In occupied Kashmir, on 27th November 1993, Ghulam Mohi-ud-din Pundit’s family found itself homeless after Indian soldiers drove them out of their 18-bedroom farmhouse and 60 kanals of land to establish a base to crush Kashmiris’ freedom struggle.
According to media sources, twenty-four years since the occupation, the family has been living in a ramshackle house. In 1990s, troops looked to occupy strategic locations to oversee Sopore streets. Several houses were occupied by the Indian army, evicting families and leaving them in an unending struggle to regain the possession of their properties. Ghulam Mohi-ud-din Pundit was one of the influential businessmen in Sopore. He was the chairman of the Municipal Committee in the town, and a forest leasee. But influence didn’t prevent troops from taking over his beautiful farm house.
Pundit passed away in 2006. His younger son Ishfaq recounts the events of the days following their eviction. “I will never forget that horrific day,” he says. In fact, no one who lived in Sopore town would forget the 27th November 1993 – the “doomsday. At that time a brutal crackdown led by Indian army was going on. Nearly 55 people in the town were killed in the bloodbath.” There was a point at which the Indian army found it difficult to defeat the mujahideen and gain control of the town. To consolidate their position, army occupied buildings at prime locations, including Pundit’s farmhouse on the banks Jhelum, surrounded by apple orchards. Forty members of the family were thrown out of the house constructed with best available architecture and interior design by Mohi-ud-din Pundit’s father Jabbar Pundit. Last month, when the 179 battalions of CRPF left the house, it had been reduced to a grim shadow of itself. At its prime in 1993, it had 18 bedrooms, six attached bathrooms, charming wood paneling and elegant electric and sanitary fitting.During a tour of the palatial house after troopers evacuated it, signage of ammunition rooms on some bathrooms was still visible. A front room was used as an office and an outhouse in the backyard was used as a mess for troops. “We were not given even a few hours of time to collect our belongings. When we begged, the troops threw some of the stuff at us and kept most of them,” Ishfaq recalls the events of the day. “We were threatened with dire consequences if we resisted leaving. They would have killed us. Killings by troops were routine that time.”