Tucked away in the remote hills of south Kashmir, it is jubilation all around at the Rashtriya Rifles unit as three of its personnel have been awarded Sena Medal for having gunned down dreaded militant commander Burhan Wani whose killing plunged the valley into a welter of violence that lasted for months. As details of the July 8 operation last year emerge, it transpires that young Major Sandeep Kumar, who led the crack team following “actionable” intelligence input that Sartaj Aziz and two other militants were hiding in a house in Bumdoora village, showed nerves of steel and exemplary restraint in the face of extreme provocation in neutralising them.
The village, 18 km southeast of Anantnag, was cordoned off but the news of Army’s presence got leaked, making their task all the more daunting.
It was a long wait for Major Kumar, Captain Manik Sharma and Naik Arvind Singh Chauhan before they could lead their team in storming the house where the militants were holed up.
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Protesting crowds began swelling by the minute, shouting slogans and pelting the Army contingent with stones.
Leading the assault team, Captain Sharma and two others even made an attempt to enter the house as Major Kumar stood behind them, ready to provide cover fire. However, they had to retreat amid heavy stone-pelting by the villagers.
“We were counting every minute and even planning to throw a cordon around the house as dusk approached fast and with it the milling, restive crowd carrying stones,” recalled a police officer who was in touch with the Army contingent from the district headquarters.
Major Kumar and his team made another attempt to storm the house and the militants opened a burst of gunfire.
Aziz made an unsuccessful attempt to escape, but was shot dead.
Time was running fast and two more militants, who were believed to be inside, were to be accounted for.
As violent protests grew more and more intense, Major Kumar sent for the local ‘Imam’ whose services were to be used to calm the villagers.
With light fading away fast, there were no signs of villagers’ aggression or numbers diminishing.
The valiant Major and his men then decided to storm the house but came under a hail of fire from two militants who attempted to escape.
Militant Pervaiz Ahmad Lashkari was seen firing while shielding a man and pushing him towards a nearby apple orchard. Lashkari was gunned down in retaliatory fire by the crack team, which also challenged the lone surviving militant. He, too, was soon sprawled on the floor, dead.
It was later discovered that the last militant killed was Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, the poster boy of resurgent militancy in the Kashmir valley who carried a bounty of Rs 10 lakh on his head.
A day later, the Kashmir valley was gripped by turmoil which lasted months and left a trail of destruction, claiming scores of lives and maiming many more.