'Will they punish killers? My son was like a phoulvun gulab (blossoming rose)'
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In this large village, enveloped by apple orchards, willow and popular tree lines, grief has three distinct addresses while an empty, half burnt house represents the collective rage. Nadihal – a village placed in the plains of Rafiabad and openly ridiculed by separatists for its high voter turnout in recent elections – has today become the symbol of Kashmir's shared torment: three young men from this village were killed by Army in a fake encounter at the Line of Control, dubbed them as infiltrating militants and later buried them silently in a far away graveyard in Lolab valley.
For Nadihal, this tragedy is particularly manifold. The man who laid a death trap for Shazad Khan (27), Shafi Lone (19) and Riyaz Lone (20), literally selling them for Rs 50 thousand each to the Army, too belongs to the village. Bashir Ahmad Lone – a counter insurgent and his policeman brother Qayoom Lone ruled the village in fear ever since militancy started waning here a decade ago. Their house - that once stood like a brazen exhibition of wealth amassed through extortion - is in ruins today: angry villagers burnt it down soon after the bodies of the three men were exhumed and brought back to the village for a proper burial.
The story of Nadihal's tragedy, in fact, begins at the entrance of this village. Seven kilometers from Baramula town when a sharp left turn takes a link road towards Nadihal, a green flag, a few placards over three fresh graves next to several old epitaphs detailing the sacrifices of militants stand prominent. Shahzad, Shafi and Riyaz have been given a place for burial in this little `martyrs graveyard' of the village but unlike militants, the story of their brutal killing by the army has a twist. They were not remotely linked to Kashmir's separatist movement and in fact they had been lured to the Line of Control by the army to work against militants. Though the separatists embraced their ``sacrifice'' and the valley mourned the pain of their families, the killing didn't provoke mass protests across Kashmir – a total contrast from the earlier cases of fake encounters. The reason may not be pronounced loud and open but people do talk in whispers, blaming the three victims for ``crossing the line of betrayal'' and ``trusting the army''.
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