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War and peace in Dardpora
Once a hotbed of struggle for separation, a tiny village in Kashmir turns a corner
Kumar Rakesh
Tribune News Service

Dardpora, December 7
Dardpora in the border district of Kupwara is perhaps the microcosm of the reality of militancy and its consequences faced by families of those who were once heralded as the harbingers of new “tomorrow” in the valley.

This locality, a collection of six villages, of over 7,000 persons has simply no one who has not lost his family members in the insurgency. A study by the Social Welfare Department, done through the local police, shows 100 of its men, most of them militants, have been killed and meeting villagers here betrays their mixed feelings of loss and bitterness. And also their realisation of the futility of the armed struggle, as its idyllic peace for the past few years suggest.

Dilawar Khan, 65, first saw his younger brother Pir Khan, then around 40, swept along by the fervour of violent separatism of early ’90s and then one day his son Ashraf Khan, 18, never came back from school. “Tehreek (struggle for separation) was at its peak and more than anywhere emotions were overflowing in Dardpora. Like most of the families here, I saw only the dead body of my son,” Khan told The Tribune, as hordes of locals encircled him, hoping that their tales would bring them some material benefits from outside.

Dardpora also showcases the ugliest face of Kashmir militancy which their ideological backers would never like to mention. The fratricidal war of one-upmanship among militant groups which, many villagers say, consumed as many militants as were killed by security forces, if not more.

Ask Shafina, one of the scores of widows — outsiders often use terms like village of widows to identify Dardpora — and she speaks out her mind. “My husband was killed by Hizbul Mujahiddin because they did not trust his organisation,” she Shafina, who has raised her three daughter and a son since her husband, Amzad Khan, a dreaded commander of Al-Burq, was shot by rival militants in ’92.A large number of ethnic Paharis had joined Al-Burq and after initial support from Pakistan, official sources said, they were targeted by ISI’s more favourite protégés, especially HM, as they doubted their loyalty.

But the pain of Dardpora and its return to peace should not be seen through ethnic prisms, as it has almost as many Kashmiri-speaking people as those who speak Pahari, local police post in-charge SI Ghulam Mohiuddin says. “I belong to this place and I have seen the disillusionment among locals after the initial burst of violence,” he says. That is why, he adds, they have 118 surrendered militants against 100 slain, which includes a few killed in crossfire.

If the government comes in for flak for forsaking the area for participating in militancy, as it has no piped water, no electricity and a back-breaking road, separatists are not spared either. “They call my killed husband a martyr. And I’m almost forced to begging to run my family. They did nothing for us,” Guljan, wife of Pir Khan, says.

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