Over a month after Poonch torture deaths, families of victims want to send their children to Army schools

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Jammu,Feb 7:A month after his eldest son Shabir Ahmed (30) was tortured to death, allegedly by security forces in Jammu, Wali Mohammad plans to send his grandson to an Army school.

Shabir was among 13 civilians picked up by security forces a day after the December 21 terror attack in Poonch on an Army convoy in which four soldiers were killed. He and two others, Safeer Ahmed (45) and Mohammad Showkat (22), died of injuries sustained during the alleged torture.

Since the incident, the Army and civil administration have moved fast to try and rebuild the broken trust with the local community, whom they rely on in their fight against terror. This includes meetings by the Defence Minister and Army chief with the families of the dead and injured, prompt compensation, and the Army ‘adopting’ the Topa Pir village, where the civilians lived.

‘The pain of losing a grown-up son, who happened to be the only earning member, continues to pinch the heart, but we also understand the Army is here for our safety and welfare,’ said Wali, adding that the entire force cannot be blamed for the misdeeds of a few. ‘Jo ho gaya woh toh vaapis nahi kiya ja sakta (whatever happened cannot be reversed), but at least Shabir’s son should get a good education.’

Apart from money, a job for the next of kin and some land, the Army had also promised to look after the education of the victims’ children. When contacted, a senior Army officer said all possible help will be provided to families who want to get their wards admitted in Army schools.

Topa Pir, a hamlet with just 30 houses, needs one to trak a kilometre from the nearest Dehra Ki Gali-Buffliaz road – part of the Mughal road that connects Shopian district in Kashmir on one side and Surankote in Poonch district on the other. The road is in such a state that just covering 15 kilometres takes an hour and a half.

Like Wali, Noor Ahmed, a BSF head constable whose brother Safeer was among the three killed, too wants Safeer’s two children to be admitted to Army’s Goodwill School in Rajouri. ‘I have requested the Army Commander to get the school bus facility extended up to Thanamandi so these children can travel every day,’ he said, adding that they cannot paint the entire security forces with the same brush. Noor said a senior Army officer last week sought details of children they wanted to admit.

The Army has also sponsored a girl from Topa Pir for IAS coaching at an academy in Delhi.

Since the custodial torture came to light, the Army has been trying to win back the confidence of residents of Topa Pir. It withdrew the 48 Rashtriya Rifles unit from Thanamandi-DKG-Buffliaz area and deployed 61 RR in its place. The newly deployed troops adopted Topa Pir as a ‘model village’ and met residents, assuring them of any help they might need.

The transformation to a ‘model village’ includes installing over two dozen solar street lights and providing water storage tanks to homes. The troops also undertook a survey for construction of a nearly two-kilometre long road linking the village with the DKG-Thanamandi road, besides providing desks, books and stationery to the government primary school where students had been studying on the floor. They also upgraded the existing health centre and urged residents to visit the Army doctor whenever a need arises. Further, the Army is working to ensure each home gets a piped water connection.

On January 24, the Army and residents of Topa Pir marked the 75th Republic Day together. At the event, the Tricolour was unfurled, and village elders were felicitated and presented with shawls and blankets. The event culminated with a medical camp, the Army PRO said.

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