Jammu: In a remote hamlet in the Mahore belt of Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi district that was once a hotbed of militancy, villagers who displayed exemplary courage by overpowering two heavily-armed Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants say they are determined not to let militants regain ground.
The militants who were later identified as the most-wanted LeT commander Talib Hussain Shah – the mastermind behind a series of explosions in his home district Rajouri – and his associate Faisal Ahmad Dar of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district were escaping the dragnet of security forces and had reached the village for shelter on Saturday night.
The six close relatives kept their wits about them as they took on the two armed terrorists bare-handed in an hour-long confrontation in the hilltop village that can be reached only after trekking for over two hours from the last motorable road.
“When I returned to my ‘dhok’ (hamlet) in the evening (on Saturday) after work, I saw two unknown persons inside the house and got suspicious as they introduced themselves as businessmen. They ordered me to switch off the mobile and keep it on the floor. They also restricted me from going outside,” Mohammad Yousuf said.
As it was dark, Yousuf said, he tricked the terrorists by keeping his mobile phone on the ground with one hand and swooping it up with the other before pleading with them to let him go outside to attend nature’s call.
Outside the premises, Yousuf said he telephoned his brother and told him that this might be “our last conversation as some people have come to my house and collected all the information about our extended family. They might kill us all.” Panicked by the phone call, his brother Nazir Ahmad contacted other relatives – Roshan Din, Shamsuddin, Mushtaq Ahmad and Mohammad Iqbal – and they together decided to take on the militants as it would have taken a lot of time for the security forces to reach the densely forested area.
“When we reached there in the dead of the night, we saw the militants sleeping inside the house while Yousuf also lay nearby. We did not disturb them and waited for the first light of the day to ensure that they were not able to escape,” Ahmad said.
Iqbal said four of them went inside the premises on Sunday morning and two others stood guard outside. Once they realised that the militants had hidden their arms inside a bag, they decided to get their hands on it first.
“We tactfully snatched the bag containing the huge cache of arms and ammunition and then pounced upon them. Shah resisted and tried to break free and even reached the door of the house during the hour-long scuffle inside. Mushtaq slapped the militant several times and we brought him under control,” he said.
Iqbal said they could overcome their fear because the army and police have been regularly interacting with them and delivering motivational lectures to tackle such a situation.
“Mahore was once a hotbed of militancy and the people had heaved a sigh of relief when the menace was wiped out by the army over a decade ago. We stand with our army and police and will not allow militants to take roots here once again,” Mushtaq said.
Their bravery drew appreciation from all across with Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and Director General of Police Dilbag Singh immediately announcing a cash reward of Rs five lakh and Rs two lakh respectively for their courageous act.
“I salute the bravery of villagers of Tukson Dhok, Reasi, who apprehended two-most wanted militants. Such determination by the common man shows the end of militancy is not far away. UT Govt to extend Rs five lakh cash reward to villagers for the gallant act against militants and militancy,” the office of LG had tweeted.
The villagers said they have taken a grave risk and their families have to live under constant threat from now, but the six men now want to join the police or any other security force.
“We want the government to provide us jobs in the police or any other security agency. We are ready to don the uniform to safeguard our family and serve the nation,” Mushtaq said.
The villagers said they had not seen the militants before and they were apparently moving from Rajouri to south Kashmir’s Kulgam district which is linked to Mahore through mountain routes.
Shamsuddin said militants have no religion and those taking up arms against the country are enemies of the people.
“God has made us all and we are proud to be Indians where we all live together in communal harmony and brotherhood,” he said.
The Director General of Police, Dilbag Singh, who visited Mahore on Monday to personally appreciate the villagers for their bravery, said Pakistan and its agencies through militant groups are making repeated attempts to revive militancy in Jammu province but “Jammu police have played an appreciable role in thwarting their attempts.” The villagers ”have given clear-cut message that we will not allow a revival of militancy,” the DGP had said.
He said the people of remote areas have seen the brute face of the menace when the militants used to forcibly intrude into their homes, take shelter and even exploit women.
“The villagers have done a great job which is praiseworthy. The people need to imitate them in elsewhere as well as these terrorists are shedding innocent blood at the behest of Pakistan and its agencies,” he said.