It was anger, frustration and rage that forced scores of youth to toss the iron rods and concrete walls of a bunker in Batamaloo Chowk, which the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on Friday evening vacated after 22 years.
Soon after militancy broke out in Kashmir, the CRPF controlled the empty land in lesser known, Reka-Chowk, and within no time this Chowk market became popular not for any good reasons, but for the number of attacks carried on the bunker.
After then, Reka-Chowk became the primary target of militant attacks, thus changing the lifestyle of the locals who claim to be living in grief and sorrow since then.Although, they don’t remember every episode but can’t forget the elderly woman of 7-feet locality, who got killed in cross firing,while walking on a road carrying two eggs in hand and those two young men who lost their lives after a grenade exploded in front of them.”It was perhaps in 1998,” they said.
“From harassments to breaking window panes of houses”, they have seen everything. Though, it was obvious that grenades were lobbed by militants but it was the locals who had to face the heat at the hands of different security agencies.
Lateef Sheikh (name changed) says he was the victim of “ruthless chase” over the years, after every incident of stone pelting in the areas; he was the primary target of CRPF stationed there, as he lived close to the bunker site. “Today I have my day to give vent to my anger. I tossed iron rods, barbed wires where I was once detained for a night,” he says.
However, no one in the area knows the exact date when this bunker was erected there, but a shopkeeper, Ghulam Muhammad (name changed), 70, who owns a shop next to the bunker knows everything about “life and destruction” since the bunker was set up there.
“In early 1990 there was no bunker, but a small picket where a Light Machine Gun (LMG) was kept and few troopers were there. One day a fire came from somewhere after which troopers resorted to indiscriminate firing in which a local woman lost her life,” he said.
Soon after the incident, “I think it was early 1991,” the full fledged “CRPF camp” was erected here on this empty land. Recalling the incident, some 14 years down the line, when he himself had a narrow escape after a grenade aimed at the bunker exploded in front of his shop.
“Since 1990, dozens of attacks were carried on it but every time by the grace of God I survived. I am the witness of every grief and joy here,” he said, but at the same time he says over the years particularly post 2002, this bunker was a safety for them and a big hurdle for thieves who were on the prowl in the area.
He wants the area should remain under the vigil of police so that the market could be saved from burglars and other dacoits. “I would like see J&K post here, it will largely benefit us,” he said, but many others want a shopping complex to be constructed at the site.
Though CRPF vacated the bunker in January 2013 after which a different scene was witnessed, that even led to traffic chaos for a while. Scores of men, women and youth entered into the well constructed bunker and destroyed its walls and pillars.
Some say they did it to give vent to their anger but elderly people especially women used handcarts to collect bricks and other material to use the same for construction.