KULGAM I live just a kilometre away from the village Laroo, scene of the Sunday carnage which left seven civilians and three militants dead and more than 40 civilians injured.
The Saturday evening was like any other evening with people tired from their daily chores settling in their cozy homes in Paniwah, my village. It is the harvest period and people of the valley are very busy these days. The Kulgamis are involved in both horticulture as well as agriculture and are also busy in the period of harvest. It is the central activity for much of the population here and peoples economy depends heavily on these two sectors.
After having dinner I sat in front of TV for quite some time but the autumn chill led me to bed a bit early. I was deep asleep when some cracking sound woke me up. My heart was pounding loudly and I could hear my heartbeat clearly. I reached my mobile phone to check the time. It was 3 AM. Soon the machine guns started rattling. All of our family members came crawling towards the lobby. My father told me that an encounter has started and it is some were nearby. He advised us not to stand up. We hid ourselves behind concrete walls and waited for dusk. The voice of Azan broke the uneasy calm as intensity of firing had by now slowed down. My father offered morning prayers and started supplication for every ones safety. I tried to call my uncles who live nearer to main road to ascertain about their wellbeing. I couldnt make a call as the phone service was suspended by the authorities.
By morning we came to know that the encounter was going on in Laroo. Army vehicles had occupied all roads and it was a scene of war. We were desperately waiting for the encounter to end so that we could see the people who were actually caught in the encounter. Around 9.00 AM army and police left the encounter site and we rushed to the spot.
Hundreds of people rushed from all corners towards Laroo to know about the whereabouts of the locals whose houses were on fire. Soon a bang shook the earth beneath me followed by heart wrenching screams. I was confused, what was going on. People rushed towards the site of the explosion. Soon the ripped bodies of young men in the age group of 18-22 were being carried on shoulders. An old man shouted from behind, forcen ha che mine bichayemach, panneh panneh jaye rukiv (the forces have planted mines in the debris, don’t go near), he pleaded.
I was in shock. There were injured writhing in pain and people screaming everywhere. Some were carrying the dead, some injured and some were trying to put off the flames that were leaping to the rooftops of other houses. It seemed there was some chemical burning, the flames were not for sure coming from the wood. Soon gun shots were heard from the other side of the road. I along with my friend rushed toward that area. As soon we reached there were more than a dozen people on ground drenched in blood. Somehow we managed to get an Auto Rickshaw to carry the injured to hospital.
As we were busy in rescue the news about the succumbing of the injured started pouring in. The relatives were wailing at the loss of their loved ones. It was the wailing cry of a moribund nation.I saw an elderly lady sitting by the road side sitting still with dry eyes without a blink. Later I came to know her grandson was among the injured. It was altogether a dooms day for us.
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