As Shias and Sunnis clashed, everybody felt vulnerable but Ganjoo and his house were an exception

When some Jamaat-e-Islami ideologues founded the organisation’s guerrilla arm Hizbul Mujahideen at a secret meeting in this tiny hamlet towards the end of 1989, teenagers like Ashraf Dar discovered themselves to be the mightiest — thanks to the AK-47s that flew in from Muzaffarabad. Their arms came with a lot of blood: Budgam’s first encounter occurred at Nakara. Three of the four militants killed were from Dooru. A hand grenade went off accidentally in the mosque, killing a civilian. Akbar Dar’s son died. A dozen others were injured.

Pandits in the adjoining Sebdan fled in fear to Jammu at dead of night. Schoolteacher Avatar Krishen Ganjoo stayed put as he had little resources. For years, he lived as the weakest, the most vulnerable. Even when the Pandits were massacred in hordes at Sangrampora, Wandhama and Nandimarg, the Ganjoos stood their ground.

Twenty-three years later, in a sectarian frenzy, everybody here felt vulnerable and insecure. Mr. Ganjoo and his house were an exception as they were Hindus — neither Shia nor Sunni.

Maqbool and Ashraf, who survived encounters like the one at Narkara, are now alive as neither of them was on the road when a mob from Bemina attacked Dooru. Ashraf’s plush house, along with those of his two siblings, faced the brunt. “They looted everything, broke open the doors and windows. We escaped from the backside and managed to hide behind the paddy fields. They smashed three cars with iron rods and destroyed a car and a motorcycle in fire,” Ashraf’s father Abdul Gani Dar narrated to the first media team, from The Hindu alone, that ventured into the war zone.

While the Shias of Bemina trooped into Dooru, the Sunnis of Galwanpora took revenge from the Shias of Sebdan. “I had shifted my family and children to safer places. As a group conquered my house, I hid myself over the roof. They looted everything and lit the LPG cylinder pipe to cause a blast in the kitchen. When they withdrew, I came down and put out the fire,” Shaukat Khanday said.

Glazed windows and ventilators of over a hundred houses were in smithereens at Dooru, Sebdan and Bemina besides in Hakermulla and Dandoosa, where the residents blamed the police for rampage.

The Shias of Garend Kalan attacked the Sunni neighbours of Garend Khurd. One of the ramshackle houses belongs to retired teacher Abdul Salam Ganai. What did he want now? “I don’t need compensation nor punishment to the marauders. I just demand a police post on the road so that no such attack happens in future,” Mr. Ganai said.

Two miles away is situated the fully deserted village, Safipora. Twenty-three houses, an Imambara and a mosque have been razed to rubble by a mob of 10,000 people from the five adjacent villages. “Only one of my six daughters was married. They broke her steel wardrobe and looted her ornaments and bridal suits. She has turned mad,” said 55-year-old Maryam. She narrated how the houses were set on fire one by one.

After 10 days of ‘war’, people of the two groups met with the intervention of the local civil society activists and performed the Namaz-e-Tauba (the prayers of repentance and forgiveness) at Safipora.