In Depth

The ‘long dead’ Budgam gunfight comes ‘alive’ in Shubeena’s nightmare   

Charred windows, smoked doors and black broken bricks are now the new address of those who lost their houses in a Budgam gunfight that took place late November this year. One homemaker whose home became rubble during the clash is now grappling with the nightmare which often throws her out of sleep with a pounding heart.

It starts with whispering among some menacing strangers lurking on a murky street right outside her home. Then violent kicks follow, gatecrashing her residence in a predawn-hour strike. And then the armed forces walk up to her room, only to drag her husband out. Petrified with fear, she runs after him, pleading them, to spare the father of her two daughters.

In this struggle, dawn breaks, not with muezzin’s azaan, but with the sound of machine guns, spraying bullets on her home. She breaks over the frightening sight, and wails once her home rises up in flames.

Once the nightmare ends, Shubeena suddenly wakes up with teary eyes and a sweaty forehead on a cold mattress inside her father’s home.

It’s not a happy dream that she’s been having ever since her lifetime possession along with countless moments spent in her home was blasted.

“My heart pains over the scene,” Shubeena laments. “I bury myself in a quilt and sob wretchedly, till it’s dawn.”

FPK Photo/Wasim Nabi.

The nightmare started on November 28, 2018, when Shubeena’s home came under heavy fire in Hajibal Mohalla of Kuthipora village of central Kashmir’s Budgam district. Besides killing top Lashkar commander Naveed Jatt along with his companion, the forces blasted Shubeena’s and that of her relative’s home in the gunfight.

Even as the last gun has long fallen silent, the brief gunfight continues to stir the nightmare in Shubeena’s life. “There was no sign of wailing except my own, no raised voices of forces, and no loud sounds of bullets in the room where forces kept us,” she details her hostage moment in a disturbing manner.

That night, Shubeena had woken to growing whispering outside her home. As she got up to make sense of the late night street chat, she saw forces inspecting her relative’s house. Soon, she says, forces moved towards her house “kicking the main gate without asking” them to open the door.

“Some of them,” she recalls, “jumped over the fence and rushed quickly in our rooms where my whole family was in sleep. They asked us to get up, as they had arrived ‘to look for some militants hiding in our home’.”

But after searching the whole house from top to bottom, the young mother says, they found nothing. “Then they dragged my husband, a Sumo driver by profession, outside.”

Shubeena ran behind them, asking: Where are you taking him?

He was taken as a ‘human shield’ to his sister’s home nearby, she says: “They abused him and broke his leg due to which he’s still hospitalized.”

FPK Photo/Wasim Nabi.

While reluctantly walking inside her home, she tried to ask the forces about their plans — like: “what are you supposed to do with my husband?”—but she received a retort: ‘Shut up or we’ll shoot!’

Almost immediately, she says, the first gunshot of what was to become the high profile gunfight that would seal the fate of Multan’s Naveed Jatt—who had earlier escaped in a thespian jail break from Srinagar’s SMHS hospital—rang up in Kuthipora.

“I will remember that night forever as forces misbehaved with me,” Shubeena, wife of Ashiq Hussain Bhat, says with a tearful face. “When one of the armed men asked me to lift my Pheran, he was stopped by his colleague. After that, I was pulled by my hair, in front of my two crying daughters. When I was sure that they would kill us, I begged them for a sip of water, but they instead gave me chilly water in a used plastic box.”

Since then, around 30 days have passed, but Shubeena continues to grapple with the nightmare at her father’s place.

Her own home is a site of wreckage now, which was damaged for the heck of it, she says.

“The armed forces damaged my home despite knowing and admitting that there was no one there,” she says. “They [forces] claim that they are here for our safety, but in reality they are here for our destruction.”

In fact, she says, none was aware about militants’ presence in Kuthipora, till the forces showed up, almost in post-haste.

“But I’m so thankful to my community in particular and my Kashmiri brethren in general, who helped my family in both cash and kind,” she says.

FPK Photo/Wasim Nabi.

Right now, Shubeena might be looking forward to rebuild her life, but the nightmare of November 28 continues to trouble her.

She often sees her husband and two daughters sitting like ‘frightened chickens’ inside a room stormed by the late night armed visitors. And then, she wakes up with a pounding heart when she sees the troopers training guns at her home, and turn it into a smoked waste.

Once her sleep ends, she keeps waiting for a new dawn.


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