How the Kashmir conflict is getting personal and putting families at risk

Srinagar: The conflict in Kashmir is on course to a dangerous turn with families on both sides being involved in the war. For the first time in three decades of conflict, militants abducted 11 family members of J&K Police officials in different areas across Kashmir. The move is seen as retaliation to the arrest of militant commander Riyaz Naikoo’s father and vandalizing properties of several families of the local militants.


According to reports, on August 29 Government forces allegedly set fire to the homes of two militant commanders – Shahjahan, the district commander of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), and Syed Naved, the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) in response to the murder of four policemen in Shopian. The Police also arrested around 18 local youth across south Kashmir on the same day.

Two days later, Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo released an audio message claiming responsibility for the abduction of family members and relatives of policemen and set a three-day deadline for the release of all relatives of militants who are in police custody.
“We did not want to involve your families in this. We picked up your relatives so that you realise what (our) mothers go through when you arrest their innocent kin,” the voice attributed to Naikoo says in the audio clip.

“We kidnapped your relatives so that you know that we can reach you. We have set them free with full dignity this time but next time it will not be repeated… we will act according to how you act,” Naikoo said, adding that this was the last warning to the police.

Experts see this as a dangerous trend since innocent family members are being forcefully involved in the conflict. A former militant, who wished not be named blamed State authorities for this mess.

“It was the policy of Indian government forces since 1990’s that if they couldn’t find the militant or their sympathisers they would pick-up their family members to pressurize them. But this time they (militants) targeted them back and it has shaken the Indian establishment,” says the ex-militant adding, “For me, it’s the simple message from the militants to the Indian forces that if you target our families we will not remain silent.”

The family members of both sides have appealed that they shouldn’t be involved in the war.

Take the example of the family of Ghulam Nabi Sankar. One of Ghulam’s son, Nazir Ahmad Sankar, is a police officer and a few days ago, his brother Arif Hussain,  a teacher by profession, was picked-up by the militants. In a conversation with, Ghulam said he believes that the militants are attacking the police families in what seems to be “tit for tat”.

“Army and police have been brutalising and vandalising the families of the militants. They were harassing their families and now they are doing the same to the police families,” says Ghulam.

“It is better the war should remain between gun and gun, involving families is senseless,” he adds.

In another incident, Aisha, a 50-year-old woman and her son Raja Faizan-ul-Bashir were watching television when some masked men barged into their house. As soon as Faizan heard some movement outside the house, he went to check what was happening.

“Faizan came running in, and told us that there were militants outside, who wanted him to accompany to his uncle’s (Mushtaq) house,” said Bashir Ahmad Makroo, Faizan’s father. They were looking for Faizan’s uncle, Mushtaq Ahmad Makroo, a policeman posted at District Police line, Kulgam.

Aisha tried to convince the militants to take her instead of her son but they refused.

“With fifteen minutes, the militants took away my son. After he was kidnapped, my brother called me up and revealed that the militants had come searching for Mushtaq too before they came to Faizan,” Bashir said.

Down the same alley also lives the Bhat family. The Bhat’s have two sons working in Jammu and Kashmir Police – Abdul Bari Bhat, 38, posted in Srinagar, and Mehmood Ahmad Bhat, 32, and posted in Pahalgam. Both are married, while their father, Muhammad Maqbool Bhat, is a retired government teacher.

Tufail Bhat, another son of Maqbool Bhat, said, that at 8:10 pm on Thursday, two militants appeared in their courtyard and started calling the names of his policemen brothers.

Just as Tufail was talking to the militants, his brother Zubair Ansari ran in and asked the militants to spare his younger brother and instead take him along.

The family members of abducted persons made a passionate plea to the militants for the release of their kin. While all the family members of policemen have been released unharmed, a stern warning has been issued that if the police targeted the family members of the militants, the next time the families of policemen would not be spared. The abducted person in different videos apparently shot by militants appealed top brass of State police administration to stop harassing family members of militants so that they won’t harass them in turn. Whether this will have a positive impact remains to be seen. What can be said for sure is, however, that unless attempts are made to change the situation, the conflict in Kashmir is only going to get more bloody, personal and dangerous.

Audio released by Militant commander Riyaz Naikoo regarding abduction

Courtesy: Two Circles



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