brother Burhan Hakim, a schoolboy, who was whisked away by police instantly after the shootout.
After a deep breath, Sabreena, whose father passed away some years back, narrates her woeful tale. Last night, she was in the kitchen talking to mother and Burhan.  Her other younger brother, Bilal who works as a salesman to feed the family, had just went upstairs to take rest after day’s hard work.
Suddenly there was repeated knock at the door. The trio rushed out to see heavily armed cops positioned outside. “We are here on a search operation, who else is the house?” the cops questioned. By now Bilal, rushed down.
“We have tenants on the top floor,” the family said. “Where are they?” the cops instantly responded asking Burhan, a class 10th student to guide them to the fourth floor.
Other family members kept waiting downstairs. “After a few minutes, gunshots could be heard, and we got worried about the fate of Burhan,” Sabreena recapped.
The family started crying as to what was happening all of a sudden but the cops asked them to move away. Uncertain about Burhan’s fate, the family took shelter behind the wall next door only to keep eye toward home where the youngest family member was held up.
As the gunshots reverberated the locality, which is half a mile away from the Civil Secretariat, some locals rushed out only to see the entire area cordoned. “We could see some cops firing in air from the windows of the house,” the locals said.
Now everyone ran for cover. After sometime, the locals said, they heard cries of the tenant, who was dragged towards the cavalcade waiting near Hotel Iqbal, which falls on the backyard road connection Sarai Bala and Maharaja Bazar. “I am innocent, I am Innocent, please don’t kill me,” the locals said he shouted to catch everyone’s attention. Moments later there was another spell of gunfire. Now there were no more cries but lull while the body was lying in a pool of blood. “The other boy had also been killed right outside the police Gypsy,” the locals said.
The other tenant, as per the locals was already lying dead in the top floor of Sabreena’s house. After some time, the cops whisked away both the bodies.
Now it was time for the locals to rush out. Raising pro-freedom slogans, all of them marched towards the ill-fated house. As everyone asked for Burhan, the reply came “Police took him along.”
The locals including family members rushed upstairs only to a stream of red water gushing down the staircases. Bullets had ripped apart the water tanker on the top floor. The waters gushed out, flowing towards the room where one of the youth was killed. “His blood had mixed with waters to gush down the staircases,” the family presumes.
Sabreena said the duo youth had hired one of their rooms on rent on last Saturday. “They had introduced us as students from Anantnag studying at Amar Singh College. This is all we know about them,” the family said.
Asked what language the duo spoke the reply was “Kashmiri.”
The Sarai Bala locals said the duo used to stay confined to the top floor of the new constructed house. Two years back, the old house was washed away by 2014 floods. The poor family had somehow managed to reconstruct it. The rest of the hard earned money was spent to raise valuables, mostly jewellery for Sabreena’s marriage.
But the shootout has changed everything for the family. The walls have cracked, wardrobes ransacked, while the valuables have been stolen.
By now, more women from the neighbourhood poured in to console Sabreena as she begged before media person that her brother Burhan a minor was innocent, suffering from “heart problem.”
Outside stone pelting and arrest of youth continued. The protesters accused New Delhi-based TV channels of giving distorted picture of Kashmir situation. Showering choicest abuses, the protesters asked “electronic media” to go back.”
Meanwhile looking at the devastation back home, Sabreena cried again: “Police ruined our-everything; we are doomed!”

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