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Branded 'informers', Kashmir village Burhan Wani was slain in lives in terror

Militant commander Burhan Wani was killed in this home in South Kashmir's Bemdoora village along with two other rebels on July 8.? Photograph: (WION)

WION Srinagar Jul 25, 2016, 09.15 AM (IST) Anees Zargar
In the midst of massive outburst, men and women, young and old, are out on roads. Slogans from the loudspeaker of nearby mosques fill the air. Young boys man the highway enforcing a strike called by 'pro-freedom' camps. 

Gripped with unrest for more than two weeks, South Kashmir in India's northernmost state, Jammu and Kashmir, is angry and mourning. 

Amid this anger, a small hamlet in Kokernag area, between a dense cover of poplar and willow trees, is as silent as a grave. This 'unnerving' silence in Bemdoora village is not usual for the inhabitants, they say. 

Dozen homes burnt down in frenzy 

Two weeks after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed here with two other rebels, the residents of this rural neighbourhood, nearly 80 km from state's summer capital Srinagar, are living in constant fear. 

Close to a dozen homes have already been burnt down in a frenzy that erupted against some locals of Bemdoora for allegedly informing the police about the whereabouts of the three armed militants in the area.

One of the homes in the hamlet that bore the wrath of protesters.

Following the gunfight on July 8 where Wani was killed, hundreds have come to the the hamlet to show contempt against the locals rather than empathy, holding them "responsible" for the encounter. 

Farooq Ahmad's home, where Wani and two others were shot down by security forces, was the first to be burned down by hundreds of angry protesters, who alleged that Farooq tipped off the police about them hiding in the area. 

Farooq, the maternal uncle of one of Wani's associates, Sartaj Ahmad, has left the village along with his family.

The smoke still emanates from a spilled rice mound set on fire here, while the walls of granaries have already crumbled. People have vented out their anger by damaging these homes.  

'Encounter did not last long' 

According to a local, the gunfight between the militants and security forces did not last too long after the area was cordoned off on July 8.

“We heard a few gun shots, and within 10 minutes, the three were killed,” he said, asking not to be named. Fearing a further backlash, the villagers are living in dread. Others hope to reason with the protesters to not damage properties further. 

Ghulam Qadir, along with many other locals, however, confesses no one in the locality had any idea about the presence of the armed militants in the area and said that people should wait until the facts are laid bare. 

“We request people and Hurriyat leaders to tell others, especially people living in areas near this village, to be calm and patient,” Qadir appeals. 

Kashmir valley has been gripped with tension following Wani's death.

As many as 6,000 apple trees have been destroyed inside an orchard, spread over nearly 10-acre, close to where Burhan was killed. 

Fayaz Ahmad, an employee at the orchard, says they were beaten up by an angry mob that believed the property belonged to state chief minister Mehbooba Mufti. 

“We pleaded before them that it is not owned by any minister, but they did not listen and destroyed everything, even setting our living quarters on fire,” Fayaz says. 

Outside the village, a few young boys say they firmly believe that Farooq's family was involved in the encounter. “Otherwise, there is no reason why it couldn’t have lasted longer,” they say. 

After Wani's killing, more than 50 have been killed and about 4,000 have been left injured in the widespread chaos that enveloped Kashmir valley over the past 15 days. 

Close to a hundred have been blinded in pellet firing. The separatist camp, fighting for Kashmir's independence, have issued a protest and strike calendar for people to follow till July 29. 

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