In the secluded hamlet of Topa Pir, nestled deep within the dense forests of Jammu, grief and anguish pervade the air as families grapple with the alleged torture deaths of nine men. The incident unfolded on December 22, following a terror attack that claimed the lives of four Army personnel. In the aftermath, three of the men taken for questioning were reportedly tortured to death, leaving the close-knit community with more questions than answers.
The families of the deceased express profound sorrow and disbelief, questioning the severity of the punishment inflicted on their loved ones. Nazir Hussain, father of 26-year-old Mohd Showkat, wonders aloud, “If they wanted to kill them, the Army should have just shot them. Why kill them after so much punishment?” Showkat’s wife, Kausar Bi, describes his bruised and blackened body, emphasizing the brutality of the alleged torture.
Topa Pir, accessible only by a half-hour trek through the dense forest, witnessed a somber gathering as relatives and villagers sought to console the grieving families. The incident has cast a shadow of doubt on the trust that the community traditionally placed in the security forces, with one resident lamenting, “How can I trust the security forces anymore?”
According to the families, on the fateful day, a group of around 12 Army personnel, some in plain clothes and others in uniform, summoned Safeer Ahmad and Mohd Showkat from their homes for questioning. Meanwhile, Shabir Ahmad and Riyaz were allegedly taken while fetching water at a canal. Tragically, Safeer, Shabir, and Showkat lost their lives in custody, while Riyaz remains hospitalized.
The families, anticipating the return of their kin after routine questioning, were shocked by the gruesome turn of events. Lal Hussain, the oldest among the detainees at 85, was the first to return, recounting scenes of torture he had witnessed. Distraught family members rushed to the nearest Army post, seeking intervention.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration has announced compensation of Rs 20 lakh, a plot of land, and a government job for each deceased family. Additionally, the Army is set to provide Rs 10 lakh in compensation. However, grieving mothers question the worth of such compensation, echoing the sentiment that no amount can replace the loss of a child.
The tragedy has left the community grappling with a profound sense of betrayal and fear, as trust in the security forces wavers. The remote hamlet, unaccustomed to the specter of violence, now mourns the loss of lives that were taken under circumstances that have left scars not just on the bodies of the deceased but also on the trust that once bound them to the security forces.