All that is left of 30-year-old Shabir Ahmed Mangoo are his books, locked in a green cupboard in the room that was his bedroom, and a passport-sized photograph torn into half by a child. Mangoo had been a lecturer at Srinagar’s Amar Singh College.

On the night of August 17, 2016, soldiers of the Indian Army raided Mangoo’s village, Shar-i-Shali, and adjoining areas. The village lies in the Khrew area of South Kashmir’s Pulwama district, not far from Srinagar. Residents of Shar-i-Shali have recounted how the soldiers, armed with hammers and rods fitted with nails, damaged property and burst into homes to beat up civilians. Mangoo was dragged out of his home, beaten up, and taken to a military camp. Before morning, he had succumbed to his injuries, leaving behind a wife and a 15-month-old child.

A year and a half later, the state police have sought sanction from a “competent authority” to prosecute 23 soldiers they hold responsible for Mangoo’s death, reports said. Under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, soldiers cannot be prosecuted by the police without prior approval by the Union Ministry of Defence.

But when reached out to police officials, they were tight-lipped. Shesh Paul Vaid, director general of police, Jammu and Kashmir, declined to comment, stating that the process was not initiated by his office, and referred the matter to senior superintendent of police in Awantipora, who also refused to comment. When contacted, an Army official doubted that sanction had been sought from a competent authority.

A half-torn photograph of Shabir Ahmed Mangoo.

An FIR and an inquiry

On August 18, 2016, Mangoo’s father, Wali Ahmed Mangoo, filed a first information report at the Pampore police station. It reportedly accused personnel of the 50 Rashtriya Rifles of abducting his son and three others and the charges included murder and criminal conspiracy.

Twenty days after the incident, residents of Shar-i-Shali had told that no one had come to gather evidence or speak to witnesses. A police official in Pampore, however, said an investigating officer had been sent to record the statement of the victims.

Meanwhile, the Army regretted the incident, said the raid had not been sanctioned and promised an investigation. When contacted the Army’s Northern Command a fortnight after the incident, it was told an “inquiry is under way and will be finalised in due course of time”. got in touch with the Northern Command, asking about the progress of the Army inquiry. A reply is awaited.

‘Has anyone ever been punished?’

Mangoo’s family say they do not even have a copy of the first information report anymore. They have heard of talk of prosecuting the Army but are not hopeful of justice. “It’s all hogwash,” said Masarat Mangoo, the lecturer’s sister. “No one is talking about what happened anymore, except his colleagues and students at the college. Everyone has fallen asleep.”

The family was sitting in their kitchen. Wali Mangoo rose to leave as the conversation began. He no longer likes to answer questions about the death of his oldest son, whom he, a construction worker, had struggled to put through college.

Most houses damaged in Shar-i-Shali in the “unsanctioned” raid of 2016 have been repaired but scars of that night are still visible at the Mangoo residence. Shabir Mangoo’s wife has since moved to her parent’s home with her son. As the Mehbooba Mufti administration moved to compensate the families of those killed in the 2016 mass protests, during which Shabir Mangoo died, his wife was given a government job. But Mangoo’s family does not see it as compensation. “It is her right,” said Masarat Mangoo. “She deserves a job. She is a graduate and an MPhil. She was about to start her PhD when her husband was killed.”

Shabir Mangoo’s brother, Zahoor Mangoo, was also injured in the raid. Both his arms were in casts when visited Khrew in 2016. Zahoor Mangoo, who works as a driver, said it took him eight months to recover.

Like his sister, he believes investigations in such cases are futile. Inquiries had been ordered in several cases where security forces had allegedly killed civilians but none had born results, he pointed out. “Has anyone ever been punished?” he asked.

“Everything happens in the markaz [Centre], Delhi,” said Zahoor Mangoo. His brother was not a stone-pelter and was contributing to society, he said. “Mehbooba Mufti is asleep,” he concluded.

Masarat Mangoo added, “All she cares about is the kursi – power.”

'No one is talking about what happened anymore,' said Masarat Mangoo of the fatal assault on her brother.

Fear persists

In the aftermath of the raid in Khrew, the Army had said it needed to introspect. But similar raids took place in other parts of South Kashmir after the 2016 unrest ebbed. However, though civilians were injured, no deaths were reported in these subsequent raids.

The volatile districts of Shopian and Kulgam witnessed several such raids in the summer of 2017, around the same time “Operation All Out” was in full swing. This was a massive security crackdown on militants in the Valley. When asked about the raids of 2017 this February, senior Army officials said they were the “operational requirements of the time”. Since then, relations with the local population “had improved”, they claimed.

But Shar-i-Shali still lives in fear. The village is located close to an Army camp, so civilians and security forces had lived side by side in relative calm for years until it was shattered that night in 2016. On March 16, a Friday, Shar-i-Shali was tense again. The previous night, a gunfight had raged between security forces and militants in a nearby village. The residents of Shar-i-Shali had spent a restless night fearing soldiers of the Indian Army would come to harm them again.

Farooq Ahmed, a clerk with the Army who was also beaten up in 2016, said the village was constantly afraid and the sound of every gunshot that Friday added to their worry. That morning, as some boys came out to pelt stones at security forces, residents reprimanded them, Ahmed said.

There had been a low-key demonstration on the morning of August 17, 2016, when the Army had come to raid the village. “We didn’t want a repeat of that night,” he said.

Meanwhile, Masarat Mangoo feels security forces crack down more heavily on protests in Kashmir than in other states. “Their only aim is to cleanse Kashmir of Muslims,” she said. “This [civilian killings] happens because we are Muslims.”